Step 4: Gut the pumpkin!

Using a kitchen paring knife or a large pumpkin carving saw, cut the top off the pumpkin. Make sure you angle the knife towards the center of the pumpkin, so the lid won't fall in when it has been cut loose. You may also want to include a notch in the lid to make aligning it easier later on.

When the lid has been cut, it should come loose with a tug on the stem. Sometimes some gentle twisting may be required. If the stem is too short to hold, slide a knife under the lid and pry it loose. Or, cut a "finger hole" in the lid so you can pull it out.

The lids will come loose with a bunch of pumpkin guts attached. Pick off the seeds (if you're keeping them) and put them in a bowl. Then, with the same knife as before, cut off the guts until you have a nice, clean surface. Set the lid aside.

Now you're ready to hollow out the pumpkin. I usually start by reaching in and trying to break off as many sinews and tendrils as I can. Then, go in with a spoon or pumpkin scoop and go to town on that stuff. Mix it around and loosen as much of it as you can. Scoop it out with your hand into a bowl, separate out the seeds (if you're keeping them) and then toss the remaining gunk into the compost pile or garbage.

Once you have the majority of the pumpkin guts removed, you can scrape the inside walls with a spoon or scraper until they're clean. Try scraping around the circumference of the pumpkin rather than bottom-to-top, it will work better.

If the walls of your pumpkin are very thick, you'll need to thin them out with the scraper until the side that will be carved is about 3/4" thick. When you push the carving saw through to the handle, about 1/2" should be visible on the inside.

Now, go wash your hands (and the pumpkin if it's covered in guts!) - we're ready for the next step!