I consider myself an amateur expert at pumpkin carving, and I think the photo above is pretty solid proof, hahaha. So here are all my pumpkin carving “secrets.”
#1 Find photo inspiration.
The Internet is full of pictures of awesome pumpkins. Take a few minutes to swipe through Pinterest or do a full on Google image search. When you find a picture you like, pay attention to the shape of the pumpkin they used as well as the complexity of the carving.
#2 Buy a pumpkin carving set.
Most of the little tools in these sets are garbage, but the thin, flexible carving knife is essential for carving little details.
#3 Don’t carve too early!
I’ve tried different methods for “preserving” my pumpkin to make it last longer, like spraying the inside with vinegar or hairspray or whatever… None of them have worked and most of them made my pumpkin mold faster. If you want a pumpkin on your porch for two weeks, don’t carve it. Save the carving for the weekend before Halloween.
#4 Use an ice cream scoop.
At some point I discovered the sublimity of hollowing out my pumpkin with an ice cream scoop, and I’ve NEVER LOOKED BACK. Hollowing a pumpkin is quick and easy with the proper tool, and an ice cream scoop is the proper tool.
#5 Clean the interior surface.
Figure out which side or sides you’re going to carve, and scrape the corresponding interior really clean. If the inside is rough and super thick where you’re trying to cut it will be harder for you to get the effect you want.
Draw out your plan, and then consider “what do I think will be the trickiest part?” Then think through how you might make that part easier. For example, when cutting teeth like this:
It would be easier to hollow out the open space in the middle first (along the red, dotted line in the picture below), and then cut out each tooth separately, then to cut out the whole thing and try to get it out in one big piece without breaking it.
#7 Consider carving on the back!
If you carve on the back then that shape will reflect off of the surface behind your pumpkin, like in the picture of my pumpkin from last year. There are a few things to keep in mind with this, however. You wouldn’t want to see the carving on the back through the carving on the front, so you’ll want to off-set the two carvings. Then at least the biggest opening doesn’t overlap the carving on the back too much. Also, the carving on the back will be distorted when it reflects, so too much detail here will be lost.
Best of luck, and Happy Halloween!