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How to carve a pumpkin

How to carve a pumpkin

As we approach the end of October, we’re one step closer to all things bats, ghouls, ghosts and pumpkins. Halloween is soon upon us, so we’ve compiled the ultimate guide to carving the mighty pumpkin.

First things first, choosing the right pumpkin couldn’t be more important. They come in all different shapes, sizes, and hundreds of varieties, so get to grips with everything there is to know about pumkpins and squashes first.

Once you’ve chosen your pumpkin it’s time to get stuck in and create the creepiest jack-o’-lantern the world’s ever seen…

  1. Place the pumpkin on a tea towel so it doesn’t slip, then carefully cut the crown off the pumpkin.
  2. Use a large metal serving spoon to scoop out the seeds, fibres and flesh of the pumpkin. Be sure to save the insides for later as they’ll come in handy to make a lovely soup or sweet treat.
  3. With a marker pen, draw an outline of a face on the pumpkin.
  4. Use a small knife to cut out the eyes, nose and mouth. A smaller knife allows better precision and control, but always cut away from you in case the knife slips.
  5. Pop a tealight (or two) inside the pumpkin, light it and replace the crown.
  6. Stand back and enjoy your creepy creation.

Now that your Halloween centrepiece is firmly in the limelight, let’s revisit that leftover pumpkin flesh and transform it into something tasty…

Pumpkin is a wonderful source of vitamin C, which our bodies need for loads of different reasons including immune health, teeth and gum health and also for cell protection. If you’re planning on cooking with your hollowed-out pumpkin afterwards, make sure you buy one that’s intended for eating rather than a cheaper ‘carving pumpkin’ that’s purely for decorative purposes. It’s best to carve the pumpkin the day before Halloween, and use it the day after so it doesn’t go mouldy, and don’t forget to clean it well and make sure there’s no candle wax remaining.

Why not celebrate the humble pumpkin with something a little different to the classic pie? These delectable spiced pumpkin and coffee tarts are a lovely autumnal alternative. Or, if you’re after something more savoury, try using the flesh in this glorious roasted pumpkin soup or a gorgeous gluten-free pumpkin pie:

Don’t discard the seeds after you’ve carved your pumpkin! You’re just a few steps away from discovering a delicious snack that’s also brilliant scattered over seasonal soups.

Pumpkin seeds are nutrient dense and particularly high in phosphorus, a mineral we need to keep our bones and teeth strong and healthy. They’re also rich in copper, that helps to keep our nervous systems healthy, as well as keep our hair strong and to transport iron in the body; another nutrient these wonderful seeds are high in – double win!

Learn how to roast pumpkin seeds with our easy-to-follow step-by-step guide.

So, get stuck in and have a go at carving a perfectly petrifying pumpkin this Halloween!

7 Pumpkin Recipes To Help You Avoid Waste This Halloween

There are so many tasty ways to use up your lantern leftovers.

Halloween wouldn’t be complete without giant orange pumpkins with ghoulish faces. And Brits love them, with an estimated 9 million pumpkins being taken home this year from pumpkin patches, according to food and drink brand Knorr. But our love of pumpkins is actually causing a scary byproduct, with over half of the UK’s 24 million pumpkins predicted to become food waste this year. Below are 7 pumpkin recipes to help you avoid food waste this Halloween.

It turns out pumpkins are a totally overlooked food as, according to Knorr's report, a quarter of the nation (23.81%) didn’t know they could cook with the leftover flesh. Although carving pumpkins are bred to be large, with thin flesh, and are a bit more fibrous than their squash and gourd cousins, they are completely good to cook and eat. In fact, it’s almost all edible including the skin and seeds, just not the stalk.

Yes, it’s great to support your local farms and visit a pumpkin patch, but with 2.9 million tonnes of food waste every year in the UK, we should be trying to avoid chucking stuff away whenever we can. So why not turn your halloween decoration into a delicious meal? Here are some pumpkin recipes that will save you from wasting this delicious edible squash.

Before you lop his head off .

Remove all the seedy gubbins through the underside of your pumpkin. Not only will your pumpkin retain his adorable stalky hat, he'll keep fresher for longer too. And sit sqaurely. How? Simply Slice a circle from the underside (keep the piece to fit back in later). So very neat and tidy.

