Useful Pumpkin Carving Tips for Halloween Season
Featuring acres of fun activities, Ellms Family Farm is a fall destination. Located a short drive from Saratoga in Ballston Spa, Ellms offers dozens of things to do, including corn mazes, a pumpkin patch, ziplines, pedal carts, a jump pad, and more! Learn More »
Before you grab a knife and start transforming your pumpkin into a jack-o'-lantern, take a look at these pumpkin carving tips. We'll take you all the way from picking the perfect pumpkin in the pumpkin patch, to creating a fun and distinctive idea, to preserving the pumpkin so it lasts through Halloween.
Choosing the Right Pumpkin
- Select a clean, bruise-free, mold-free pumpkin with a flat bottom.
- Choose a pumpkin with a greenish, firm stem; stay away from brittle looking stems or pumpkins that are missing stems.
- Don't shy away from weirdly shaped pumpkins - the odd shapes could inspire a unique pattern.
- If you already have a pattern in mind, consider if it would look better on a taller, rather than wider, pumpkin.
- Once you have the pumpkin, don't carry it by the stem.
Carving Your Pumpkin
- Before carving, gently wash the outside of the pumpkin with lukewarm, soapy water.
- Ensure the carving tools are also clean, and sharp.
- Buy a pumpkin carving kit (inexpensive and available at drug stores or grocery stores) for smaller scraper tools.
- Consider using other tools you can find around the house - X-Acto knives, clay sculpting tools, etc.
- Have a plan - print out a copy of the design you want to do, and draw a picture of it on paper before drawing on the pumpkin.
- Use a dry erase marker to draw the image on the pumpkin so you can erase if need be.
- Consider removing the back of the pumpkin instead of the top.
- If you do remove the top, cut at an angle, not straight up and down; this way the lid won't drop inside the pumpkin when you replace it. A boning knife works well.
- Scoop out as much of the flesh as possible - any left can lead to molding.
- Hold the pumpkin in your lap as you're carving and make clean cuts up and down, not at an angle.
- Be creative and use props! Create a tongue from a discarded piece of pumpkin or taffy candy, use plastic fanged teeth on mini pumpkins, etc.
Preserving Your Pumpkin
- Don't carve too soon! Jack-o'-lanterns tend to last 5 to 10 days.
- Before carving, you could soak the entire pumpkin in a bleach solution (1 tsp bleach per 1 gallon water) for 8 hours - this keeps a pumpkin fresher, longer, and has been shown to work better than vaseline.
- There is also a "Pumpkin Fresh" spray that has proven effective to slow mold growth and decay.
- If you're not expecting the jack-o'-lantern to last longer than a week, don't bother with the bleach solution or spray.
- Removing the back of the pumpkin instead of the top could help it last longer.
- Keep the jack-o'-lantern out of direct sunlight in a cool but not freezing spot.
- The ideal temperature for the jack-o'-lantern is between 50 and 55 degrees.
- If it's going below freezing outside, bring it inside. You could temporarily store in the fridge if need be.
- Consider using a glowstick or LED light instead of a candle; the flame cooks the flesh.
If you follow these pumpkin carving tips, you'll be sure to have a fantastic and long-lasting jack-o'-lantern to show off to the whole neighborhood this Halloween!