Pumpkin Carving Tips for the Perfect Jack-O-Lantern

Halloween is right around the corner. If you haven’t carved your jack-o-lantern yet, there’s still time! Follow these 9 easy pumpkin carving tips for the perfect jack-o-lantern.

The first step is picking your pumpkin. Your pumpkin should have a stem. The greener and sturdier the stem is, the fresher the pumpkin is. Make sure your pumpkin has no bruises or soft spots, indicating that it’s already rotting. Choose one with a relatively smooth surface for easier carving.

To make your pumpkin last longer, don’t cut the top off. (Once the stem is gone, decay begins.) Instead cut a hole in the back of the pumpkin, or cut off the bottom of the pumpkin and simply place it over the candle.

If you do cut the top off, cut with the knife angled toward the center of the pumpkin instead of straight up and down. This will provide a more secure fit for the lid on the top of the pumpkin and keep the lid from falling inside.

Scoop out everything from the inside of your pumpkin. An ice cream scoop is a great tool to get everything out. You want to go far enough to expose light colored flesh on the inside of the pumpkin. (Don’t throw away the seeds! Separate them, lay them out flat on a baking sheet, and roast them for a delicious seasonal treat.)

Plan out your design before you start carving. You can draw right on the pumpkin with a dry erase marker so you can easily change any mistakes. Or, you can draw out your design on paper or use a pre-made stencil, like these.

When it’s time to start carving, use a small serrated knife in a sawing action. You may want to invest in a pumpkin carving kit, whose small tools allow you to carve intricate details more accurately than the tools you probably have in your kitchen currently.

Carving with kids? Let them create their own pattern with kid-safe scissors and construction paper. They can glue it to the pumpkin to get the pattern they desire, and then you make the cuts.

Consider using a battery powered candle or small LED light as a safe and low maintenance alternative to candles. If you do use a candle, be sure to create a chimney hole for the release of heat in either the top or back of the pumpkin. Sprinkle some cinnamon or nutmeg on the inside of the pumpkin for a delicious fall smell when it’s lit!

You can make your jack-o-lantern last longer by helping it retain moisture and slowing the drying and rotting process. Cover carved areas and the interior with petroleum jelly or vegetable oil to keep it from rotting. You can also soak it in a bleach solution (1 tsp. bleach/gallon water) to slow the aging process.