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17 Genius Pumpkin Carving Tips You’ll Use from Now On

These pumpkin carving tips are no trick! Find out the secrets to effortless scooping, perfect carving, making the most of your pumpkin.

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Jack O LanternsTanja Streuber / EyeEm/Getty Images

Halloween Life Hacks: Pumpkin Carving Tips

Halloween is one of the best holidays for décor. There’s so much you can do with all the decorations, and there’s one staple decoration that has endless possibilities: the jack-o-lantern.

A jack-o-lantern is a pumpkin that has a design carved into it. Some people use pumpkin carving templates to design their pumpkins, while others decide to free-hand it and draw their own designs. There are so many pumpkin decorating ideas out there, and these pumpkin carving hacks will help you bring them to life.

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pumpkin picking

Pumpkin Carving Tips: Choosing a Pumpkin

The first of the pumpkin carving tips you need to know: Have your pumpkin design in mind before you pick a pumpkin.

Does your pattern require more width or height? If you’re planning to use a candle, go taller. If a pumpkin is too short and squat, the candle will burn the roof. Once you pick a size, give your pumpkin a knock with your fist. A hollow sound indicates it’s riper and easier to carve.

Finally, test the pumpkin’s stability by placing it on a flat surface before purchasing it. No wobble? You’re ready to carve!

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Halloween Spider Pumpkin: Fresh Carved Jack-o-Lantern Decoration; House Front Porch

Incorporate Creative Craft Supplies

This is a unique jack-o-lantern idea anyone in the family can carve! Grab a pumpkin and some black pipe cleaners to get started on this spider pumpkin.

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Cropped Hand Of Man Carving Pumpkin For Halloween

Give Yourself More Room to Scoop

If your go-to move for carving a pumpkin is cutting a circular hole around the stem, you’re making your seed-scooping job about ten times harder than it could be. Instead, cut a large keyhole shape into the pumpkin that starts around the stem and extends down the side. You’ll be able to reach your entire arm directly into the pumpkin’s side for effortless scooping and candle-placing.

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Mother and children hollowing out pumpkin in dining room

Or, Carve From the Bottom

Instead of cutting your pumpkin from the top, start from the bottom. Cut out a circle and throw that piece away for good; this is where your candle will sit, flat on the ground with the pumpkin around it. This pumpkin-carving tip also makes scooping easier. Thanks to gravity, a sizable chunk of pumpkin guts will fall out right with your bottom hole.

Caveat: Without a top hole for ventilation, you should only burn a candle for about 30 minutes, or use LED lights instead.

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Pumpkin Carving Fun

Speed Up Seed Removal with an Ice Cream Scoop

Using an ice cream scoop or large, sturdy spoon will greatly increase your seed removal speed. For lingering stringy bits, finish it off with a fork. The less gunk inside, the easier your carving will be.

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Pumpkin Carving Stencil Tips

Skip the permanent marker. Make your initial cut lines with a dry-erase marker first, in case you make a mistake — and we all know the slippery, uneven surface of a pumpkin is a magnet for mistakes.

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High angle view of boy removing seeds from pumpkin at home

Hold the Pumpkin in Your Lap

Grip is a key component necessary to create the jack o’ lantern of your dreams. When carving, it’s easier to place the features on the pumpkin with the pumpkin’s “face” looking up at you while holding it in your lap. The best pumpkin carving tools to use are an X-Acto or serrated kitchen knife.

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African family making jack-o-lantern

Carve Two Days Before Halloween — or Preserve Your Pumpkin with Jelly

A carved pumpkin will start molding within days of breaking the skin. Here’s a way to make pumpkins last longer: Coat all cut surfaces with a bit of petroleum jelly, including the scooped-out inside if you can spare the time. The jelly seals in the pumpkin’s moisture, slowing the dehydration process that turns brilliant art into sad gunk.

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wooden toothpicks

Fix Carving Mistake with a Toothpick

If you accidentally cut off a piece you didn’t mean to, you can stick it right back on by jamming a toothpick into it. You can get creative with this method, too: Save some of your carved bits to create 3D pumpkin eyebrows, mustaches, or, well, smaller pumpkins.

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Make a Pumpkin Punch Bowl

For that extra autumnal touch at your Halloween party, slice away the top one-third of a pumpkin with a serrated knife and place a glass punch bowl inside. Fill the bowl with ice and bottles of your choice beverage, and astound guests with your creativity.  

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Pumpkinsgrau-art/Getty Images

Give a Mini-Pumpkin Fangs

Cut a small rectangular hole into the side of a mini-pumpkin and insert a pair of dollar-store vampire fangs. Add some circular map tacks for spooky red eyes, or improvise with googly eyes. Bonus: This is a perfect, low-mess Halloween project for the kids!

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Pumpkins decorated with faces with eyes and mouthsPhotography by paulgmccabe/Getty Images

Use Pumpkin Carving Scraps Creatively

There’s no need to throw away the scraps from your beautiful pumpkin masterpiece. Instead, repurpose these extra pumpkin bits into making a tongue, hair accessory, ears, or anything else your heart (and jack o’ lantern) desires. This pumpkin carving tip will have your Halloween decorations looking smart and stylish.

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Electric drill on old wooden tablexxmmxx/Getty Images

Power Tool Pumpkin Carving Tips

With evenly spaced holes you can drill beautiful patterns of light into your pumpkin, knife-free. For extra flair, string some Christmas lights through the holes to make your pumpkin explode with radiance.

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Homemade pumpkin pancakes with pecan nuts and honeyArx0nt/Getty Images

Don’t Throw Away the Innards!

Use them for snacks. With your leftover pumpkin pieces, whip up some pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin risotto, pumpkin pickles and or roasted pumpkin seeds.

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Halloween pumpkinsCatherine Delahaye/Getty Images

Prevent Burned Pumpkins

Nobody likes the smell of burnt pumpkin. With this pumpkin carving tip, you won’t have to worry about that. Create a chimney within your jack o’ lantern by lighting a candle and then make a small hole where the lid blackens.

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Cinnamons And Powder On TableEskay Lim/EyeEm/Getty Images

Put Cinnamon On the Lid of Your Pumpkin

While this pumpkin-carving tip isn’t a necessity, it will certainly score you extra points. Sprinkling cinnamon on the inside lid of your jack o’ lantern will make it smell like pumpkin pie when you light your pumpkin.

Reader's Digest
Originally Published on Reader's Digest