You can tell how much we humans associate happy events with food. Think of birthday and you think cake. Thanksgiving instantly conjures up images of turkey.
And Halloween? Pumpkin, off course!
Nothing screams Halloween more than some ghastly, maniacal Jack ‘O ‘Lantern faces carved into pumpkins.
However, carving pumpkins can be quite a task. It’s easy to ruin designs, and many people have ended up cutting themselves attempting to carve patterns.
Here’s our step by step guide to carving the perfect Halloween pumpkin, without any accidents!
How To Carve A Halloween Pumpkin:
1. Make sure you have a large enough work surface
Pumpkins are large, and carving out the insides can be quite messy. Prepare for this by making sure you have a large enough work surface to work from, be it the kitchen countertop, table or the floor.
We also recommend you cover your work surface with old newspapers or refuse sacks. Although not absolutely necessary, cleanup is a lot easier when all you have to do is scrunch up the mess and throw it away!
2. Get all the tools you need so you have them to hand
3. Cut a ‘lid’ so you can get inside the pumpkin
We recommend you use a serrated bread knife to do this as pumpkin skin is very waxy. Straight edged knifes can easily slip, causing accidents, whereas the serrated edge of a bread knife will easily slice through.
Start by tracing a circle around the pumpkin stalk with a marker pen. Make sure this circle is around 5” in diameter (you want the hole to be big enough for you to fit your hand in easily).
Of course, you don’t have to mark out a circle, it’s just the easiest shape. We’ve seen some fabulous Jack O’ Lanterns with square lids, triangular lids, and even star shaped lids!
Now, use your bread knife to cut through the pumpkin skin, following the line of the marker pen.
The trick is to not cut vertically into the pumpkin, but to angle your cut into the center of the pumpkin (as if you were creating a bowl where the rim is larger than the base)
This creates a lid which sits inside the bowl-like indentation that you have cut, instead of falling through into the pumpkin.
Once you’ve cut all the way around, simply grab the lid by the stalk and pull away. Use your serrated bread knife to cut off any strangle flesh or seeds that are on the underside of the lid, and place the lid to one side.
4. Remove the flesh and seeds and place into your large bowl
Make sure you get as much flesh and seeds out of the pumpkin as possible. The more you remove, the more light is able to shine out of your Jack O’ Lantern.
We recommend you use a sturdy kitchen spoon with a thin ‘lip’ or edge that can scrape flesh. Don’t use bendy silicone spoons as they just won’t be able to remove enough flesh away from the pumpkin skin.
Wooden spoons, although sturdy, have thick, blunt edges, which also cannot scrape pumpkin flesh well.
Metal spoons have the opposite problem, in that they scrape too well! We’ve seen many Jack O’ Lanterns where a metal spoon has accidentally scraped off far too much flesh in one area, causing parts of the carved out design to fall apart.
We recommend you use a nylon spoon as it’s sturdy, has a thin enough edge to dig into flesh and remove it, but isn’t as ‘sharp’ as a metal spoon which can damage the pumpkin skin.
Once you have removed all the flesh and seeds into your bowl, you can cover the bowl and store in the fridge (don’t waste this flesh – you can make some gorgeous meals from this, such as pumpkin curry, cassoulet and chutney!)
5. Carve your design into your pumpkin
You can use your marker pen to sketch out your own design. However, if you’re not ‘arty’, than just print out an online template!
Attach the template to one side of your pumpkin, making sure you tape it down well.
Now, using the spear point of a sharp paring knife, punch dots through the outline of the template into the pumpkin skin. Once done, remove the paper template and you should be able to see a dotted outline of your design.
We recommend using a paring knife as they are designed to have have a sharp spear point to help you complete detail work, such as hulling strawberries, peeling shrimp etc. This point is ideal for making precise dots on your pumpkin so you get a clean outline.
6. Cut out the design by ‘joining the dots’
We’ve found this combination works best as the paring knife is small and nimble enough to cut precisely, ensuring you don’t go over the design lines and cut out too much skin.
