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Halloween is a time when people all over the country unleash their artistic potential on poor, unsuspecting squash. But no matter how novice your carving skills are, there’s still joy in watching that Jack-O-Lantern smile come to life. Here’s our top tips for giving your gourd a vicious grin.

The internet has provided us with thousands of amazing examples of how to carve a pumpkin. But once you’ve chosen your cool pumpkin carving design, our tips and tricks will help make short work of the actual pumpkin cutting and carving process. Although we can’t answer that key question, “how long will a carved pumpkin last?” We do explain how to make pumpkins last longer and put off the rotting process. 


Start with the right pumpkin.

Choose one that’s fresh, with a sturdy stem, no bruises, and a flat bottom (this means it won’t roll while you carve). A flat side can also make carving easier.


Cut from the bottom, not the top.

Cutting your ‘lid’ from the bottom of the pumpkin helps prevent the sides from caving in later and can also make it easier to move your pumpkin to different locations.


If you do carve from the top, cut out the lid on an angle.

This way it won’t drop inside the pumpkin when you put it back on top, like it would with a straight up-and-down cut. A boning knife should work well for this.


Scoop out all the pulp (and then some).

For gutting the insides, an ice cream scoop will do just fine. Thin the inner wall of the ‘face’ area to 1¼-inch thick, so it’ll be easier to pierce the shell.


Sketch out your design on paper first.

If you draw your Jack-O-Lantern face to size, you can use it as a pattern. Just tape it to the front of your pumpkin, and use a fork or pencil to poke holes along the lines you want to carve. Or, save yourself from creative blocks by getting a pumpkin carving kit, complete with a marker, scraper, cutting tools, and pre-made patterns.


Hold the pumpkin in your lap.

It’s easier to create features when the face is gazing up at you. Use tools with a serrated edge for carving, but to make intricate designs, try using smaller blade instruments. Just don’t cut on a slant – clean up-and-down slices look best.


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.


Use your scraps creatively.

Make a tongue, pipe, or hair accessories out of a discarded piece of pumpkin shell, for example.


Keep your pumpkin fresh.

Try using petroleum jelly on the cut edges to seal in moisture. If your pumpkin still shrivels a few days later, you can revive it with a facedown soak in cold water for up to eight hours.

Top Tip: Sprinkle Cinnamon inside the lid. When you light the candle inside, your Jack-O-Lantern will smell like a pumpkin pie. Yum.

One common query we didn’t get to answer is whether you can eat carving pumpkins? The answer is yes! Although the beautiful large orange pumpkins used for carving are not quite as tasty (some say they are watery and fibrous) as cooking pumpkins that have been grown specifically for eating, they are edible. You can use pumpkin flesh for soup, the seeds can be dried in the oven and make a delicious snack, you can even use the pulp (the wiry stuff around the seeds) in a broth, as a base for mulled wine, or turn it into chutney. 

You might like to try our leftover pumpkin stuffed shells recipe, the mouthwatering lamb chops with sherry-roasted pumpkin and stilton granola recipe from Nena Foster, or put that pumpkin flesh to good use with an apple and pumpkin soup recipe. Anyhow, here’s our top tips for giving your gourd a vicious grin.
Halloween isn’t just pumpkin carving, it’s also about parties and celebrations. We have everything you need in The Haunted Shop, our shop dedicated to all things halloween. You’ll find spooky decorations, petrifying party food and drink, scary sweet treats, and much more. Of course we do also sell a variety of pumpkins and squash, as well as handy pumpkin carving kits as an alternative to a paring knife that will make sure everyone stays safe while creating the ghoulish faces.

Find carving kits and much more on the Ocado Halloweekender shop.
Stuck on how to use up your halloween pumpkins? Read our top tips here.

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