Carving a pumpkin or two is a quintessential October tradition—even if it’s 90 degrees out, creating a Jack-O-lantern at least makes it feel like fall. It is also quite messy thanks to pumpkin guts, and dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing with a knife, especially if you cave in to Internet pressure and opt for a difficult design. That’s why we’ve rounded up tips and truisms to make sure your fun family project stays that way. Remember, severed hands make great decorations and appetizers, but the real thing is an entirely different story.
Do consult a template
If you’re taking a stab at a complicated design or just aren’t all that coordinated, poking holes along a template will considerably streamline the process. Don’t know what to start? Peruse this plethora of printable pumpkin stencils.
Don’t use your good knives
Taking a serrated or santoku knife to your gourd may be tempting, but you risk ruining your knives and won’t make the carving process any easier. A box cutter or pumpkin-carving kit will work much better, but if you insist on a knife, at least use one that's old or from a thrift store.
Do consider fire hazards
If you’ve got stacked Halloween plans or just have fake cobwebs all over your porch, you may want to forgo the standard candle. Who knows, your unattended jack-o-lantern could smoke up or start a small fire. Fortunately, those tiny tealight-sized electric candles have a much lower chance of spontaneous combustion.
Don’t carve it too soon
Unless you’re going for a necrotic jack-o-lantern (Hey, aesthetic matters!), it’s best to procrastinate as long as possible. Sitting out for too long, especially in the heat, will speed up the decomposition process and invite pests like fruit flies and weird stray animals. If it’s warm out, consider painting your pumpkin instead.
Do try a different technique
There’s more than one way to hollow out a pumpkin. Cutting a hole in the bottom or a notch - not a perfect circle - in the top will prevent your pumpkin from falling in on itself. You just might want to plan accordingly if your bottomless pumpkin has a future as a centerpiece.