Stacked carved pumpkins on white background

Halloween is here! Carving a pumpkin can be difficult, but our tips and tricks help make it easier. We can help you make your jack-o’-lantern the best on the block! You can’t go wrong choosing a pumpkin from Publix, but remember – not all pumpkins are created equal. So how do you and your family get the perfect one for carving? Here are some tips to find the perfect one:

  • Select a firm pumpkin free of bruises and cuts. A blemished pumpkin won’t last as long, and you may have difficulty carving it.
  • Bring your pattern with you to your Publix – this will help you choose the best pumpkin to match your stencil. Some patterns are more suited for tall, skinny pumpkins; others look best on short, squatty ones. Don’t be scared to choose a pumpkin that may be misshapen or looks imperfect.
  • Make sure the pumpkin you choose will fit where you want to display it.
  • If you’re going to cut the top off and put a candle or light inside, find a pumpkin that has a stem long enough and strong enough to use as a handle.
  • Working with your kids? Choose a lightweight pumpkin with a smooth exterior, as those are the easiest to carve. Always supervise children while they carve their pumpkins.

Pumpkin with scary carved face

Step 1: Gather your tools

There’s no need to get fancy with your pumpkin-carving tools. Special kits for carving pumpkins are easy to find, or you can use a sufficiently sharpened kitchen knife; serrated knives may work best as they are less likely to slip. To minimize the mess and make carving easier, use the following tools:

  • Newspapers to cover your work surface
  • Bowl or plastic bag for seeds and pulp
  • Sharp knife or small saw
  • Spoon or ice cream scoop
  • Pumpkin stencils
  • Knitting needle
  • Marker or felt-tip pen
  • Small tealight candle to illuminate your carving when finished (or use a battery-operated electric version)
  • Pumpkin-carving kit (includes saw, carving knife, scoop, stencil poker and stencils) (optional)
  • Grapefruit spoon, rounded gouge, wood chisel or crafts knife (optional)

Step 2: Draw and carve the lid

Time to get started! Grab some gloves if you want to keep your hands clean.

  • Remove soil or other debris from the surface of the pumpkin with a moist, soft cloth.
  • Draw an outline of a lid around the stem (or cut a hole in the bottom of your pumpkin so you can simply place it over a light source).
  • It’s helpful to draw a notch so you can easily tell where to replace the lid when you take it off.
  • Make your pumpkin’s lid large enough to get your hand inside (and so you can place a light source inside).

Step 3: Remove the seeds and pulp

Get down to the nitty-gritty! Pumpkins have seeds and pulp that need to be removed before carving.

  • Use a spoon or ice cream scoop to remove the seeds and pulp.
  • Remove pulp until the inside walls are smooth and free of hanging pulp.

Hands holding pumpkin with carved Publix logo over leave next to small pumpkins

Step 4: Transfer the pattern

Using a template? Reduce or enlarge it to match the size of your pumpkin.

  • Tape the corners of the template to the outside of the pumpkin, then use a poker tool (available in pumpkin-carving kits) or the pointed tip of a knitting needle to score the design onto the pumpkin.
  • Score the design by punching guide holes through the paper (be sure not to push all the way through the wall of the pumpkin.)
  • You can also draw your own design on the pumpkin with a marker or felt-tip pen if you do not want to use a stencil.


Still not sure which pattern to choose for your pumpkin? To help create the best jack-o’-lanterns ever, we put together these stencils. Choose your favorite or mix and match parts of different patterns for a unique look. Print and transfer the designs onto your pumpkins.

Three stacked pumpkins with carved faces

Step 5: Cut out the pattern

Now, for the fun stuff! It’s time to get this pumpkin looking extra festive.

  • Cut out the scored design with the mini-saw from a carving kit, or a small kitchen or paring knife.
  • For small openings, use the fine-tooth saw from a carving kit.
  • Gently saw in a continuous motion at a 90-degree angle from the pumpkin. Too much pressure could break the saw or pumpkin wall.
  • When you reach a corner, remove the blade and insert it at the new angle. Don’t try to twist the blade.
  • When finished carving the entire section or design, reach into the pumpkin and (gently) poke the pieces from the inside out of the pumpkin.
  • If something gets stuck, go back with your tool and revisit the corners.
  • If you need to take a break from carving, wrap your pumpkin tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate it until you are ready to finish.

Step 6: Create special effects (optional)

If you want to try an advanced technique, remove the skin without cutting holes in the pumpkin. For this,

  • Use a grapefruit spoon, rounded gouge, wood chisel or craft knife to remove the skin.
  • Cut as much skin and pulp as necessary to obtain the look you desire.
  • Remember, the more skin and flesh you remove, the more light will shine through.

Step 7: Illuminate your jack-o’-lantern

Now that it’s time to get that pumpkin ready for the world to see, let’s talk lights!

  • Place a candle in the pumpkin once all the carving is complete.
  • If the candle blackens or burns a spot inside the pumpkin, make a 1-inch-diameter hole in the darkened area to vent the heat.
  • Make your jack-o’-lantern last longer by coating the cut edges with petroleum jelly. If your pumpkin starts to shrivel, revive it by soaking it in water for several hours.
  • After you remove the pumpkin from water in the step above, keep it from rotting by letting it drain and dry.
  • Safety tip: Never leave a burning candle unattended or in the reach of children. Consider using battery-operated electric candles.

Pumpkin with carved Publix logo


Show us what you’ve got! Stop in, get started on those pumpkins and share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using #PublixPumpkins!


Matthew L.

Written by

Matthew started with Publix in 2009. After working his way up to a Publix Manager, Matthew decided to make a change from retail and pursue his passion for writing. Matthew enjoys hearing stories from the people he's writing about and loves the Publix culture. Outside of work, Matthew enjoys spending time with his wife, son and their dog. They love to explore all that Central Florida has to offer.

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