Carve a Pumpkin From the Bottom for Easier Lighting

How To Cut A Pumpkin

Just like watermelons, pumpkins are not the easiest to cut but with a few simple tricks, you can get this done fast and safely. I recommend watching the video on the recipe card. It will make a lot more sense than the following text:

You need a large and very sharp knife. Cut your pumpkin on a large chopping board on a steady work surface. Place the pumpkin on its bottom (opposite the stem) so it sits steady.

The most important is to not try and cut through the stem. That is the hardest part. Take your knife and insert it straight into the pumpkin about half an inch to the right or left of the stem. This will depend on if you are left-handed or right-handed. Take the knife with your dominant hand and hold the stem of the pumpkin with the other, then insert the knife from the top down without crossing your arms.

Once the knife is in, move down toward the cutting board. Pull the knife out and turn the pumpkin away from you like a wheel and repeat until you cut the pumpkin into two halfs, one bigger than the other.

Video

Step 7. Start by making simple rough cuts

If you get the big pieces of pumpkin out of the way first, you can go back and clean up the edges of your design later.

Light up the pumpkin

If using a votive candle, place it inside, then place the pumpkin on top. The pumpkin won’t last as long because the heat will gradually soften the flesh over time. Other good options are battery operated votive candles or small LED string lights. Don’t forget to blow out any real candles or turn off the lights at the end of the night.

Pick a Perfect Pumpkin to Carve

Before we talk about how to carve a pumpkin, let’s talk about how to select one.

  • Look for a firm, solid pumpkin with no soft spots, cuts or other damaged areas (dry callused areas are OK).
  • Check all surfaces and especially around the base of the stem and on the bottom. Oh, and while the stem may look like a carrying handle, avoid toting the pumpkin around by it as it may break off, leaving a nasty, rot-prone gash. Instead, pick your pumpkin up from the sides or bottom with both hands.
  • Select a mature pumpkin. You can tell a mature pumpkin by its thick, puncture-resistant skin. (If you can cut the skin with your fingernail it isn’t ripe, and it won’t last long, so look for another pumpkin.)
 Shop at a local farm, as pumpkins shipped across
  • Shop at a local farm, as pumpkins shipped across the country may pick up bruises along the way, and bruises can lead to premature spoilage.
  • Be sure to consider the ugly, asymmetrical pumpkins, as you can often use their shape as part of your design.
  • When you get it home, give the outside of your pumpkin a good scrub with natural dish soap or castile soap to help reduce the number of microorganisms hanging out on the skin, just waiting for you to cut into it so they can feast.
  • Plan on displaying your pumpkin uncarved until a day or two before the big day. (If you just can’t wait, buy one to carve right away and another to carve right before Halloween.)

Odds and Ends

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Don’t let your pumpkin carving scraps go to waste. Instead, incorporate the excess bits into your design. Triangular pieces make adorable cat ears, but cutouts can also work as noses, hands, or feet. Let your imagination run wild! Attach the scraps to your pumpkin with toothpicks.  Related: The Greatest Haunted House You Could Ever DIY flickr.com

Inside the Lines

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The uneven surface of a pumpkin poses a challenge to any carver trying to follow a stenciled design. Smooth out the process with three simple materials: tape, thumbtacks, and baby powder. Use tape to attach your stencil to the pumpkin, and then poke tiny holes along the outlines with pins or thumbtacks. Remove the stencil and sprinkle baby powder over the pumpkin’s surface. The white powder will fill in the tiny holes, making them easier to see while carving.  Related: 29 Bewitching Ways to Decorate a Pumpkin istockphoto.com

How to Make Pumpkin Puree (for pumpkin recipes)

Roast pumpkin wedges with skin on as described above, then right out of the oven and hot remove the skin by peeling with your hands. That’s hot but you can do it!

Add the peeled roasted pumpkin into a food processor and process for at least 5 minutes or until super smooth. The pumpkin puree can be used like that, however, it has high water content, and is not suitable for any recipe that calls for “canned pumpkin puree”.

To achieve the same consistency of canned pumpkin puree, add a piece of cheesecloth into a colander and place the colander over a large bowl. Add the pumpkin puree into the cheesecloth-lined colander, place a lid on top and place it in the fridge. Let the puree drain for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Pumpkin puree lasts in the fridge for up to 4 days but can also easily be frozen.

