Coconut oil is a well-known plant-based fat that is becoming increasingly popular. It is a very healthy oil that has a ton of nutrients and delicious flavors. Not only that, but it is also an extremely versatile cooking ingredient.
Despite all this, many people still don’t know exactly how to work with this ingredient. The most popular way it is incorporated into recipes is in its melted form, but there are correct ways of getting it melted.
So, what are the 3 best ways to melt coconut oil? We would recommend using low-heat methods first. This can either be melting the oil in direct sunlight or over a water-bath or double boiler. Then, you can either melt it in a pan or in the microwave.
Today, we will be looking at what coconut oil is, how it is made, and all of its characteristics, more specifically, its melting characteristics.
Then, we will look at the best ways to help melt coconut oil while keeping as many nutrients as possible.
What Is Coconut Oil?
Coconut oil is a type of edible oil that is obtained from coconut palm fruit. Very few people might know this, but it is also referred to as coconut butter.
This is an oil arguably everyone has heard of as it is an extremely versatile natural ingredient that is used in many different industries.
Obviously, being edible and all that, it can be used in many savory and sweet recipes and is also used to manufacture many food products such as chocolate and candies.
It is also a very popular ingredient in cosmetic products, lotions, and many other beauty-related products. You will also find an endless amount of hair-care and skin-care articles that use coconut oil as-is.
But today, we will more specifically look at coconut oil and its uses in food!
How Coconut Oil Is Produced
The oil itself can be obtained in a few ways, but today we will be discussing the more commercial method which is called the “wet processing method”.
This method uses extracted coconut milk from raw coconut. This milk is then completely dried out so that the oil and water can be separated from each other. This is done by boiling the emulsion.
The main reason this method is used so often is because it can produce much more in volume and is less time-consuming – basically, it makes the producers more money!
The downside is that this method discolors the oil, has much lower yields, and is often packed with chemicals to increase the yield, extend the shelf life, and create other favorable characteristics.
Whichever method is used to extract the oil, it can then either be packaged and used as is, or it is further processed or refined.
Forms Of Coconut Oil
There are three main forms of food-grade coconut oil available on the market; unrefined, refined, or fractionated coconut oil.
Each of these is processed in different ways and has different characteristics – something which could possibly affect the way it melts.
Unrefined (Virgin) Coconut Oil
Let’s start with unrefined coconut oil. This oil is the least processed form of coconut oil you will find.
“Unrefined” or “virgin coconut oil” is simply a term used to describe the lack of chemicals or high heat used to produce it.
Unrefined coconut oil is extracted from fresh raw coconut meat (also known as flesh).
There are various mechanical ways this can be done; however, each leaves the oil with the maximum amount of nutrients and antioxidants making it the “healthiest”.
This coconut oil also has the most authentic coconut smell and flavor. It has a moderated smoking point of about 350°F (176°C).
Refined Coconut Oil
This type of oil, as you can guess from its name, is a processed type that uses high heat and other chemicals to help the extraction process.
This coconut oil is made from dried coconut meat. The method of drying the meat isn’t the most sanitary. This means that many companies use bleaches and deodorizing chemicals to obtain or create a more usable and appealing product.
You will see that some packages label their refined coconut oil as “RBD” which stands for refining, bleaching, and deodorizing.
This oil has a very weak and subtle coconut flavor and in our opinion, very few of these products even have any coconut odor. It does however have a higher smoking point of around 400°F (205°C).
Fractionated Coconut Oil
It sounds scarier than it is, we promise. This coconut oil has been altered through a process called fractionating to remain a liquid at lower temperatures.
This is done by removing the main fatty acid that helps the solidifying process in other forms of coconut oil.
This oil is the most processed and has the least amount of nutrients as well as coconut odors and flavors. It also has the lowest smoking point, averaging around 320°F (160°C).
Coconut Oil Melting Temperatures
Before we discuss the melting points, it is important to keep in mind that the temperatures are often generalized because there are too many variable factors at play.
The melting point of coconut oil (and other solid oils as a matter of fact) is determined by the number of fatty acids present – this is a fact. Coconut oil has 10 different fatty acids, each with different melting points themselves.
There is a ton of scientific mumbo jumbo that we can go into, but the bottom line is that coconut oil consists of mostly medium-chain fatty acids which have an average melting temperature of 76°F (24°C).
Again, this temperature can fluctuate slightly between different types of coconut oils.
Naturally, it is safe to assume that unrefined and refined coconut oils have slightly different melting temperatures because one has been more processed (and nutrients removed) compared to the other.
Fractionated coconut oil definitely has a lower melting temperature because of the manufacturing process.
Coconut Oil And Heat
So, as you may already know or have personally witnessed, coconut oil is sometimes in a liquid form and sometimes in a solid.
As we have just discussed, coconut oil itself consists of fatty acids with different melting points. So, if the storage areas’ temperature is below 76°F (24°C), the coconut oil will be in its solid state or form.
However, once the coconut oil reaches temperatures above 76°F (24°C), which is the average melting temperature between all of the fatty acids, then the oil will start liquifying.
This is why you will see that once you hold or touch coconut oil in your hand, it immediately starts to melt. The average body temperature is around 98.6°F (37°C), much higher than the melting point.
And, once the temperature lowers again, the crystals inside the oil recrystallizes and forms one solid mass.
