When the ambient temperature of your room has fallen below 76 °F (24.4 °C) in winter or due to a sudden change in weather, your coconut oil will start to solidify. The lower the temperature, the harder it gets. This is because pure coconut oil such as virgin or RBD has a pretty high freezing point of about 76 °F (24.4 °C).
If you want to use coconut oil for hair, skin, baking, cooking, oil pulling, constipation, weight loss etc, you'll need to melt the hardened coconut oil. How? Warm it till it starts melting above 76 °F (24.4 °C).
But don't use microwave to melt the hard solid coconut oil. Why?
Comparing to water which has a specific heat capacity of about 1.0 J/(kg K), oils in general have only 0.5 J/(kg K), half that of water. This means that coconut oil may heat up twice as much as water for a given amount of microwave energy absorbed.
Good, isn't it? Your solid coconut oil will melt quickly in a microwave and become liquid in no time. True enough. But that also means your liquefied coconut oil will likely get overheated and hit its smoke point at 350 °F (204.4 °C) easily.
When coconut oil smokes, every nook and cranny of its health-promoting structures will fall apart. This can turn your coconut oil from beneficial to detrimental.
What's the point of making your coconut oil liquid at the expense of its beneficial properties?
That's not the worst.
Considering most coconut oils are packed in a plastic jar. Can you imagine the plastic jar melting alongside your coconut oil?
It's going to be disastrous and mess up your microwave oven.
Even if the jar doesn't melt easily, how much plastic would have leached into your coconut oil then?
Unless you're very experienced in melting the hard coconut oil in a microwave such that you're able to control the inside temperature so well that your coconut oil melts slowly just about 5 – 10 degrees above its melting point (76 °F or 24.4 °C) without causing plastic leaching from the jar, I encourage you to use the following methods instead.
Keep in mind that each way of melting coconut oil has its own pros and cons. So, choose the one (or two) that works best for you.
1. Melting coconut oil in warm water
I've seen people placing the jar in a sink of hot water to melt coconut oil and make it liquid and easy to use. While it's a good method to quickly turn the solid coconut oil into liquid, I do not endorse this method. Two reasons.
One, wasteful. Using so much water just to turn a jar of solid coconut oil into liquid?
Two, high heat may degrade coconut oil. No doubt coconut oil has high saturated fat content that makes it very much stable and more robust than most dietary oils out there. Still, high heat may result in some loss of nutritional benefits in coconut oil.
I got a better way of melting coconut oil while saving water and preserving its health benefits.
1.1 Sauna your coconut oil
Get a small cooking pot that's large enough to accommodate your jar of coconut oil. Then fill the pot with water to half its height so that it won't overflow when you put in coconut oil later. Put in a steamer rack (or 3-leg cooking stand) followed by the jar of coconut oil right above it. The purpose of steamer rack is to provide a space to prevent direct heating of the base of coconut oil jar.
Heat the pot gently till the water gradually warms up to around 104 °F (40 °C). You need a kitchen thermometer for temperature measurement.
- Minimize the risk of harmful chemicals leaching into the coconut oil if it's a plastic jar.
- Prevent the glass from cracking due to a thermal shock if it's a glass jar.
- Retain as much nutritional and health benefits in the coconut oil as possible.
Turn off the flame. Remove the kitchen thermometer. Cover the pot to sauna coconut oil for 10 minutes.
After that, take off the pot cover. Remove the lid on coconut oil jar. By now, the hard solid coconut oil should have melted and softened a bit.
You don't have to wait for your coconut oil to completely melt into liquid. You can actually start scooping up some softened coconut oil for use now.
For example, to use coconut oil for hair or skin, scoop up some softened coconut oil and place in your hand. It'll turn into liquid quickly and then you can apply the coconut oil to your hair or skin. Our hands are warm enough to melt coconut oil.
Need coconut oil for oil pulling? Scoop up roughly a tablespoon of softened coconut oil and throw inside your mouth. It will melt instantly in your mouth like chocolate.
Make sure to scoop with a spoon that doesn't react with the mildly acidic nature of coconut oil. For instance, porcelain spoon. High-grade stainless steel spoon should be fine for scooping. But never use plastic spoon, especially the disposable type that is made of mediocre plastic.
Clean and dry the spoon before scooping. This is to keep the unused coconut oil in the jar free from moisture. Moisture in coconut oil can promote the growth of mold.
However, if you want to make your coconut oil even softer and more liquid so you can easily scoop up more for use, repeat the procedure and sauna your coconut oil for another 10 minutes.
Besides this sauna technique, you can also place the frozen coconut oil in the bathroom when you're taking a hot shower. The steam in the bathroom will help to melt the coconut oil and make it more liquid.
While these techniques are good ways to make the hard coconut oil softer for you to use, it's not practical to keep your coconut oil liquid out for long hours at ambient temperature that's below 76 °F (24.4 °C) in winter or cold weather. It'll soon turn back to solid again. You'll need some better methods for that.
2. Space heater
You have a space heater to make your room warmer in winter, right?
If the ambient temperature of your room stays above 76 °F (24.4 °C), then just place your coconut oil anywhere in the room. It'll melt gradually and stay liquid for as long as the room stays above the oil's freezing point.
But if you set the space heater to keep your room at temperatures below 76 °F (24.4 °C), you might need to place your coconut oil near the heater. Since the temperature there will probably go above 76 °F (24.4 °C) that can help to melt and keep your coconut oil liquid.
Don't have a space heater? A fireplace can do the trick too. And it's best to put your coconut oil near the fireplace to melt and keep it liquid for longer period in winter. It's a lot warmer near the fireplace.
4. Slow cooker
Don't get me wrong. I'm not asking you to put your jar of solid coconut oil in the slow cooker to make it liquid. The heat inside may cause the plastic jar to melt or glass jar to crack.
What I mean is, if you're cooking food with slow cooker, you can place your coconut oil near the slow cooker. The heat generated from the cooker is high enough to melt coconut oil and make it stay liquid for as long as your slow cooker remains on.
5. Coffee mug warmer or heat mat
Ever thought of melting coconut oil with a coffee mug warmer or reptile heating pad? You can do so now. But remember not to set the temperature too high. Just high enough to make the solid coconut oil liquid.
The only disadvantage in this method is that it will add to your electric bill if you want to keep your coconut oil liquid for long hours during winter season or cold weather.
6. Adding MCT oil to coconut oil
Before your coconut oil solidifies or after it has melted completely into liquid, add some MCT oil to it and mix them well.
For that reason, mixing MCT oil into your pure coconut oil will help bring down the freezing point of your pure coconut oil.
That means, now your coconut oil won't easily freeze and can stay in liquid form even at temperatures below 76 °F (24.4 °C). Of course, that depends on how much MCT oil you've added according to your needs.
One advantage to this method is that, it's also quicker to melt your coconut oil (already mixed with MCT oil) into liquid if it ever freezes and turns solid in an extreme cold weather.
Melting point = freezing point, remember?
Another advantage is that your coconut oil has more MCTs (medium-chain triglycerides) now. More MCTs means you can have more energy, higher metabolism and your skin can absorb the coconut oil faster.
The drawback is that, a typical MCT oil carries only caprylic acid and capric acid, which may dilute some content of lauric acid in the pure coconut oil. As the most potent antimicrobial, lauric acid is one of the key reasons why pure coconut oil is so good for our health. Unless you choose an MCT oil that comes with lauric acid as well.