There will be a bunch of pulp, fibers, and seeds inside the pumpkin that needs to be removed. Use the scraper tool, ice cream scoop, or large spoon and brush the interior walls in a spiral motion. Once you do that, you can use your hands to pull out the goop. Wipe the outside of the pumpkin with a kitchen towel to clean and dry the surface.

Don&rsquot throw away the seeds! It&rsquos easy to roast the pumpkin seeds for a healthy snack.

How to Carve a Pumpkin

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I have amazing memories of my family sitting at the kitchen table carving pumpkins together. Apple cider to drink, roasted pumpkin seeds to make and jack-o-lanterns to carve.

While I'm no expert on carving pumpkins, here is how my family has always done it:

What you'll need:

Faith Branch

A good pumpkin, a stencil, scissors (if you want to cut out your design), tape, a bowl and a pumpkin carving kit.

1. Cut a whole at the top of pumpkin

#SpoonTip: Make sure you cut a hole big enough for you to scoop out the insides (I made this mistake with this pumpkin, it was difficult to use the scooper).

2. Scoop out the insides of the pumpkins

Faith Branch

But make sure that you save the seeds for this recipe.

3. Tape your design onto the pumpkin

Faith Branch

If this is your first time carving a pumpkin then choose a design without a lot of curves. But if you are feeling adventurous, choose something like the Spoon logo.

4. Use a carving knife from the carving kit and poke holes around the stencil

Faith Branch

This will make sure you are following the design when carving.

Here's what your pumpkin should look like after you've poked holes for the entire design.

Faith Branch

5. Start carving your pumpkin.

Faith Branch

#SpoonTip: Take out small sections of the pumpkin as you go along to help protect the parts of the design that you want to keep intact (like the Spoon in this instance).

Faith Branch

6. Voilà, your pumpkin is finished

Faith Branch

All you need now is a candle and then your pumpkin will be ready for all the Instagram photos.

Since you now know that carving pumpkins and pie pumpkins are not the same, head to your produce department and pick out a few sweet baking pumpkins, using the same basic guide as above: no soft spots, no insect holes. Pick a pumpkin that is heavy for its size&mdashthis means lots of sweet flesh inside.

Treat your pie pumpkin just like a butternut squash: the best flavor will be from roasting in the oven. Get it ready for baking any way you&rsquod like. The simplest is to split it in half, remove the seeds, and lay it face down on a sheet pan. A gentle roast at 350 degrees for 45 minutes should be just about right. Check for softness in the skin and fork-tenderness. Wash and toast the seeds later for this batch of Pumpkin Pie Spice Pumpkin Seeds &ndash all you need is McCormick Pumpkin Pie Spice for double the pumpkin flavor, sugar, and an egg white.

Once your pumpkin is baked to soft perfection, peel and puree in a food processor to achieve a smooth texture. Get ready to make amazing recipes with your real pumpkin. Any time you see &ldquocanned pumpkin&rdquo in a recipe, just use your own fresh puree in equal amounts!

How to Carve a Pumpkin like a Master

I love fall! And I really love all of the fun activities that come along with it. Like carving pumpkins. But, I’ll tell you a secret. Okay, it’s not really a secret, it’s just plain old admitting the truth. Carving pumpkins has almost always been one of my favorite Halloween traditions, but I stink at it as a mom. I probably average one in every three years carving pumpkins. And the years we have carved pumpkins? It’s almost always been ON Halloween! So, there’s pretty much no time to enjoy them all lit up. I know! Such a mom fail. But truthfully, if I’m going to fail at something, there could definitely be worse things.

As our kids have gotten older, I’ve been bound and determined to change this half-hearted effort I’ve made. And every time I think of my kids with knifes, I remember my twelve year old self getting a deep and nasty cut on my finger from carving Halloween pumpkins. I still have the scar to remind me. I do not want to repeat that with any of my kids! I remember my bad experience very vividly.

So, what is a mom to do? Thankfully there is a pretty awesome answer! I got the chance to try out some fun Pumpkin Master’s pumpkin carving kits. As soon as Max even saw a picture, he was so excited!

Then the kits came in the mail and the kids all spent hours thumbing through all of the patterns choosing which one they wanted to use on their pumpkin. And of course calling dibs on who got to use the Power Saw first. They could hardly wait until we could finally dig into those pumpkins.

We’ve had an exceptionally warm fall here. I’m grateful for every warm day we have because Idaho can have some brutal winters. Since it’s been so warm, we headed out to our backyard to carve them. Less mess for me and more chance to enjoy the sunshine.

