Updated: Aug 1, 2019
Have you ever noticed how grossed out some people get when it’s time to hollow out a pumpkin?
They get really squirrelly and put on arm-length rubber gloves so none of the pumpkin “guts” can make contact with their skin. Who knows, maybe you’re one of them?
That’s alright if you are – no judgment here….just kidding, I’m totally judging you. But my point is that most people just don’t like to empty pumpkins.
Kids, on the other hand, absolutely love it! If left to their own devices, they would be rolling around in the goop within 5 minutes of opening it up. And your kitchen would be a grisly war zone for poor pumpkin souls.
Whether you prefer the cautious adult or enthusiastic kid approach, I’m going to explain how to hollow out a pumpkin, and give you a few secrets about when you should or should not do it.
When to Hollow Out a Pumpkin (and When to Leave it Alone)
For most people, scooping out a pumpkin is a necessary evil to partake in the festivities. But you might not need to do it.
The primary reason we hollow out a pumpkin in the first place is to provide room for the traditional Jack o’ lantern look. We want to put a candle or something else inside it for some artistic flair or night time viewing.
If you’re only doing 3D pumpkins or surface carvings for daytime viewing, I’ve got good news for you neat and clean adults out there. You can skip the scooping!
By opening the pumpkin’s insides to the air, it exposes the flesh to bacteria, fungus, and pests, which will all work to destroy your creation as fast as they can. I prefer to not hollow out my pumpkins unless I really have to for that simple reason alone.
So if you’re one of the people who don’t like to get your hands in the gunk, try doing surface carvings instead. The pumpkins can last a whole season with proper care.
But for those who dare to venture on and wade into the pumpkin gore with both hands, read on for more tips.
How to Hollow Out a Pumpkin
There are a few things you can do to make the pumpkin hollowing process so much easier on yourself.
If you’re going to hollow out a pumpkin, you need to decide on your creation first. The design will ultimately choose which approach you should take.
For example, if you’re going to light it with a traditional candle inside, you need to remove the top of the pumpkin around the stem so there is enough ventilation and so the candle doesn’t torch the top of the pumpkin.
But if you’re going to use an LED light that won’t heat the pumpkin or require ventilation, you should cut out the back of the gourd. Why is that? A firm green stem actually still provides nutrients and water to the pumpkin flesh after it’s been cut. When you remove that section, it isolates the flesh and dries it out even faster. Plus, a small hole in the back is more discreet and looks better than a hole in the top.
I like to use battery-powered LED puck lights to light my pumpkins because they don't get hot enough to cook it. But they are really bright and shine through the pumpkin wall with no problems. You can also use LED strobe lights if you want a different effect!
The Right Tools to Hollow Out a Pumpkin
Using the right pumpkin tools should be number one. While you can resort to kitchen knives and spoons to accomplish it, it takes more work and is actually more dangerous for you.
Typically, a pumpkin carving saw should be used to remove a section out of the pumpkin. You have more control with a flexible saw blade than you do with a rigid knife, and it’s harder to hurt yourself too!
As far as the scooping goes, a kitchen spoon can work in a pinch, but it’s not the most effective option. Instead, serrated pumpkin scoops have the edge to grab all the internal strings and seeds really easily. If you like to sculpt pumpkins, larger clay loops also work really well for removing this material.
The Pumpkin Gutting Process
Let’s summarize the process before sending you on your way to get your hands dirty.
Lay newspaper or cardboard out on the table or floor, and place your pumpkin on top.
If you’re using a candle, saw a hole around the top of the stem so that it’s large enough to fit your scoop through. Here’s a tip: angle the handle of your saw blade away from the center of the cut so that the piece you remove sits neatly inside the hole instead of falling into the pumpkin.
If you’re using an LED light or other object, saw a similar-sized hole in the back of the pumpkin for a hidden access point.
Use your chosen pumpkin scoop to scrape the inside walls until they are free of any stringy pieces. Start with a serrated spoon and end using a clay loop.
As you go, transfer the pumpkin guts to a bowl, where you can sort the seeds for roasting, if you wish.
Once the walls are clean, scrape the bottom to make a level platform for a candle or light.
That’s it! It’s a very easy process to complete, but it takes some time. Remember, don’t hollow out a pumpkin if you don’t have to. A hollow pumpkin will start to rot as soon as it’s opened, so only go through this work if you need to.
Oh, and if the goop really still bothers you, I guess you can wear gloves while you hollow out your pumpkin. You’re missing out on the fun, but that’s your call.