One of the most popular Halloween traditions is carving pumpkins. It can be a lot of fun, but it can also be a little tricky. Here are some tips on how to carve a pumpkin like an expert. If you’ve never carved a pumpkin before, or if you’re looking for tips on how to do it better, read on!
Choose the perfect pumpkin and follow advice on pumpkin carving safety.
Clean the Pumpkin
The pumpkin needs to be clean and dry. Use a wet paper towel to remove soil and dry it with another as your first step. A dirty or wet pumpkin may cause knife slips and injuries.
Cut the Lid
Cut your lid at 45° to prevent it from falling into the pumpkin. Cutting a six sided figure will be easier than cutting a circle. Make the hole big enough to reach the hand in to remove the strings and seeds.
If you plan to use an electric candle, cut off the bottom of the pumpkin. Keep your cut even so the pumpkin doesn’t tilt.
Clean Out the Pumpkin
Use a large spoon, ice cream scoop, or the plastic scraper from your pumpkin carving kit to scrape strings and seeds loose. Working from the top and scraping to the bottom works well. Remove the loose pumpkin guts and save the pumpkin seeds for roasting.
Sculpt the Inside of the Pumpkin
If you light the pumpkin using a candle, scrape the bottom flat. Look at the sides of the pumpkin. If the walls are thicker than an inch, you may want to scrape some of the excesses from the inside of the pumpkin. Thinner walls are easier to carve.
Clean Pumpkin and Work Area
Rewash the pumpkin and dry it if the outside got soiled while removing the pulp. Wash and dry your hands and the surface you will be working on.
Choose a Pumpkin Carving Pattern
Pumpkin carving kits come with stencils you can use. You can also find free pumpkin carving patterns at BHG and The Pumpkin Lady. Print out the stencil you want to use. Tape your pattern to the pumpkin. Make small tears around the stencil’s edge about every three inches if it doesn’t lay flat.
Mark the Pattern
Use a push pin, a nail, or the poker that came with your pumpkin carving kit. Pierce the outline of your pattern onto the pumpkin every 1/8″ to 1/16″. These punches do not have to be deep. Remove the pattern and connect the dots with a pencil.
How to Carve a Pumpkin
Hold your carving tool at 90° when cutting. Angling into the non-cut space will remove some of the flesh, weakening the area. Angling into the open space will block the amount of light showing through.
Remove the knife when switching directions. Move the pumpkin as necessary to make the cuts smooth. Turn the pumpkin as you cut curves.
Cut fragile small pieces first.
Work from the middle out. Avoid resting your hand on already cut areas.
Rub petroleum jelly over the cut edges to protect them from the air, which will slow down the decaying of the pumpkin.
Light Your Pumpkin
The safest candle to use is a votive candle–less apt to tip. Better yet, use glow sticks, battery-operated flicker candles, or wrap a battery-operated light string around a jar per Martha Stewart.
What is the best way to clean out a pumpkin?
The easiest way to clean out a pumpkin is to use a large spoon, ice cream scoop, or the plastic scraper from your carving kit. Start at the top and scrape down to the bottom. Remove all the strings and seeds. You can also roast the seeds for a tasty snack.
Should I carve the bottom or the top of the pumpkin first?
It doesn’t really matter which end you carve first. Just make sure you have a stable work surface and a sharp knife.
How can I make my pumpkin last longer?
If you want your pumpkin to last longer, carve it closer to Halloween. You can also use a sealant or spray paint to help protect it from the elements.
How to Carve a Pumpkin: Easy Tips and Techniques
How to Carve a Pumpkin Like a Pro
Share your ideas for pumpkin carving or your creations in the comments.
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