How to Pick a Pumpkin
Look for a pumpkin with a strong stem that sits flat on the ground so your jack-o’-lantern sits up straight.
Pick it up from the bottom. You never want to pick up or carry a pumpkin by its stem. It is not a handle, and may break.
The pumpkin should feel sturdy. When you tap it, you should hear a hollow sound.
Turn the pumpkin upside down. Poke and prod with your thumbs to see if feels firm. If it’s not firm, the pumpkin will rot too quickly.
How to Carve A Pumpkin
The first step is to hollow out the pumpkin.
Cover a flat work surface with newspaper. Place your pumpkin on its side on the work surface. If you are using a candle for illumination, cut a hole in the pumpkin’s top. If you are using electric lights, cut the hole in the bottom or side so you can hide the cord — be careful not to break the stem. The hole needs to be big enough for your hand to fit through. Cut on an angle so the flesh doesn’t fall in.
Using a medium-size serving spoon, scoop out and discard the pulp. Gently scrape a thin layer of flesh from the inside of your pumpkin. You want a clean, smooth interior, to slow the rotting process. You can save the seeds for toasting.
Sketch a funny or spooky face on the pumpkin, or tape a template to it. Using a thumbtack, straight pin, or wooden pick, poke holes about every 1/8 to ¼ inch along design lines where you will be cut.
If you’re using a template, carefully remove.
Carve along the pattern with a small knife. Scrape in the same direction in each section to keep the lines unified. Remove loose pieces of the pumpkin and discard. If a piece breaks or is cut in error, use wooden picks to secure it.
Rub petroleum jelly on exposed areas of pumpkin’s flesh to prevent them from turning brown.