How to Carve a Pumpkin


[Photograph: jwendorff]

Don't forget to enter our Halloween Carving Contest before Sunday at 6 p.m. Winners will receive shiny, sharp Viking knives. This Cookie-Monster-o'-Lantern is just one of the submissions so far. Check them all out here. We'll announce the winners on Monday, November 2. Think you can do better? After the jump, a step-by-step guide to carving your orange creature.

  • Select a pumpkin (butternut squash or gourds are also acceptable). For more elaborate designs, go with the bigger size (and obviously chubby ones are good just generally speaking). Avoid infected pumpkinsā€”those with bruises, dents, and funky mold.
  • Once you find the winner, do not carry it by the stem. That is pumpkin abuse! Think of the breaking-off potential. (But if the stem does break, don't freak out, just use a toothpick to mend it.)
  • You will need: a thin bladed knife, a large spoon or ice-cream scooper, and lots of newspaper.
  • With the thin bladed knife (sharper is better and safer) cut around the pumpkin stem at about a 45 degree angle. Make the circle wide enough so you can stick your arm in there and scoop out the guts (which includes all stringy material, but save the seeds!).
  • Once it's properly de-gutted, decide which side of the pumpkin is the most attractive. Use a crayon to sketch the carving design.
  • Cut through the lines you drew and carefully push out the pieces. Serrated knives are best for more detailed work.
  • Candle time: use a small votive candle in a glass holder or tea lights in a metal case. To avoid fire hazards, you may want to cut the bottom of the pumpkin (just like you did the top) due to wobble factor.
  • Do not try to eat this pumpkin.
  • However, you can turn it into an air freshener by sprinkling the bottom side cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves.
  • For a non-carving alternative: try painting with royal icing.