Halloween is one of our favorite holidays and jack-o-lanterns are an iconic feature. Learning how to carve a pumpkin is a great activity you can add to your fall festivities while getting the kids involved. Of course, make sure to supervise the little ones or take care of the carving parts for them. But once you know the basic process, pumpkin carving is a snap. Plus, you can roast pumpkin seeds and prepare the pumpkin itself different ways!
Before you put knife to pumpkin, there are a few things needed.
What You Need
- One whole pumpkin (you can choose your favorite sized, colored or shaped pumpkin to carve. However, bigger pumpkins may be easier to maneuver)
- Permanent marker
- Carving tools or knife
- Large spoon (to help carve scoop out seeds)
- Tea Lights or battery operated candles
- Large bowl or bucket (to put your pumpkin seeds and guts in)
- Kitchen towel (this can help stabilized your pumpkin and prevent it from slipping)
- Newspaper, butcher paper or brown paper bags for your table (optional, but they make clean-up much quicker!)
How to Carve Your Pumpkin - Instructions
- Line a sturdy table with flattened grocery bags, newspaper, brown bags, or butcher paper. Have your permanent marker, carving tools and bowls nearby.
- After you’ve determined the best side of your pumpkin for a face, use the permanent marker to sketch out eyes, a nose and a toothy grin. Or, add any other of your favorite design features. You can try a pumpkin stencil for a guided pattern.
- Outline a circular lid around the pumpkin stem, about 5 to 6 inches in diameter. Add a notch in the back if you like — this makes it easier to line up when you're putting the top of the pumpkin back on.
- With a slim pumpkin carving knife (the carving tool with a toothed blade like a mini-saw) or serrated knife, cut along the outline of your pumpkin lid. Make sure you slice through the pumpkin at a 45-degree inward angle, so you’ll be able to replace the lid without it falling in.
- The seeds are all attached to the pumpkin and each other by thin strings. Grab the big bunches of seeds with your hands and place them in one of the bowls, to be cleaned later.
- Using a ladle or the scraper that came with your kit (or a metal spoon if you don’t have this tool), clean out the inside of the pumpkin until no stringy bits remain. Discard the pumpkin guts and seeds, or save the seeds for roasting.
- Use the kitchen towel to wipe off the outside of the pumpkin to prevent slipperiness so that it will be easier and safer to carve.
- Make straight cuts into your pumpkin along the lines of your design, removing the pieces and discarding them.
- Go back in and scrape out any stringy pieces or jagged lines with the wire tool from your carving kit. You can also scrape off the marker lines while you’re at it, though they won’t be visible in the darkness of night.
Setting up your Jack-o-Lantern:
- Insert a tea light candle or small battery candle inside the bottom of your pumpkin.
- Use a long match or lighter to light the pumpkin and replace the lid. If using a battery-operated candle, simply switch on the light.
- Tip: If you’re having trouble lighting the candle, try going through the mouth of the jack-o’-lantern instead of the top.
Check Out Some of Our Pumpkin Recipe Ideas
Explore some of our favorite fall pumpkin recipes to try this year.