How to Prep a Whole Pumpkin

October 23, 2014

This article is brought to you by our friends at Electrolux as part of an ongoing series focusing on seasonal ingredients for the holidays. This month we're talking pumpkin and winter squash.

Today: Forget the jack-o-lantern -- we're showing you how to hack into a pumpkin, safely, for cooking. 


'Tis the season of the pumpkin. It's a magical vegetable, and not just because one once transformed into a princess's carriage -- it's also incredibly versatile. You can make pumpkin purée for a warm soup or any type of baked good; you can chop it up, bake it, and toss it in salads and pastas; you can roast or toast its seeds and use them to garnish just about anything.

Today, we're demonstrating the best way to get past the tough outer shell of the pumpkin to get to the goodness inside -- without chopping a finger off. Once there, we like to scoop out the stringy flesh and seeds with an ice cream scoop: it's most effective at scraping and scooping all at once. So sharpen your best knife, and get hacking! (Carefully, please.) You have a bounty of orange recipes awaiting you. We suggest starting with cheesecake.

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Pumpkin Cheesecake

Pumpkin Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust

Makes one 9-inch cheesecake

For the crust:

1 1/3 cups gingersnap crumbs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
8 tablespoons melted butter (1 stick)

For the cheesecake:

2 pounds cream cheese (4 packages) room temperature
1/4 cup sour cream
1 3/4 cups canned pumpkin (or make your own)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1 egg yolk
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
Pinch salt

See the full recipe (and save and print it) here.

This article was brought to you by Electrolux, who's all about great taste and the appliances to help you make beautiful meals in your own kitchen. Learn more here.

Video by Kyle Orosz; photo by Mark Weinberg

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Leah Z
    Leah Z
  • AntoniaJames
  • ktr
Emi Boscamp

Written by: Emi Boscamp

Editorial Intern, Food52


Leah Z. October 24, 2014
Sugar pumpkins are what I use to make fesh pumpkin purée. I substitute fresh for canned in every recipe. For pies I usually place the fresh purée in cheesecloth and let it drain through a strainer to get much of the moisture out. L. Or add it ice cream with appropriate spices for a pumpkin shake.
AntoniaJames October 23, 2014
Do you have any thoughts on what variety of pumpkin to use? We've found that in most instances, the standard pumpkins widely available this time of year for carving lack flavor and moisture, making them unsuitable for cooking. But then, I see that for this recipe, you suggest using canned pumpkin -- quite unexpected, I must say, given the topic of the article. What types of pumpkins do you recommend for cooking? Do some roast better than others? And can butternut squash be substituted in each instance? Thank you. ;o)
ktr October 23, 2014
I've always been taught to use sugar pumpkins for baking with. They are a smaller pumpkin with small yellowish dots on them usually (at least the ones I've seen have them).
ktr October 23, 2014
Oh, and I haven't tried it but I would think that squash or sweet potato would be a fine substitute for pumpkin. It might taste a little different but should still be good.