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Learning how to carve a pumpkin shouldn’t be the challenge of the fall season. Sometimes we get so excited thinking about all of the fall activities, Halloween decorations, and holiday drinks, that we forget about the fundamentals: how to carve a pumpkin.

After all, you could decorate it, cook it, or leave it whole, but the steps to carve it are as easy as eating a big slice of pumpkin pie. I like to make the pumpkin carving process a friends and family affair where everyone gets their hands messy. Serve up some hot apple cider, watch free Halloween movies, and make it a carving party.

Have you decided on your favorite carving? Are you going to wing it or use a free pumpkin stencil? Regardless of the style you choose, we’ve got four basic steps on how to carve a pumpkin that will make you a professional for years to come.

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How to Carve a Pumpkin

supplies to carve a face in a pumpkin on a countertop

You’ll need:


Step 1: Choose a Pumpkin

A person taking a pumpkin from a large box of pumpkins outside of a Fred Meyers store.

You’ll want to scope out the pumpkin competition in mid-September when most grocery and big-box stores start carrying these orange fruit. After you have a general idea of what you want to do with it, choose one or a few pumpkin types — mini, medium, large, oblong, white, tiger striped, etc.

Make sure the stem is intact and that the actual pumpkin skin isn’t bruised, holey, cracked, moldy, or discolored. You’ll want one with firm skin and uniform color. It definitely doesn’t need to be picture-perfect, but it should be a good base for carving.

Keep in mind — the heavier it is, the more flesh to carve. And if it’s an heirloom pumpkin, these beauties are meant to have a few flaws like bumpy skin and discoloration.

You’ll find that pumpkins are either priced per pound or one flat rate. In my experience, most stores carry flat rate pumpkins, which makes it easy to budget. You may get more for your money if you just choose a larger one (compared to the smaller ones of the same price).

Related: Best Prices on Pumpkins



Step 2: Clean It Out

a person pulling the bottom out of a cut pumpkin

Now that you’ve gotten your brand spanking new pumpkin, it’s time to cut it open and clean out the pumpkin. Pick a leveled, comfortable surface like the floor or a countertop. Lay some newspaper or trash bags down to collect the pumpkin guts.

Use a small paring knife to cut a hole in the bottom of the pumpkin. It should be big enough to fit your hand. A cut at the top will eventually cause the pumpkin to rot faster because it will be exposed to air. A bottom cut — which is also a great space for placing LED lights — will remain flat so no air gets in.

Scrape the insides of the pumpkin with the metal ice scoop or spoon. If you want to roast pumpkin seeds, here’s your chance to collect them in a bowl of water. Continue to scrape until the cavity is empty.


Step 3: Trace or Outline Your Design

a person tracing a jack o lantern face with push pin on a pumpkin

Of course, any outline will do, but for this example, we chose the traditional jack-o’-lantern design. Position the template on top of the pumpkin and use a push pin to create the outline to make carving easier.

Related: 12 Free Printable Halloween Pumpkin Stencils


Step 4: Carve Your Design
a person cutting a jack o lantern face out of a pumpkin

With your template set, start cutting out the features carefully. To avoid breaking or tearing the delicate openings, make the initial cut, then push the shape from the inside out.

You won’t need to purchase a pumpkin carving kit if you have a sharp paring knife to use. An apple corer and cookie cutters are other useful tools that make clean cuts.

Now that you’re done, follow these ways to make your carved pumpkin last longer.

How to Carve a Pumpkin Like a Pro in 4 Easy Steps