Although they come from exotic, tropical locations, coconuts have worked their way into the kitchens of America. While it is typically purchased in packages already shredded, nothing beats the flavour of using fresh coconuts. The most important factor in using whole coconuts is determining the freshness. Opening a coconut only to find that it is spoiled inside is frustrating. Take your time when selecting your coconuts, making sure to look for telltale signs of mould.
Look at the coconut eyes, or the three indentations at the top of the coconut. If they look damp and mouldy, the coconut has gone bad and should be discarded. Look for any cracks in the shell as well, another sign of mouldy coconut meat inside.
Pick up the coconut. A fresh coconut will feel heavy for it's size and you should hear a lot of water sloshing around when you shake it. Discard any coconuts that are light for their size with little to no water in them.
Puncture and smell the coconut. Use a small knife or scissors to puncture the softest of the three eyes at the top of the coconut. Fresh coconut will have a sweet coconut smell, while mouldy coconuts will have a sour smell to them, which is a sign that the water inside has gone bad.
To open a coconut, hit the centre the blunt side of a clever while rotating the coconut in your hand until it cracks open.