Carving a Perfect Pumpkin

One of my husband’s pumpkin masterpieces.

The first time we attempted to carve pumpkins in my family, it was pretty much a disaster. It took forever to cut them, they looked awful, and — worst of all — they rotted and literally grew fur long before Halloween. I tried to be nice, but there was only so long I could endure the nasty smell before I made my husband throw them away.

He was determined to never let that happen again, so he became a little obsessed with learning the tricks to making a great jack-o-lantern. Lucky for you, you don’t have to go through the same pain to learn some hard and fast rules about carving and maintaining a great pumpkin.

Here are some of my husband’s favorite tips:

  • Consider the size. If you’re planning to carve your pumpkin, get one that’s big enough to work with. You need to be able to fit your hand inside it if you want to be able to properly hallow it out and design it.
  • Plan ahead. Draw or choose a design that will fit on your pumpkin, or choose the right sized pumpkin for the design you have in mind. There are tons of free design ideas you can print off the Internet.
  • “Invest” in the right tools. Rather than struggling with a kitchen knife, spend the $5 to get a pumpkin-carving kit. It comes with safer, smaller tools designed specifically for carving.
  • Be patient. If you rush when you carve, you’re likely to make a mistake, especially if you choose an intricate design.
  • Spray to stop decay. When the design is complete, spray a light coating of cooking spray on the open cut areas of the jack-o-lantern to slow the decay. Alternately, you can put Vaseline on the open areas for the same effect.
  • Make a chimney. Light your pumpkin for a short time, then look inside. The smoke from the flame will leave a sooty mark on the roof of the jack-o-lantern. Using that mark as your guide, cut a vent in the pumpkin to allow smoke to escape.
  • Keep it cool. If it’s hot outside, bring the pumpkin indoors. The heat will make it rot. Some people even stick their pumpkins in the refrigerator when they’re not on display.
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