Expert pumpkin carving tips from the Congress Center’s executive chef

Carving pumpkins has been a long tradition that brings families together and signifies the start of the fall season and Halloween holiday. 

A brief history of carving pumpkins traces back to Ireland and Scotland and the legend of Stingy Jack.

According to, in these British isles, people began to make their own versions of mythical character Stingy Jack’s lanterns by carving scary faces into turnips or potatoes and placing them in windows or near doors to frighten away Stingy Jack and other wandering evil spirits.

In England, large beets are used. Immigrants from these countries brought the jack-o’-lantern tradition with them when they came to the United States. They soon found that a fruit native to America, pumpkins, make perfect jack-o’-lanterns.

With Halloween just around the corner, here are some pro tips for carving your jack-o’-lantern.


Start by looking for a great, sturdy thick stem, which is an indication that the walls of the pumpkin will be thick as well. The thicker the stem, the heavier the pumpkin and the better it is for carving or sculpting.  Also, your pumpkin doesn’t have to be the prettiest.  A uniquely-grown or slightly odd-shaped pumpkin can lead to an interesting carving.

Remember to work quickly, you are working with a perishable fruit.


Start by setting up your work station – remember this can be messy.  Pick an area, have trash bags handy.  Newspaper works great to line your work station for ease in clean up.

Gather tools – you can go get a pumpkin carving kit but it’s not necessary.  Look in your kitchen drawers for things such as paring knives, lemon zesters, and large spoons to help scrape.  Don’t forget gloves for added safety.

Leave the top on! This give your pumpkin a better look and base.  You can cut a circular hole on the bottom or the backside of pumpkin.

Clean, clean and clean again.  This is a crucial step.  Remove seeds and wall meat.  But keep the excavating reasonable, you don’t want your pumpkin too thin.


Design.  This is where you can go in any direction.  Lots of stencils are out there for you to choose from.  You can also draw on the pumpkin with a pencil and create your own free-hand design.   Go traditional, go scary, go funny or go wild. 


Get others involved.  Remember if you have little ones, think safety first.  Have children assist with scooping out seeds and drawing.  Leave the cutting to adults.


 Think about how to light your awesome jack-o’-lantern.  A great trend is the use of LED lights.  Look for battery-powered lights to make it easy.  Amazon has great lights to make your design pop.


Preserve your masterpiece.  Keep a small spray bottle of water nearby and occasionally spritz your pumpkin.  This will keep it hydrated and prevent it from caving in before Halloween even rolls around.