For someone who doesn’t often cook with pumpkin, the idea of having to clean one for the first time can seem challenging. Cutting it open and scooping out its seedy, stringy insides doesn’t seem all that appealing at first. But don’t let that deter you from making delicious home-made pumpkin dishes, because cleaning a pumpkin is actually very easy, and we’ll show you how.
Just like any fruit or vegetable, you must wash your pumpkin (only water is necessary) to remove any dirt that may be lingering from the pumpkin patch. In case your pumpkin got banged around somewhere along its journey to your kitchen, you should check for any soft, squishy, or rotten spots. If you find them, cut them off.
Now you’re ready to slice open your pumpkin. Roll it over on its side and look to see if your pumpkin has grooves running from the stem to the bottom. If it does, then great, you can use those to guide you when you cut. If not, set some imaginary lines to follow as cutting guidelines. Take a knife and cut along a groove or your imaginary line so that it slices through the bottom. Now turn the pumpkin around, and find the start of the cut you just made. From there, dig your knife in again and cut up to the stem. You don’t need to worry about cutting the stem off because you’re getting rid of it in the next step, anyways. Now that one side is sliced, roll the pumpkin over and find the split where you cut through the bottom. Stick your knife back in and cut up to the stem. You’re almost there — you just need to open your pumpkin. From the cut at the bottom, use your fingers to pull the halves apart. Keep pulling until the stem snaps in half.
It’s time to scoop out the pumpkin seeds. These are great to save for roasting or for growing more pumpkins. Take a pumpkin half and a large spoon and gently scrape away the seeds from the stringy, gooey innards of the pumpkin, also known as the brains. The seeds will come out easier if you start at the stem and work down. Once you’ve collected all of the seeds, begin scraping more vigorously to scoop out the innards until there’s nothing left but the flesh of the pumpkin. Tip: If you dig into the flesh just a little, a thin layer may scrape away, making this process a little less messy. Now do it all over again with the other half.
Setting the pumpkin basically means baking it so that the flesh becomes tender and pliable. Rinse your pumpkin one more time just to make sure there’s no remaining gooiness. Place the pumpkin halves, skin down, on a baking sheet side by side. Slowly pour the water into the baking sheet until it reaches about half an inch. Bake them in a 350 degree oven for 55 minutes.
After 55 minutes, remove the pumpkins from the oven and poke each pumpkin half with a fork. Using oven mitts, flip the halves over so that the skin sides are up and the flesh sides are in the water. Bake them for 15 minutes more.
Now that your pumpkin is washed, cut, scooped, and set, all that’s left to do is spoon out the flesh — the good stuff you’ll use in pumpkin pie, pumpkin soup, and pumpkin bread. Using a fork, flip over the halves again so that the flesh sides are up. Grab a spoon, and use it to scrape out the flesh. The pumpkin should be soft enough so that the flesh easily breaks away from the skin. That’s it. You’re pumpkin is cleaned out and you’re ready to make delicious pumpkin recipes.