Editor’s note: Are you among the estimated 64 million Americans who will be carving a pumpkin this Halloween! This excerpt was adapted from the newly published book “Easy Pumpkin Carving: Spooktacular Patterns, Tips & Ideas” can help you make the best jack-o-lantern on the block. Check out the book for more ideas.
Do you know the essentials of pumpkin carving? By following these steps that you probably had down pat when you were a kid, you can get carving with any traditional pumpkin carving pattern. You’ll need a little elbow grease and a tolerance for mess to use this technique, but it’s totally worth it.
Precarving Pumpkin Prep
1. Clean the pumpkin.
Prep the pumpkin first by rinsing it in cold water and using a scrub brush to remove dirt. If you want, you can spray the entire pumpkin with a mild bleach-and-water solution to kill mold and bacteria.
Use a sturdy knife to slowly and carefully carve out and remove the top of the pumpkin, going in at an angle rather than straight down in. Alternatively, you can cut a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin, which will mean you can sit your pumpkin on top of a light rather than placing a light inside the pumpkin.
3. Clean out the guts.
Use a scoop to completely empty the inside of the pumpkin of flesh and seeds. Keep scraping away at the inner walls of the pumpkin until you only have about an 1-inch-thick pumpkin wall that is nice and smooth.
Transfer the pattern using your desired method. Check out “Easy Pumpkin Carving” for tons of patterns to choose from.
Actually carving your pumpkin is simple enough. Here are some tips to make carving easy and effective:
- Saw steadily with a continuous up-and-down motion, and don’t press too hard or try to go too fast.
- When you’re finished cutting out a standalone piece (like an eye), pop it out of the pumpkin wall with your finger, not your carving tool.
- To cut clean, sharp corners, remove and reinsert the carving tool.
- Carve starting from the inside of the design and working your way outward.
- Resist the urge to put your free hand inside the pumpkin while carving. Only do so if you can clearly see where all of your hand is.
- If you accidentally break off a part of your carving, such as a protruding tooth, as you work, stick it back on with a toothpick.
Keep your carved pumpkin cool and out of the direct sunlight (you can even put it in the fridge). You can also coat the interior and all cut edges with petroleum jelly to help lock in the pumpkin’s natural moisture, or purchase special preservative sprays for pumpkins.