The kitchen shears are great to have on hand for ‘cleanups’. Any bits of stubborn, stringy flesh stuck inside can be easily cut off, and you can even go over the lines you’ve created with a knife to make them smoother.
If your design is not very intricate, and you have large areas of pumpkin skin you need to carve out, switch to using the serrated bread knife – this will be faster than a paring knife and is ideal when you don’t need a lot of precision.
If you find a cut section of your design is ‘stuck’ and won’t fall out, place your hand inside using the hole you cut out at the top, and push this section out from the inside.
7. Light it up!
Traditionally, Jack O’ Lanterns where lit up from within using candlesticks or tea lights.
If you opt for the traditional touch, make sure your pumpkin is well ventilated otherwise the candle or tea light may go out.
If your design has meant you’ve carved away a lot of skin, air will be able to circulate through, so there will be no problem.
However, if your design was small, and you’ve not carved away much flesh, you have 2 options to make sure a candle of tea light will not go out when placed inside your pumpkin.
You could opt not to use the pumpkin lid you cut out earlier. Keeping the hole at the top of the pumpkin open will mean lots of air can circulate through.
Or, if you really want to add the lid back on (we wouldn’t blame you as we also love seeing Jack O’ Lanterns with the ‘stalk hat’), opt for adding a few holes to the back of the pumpkin instead, which will get some air flooding through it.
Another options is to forgo tradition and opt for an artificial light source. Not only does this mean you don’t have to worry about airflow inside the pumpkin, you also can leave these lights on when you are away (we NEVER recommend leaving candles and tea lights unattended).
Try adding interest by opting for flashing or flickering LED lights.
8. Replace the ‘lid’
With your chosen light source now inside the pumpkin, place the lid back on. Happy Halloween!
The Tools We Used to Carve our Chef Remi Pumpkin
The Chef Remi 3 Piece Kitchen Spoon Set is the only set of kitchen spoons you’ll ever need.
The solid spoon is perfect for mixing and stirring stews, chilies, soups and sauces (as well as removing flesh from pumpkins!) The slotted spoon is ideal for draining foods, such as vegetables from water or broth.
And the silicone spoon rest means you will never have to worry about where to rest your dirty spoons!
As the spoons are made from food-safe nylon, they will never scratch your precious nonstick, Teflon, ceramic enamel or coated pans.
Add these indispensable kitchen tools to your collection today.
Our multi-purpose Chef Remi Paring Knife will have you carving your pumpkin with intricate precision in no time.
This 4 inch, razor sharp, stainless steel knife, will allow you to make exacting cuts on food that are difficult with larger knives e.g. peeling fruit, trimming beans, peeling shrimp, deseeding chilies, or coring strawberries.
Ergonomic thermoplastic rubber handle reduces aches and numbness, whilst also being moisture-resistant and giving you great grip, even when hands are wet with water, or slippery with food juices.
Add this indispensable kitchen tool to your collection today.
Our multi-purpose Chef Remi Bread Knife, made from food-grade stainless steel, can easily slice through even the toughest, crustiest bread.
Yet the ultra-thin serrated knife edge can also slice through delicate pastries, or slippery skinned foods, like tomatoes, without causing any damage.
What’s more, the serrated edge can safely cut through waxy skins, such as pumpkin, where straight edged knives could slip and cause accidents.
Add this indispensable cooking tool to your collection today.
Our Chef Remi Smart Kitchen Shears are the ultimate multitasking kitchen tool.
Use these heavy duty shears to chop up chicken, meat and sausage, directly into a pan, cut herbs, trim beans……can even help you cut off stringy flesh from a pumpkin!
As the sharpest kitchen shears on the planet they'll slice through food like a knife through hot butter.
They also have a built in bottle opener, which is perfect for opening tough sealed sauce bottles, or even cracking nuts.
Add this indispensable kitchen tool to your collection today.