A Guide to Picking the Best Pumpkins for Carving

updated May 1, 2019
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There are so many different types of pumpkins to choose from! At just one farm stand, there could be more than a half-dozen options. How can you pick the very best pumpkin for carving? We turned to some gourd-growing professionals to get expert opinions.

(Image credit: Coco Morante)

The Difference Between Pie Pumpkins and Carving Pumpkins

Have you ever seen signs for “Pie Pumpkins” and “Carving Pumpkins?” Farm stands will often label the pumpkins for you to help remove some of the guesswork. What’s the difference? Carving pumpkins are typically thinner and easier to saw into. They also have less guts on the inside, which are also grainier and stringier, making them easier to clean. Pie pumpkins, meant for baking, are usually smaller and more rounded.

You’re bound to find a jack-o-lantern variety at any pumpkin patch you visit, and will likely have an assortment of shapes and sizes to choose from.

Pumpkin Varieties That Are Good for Carving

If you’re looking for specific varieties to hunt for, the ladies of The Peterson Sisters Pumpkin Patch in Chico, CA, suggest the Hobbit pumpkin, especially popular on the West Coast, or the Autumn Gold. Hobbits are 10- to 12-pound pumpkins, and are considered a medium-sized variety. Autumn Golds are a very manageable variety, weighing between seven and 10 pounds. They turn a beautiful golden-orange color before fully ripe and are easy to carve, compared to other varieties.

Christy Lehner of Lehner’s Pumpkin Farm in Radnor, OH, says that the Gold Rush and Wolf varieties are popular for people who want larger jack-o’-lanterns. Both of these types of pumpkins weigh between 15 to 35 pounds, although they’re not necessarily the easiest to carve. If you’re looking for a statement-making pumpkin and aren’t afraid of using a little elbow grease, give one of these a try.

Beyond this knowledge, there are a few things you can do when looking for a carving pumpkin at the patch. Follow these steps and you’ll start with a healthy pumpkin that will last long after you’ve carved it.

How to Pick a Pumpkin for Carving

  1. Pick it up and tap it: It should feel sturdy. When you tap it, you should hear a hollow sound.
  2. Check the coloring: Choose one that has consistent coloring throughout.
  3. Look for bad spots: Try to choose a pumpkin without any scratches, bruises, or dark spots.
  4. Apply pressure: Flip the pumpkin upside down and apply pressure with your thumbs. If it’s not completely sturdy, the pumpkin isn’t fresh and will rot quickly.
  5. Set it down: Make sure it sits flat! (Unless you want your jack-o’-lantern to sit a little crooked.)
  6. Carry it from the bottom: Don’t carry it by the stem — instead, cradle it from the bottom or tote it home in a bag.