Jack-o’-lantern dos and don’ts

By
tech-spanfeller
BestReviews

Carving a pumpkin into a successful jack-o’-lantern requires planning, a sharp knife, and a little bit of practice.

When it's time to carve the Halloween jack-o'-lantern, your kids might ask for a scary face, a funny face, or something even fancier. But when the result is a mess that looks more like a three-eyed, two-mouthed space alien, your child's disappointment can be devastating. (It's the same feeling you had when your ninth-grade art teacher suggested you drop her class and try a less creative pursuit.)

You can eliminate pumpkin carving disasters this Halloween! We've collected a series of dos and don'ts for creating your best Halloween jack-o'-lantern yet.

Jack-o'-lantern dos

Follow these tips to carve a jack-o'-lantern your kids will love. They might even be proud enough to let you put it on the porch for all to see!

Do cut the pumpkin around the bottom rather than the top to clean it out. The pumpkin will last longer with the main hole in the bottom.

Do remove the seeds and strings from of the pumpkin before carving. Use a circular motion with a knife or large spoon around the interior wall of the pumpkin to fully pry the seeds and strings loose, and then remove all of them at one time.

Do create a drawing or template before you start carving the jack-o'-lantern. It's easier to fix mistakes on paper than after you start cutting.

Do draw on the pumpkin with a water-based marker. You can remove any remaining ink after you carve the jack-o'-lantern.

Do use a very sharp knife to puncture the pumpkin wall fully. Then use a sawing motion to carve out the pieces you want to remove.

Do cut the smallest pieces first. The more pieces you cut, the weaker the wall of the pumpkin becomes, making it harder to cut small pieces after you've removed large pieces.

Do try some interesting techniques occasionally, such as not carving all the way through the wall. Instead, slowly whittle away until you leave an extremely thin wall so the light barely shines through it.

Do take your time when carving. If you're in too much of a hurry, you could cut yourself.
 

Jack-o'-lantern don'ts

One of the most challenging aspects of making a jack-o'-lantern is keeping it in great shape for a few weeks after carving. There are some tips here to help you preserve your creation for as long as possible.

Don't choose the biggest pumpkin. The larger the pumpkin, the more difficult it is to drive the knife all the way through the thick wall.

Don't start carving until you've washed the pumpkin with warm water and soap. By cleaning the exterior, you'll avoid transferring any mold or other contaminants to the interior, which would speed the rotting process.

Don't leave your carved pumpkin outside overnight. When a jack-o'-lantern is exposed to freezing temperatures, it becomes soft and begins rotting more quickly. While indoors, place the jack-o'-lantern in a plastic bag in the refrigerator to keep it in the best condition for as long as possible.

Don't leave the jack-o'-lantern unprotected. Try rubbing petroleum jelly or vegetable oil on the exterior of the pumpkin and on the areas you've cut to preserve it longer.

Don't just let the pumpkin shrivel. As soon as you notice it starting to shrivel, soak it in a tub of water for several hours to revive it. Dry the exterior completely and reapply the petroleum jelly or vegetable oil before placing the jack-o'-lantern back outside.

Don't use a lit candle inside the jack-o'-lantern. Instead, purchase a battery-powered LED, which is safer than an open flame.

Don't use the pumpkin pulp in food after you're finished with the jack-o'-lantern. However, you can roast and eat the seeds. Birds like the seeds, too.

Don't let small children handle sharp knives to cut the jack-o'-lantern. Instead, let your child draw the face on the pumpkin with a marker while you handle the carving.

 

You might not become an award-winning pumpkin carver, but with these tips you'll at least be able to create a recognizable face that will last all the way through Halloween and even beyond!

 

Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.

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