The 3 Best Ways To Melt Coconut Oil
Finally! We get to some melting methods! We have listed the three best melting methods for coconut oil. These methods are all the best to use if you want to use coconut oil in food.
Even though melting coconut oil naturally is the best method, it isn’t necessarily always possible when using the oil for food.
Naturally melting coconut oil means that it either melts at room temperature, in your hands, or on your body.
While melting it at room temperature is very possible, even for larger amounts, it isn’t necessarily always warm enough for that to happen.
You cannot even necessarily rely on the sun to help the process because it may not always be sunny.
And, melting coconut oil (that will be used in food) in your hands isn’t sanitary at all! If you want to use oil as a body lotion, hair moisturizer, or something similar, then you can use it as is, but definitely not in food.
This is why the methods we chose are the best when it comes to food use; they are all safe to use, easy methods to follow, and extremely effective without altering the structure of the oil too much.
This is an age-old method of adding heat to things in a very gentle and slow manner. What we love the most about this method is that you can melt any amount of oil at the same time and it melts quickly and effectively.
There are two ways you can apply this method.
Method 1: Sink Water Bath
All you have to do is fill a pot, bowl, or sink with hot water. It doesn’t have to be boiling hot, but definitely not lukewarm.
Then, place the desired amount of coconut oil inside a jar, zip-lock bag, or airtight container. Place the container inside the hot water and simply wait for the solid oil to completely melt.
Once melted, remove the container from the water and dry the outside before opening it.
After you have removed the desired amount, any remaining liquified coconut oil will solidify again.
Method 2: Stove Top Water Bath
For this method (also known as the double boiler method) fill a pot with some water and bring it to a simmer.
Add the desired amount of coconut oil to a heat-proof bowl and place the bowl on top of the pot. The bowl should fit nicely and completely close to the top.
You should turn the heat off once the coconut oil bowl is placed on top; however, if you are in a hurry you can put it on low to help heat the oil quicker.
This way the steam heats up the bowl (and oil inside) and slowly allows it to heat and melt. This method is great if you want to melt very specific amounts of oil, and it requires less clean-up.
This is a much quicker method to melt coconut oil and has a lot of benefits.
First, this method is fantastic if you need the oil in a pan already – for example, if you are frying something or sauteing food. It means you don’t have to use any extra equipment and makes clean up much easier.
You also should be able to melt any amount of coconut oil, but some pans might affect this – it all depends on the amount you need and what you want to use it for.
It is also an extremely quick, almost instant, way to melt coconut oil. Because it has a much bigger surface area, you can melt large quantities in seconds.
The biggest downside to this method is exactly what makes it so effective; the high heat it uses. The higher the heat you use to help melt coconut oil, the more nutrients it loses.
So, bottom line, it is an extremely effective method, but if you want to use coconut oil for its nutrients, then rather don’t use this method.
This is our least favorite method, albeit more convenient than a pan.
This method is fantastic, however, if you want to melt coconut oil for baking purposes (not frying or sautéing like the pan method above). Make sure to use a microwave-safe bowl or container!
You can easily melt any quantity of coconut oil in mere seconds. But, as with the pan-method, this one also destroys a ton of nutrients.
For baking sweet treats and savory items, these nutrients might not be that important; however, the flavor probably is. Microwaves also have a tendency to remove some flavor from the product and even odors.
If you are using a microwave, put it on the lowest setting (which is usually a defrosting setting) and microwave it slowly. You should also use unrefined coconut oil if you are looking to keep the flavor.
How To Get A Thick Consistency
The methods above are used to completely liquefy coconut oil. Liquified coconut oil has an extremely wide range of uses.
However, sometimes you may want something between solidified coconut oil and completely melted oil. This may be because it is easier to incorporate or because it will help add volume and texture to your recipe.
By whipping coconut oil, you get the perfect balance between the two. It is soft and fluffy without being runny or rock-solid. Think about a milkshake-like consistency – that is what we are going for here.
To make whipped coconut oil, simply place the coconut oil inside a bowl and whip using an electric hand mixer or stand mixer. This will take anywhere between 5-15 minutes depending on the quantity you use.
We recommend using the whipped coconut oil immediately as it can still melt at too high temperatures.
Now that we’ve gone over our favorite ways to melt coconut oil, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!
How can you melt coconut oil naturally for food?
If you have a hot sunny day, the best way to naturally melt coconut oil is by placing it on a counter at room temperature.
If it isn’t warm but still sunny, place it in direct sunlight so the container can heat up and help melt the oil quicker.
Why is the resolidified coconut oil grainy?
Sometimes the structure of the coconut oil changes when it is melted and solidified repeatedly. This also happens if you use too high heat to melt the oil.
The structure of the oil changes and some of the fatty acids create a grainy texture.
But, don’t fear, because once you remelt the oil these grains will melt with them and leave you with a completely smooth liquid.
Is coconut oil healthy?
Coconut oil is one of the healthiest oils or fats you can find, which is exactly why we don’t recommend melting it with a ton of heat – heat removes nutrients.
We would also recommend using unrefined and organic coconut oil for the most nutrients and most authentic flavor and odor.
Coconut oil helps maintain your cholesterol, helps protect your skin and hair, and has other benefits like maintaining good heart health and a healthy immune system.
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