The thing I loved about the kits is they have detailed instructions giving tips on how to carve the BEST pumpkin you can. The first tip? Cut your opening circle on the BOTTOM of the pumpkin. Genius!! Then when you light them, all you have to do is put the pumpkin over the light instead of reaching inside of the pumpkin. Also, it helps the bottoms be more level which stabilizes them.

We used the crayon that came in the Carving Party Kit to draw a circle.

Each kit is full of fun patterns that make carving intricate designs a lot easier. The pattern shows the difficulty level so it was easy for me to help my kids pick one that I thought would be closer to each of their levels.

Logan chose an easy one. It was a cute spider.

We taped the pattern on and he just had to color in the circles. After we took the pattern off, I used the crayon to connect all of the little dots giving him an easy to follow line.

The knives that come with the kits are really safe. I didn’t hesitate even for a minute to let my kids use them. I did wonder if I would have to help a lot, but it turned out that they all pretty much had it on their own.

Bria chose a ghost and we followed the instructions for getting the pattern wet and attaching it to the pumpkin. Normally, it suggests using plastic wrap, but we were out and used a press and seal wrap to keep it in place instead.

It took kind of a while for them to get their pumpkins finished. They worked so hard!

Max chose a bat. He definitely picked the hardest pattern. That kid practically laughs at any sign of difficulty. He is so willing to try anything – especially if he thinks it will be a challenge!

We learned a good trick with his when he was getting a little bit frustrated and I would actually recommend doing it this way. We took the little poking tool and poked little dots in the pumpkin along the pattern lines. Then we took the paper off and he just followed the dots to carve lines. We didn’t do this but it would be a good idea to take the crayon

and trace around the dots so that it doesn’t get confusing and you accidentally cut through a place that you weren’t.

I did a pumpkin myself, too. I used the Decorating Punches which I love, love, love! And of course I didn’t get any good in progress pictures of mine. I was too busy helping, taking pictures, and carving! Haha! The best I could find was this shot of the kids working. Mine is in the lower right corner.

All of the pumpkins turned out so good! Like better than I’ve ever seen our little family even get close too. And all of my kids did their own. Completely by themselves. Even Logan and he is 6!

Look at that pumpkin! A SIX year old carved it. By himself! I’m pretty impressed!

Here’s Max’s pumpkin. He was so proud when he finished! His took the longest and he was outside by himself finishing up for a while. He just couldn’t quit smiling when he got it done.

Hers is a little bit harder to see in the light, so of course I wanted to do a shot of all of them in the dark.

Aren’t they awesome! Without these fun kits from Pumpkin Masters I never could have been able to do this with my kids. One mom (their dad was at work) with three kids and knives? No wonder I haven’t been that into carving pumpkins in the past. But with these safe knives that take away my worry of the kids cutting themselves, we were able to have a great time and make amazing memories!

How to Host a Family Pumpkin Carving Night

One of the things that can help keep you sane during complicated times is to remember that while there are many things outside our control, we do have some control over how we let them affect us. Flipping the script on situations that might be disappointing is often completely within our power, and it usually just has to do with how we look at things.

This is extra important when kids are involved and you have to help them figure out how to deal with their own feelings and reactions. And never is this more complicated than when it is connected to a special kid-focused thing like Halloween. 

Halloween is, at its core, a kid&aposs holiday. Sure, plenty of adults get in on the fun. There are theme nights at bars and restaurants, and it is a fun excuse for a grown-up costume evening.

But to take a year off from that is not nearly as gut-wrenching a disappointment as it is for the little ones. So, it is even more essential to land on an attitude that helps them still look forward to the day without being overly upset about what isn&apost happening.

And one of the best ways to do that is to plan a full day of small-scale Halloween spirit. After all, Halloween is on a Saturday this year, so the whole family can go all-in on some fabulous fun. And nothing can take a whole day like pumpkin decorating.

A Whole Day of Pumpkin Picking, Carving, and Eating

Start with a morning trip to a pumpkin patch to select the perfect pumpkins, hopefully fueled by some warm spiced cocoa and apple cider donuts.

Be sure to choose pumpkins that are of a scale appropriate to the family member, and do remember that smaller pumpkins are often harder to carve. If your kids aren&apost big enough to wield the tools themselves, then choose large pumpkins that will make an impact to work on in pairs or teams with either older kids or parents.

If you have concerns about carving, pumpkins can also be painted, decoupaged, or decorated in other ways, so choose the method that works best for your family.

