You may find melting your solidified coconut oil tough especially in winter when even room temperature can stay below 76 °F (24 °C). That's the freezing point of coconut oil. And it gets harder as temperature drops further. How to melt and make it more liquid so that you can use coconut oil for health or skin benefits any time even at temperatures below 76 °F (24 °C)?
1. Melting hardened coconut oil in a plastic jar
Based on the fact that coconut oil is slightly acidic and may react with plastic, I do not recommend putting the jar in a microwave oven or placing it near some high heat sources like a fireplace or space heater, even for a short time.
Even when the plastic container claims it's microwave-safe or it's highly resistant to heat, a heated coconut oil is never 100% safe when it's stored in plastic.
That said, I strongly suggest that you first transfer the plastic-stored coconut oil over to a glass jar as soon as you reach home after the purchase, while it's still in liquid state or in semi-solid (chunky but soft) form. I used to do that until I started to buy coconut oil in glass container.
I know it's kind of troublesome to transfer, but thereafter you can heat coconut oil more easily when it's kept in a glass container. You won't have to fear for the leaching of harmful chemicals from plastic into the oil anymore.
What if it's winter and it's so cold everywhere, and coconut oil is always in rock-solid form even at your room temperature, and you're stuck with a plastic-stored coconut oil?
No way you can do the transfer. The only way now is try making the hardened coconut oil softer so that you can at least scoop it up for use or do the transfer. Let me show you how.
1.1 Immerse solidified coconut oil in warm water
Immerse the jar of solid coconut oil in a bowl of warm water. Or use a taller mug filled with warm water so the gentle heat can reach the coconut oil level in the jar.
Keep the warm water at temperatures between 86 °F (30 °C) and 104 °F (40 °C) to soften the chunk and make it scoopable.
By using warm water, we're trying to cut down the probability of chemical reaction between coconut oil and the plastic container. The hotter the water, the higher the probability.
If you're not bothered by chemical leaching from plastic at all, you can definitely go with using hot water or any other heating methods (for glass container as shown later) to turn the solid coconut oil into liquid fast. You may wind up with a coconut oil that tastes like plastic.
Of course, that still depends on the quality of plastic the coconut oil company uses to hold their product. The better the quality of the plastic (like HDPE), the less chemical leaching will take place.
If you stick to the "warm water" method, you may have to keep replacing the water to maintain its temperature as water loses its heat to the cold surrounding. Hence, it might take quite a while before you can happily scoop up a spoon of coconut oil for use on cooking or for other purposes.
This is the only "safe" way off the top of my head for melting coconut oil in a plastic jar. Do you have a better yet safe way for making coconut oil liquid in a plastic container? Please share with me your ingenious ideas.
2. Melting hardened coconut oil in a glass jar
It's easy to make solid coconut oil liquid when you keep it in a glass container.
However, if you're thinking of heating up and softening the hardened coconut oil in a microwave oven, stop! Check first to see if the glass jar says anything about it being microwave-safe or not. Usually at its bottom.
If it doesn't show a "microwave safe" symbol or text, then you'd better not microwave the solidified coconut oil or the glass jar may shatter and make a mess of the whole thing.
In that case, what can you do to efficiently heat up a glass-stored coconut oil and turn it from solid to liquid fast?
2.1 Toaster oven
You may not use a microwave oven, but you can definitely use a toaster oven.
I've tried setting it to 194 °F (90 °C), turning on both top and bottom heating elements for 10 mins at first. The glass jar just got a little warm and the coconut oil inside was melting very slowly.
Two factors affect the heating efficiency. Firstly, it's quite spacious inside with respect to the size of the container. Secondly, the glass jar is quite thick.
So, the second try I turned up to 248 °F (120 °C) while keeping all other settings the same.
This time around it's melting pretty fast. You can see from the picture that the top of coconut oil begins to melt and form liquid after about 5 mins.
These settings work for me. But if your toaster oven is larger than mine, you probably have to set a higher temperature, like 284 °F (140 °C). Be sure not to set it at or above the smoke point of coconut oil, which is about 350 °F (177 °C). When it smokes, coconut oil's health-promoting properties will break down.
To play safe, best to keep your temperature setting well below 302 °F (150 °C)
2.2 Immerse in hot water
Everything is the same as in section 1.1 above, except for the temperature of water.
Previously, we're talking about plastic jar so we use warm water. But now, the jar is made of glass, so you can go ahead and place your hardened coconut oil in a bowl of steaming hot water. It'll turn into liquid in no time.
Instead of a bowl, I use a taller steel mug to liquefy coconut oil since my coconut oil jar is quite tall. I do not have hot tap water, so I fill up the mug with some water and heat it over a gas stove until it reaches about 150 °F (66 °C). I then turn the gas off and immerse the jar in the quite hot water. And watch the solid coconut oil melts into liquid.
Simple? And it saves a lot of water too. I've seen people filling up a sink with hot tap water just to turn a relatively smaller jar of solid coconut oil into liquid. How wasteful! Water is precious, let's save it.
2.3 Butane torch or gas lighter
Do you have a butane torch lighter in your kitchen? Use that to scorch and melt coconut oil quickly. You can also use a regular gas lighter to heat up and soften the hardened oil if you don't have a butane torch lighter.
But make sure you focus the torch or gas lighter directly on the solid oil (take the lid off the jar) and not on the jar or the jar might crack or shatter if the tiny air bubbles within the glass expand by too much.
2.4 Hair dryer
You should have one at home. Use it to make your coconut oil liquid fast. Remove the lid and blow it directly on the solidified coconut oil. But if the air is quite polluted, then keep the lid on and blow the hot air onto the jar.
A glass jar that holds coconut oil is usually quite thick, so it'll take some time for your coconut oil to heat up and melt, and become liquid.
2.5 Near some heat source
As said earlier, I don't advocate placing a plastic-stored coconut oil near a fireplace or space heater. But if it's stored in a glass jar, you can position the jar as near to the heat source as you deem fit. This way you can keep your coconut oil well in liquid form as long as the heat presents.
2.6 Coffee mug warmer
Having a coffee mug warmer can bring great convenience to you. But not just to warm your favorite beverages like coffee and tea, but to help keep your solid coconut oil liquid at all times so that you can apply coconut oil regularly to your skin or eat it wholeheartedly for health benefits as and when you need.
Go get it if you do not have one. This is by far the best way to make your coconut oil liquid and keep it usable the entire day during winter.