How to carve a pumpkin step-by-step

As Cameron suggests, the first thing you’ll need to decide is on your design. You could go for a simple cut-out design, or a more intricate two-tone design where parts are shaved off rather than completely carved out. For either type of design, you will need:

  • A sharp, serrated knife or pumpkin carving knife 
  • A small kitchen knife
  • A table spoon
  • A marker or pen
  • A pin and paper if doing a two-tone design
  • Bleach or all-purpose disinfectant

Top tip: Pumpkin carving can get a little messy, so we like doing it out in the garden, but you can do it in the kitchen – just make sure whatever surface you’ll be carving on is lined with newspapers. 

Choosing a pumpkin is also important. The larger, more evenly surfaced the pumpkin, the easier it will be to achieve a neat design. Avoid pumpkins with too many grooves and imperfections. 

Fun Carving Ideas for Pumpkins Cut From the Bottom

What can you do with the leftover pumpkin after you’ve finished carving?

So, you’ve learned how to carve a pumpkin. But what can you do with all the leftovers? It seems a shame to waste them, however research conducted by surplus food experts Too Good To Go (opens in new tab) has found that more than two thirds of Brits don’t know what to do with the leftover pumpkin flesh and seeds.

The team share their tips on how to turn pumpkin seeds into a delicious and nutritious snack:

  1. Scoop the seeds from the pumpkin, then do your best to separate as much of the stringy pulp as possible from the seeds.
  2. Place the seeds in a bowl with water, and whisk quickly. The seeds will separate from the remaining pulp, and float to the top.
  3. Press the seeds with a tea towel to dry them, then place them on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss to coat.
  4. Bake at 170°C (338°F) for 10–15 minutes, or until crunchy.

There are other yummy treats you can make with your pumpkin leftovers – our guide on what to do with a pumpkin after Halloween has more ideas.

Leftover pumpkin can be used to make delicious snacks

(Image credit: Alberto Jose Moreno jurado/Moment/Getty Images)

Transferring the design

There are various pumpkin design options; draw a custom image or use a printed pattern. From there, tape the design on the flattest part of the pumpkin. I like to use a tool that has a needle tip or pushpin would work to pierce holes through the paper, about ⅛-inches apart. 

Remove the paper, and you can start carving along the dots. However, you can connect the dots with an erasable marker for more intricate designs, which is easy to wash off the surface. I also like to use a paring knife to make a shallow cut to refine the design, making it easier for etching. Don’t forget to save the design for reference. 

Another option is to cut the portions of the design to make a stencil. Then draw the image onto the pumpkin. I also taped an image on the pumpkin and then tightly placed plastic wrap around to secure it. This technique makes it waterproof, and easier to carve.

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2. You Have More Space to Carve

The cuts for the lid reduce the amount of space you have to carve. This is especially true when you're cutting a smaller pumpkin, since you have to cut the lid large enough to fit your hand through.

By cutting the hole on the bottom, where you can't see it, you have more space at the top to carve without hitting the lid.

Is there nothing left in the pumpkin patch but misshapen, wobbly pumpkins? No problem! You can level them up when you cut from the bottom.

Photo by Erica Marsland Huynh on Unsplash; Canva

Step five: Help your pumpkin last longer

Give your pumpkin a bath in a disinfectant solution. The simplest thing to do is just fill your kitchen sink with water and add a bit of bleach, and then submerge your pumpkin in the solution for a couple of minutes. This will help your pumpkin last longer, stopping the remaining flesh inside from rotting too quickly.

Ritterman opts for the bleach method also: ‘Once you have the initial carving, make sure to double back and smooth out any rough edges with a knife or sandpaper. Once you have the face done, make sure to dunk your pumpkin into a water and bleach mixture to make your pumpkin last all the way through Halloween, and use battery operated tea lights to not turn the inside of your pumpkin black.’

If you’d rather not use bleach, covering yours in petroleum jelly is also a good way to help it last. This is also a great hack to stop squirrels eating pumpkins

(Image credit: Unsplash/Kelly Sikkema)

Best Carving Tip Ever:

I cut off the BOTTOM of the pumpkin instead of the top!

That’s right, you cut off the BOTTOM.  Seriously.  Don’t you wish you’d thought of this years ago?

No more wrestling to get a lit candle down into the bottom of the pumpkin or struggling to light a candle that you’ve already placed inside!

Simply cut a hole in the bottom of your pumpkin, and remove that piece for good.  Most of the guts will be pulled out with it, so you’ll only have to give your pumpkin a quick scrape on the inside.

Save your pumpkin seeds for roasting!

Don’t forget to save the seeds so you can make our delicious roasted pumpkin seeds with olive oil and sea salt!

Now, go ahead and carve your jack-o-lantern like you usually would.

Step 11. Create a chimney

First, leave the lid on for a few minutes while the candle burns. Then make a small hole where the lid has blackened.

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