Once you get home, plan a warming lunch, starting with a theme-appropriate pumpkin soup (in the fabulous pumpkin bowls, if you are so inclined) and grilled cheese cut into fun Halloween shapes or pressed in a pumpkin waffle/panini maker.

Time to Decorate Pumpkins

Start by hollowing out all of your pumpkins, and making some roasted pumpkin seeds. Divide the seeds among the whole family and let each member season theirs to their personal taste before roasting. Once they are cool, you can do a taste test, and offer up some prizes for the best flavors.

Then settle into some serious decorating. If you are going to carve, be sure to have a great carving kit to use, and if you have a large family, maybe get two to share. If you are worried about the design aspect, don&apost hesitate to grab a stencil book to guide you. If you want to avoid carving your pumpkins, load up on paints, or paint markers. Or think outside the box and decorate with anything from stickers to glitter to candy.

Set a spooky table for dinner with a themed tablecloth, cups, and napkins. Serve something silly and fun like Zombie Meatloaf or Jack-o-Lantern Stuffed Peppers. Stir some pureed spinach into your favorite mashed potato recipe for "slime" potatoes, and wrap broccoli spears in thin strips of puff pastry or biscuit dough for mummified vegetables. Have older kids? Try a more upscale pumpkin curry. And for more fun, have everyone come to the table in their costume.

After dinner, decorate some Halloween cookies together for a dessert that becomes an activity, and then give out silly prizes for the decorated pumpkins. Have a "trick or treat hunt" in the house, looking for hidden candy, watch a Halloween movie together, work on a Halloween puzzle or coloring books, make a ghost fort in the living room and listen to a scary or read an eerie book. Have some other family friends get in on the fun with a Zoom pumpkin and costume share.

Once the kids have gone to bed, try an eerie nightcap like a Vampiros Mexicanos or Spiritful Hot Chocolate, and congratulate yourself on a day of amazing Halloween memories, and some traditions that might just stick.

Recipe and Directions

Step1 - Choose a pumpkin

It doesn't matter if one side of the pumpkin is nasty looking, just turn that side to the wall.

Step 2 - Get out your tools!

The pumpkin carving kits that are sold at Wal-Mart, target and some grocery stores are excellent. they usually cost between $2 and $4, and have a couple dozen designs in them (meaning you could carve as many as 24 pumpkins with one kit). You can keep the kit and re-use it next year, so don't be a tightwad and just carve an insipid smiley-face pumpkin, when you can make something really amazing!

The kits include all the tools needed, and they actually work better than ordinary kitchen tools! Click here to see kits, tools, books and templates for carving pumpkins carries a variety of kits and stencils. If the kit at left is sold out, just scroll down the page there. There will be other kits listed! And for 2 free stencils ( a happy face pumpkin and a spider, click here!

Step 3 - Stab your Pumpkin in the Head!

Step 4 - Rip your pumpkin's lid off!

Step 5 - Plunge your hand in and pull out the pumpkin brains!

Eeewwwww! I can just hear you. Yes, stick your hand into the glop, stringy, icky stuff and try not to think of it as "pumpkin brains". I said DON'T think of it as pumpkin brains. Too late. Oh, well.

Step 6 - Scrape the inside walls

Now, have one of the children start separating the seeds from the glop. kids seem to actually enjoy this menial task.

Step 7 - Cut the loose glop off from the pumpkin lid

Step 8 - Attach the carving kit's design template

Step 9 - Mark the design

Using the small plastic poker from the kit, press through the design inside the gray side of each shape. I make holes that are about 1/8 of an inch apart.

Step 10 - Remove the design paper

Step 11 - Cut out along the dotted lines.

Just like your paint-by-numbers kit, just follow the outlines - use your template to figure out where each shape starts and stops.

At right is a neat and inexpensive tool by Dremel that allows anyone do easily carve an intricate and impressive design.

Dremel 764-01 Pumpkin Carving Kit

The Dremel Pumpkin Carving Kit features a battery operated pumpkin carving tool, powered by the Dremel 6V MiniMite Cordless Rotary Tool, and six jack-o'-lantern templates. The new Pumpkin Carving Kit makes it faster and easier to carve stunning, artistic jack-o'-lantern designs. The battery operated pumpkin carving tool strips away a partial layer of the pumpkin's surface for a translucent effect.

