You’ve got pots and pans at the ready, waiting to receive your pumpkin’s abundant orange flesh. All that’s left between lots of bubble bubble, (and hopefully not too much toil and trouble) is you. To cut pumpkin safely – or any other mildly intimidating seasonal squash (after all, their shape isn’t like anything else to grace your kitchen counter all year) – takes confidence, mind over squash-matter and a sharp knife. Forget about how it could potentially knock you out if it made contact with your head and focus on showing that squash who’s boss. You’ll be eating its guts for dinner soon enough. So limber up. Together, we can do this.
To cut a pumpkin safely, you need a sharp knife
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again. Use a properly sharp knife. Folks say using a blunt a knife is more dangerous than a sharp one in the kitchen and in almost no other example does this mantra become so real. Sharpen up your sharpest knife if you can before putting knife-to-pumpkin to avoid engaging in a squashbuckling adventure.
Get a grip
Squash can be a slippery thing. Stabilise your squash or pumpkin by cutting a centimetre off both the top and bottom ends. If the stem sits lower than the top of the body of the pumpkin, and if your pumpkin is already quite flat at the bottom, don’t worry about cutting the top or bottom off. Once that’s done, place the bottom end flat on your chopping board and slice down the middle – chopping it from top to bottom. Make sure you have a stable surface (no propping on the edge of a flimsy table or corner of a busy kitchen counter where one slip will send your toaster flying). If your pumpkin is a biggie, cut into sections you can manage, a bit like slicing a pie, from top to bottom. Maintain a firm grip with your other hand and keep fingers away from the knife edge when cutting. This is all about cutting the squash, the whole squash, and nothing but the squash. To improve your pumpkin’s grip on your chopping board even further, you can place a clean tea towel or J-cloth between your surface and the freshly cut base.
You’ve mastered the big chop. Now’s the time to put your scooping skills to work. Use a metal tablespoon to get right in there and get its guts out. Scrape your spoon along its hard flesh to take up the stringy parts and leave you with one clean looking pumpkin. Save the seeds and separate them from the stringy flesh as they make a divine snack simply roasted with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.
Say goodbye to skin
Depending on your recipe, one easy way to remove your pumpkin’s skin is to roast your deseeded sections in the oven and scoop out the cooked insides. The skin will have softened in the oven, giving you some much-welcome room for such scoopy manoeuvres. If your recipe calls for the skin to be removed before cooking, you can easily cut the skin clean off using a knife and get the job done quickly, or use a vegetable peeler.
Congratulations! You are a proficient pumpkin slicer, a master of squash, and an all round Halloween hero. Take your newfound skills to the next level by cubing, slicing or grating your bounty, and throw your pumpkin into soup, risotto, pies, lattes and cake (yes, cake). You (and those around you) never need to fear again!
Top tip: Carving your pumpkin for Halloween? Don’t cut your lantern’s top off in a straight line. The hot candle inside will cause your pumpkin to shrink a little and your top will slide around. Instead, cut it off at a 45 degree angle and you’ll have a top that won’t go anywhere. Happy Halloween folks!
This article was originally published on the Farmdrop blog in October 2016.