Pumpkin Carving 101

carved pumpkins on steps
Photo: iStock
10 simple steps to carving the perfect Halloween pumpkin

Carving a jack-o'-lantern is as easy as pumpkin pie -- really! To carve your own pumpkin, all you need is a basic pumpkin-carving kit (available at party stores), a kitchen knife, a large spoon, painter's tape and a template. Use the small serrated knife from the pumpkin-carving kit to cut out your design; those knives are easier to handle and much safer to use than regular kitchen knives. And be sure to protect your work surface by covering it with a newspaper or a drop cloth.

Need a template? Click here to download


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    Step 1: Clean your pumpkin with a gentle spray cleanser and paper towels (if it’s really dirty, give it a bath in the sink).

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    Step 2: Cut off the stem of the pumpkin by slicing around the stem a few inches out. Angular cuts will make it easier for the stem to rest back in the pumpkin once you’re finished.

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    Step 3: Gently but firmly pull out the stem. If it doesn’t come free, recut the perimeter.

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    Step 4: Scrape the pumpkin’s insides off the bottom of the stem top.

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    Step 5: Use a large spoon to scrape out the pumpkin’s guts. Take the time to remove all seeds and soft innards. The more thoroughly you do this, the longer the jack-o’-lantern will last.

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    Step 6: Tape the template onto the outside of the pumpkin. You may need to fold and crimp the paper in places to make it lie flat.

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    Step 7: Use your awl to begin poking small holes to outline the template onto the pumpkin (if your kit doesn’t come with an awl, you can use an ice pick or a thumbtack). Be sure to place a hole at each corner of the design.

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    Step 8: Once you’ve punched all the way around the template, remove the paper from the pumpkin.

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    Step 9: Using the punched holes as a guide, begin cutting out the shapes. Work slowly and steadily so that you don’t cut too far.

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    Step 10: After you’ve cut around each shape, gently push from inside the pumpkin to help loosen the cutout pieces, and remove them. If necessary, recut around the perimeter of each shape.

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    Step 11: You're done! Light up your jack-o’-lantern with a candle or pumpkin light (available at your local Halloween or home store). Happy Halloween!