  • As easy as tracing a drawing
  • Additional pumpkin carving tips available at dremel
  • 6.0V cordless MiniMite (requires 4AA batteries, not included)
  • 6 Free Templates included to start designing stunning carvings.
  • Carve intricate patterns in minutes

The finished pumpkin won't look too impressive until you put a light or candle in it.

And turn off the lights! Then it's pretty amazing, huh?

And you're done, Michelangelo! Put it in the window and wait for the applause!

How to Carve a Pumpkin Like a Pro This Halloween

There are many ways to decorate pumpkins these days, but the classic way to carve a pumpkin is to pick up a sharp kitchen knife and get to work. With Halloween approaching, here’s a step-by-step guide on how to carve a pumpkin, plus other options for those who want an easier (or safer) way.

Fall Flair More Clever Ways to Decorate with Pumpkins It’s that time of year when everything is coming up orange and pumpkins take center stage on our stoops and in our windows. Pumpkin carving can be a fun family affair even though children should not be responsible for the actual carving process since it can be a dangerous proposition when tiny hands meet sharp knives and thick pumpkin flesh.

The Origins of Pumpkin Carving

While you’re carving, share with your kids the history of pumpkin carving which began in ancient Ireland. It was the Irish who first brought this tradition to America from their green homeland steeped in mystical Celtic traditions. Since pumpkins did not exist in Ireland at the time, turnips were traditionally carved and placed on doorsteps with candles burning inside on All Hallow’s Eve as a way to ward off evil spirits and honor the dead.

Don’t Forget to Save the Seeds

When you scoop out the insides of your pumpkin, save the seeds and check out our top ideas on how to use pumpkin seeds.

How to Carve a Pumpkin

1. Select your pumpkin with an eye toward how you want to carve it. Taller pumpkins can work better for freeform faces whereas round pumpkins are more suited for intricate stencil designs. Also be sure there are no soft spots on the pumpkin, since that indicates it’s already starting to rot.

2. Wipe the pumpkin clean with a damp cloth before carving it.

3. Using a sharp paring knife, first cut off the top of the pumpkin to create a lid. Cut a small notch into one portion of the lid to make it easy to fit it and pumpkin back together again once the carving is complete.

4. Use a large metal spoon to scoop out the inside of the pumpkin. Reserve the pulp and seeds separately for future recipes or simply discard in your compost bin.

5. Optional step: To make the jack-o’-lantern last longer, spray the inside of the pumpkin with a bleach and water solution and let it dry completely before carving. You can give it another bleach treatment after carving if you’re worried it might rot too quickly, but if it will be sitting somewhere relatively cool and not carved too far ahead of time, it should be fine.

5. Draw your design on the pumpkin using a marker or ballpoint pen. This step is when you can involve small children since it will make them feel more invested in the process.

6. Carve the design using a sharp paring knife and discard the excess pieces or reserve them for recipes. Always cut away from your body in order to prevent injuries from slipping, and don’t grab the biggest knife you own (that’s overkill).

7. Pop a tea light into the pumpkin, replace the lid and await your trick-or- treaters. Battery-operated candles are safer than regular candles and also help the jack-o’-lantern last longer since they don’t heat up the inside!

Homemory Flickering LED Tea Lights, 12 for $12.99 from Amazon

These flameless LED candles provide a realistic flickering glow for your pumpkins.

Check out some of the best pumpkin carving tools if you want to get a bit more sophisticated and specialized with your tools.

Alternative Pumpkin Decorating Ideas

You can also try a surface carving kit, use pumpkin stickers to avoid carving at all, or try painting them with fun designs (or solid colors if you prefer).

See some of our other favorite pumpkin decorating ideas if you want to try your hand at pumpkin vases, pumpkin stacks, pumpkin candle holders, and more.

Related Video: If You Have Baby Pumpkins, Try Baking Eggs in Them!

Preserving Your Pumpkin

Unfortunately, you can't do it. It is a piece of fruit after all and is destined for the compost heap. There are luckily a few things that we can do to extend the lives of our Maniac Pumpkins.

Mist the cut surfaces with diluted lemon juice to fight oxidation and mold.

Spray a very light coat of vegetable oil spray on the cut surfaces to seal in moisture.

Store in a cool space, wrapped in plastic when not on display.

If your pumpkin is shriveling after some days, you can perk it back up by submerging it in an ice bath for at least a few hours (try the bathtub or a cooler). After the bath, dry the pumpkin out with a towel and re-coat with vegetable oil spray.

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