How to Pick and Prep the Perfect Pumpkin

By Robin Hilmantel | Last Updated September 17, 2015

Whether the goal is cooking or decorating, follow this sound squash advice.

Picking pumpkins is the quintessential fall activity. Each autumn, nearly 20,000 tons of pumpkins are sold across the country. But as documentary filmmaker Elizabeth Rodgers wrote in Edible Idaho South, “Aside from carving jack-o’-lanterns, making pies and chucking them off rooftops, many people have no idea what to do with pumpkins.” In fact, she goes on to say, “Most Americans even use canned pumpkin for their pumpkin pies.” Fortunately, we’ve got plenty of helpful tips and tricks (and treats) to help you find the perfect pumpkins—and prepare them in delicious homemade dishes.

For starters, remember that while big pumpkins are wonderful for carving scary faces, they aren’t great for eating, since their flesh is stringy and flavorless. Instead, when it comes to cooking pumpkins in pies and soups, look for smaller varieties with dull skin (shiny skin means the pumpkin isn’t ripe yet). And above all, don’t be intimidated. There may be more than 30 pumpkin varieties to choose from, but there are many more ways to cook them—and they’re all delicious. Read on for our favorites.

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