Examine the rind. It should be firm, uniform in color, and free of cuts, bruises, and blemishes.
Make sure that the stem doesn’t look brown and dry. And don’t use the stem as a handle, since even a healthy one can break off. Pick up a pumpkin by its base instead.
Give the pumpkin a knock. A thumping sound means the pumpkin is solid, with no internal defects, rot, or soft spots.
2 of 4Francesco Lagnese
Don’t carve your jack-o’-lantern too early or it won’t survive until Halloween night. Once cut, a pumpkin lasts about four to five days, then starts to rot. Here's how to do it:
Step 1: With a serrated knife held at an angle, carefully cut an opening around the stem, making a small notch in the back (to guide you when replacing the lid).
Step 2: Use a large spoon to remove the pulp and scrape the sides clean of stringy bits. Tip: Give the kids the job of separating the seeds from the pumpkin innards while adults handle the carving. Put aside the seeds to be toasted later (see Real Simple's pumpkin seed recipe for instructions).
Step 3: Draw on a face (washable markers allow kids to draw, rinse, and repeat).