We’re pretty sure Julia Child never demoed how to butcher a coconut. Which is a shame, since coconut meat has become a such a smoothie staple (not to mention its other amazing culinary applications) and we love to have it fresh.
Without proper guidance, however, intending to open a coconut can feel like an unconscious desire to call 911. So we tapped Eric Helms, founder of Juice Generation, whose coconut savants suavely crack open several hundred young Thai coconuts over the course of a day.
Helm’s first tip for butchering a coconut? Skip the bravado. “The biggest mistake novices make is trying to crack with flare. Do not hold the coconut in your hand in an attempt to impress your dinner (or smoothie) guests,” he says. Make sure the coconut is firmly placed on a table, so it won’t slide out from under the knife.
Speaking of knives, Juice Generation stores use small cleavers. But Helms says any large, sharp knife with a heel will also work. “It should be something you have a very solid grip on before you whack it.”
A final tip: Your cutting board or counter top might be bowling-alley slick to a coconut. A stable, non-slip surface is ideal, Helms says. And if your coconut comes wrapped in plastic, leave it intact. I’ll help “catch” the knife. —Melisse Gelula, additional reporting by Posie Harwood
The best method for butchering a coconut:
Step 1: Lay the coconut on its side on a sturdy surface and slowly cut away at the pointed top end to reveal the round inner cap. Don’t cut off the end entirely, as it forms a “lid” to help open the coconut.
Step 2: Hold your knife at a 45-degree angle to the cut to pop the edge of the “lid” up and wedge it open.
Step 3: Pour out and reserve the water. Use a flexible spatula to dig out the soft meat inside. (Note: If the water is tinged pink, the coconut has gone bad, and you have to toss it out, sorry!)
Step 4: Blend the soft meat into smoothies (frozen banana and kale are all you need) or grind it in a food processor to make fresh coconut butter or manna.
Step 5: Count ten fingers intact and unscathed!
Not confident with your knife skills? Here’s a kitchen gadget to help you get over your coconut-cracking terror…
Need a smoothie recipe? Try this super unique and tropical one with coconut meat.