Pumpkin Carving Tips

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The most popular designs for pumpkins are faces -- from the traditional toothy smile and triangle eyes to the angry jack-o-lantern. However, the images that can be carved into these orange fruits are limited only by your imagination. If you’re not much of an artist, don’t fret. Just do a quick web search for “pumpkin carving patterns” and you’ll get literally thousands of patterns you can print out and transfer to your pumpkin.

“I like to take things a step beyond and carve more detailed characters and scenes, using pumpkin patterns,” says Ryan Wickstrand, creator of the blog, Zombie Pumpkins. “Like iconic Halloween images, like a witch, ghost, vampire or skeleton.”

Pumpkin Carving Kit

If you have children who want to do the carving themselves, it’s a good idea to spend the $5 to $10 for a kit with a blunt carving knife. But if you’re an adult carving your own pumpkin, why not use tools you’ve got right in your utensil drawer? Here’s a list:

A large knife for cutting open the lid of the pumpkin. Look for a chef’s knife sized blade. Ideally, it should have a serrated edge that does much of the work for you.

  • A couple of smaller knives for some of the more intricate cuts. A curved paring knife and a small serrated knife, such a steak knife, are great candidates.
  • A large spoon with a fairly rigid edge. This will allow you to “cut” into the flesh and really scoop out the guts.
  • A candle. Leftover birthday candles work great. Any candles you have stashed away for a power outage are fine, too.

At the Pumpkin Patch

When shopping for a pumpkin, there a few things you want to keep in mind. Here are some tips from Wickstrand:

  • Look it over all around for soft spots or rotting flesh. A soft or rotting pumpkin won’t last as long after it’s carved.
  • Look for discoloration, especially around the stem or on the bottom. Push on those areas to make sure they are not mushy.
  • If you’re using patterns, it’s best to find a pumpkin that has an area that’s smooth and flat. It makes the drawing or transferring of the pattern easier.
  • Look for pumpkins without deep ridges. These tend to be plump and full of moisture, allowing for clean and smooth cuts.

Ghoulish for Days

There’s nothing worse than spending hours on a jack-o-lantern masterpiece, only to have it melt into a pile of mush in just a few days. Here’s how to keep your pumpkin scaring people for as long as possible.

  • Coat the carved edges with petroleum jelly. It helps seal in moisture, which keeps the fruit fresher longer.
  • Spray the inside of the pumpkin with a mixture of bleach and water or a household cleaner to prevent mold.
  • Wrap your pumpkin in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge during non-witching hours.

Part of the fun of pumpkin carving is scooping out the goopy insides, and even more fun is putting those guts to use. You can rinse, salt and bake the pumpkin seeds for a tasty roasted treat. And while your typical jack-o-lantern pumpkin is no good for cooking, if you get one of the spookier looking varieties (white, blue or fairytale) you can turn that goop into a soup or pie.