Carve a Pumpkin From the Bottom for Easier Lighting

Carve a Pumpkin From the Bottom for Easier Lighting

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Step two: Scoop out the seeds and flesh carefully

Scoop out the pulp and seeds and set aside. Now, begin scooping out an even layer of the flesh with a spoon. Leave a little bit of the flesh on the inside, though: if the walls of your pumpkin get too thin, you may find that the carved-out design snaps in places. 

Collins says ‘Remove the seeds and threads from the pumpkin’s inside. Use a big spoon, ice cream scoop, or a plastic scraping scoop developed specifically for this task.’

‘Scrape the interior pulp away from the carving region of the pumpkin until the pumpkin wall is about an inch thick.’


Making the Cut


Gutting a pumpkin can take time, especially if you’re trying to scrape the pulp out through a tiny opening. Speed up the process by cutting and removing the pumpkin’s top in this unusual way. The deep side cut allows for greater mobility when using a spoon or scraper, making it a cinch to remove every last bit of pulp. Plus, no more of that awkward turning to get the lid on right—now you’ll know exactly how to replace it properly. Related: 52 Unexpected and Amazing Ways to Decorate Pumpkins

Step 4

Using a scooping tool (a ladle works great!), remove all the seeds and flesh from the inside of the pumpkin. Save the seeds for roasting later!

Ways to transfer your design to a pumpkin

  1. Draw directly on the gourd with a water-based marker.
  2. Create a design on paper or find one online. Tape the paper to the pumpkin, and then, using a sharp point, like a push pin or steak knife, make a series of tiny pin pricks along the design. Remove the paper and use the pin pricks as a cutting guide.
  3. Do your design on paper. Cut out the shapes that you will be cutting out of the pumpkin. Tape those onto the pumpkin with scotch tape or painters tape. Cut around the shapes.
  4. Use cookie cutters to first punch in a shape and then finish cutting out with a knife.

Step 7. 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.

Transferring the design

There are various pumpkin design options; draw a custom image or use a printed pattern. From there, tape the design on the flattest part of the pumpkin. I like to use a tool that has a needle tip or pushpin would work to pierce holes through the paper, about ⅛-inches apart. 

Remove the paper, and you can start carving along the dots. However, you can connect the dots with an erasable marker for more intricate designs, which is easy to wash off the surface. I also like to use a paring knife to make a shallow cut to refine the design, making it easier for etching. Don’t forget to save the design for reference. 

Another option is to cut the portions of the design to make a stencil. Then draw the image onto the pumpkin. I also taped an image on the pumpkin and then tightly placed plastic wrap around to secure it. This technique makes it waterproof, and easier to carve.

Recipe Resources

Health Notes Ingredient Guides Tools

1. You Wont Risk Cutting the Lid Wrong

Anyone that has ever carved a pumpkin (from the top) knows that you have to cut the lid at an angle so it doesn't fall in. Sometimes you just don't cut it correctly, and your lid falls in. It might fall in immediately. Other times, it might seem okay, but a few days later, as the pumpkin rots and shrinks, the lid can't hold on anymore and falls through.

When you cut your hole into the bottom of the pumpkin, you should also cut toward the center of the pumpkin so it sits firmly on the bottom. However, if your cuts don't work out, it's not as big a deal, because the pumpkin can still sit without the cut-out bottom part.

By cutting your hole in the bottom, you don't risk having a bad lid, and you don't have to start all over if you goof up.

Creating a lid uses up a lot of precious pumpkin real estate! This carver would've had room for eyebrows and other flourishes if they had cut from the bottom instead.

Photo by Miguel Teirlinck on Unsplash

5. You Can Use Wired Lights

A candle is certainly the most popular light for a carved pumpkin, and its natural flickering is extremely beautiful. However, you might be concerned about kids or pets touching or knocking over the candle, causing burns or a fire.

By cutting your pumpkin from the bottom, you can use wired electric lights in your jack-o-lantern. Having the hole on the bottom means you can subtly run the wire into the pumpkin, which wouldn't be possible with a lid. Electric lights can be used year after year and give off better light than the small, battery-powered LED candles that are sold for pumpkins. You may want to use a timer to turn these wired lights on and off each night.

Step four: Neaten up your design with rubbing alcohol

Now, go over the edges of your cut-outs with a sharp kitchen knife, smoothing over any uneven cutting. This will help achieve a neater finish.

Clean up any messy work, Ritterman says to ‘Use rubbing alcohol or nail polish remover to take away any left over markings from the marker. I also like to use a ruler or tape measure to make sure the eyes line up and the mouth is not too far to one side.’

How to Make Pumpkin Puree (for pumpkin recipes)

Roast pumpkin wedges with skin on as described above, then right out of the oven and hot remove the skin by peeling with your hands. That’s hot but you can do it!

Add the peeled roasted pumpkin into a food processor and process for at least 5 minutes or until super smooth. The pumpkin puree can be used like that, however, it has high water content, and is not suitable for any recipe that calls for “canned pumpkin puree”.

To achieve the same consistency of canned pumpkin puree, add a piece of cheesecloth into a colander and place the colander over a large bowl. Add the pumpkin puree into the cheesecloth-lined colander, place a lid on top and place it in the fridge. Let the puree drain for at least 6 hours or overnight.

Pumpkin puree lasts in the fridge for up to 4 days but can also easily be frozen.

Step 5. Sketch out your design on paper first

If you draw your jack-o’-lantern face to size, Natiello says 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.)

How To Peel A Pumpkin

It’s easier to peel it when cutting into quarter or eighth wedges. So you might want to use your large sharp knife to cut it into wedges and then use a serrated vegetable peeler or a very sharp smooth one to peel off the skin.

