Five steps to pumpkin carving success!

Halloween... ghouls, sugar overdoses and outfits that bridge the gap between looking hot and terrifying. Over the past couple of years, the UK has embraced Halloween more than ever and pumpkin carving is starting to become somewhat of an art-form. As a lover of all things Halloween, I have also embraced pumpkin carving over the years, all with varied results. However, this year I was determined to have awesome looking pumpkins that don't collapse the night before Halloween or look like a hacked up orange.

So, after browsing Pinterest for what seemed like hours (so. many. pins!) I formed a pumpkin carving plan to see me to success!

Step 1: Pick the right pumpkins!

I cannot stress this enough, take time picking your pumpkins! The fresher the better, so if you can go to a pumpkin patch then that's your best bet. However, they aren't that popular in the UK, so the easiest place to purchase a pumpkin is still your local supermarket. I picked up the two pumpkins from ASDA, 2 for £3! It took me an awfully long time to pick them though and I probably did look a bit mad, routing through the big box of pumpkins but it paid off! Whilst most of the other pumpkins looked like they were on their last legs, these have stood the test of time despite me buying them 5 days ago. The third one I purchased from a shop called Brown & Green, an organic supermarket in a shopping village in Staffordshire. It cost a £1 and is so cute! It's not really big enough for any elaborate design, but I still have a plan for it. My best advice when picking a pumpkin is to tap it on the outside. If it is soft and squidgy, put it back! Also, although this is increasingly difficult with shop bought ones, check the surface. My £1 was a little tarnished, but this came off with a damp cloth. However, if it is dented and marked, it's likely not to last as long as the bacteria that rots pumpkins will be well on their way inside to spoil your pumpkin dreams!

Step 2: Buy the best carving kit you can afford!

Now I've tried just using a knife, I've even tried making my own carving tool (pinterest hack fail!) and both times I ended up in a gooey, pumpkin mess. So this year, I caved (so that my pumpkins wouldn't!) and I marched to Asda to purchase their 'Deluxe' pumpkin carving kit for £4! They had simpler kits but what really caught my eye about this one was the spoon with ridged edge to help get out all that pumpkin gunk! The kit also came with two carving knives and 6 stencils, which I knew I probably wouldn't use but was a nice touch. The best thing about purchasing this set was that because it was a sharp object, ASDA use Challenge 25 for its sale. This meant I was ID'd! YES! The woman didn't think I looked 25! RESULT! It really is the little things post-25...

Step 3: Research your stencils!

All great artists study their subject before undertaking a great masterpiece. However, if you aren't blessed with an artistic flare and drawing freehand creates some sharpie massacre, then templates are your best friend. There are loads of free pumpkin carving templates online, you just have to look for them. If you're really committed, then their are sites where you can buy them, but I found two really good ones for free just by spending 10 minutes on Google. I found mine at:

After seeing Spectre last night (great film, highly recommend it), I decided I wanted to theme one of my pumpkins around the Day of the Dead skeletons. For my second theme, I wanted a more traditional motif, hence the witch. Finally, for my third little pumpkin that was two small for a template, I decided it was the perfect pumpkin to try the 'drilling' technique... more on that later!

Step 4: It's pumpkin carving time!

So you've compared pumpkins, purchased the most high-tech carving kit and picked the perfect template that embodies everything you love about Halloween.. the time has come. Ready to tackle the art of pumpkin carving, I cleared my diary, lay out all my tools and stuck on a Harry Potter marathon. I was prepared! Firstly I cut a hole in the top on my pumpkin with the knife on a diagonal angle. Next I used the spoon from my 'deluxe' carving kit to scoop out all the pumpkin gunk into a bowl. Now you could use the pumpkin gunk to make soup or pie... but carving was enough for me this year. After gutting out the entire pumpkin, I sellotaped the template to my pumpkin and roughly outlined the design through the paper using the carving tools supplied in the kit. Once outlined, I removed the template and began fully carving my pumpkin design. My pumpkins coped really well with being carved and I could tell instantly that I'd chosen well this time. 

For my little pumpkin, I decided to do away with traditional carving and use a drill. Yes, a drill. I wanted to make a simple, pretty design that could cover all of the pumpkin. The drill was perfect for creating the little circles and was really quick to use! As long as you're careful, this is a great hack for quick carving.

When you've finished carving, using whatever method, make sure you cover all the exposed pumpkin flesh with vaseline. This will keep it fresher for longer!

Step 5: Light 'em up!

This is always my favorite part, the part where you get to see your masterpiece in all it's orangey, lit glory! Following the horrific accident involving Claudia Winkleman's daughter, whose Halloween costume caught fire from a tea light in pumpkin, this year I went for electric, fake candles. They cost a £1 for two from ASDA and are brilliant. They flicker like real candles and neither you, or anyone else, will get burnt from them.

So safety notice over, here are my finished carved pumpkins for Halloween 2015:

Not bad eh? I'm impressed with myself at least! 
How have you carved your pumpkins this year?
Let me know!

Happy Halloween everybody!