The coconut's large size and tough outer shell can make it intimidating for the average home cook to deal with. If you want to eat fresh coconut instead of relying on the pre-shredded dried variety, you may not have the slightest idea on how to prepare it for eating. A coconut takes actual hardware to crack it open, but once you get to the flesh and juice, you can use it for savory Caribbean, Indian or Asian-inspired dishes as well as sweet desserts.
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Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the whole coconut onto a baking sheet and bake it for about 20 minutes to help loosen the inside flesh from the shell. Set the coconut aside until it is cool enough for you to handle comfortably.
Place the tip of a screwdriver into one of the indentations located on the portion of the coconut near the stem (there should be three indentations total). Hit the screwdriver handle very gently with a hammer just until it forms a small hole in the shell. Repeat the process with a second indentation.
Position the coconut over a bowl or sink and turn it over to remove all of the inside juice. Place the coconut onto a flat surface and hit it very lightly with a hammer near the holes you pierced. Continue gently hitting the coconut until it breaks into two pieces.
Position each coconut half so it's flat-side down. Hit the outside center very lightly once with a hammer to help loosen the inside flesh from the shell. Turn each coconut half over so the flesh side faces up, and use your hands to rip the coconut further away from the shell into large pieces (they may still be slightly attached to the shell).
Insert a paring knife in between the shell and the coconut flesh. Pry the flesh away from the shell with the knife until the flesh is completely removed, then repeat the process with the rest of the coconut flesh. Drag the blade of the paring knife lightly against the outside of each piece of coconut flesh to remove any brown peel sticking to it.
Slice the coconut pieces into thin pieces if you want larger chunks of coconut. Rub the coconut pieces lightly against a grater for shredded coconut.