Alternatively, you can roast the pumpkin with the skin on and once roasted the peel can easily be peeled by hand. It comes right off when the pumpkin is hot and it becomes more difficult to peel when it cooled off. Depending on which pumpkin recipes you plan on making, this might not be the best way to peel it.

Light up the pumpkin

If using a votive candle, place it inside, then place the pumpkin on top. The pumpkin won’t last as long because the heat will gradually soften the flesh over time. Other good options are battery operated votive candles or small LED string lights. Don’t forget to blow out any real candles or turn off the lights at the end of the night.

Frequently asked questions

Which are best for carving pumpkins, serrated knives from the kitchen or pumpkin carving kits with special saws?

Both work. On one hand, what you have in your kitchen is right there. On the other hand, the kits you buy at the store may be safer for children to use. However, they are usually not terribly sturdy or long-lasting.

How long will my carved pumpkin look good?

It depends on your climate. For those in warmer climes, the cut pumpkin starts to rot within two days. If it is below freezing where you live, maybe 10 days? The average is about five days. The lesson: do not carve too far in advance.

How can I lengthen the life of my monsterpiece? There are a few tricks. You can try coating the inside and cut parts with petroleum jelly or make a dilution of 1 teaspoon bleach to 1 gallon of water (or a weak dilution of Castille soap and water – safer for wildlife.) Spray these all over the jack-o-lanterns daily.

Is Halloween really Halloween if you don’t carve a pumpkin?

What is the best pumpkin for carving?

So, you’re off to pick your pumpkin from the store or fresh from the patch. Or, maybe you’ve followed our tips on how to grow pumpkins and have some ready to go in your veg plot. Wherever you’re sourcing it from, there are certain things to look out for.

‘Pick the pumpkins that do not have any bruising and have a hard, deep-green stem,’ advises Liam Lapping of Flowercard. ‘Knocking on the pumpkin is the best way to make sure it is hollow and therefore ripe for carving.’ 

Bear in mind that some varieties of pumpkin are more suited for carving, whilst others are better for cooking. ‘Many farmers and salespersons at the local stores leave labels that will lead you to the best ones for your task,’ says Gheorghe Creanga from Fantastic Services. ‘Usually, carving pumpkins are thinner and have fewer “guts” on the inside, which makes them easier to saw into.’

‘The most popular variety of pumpkin during this time of the year is the “Jack-o’-lanterns”,’ continues Gheorghe. ‘You will find these easily everywhere. They are a beautiful orange color, bred primarily for the holiday. Other types of pumpkins you can choose from are the “Cinderella” pumpkins, “Jill Be Little”, “Gold Rush”, “Wolf”, “Hobbit” and “Autumn Gold”.’ 

Liam adds, ‘Another great spooky alternative to the traditional orange pumpkins are ghost pumpkins which are white in color.’

‘Choose one with a flat base,’ adds Gheorghe. You won’t want it to sit crooked once you display it. And to make sure it gets home safely, don’t carry it by the stem. Make sure to hold it from the bottom or put it in a bag instead.

Pick a top-quality pumpkin before you start carving

(Image credit: Twin Peaks99/500px/Getty Images)

Best Carving Tip Ever:

I cut off the BOTTOM of the pumpkin instead of the top!

That’s right, you cut off the BOTTOM.  Seriously.  Don’t you wish you’d thought of this years ago?

No more wrestling to get a lit candle down into the bottom of the pumpkin or struggling to light a candle that you’ve already placed inside!

Simply cut a hole in the bottom of your pumpkin, and remove that piece for good.  Most of the guts will be pulled out with it, so you’ll only have to give your pumpkin a quick scrape on the inside.

Save your pumpkin seeds for roasting!

Don’t forget to save the seeds so you can make our delicious roasted pumpkin seeds with olive oil and sea salt!

Now, go ahead and carve your jack-o-lantern like you usually would.

Carving Your Pumpkin

Once you have traced your design you are ready to begin carving!

  1. Don’t cut a hole in the top of your pumpkin! It’s common to cut a hole in the top of your pumpkin, but that’s not the best way! Professional pumpkin carvers recommend cutting a hole in the back of your pumpkin or on the bottom. Why? The stem of your pumpkin contains nutrients required to keep your pumpkin healthy. By leaving the top of your pumpkin intact you give your pumpkin the best chance of surviving as long as possible. Who knew?
  2. Scoop the guts out in a circular motion with a pumpkin scoop from your toolkit or a large kitchen spoon. You’ll want to get as much goop out as possible – too much moisture left in your pumpkin will cause it to rot faster.
  3. Save the Seeds for Roasting – You may want to save the seeds for roasting later – roasted pumpkin seeds are delicious and good for you! Try different variations including sweet, sweet-hot, and savory. There are many tips for How to Clean and Roast Pumpkin Seeds available online.
  4. Pre- Punch Your Design – begin by using the punch tool to trace out areas of your design. This will make it easier than trying to saw through the flesh of your pumpkin.
  5. Use Small Tools for Dexterity and Detail – Once you’ve carved the large areas of your design with a large knife or cutting tool it’s time to switch over to the smaller tools for better dexterity and detail work.
  6. Scrape Instead of Cut – Not every party of your design needs to be cut out – try scraping some of the areas to allow light to glow through without completely removing the flesh/wall. You can thin the wall of the pumpkin from the back for added dimension and varied light.
  7. Sculpt, Smooth, and Finish – You’re on the home stretch! Continue to work with your pumpkin until you feel it’s just right. Smooth or bevel the edges, remove remaining strings of flesh, and wipe down your masterpiece.

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