Get Fired Up: How to Use Coconut Shells as a Smoker This Summer

Whole coconuts are one of the most overlooked fruits. Sure, you might use some of that delicious meat when baking a raspberry coconut cake or find yourself in need of its sweetened cream to give your pisco sour a tropical twist. But aside from making a signature cool and refreshing piña colada, it might surprise you to learn that a leftover coconut shell can also have a place in your cooking repertoire. TastingTable caught up with renowned New York City Chef Harold Moore in 2022 to talk about creative ways to use a whole coconut, and Chef Moore shared you should be using the shells when you smoke meat.

After you’ve removed all the flesh, cream, and liquid from a coconut, dry the shell (also called the husk) and save it to use when you are smoking chicken, pork, beef, or fish. If you have enough coconut shells, you can use them exclusively to smoke meat or you can mix them with other wood chips you might have on hand. The sweet, toasted coconut aroma and unique smoky notes will infuse whatever you’ve got in the smoker.  

Soak some of your coconut shell husks

Burning coconut shells

If you are going to add coconut shells to your smoking process, be aware that they tend to burn quickly. For this reason, mixing them with other chips is wise, like applewood or hickory. The coconut flavor and smell from the husks’ smoke will give your smoked country-style ribs or smoked chicken tacos a subtly sweet, nutty taste. You may even want to try it when cold-smoking some of your favorite cheeses.

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There’s no need to soak your husks in water if you are using your coconut shells in a smoker. You want them to be dry so they can start smoking quickly, building up all that goodness that will transfer to your food. That said, if you are using a gas or charcoal grill, you may want to do a combo of soaked and unsoaked coconut shells. This is a kind of time-release method, where the wet husks will dry and smoke later in the cooking process. So the next time you need coconut for a recipe, grab a whole one and get several uses from one fruit.

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