Perfecting Pumpkin

Enjoy the Rich, Earthy Flavor of Pumpkin!

As Halloween approaches, pumpkins perk up every doorstep. A staple for both trick-or-treating fun and cozy Thanksgiving dinners, pumpkins truly celebrate the fall season. While they make a fun holiday decoration, pumpkins are too delicious to relegate exclusively to our front porches or pies. A diet staple in America for centuries before the arrival of European settlers, pumpkins have a rich flavor that tastes great in stews, soups, and baked goods. Boasting loads of vitamin A, potassium, and fiber, pumpkins are proof that good things often come in attractive packages.

Culinary Arts

Select the Perfect Pumpkin

When choosing a pumpkin, look for a firm fruit with a deep orange color. (Although a pumpkin is botanically a fruit, and in fact is the state fruit of New Hampshire, in the culinary world it's generally considered to be a vegetable.) Test for ripeness by pressing the pumpkin's skin with your fingernail--if it's ripe your nail shouldn't leave a mark. When picking out a pumpkin to eat, bigger isn't better. Choose small, heavy pumpkins, which tend to have more flesh and a richer flavor than their large, decorative cousins.

Store Your Squash

According to the University of Missouri Extension Office, mature pumpkins can be stored whole for several months in a dry, well-ventilated spot around 50°F; or 55 °F with humidity levels from 60-75%. Take care not to bruise or otherwise damage the skin of pumpkins you hope to store, because this can lead to decay. If you'd like to enjoy the flavor of pumpkin next spring, try freezing, canning, or drying pumpkin flesh.

Handling and Cooking Pumpkins

When you're ready to cook this fall treat, you have a few options. For the best flavor, baking is the way to go. Small pumpkins can be baked whole, just be sure to make a few incisions in the skin to allow steam to escape during cooking. Large pumpkins should be halved before baking. Put the halves facedown on an oiled oven tray or cookie sheet and bake at 325° F until soft, usually an hour or more.

Once baked, peel off the pumpkin's outer skin and scoop out the seeds (which you can save and roast for a healthy, protein-rich snack). The pieces of baked pumpkin can be thrown into soups and stews, or pur&eacuteed and used in baked goods. This purée freezes well, too, so save time by cooking a few pumpkins at once--you'll be glad you did when you're enjoying pumpkin chocolate chip cookies on a February afternoon!

Pumpkins can also be cooked on the stovetop or in the microwave if you're in a rush. Simply cut the fruit into quarters, removing the stem, and cook in a few inches of water until the flesh is soft enough to remove with a spoon.

Pumpkin's Not Just for Pies

Of course Thanksgiving dinner wouldn't be complete without a pumpkin pie, but there's no need to wait until November to eat pumpkin. Enjoy its fall flavor on the grill, with a little garlic, rosemary, and olive oil. Add an unexpected (but surprisingly complementary) flavor to a chili by throwing in a cup or two of cubed pumpkin. Combine pureed pumpkin and grated Romano cheese as a stuffing for homemade ravioli. Pumpkin flesh also makes a delicious and satisfying fall stew, which, when paired with hearty bread, is the perfect dinner for a cool autumn evening.

However you choose to prepare the palate-pleasing pumpkin, enjoy!


University of Missouri Extension

About the Author:

Browse Culinary Arts Schools & Colleges

Refine School Matches
Hide filters

    See More


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef and Project Runway.
            • Has a team of about 4,000 faculty members focused on helping students tap opportunities in a marketplace driven by ideas.
            • Offers programs in design, media arts, fashion, and culinary.
            • Provides program coordinators who work with students to ensure they have the learning materials, assignments, facilities, and faculty to get the most out of the program.
            • Over 50 campus locations nationwide.
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            5 Program(s) Found
            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
            Show more [+]
            Good for Working Adults
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            4 Program(s) Found
            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
            Show more [+]
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Students get real-world experience through the required externship at the end of the program.
            • Curriculum includes laboratory sessions, academic preparation and hands-on experience.
            • Program objectives are to provide students with skills needed for cooking wholesome, attractive, food preparations and to assist graduates in obtaining positions in the food service industry.
            • Accredited by the American Culinary Federation (ACF).
            • Has campuses in Melbourne, Sarasota, and Tallahassee, Florida
            Show more [+]
            2 Program(s) Found
            • Ranked among the Best Colleges in the South in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • Ranked the 13th  Best College for Veterans in 2015 by U.S. News and World Report.
            • A private institution founded in 1977 with a current total undergraduate enrollment of over 15,00.
            • Its student-faculty ratio is 12:1, and 89.3% of classes have fewer than 20 students.
            • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
            Show more [+]
            4 Program(s) Found
            The Chef's Academy , Morrisville
            • Listed on the 2013 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll by the Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS).
            • Offers intern and externship placement assistance for real-world experience.
            • Offers programs in culinary arts, pastry arts, and hospitality & restaurant management.
            • Accredited by the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation (ACFEF).
            • 2 campus locations in Indianapolis, Indiana and Morrisville, North Carolina.
            Show more [+]
            4 Program(s) Found
            • Gives students the opportunity to earn their associate’s degree in the culinary arts field in less than 15 months or bachelor’s degree in the food service management field in 2.5 years through their year-round schedule.
            • Located in Norfolk and Newport News, Virginia.
            • Offers externship experiences to students for experience in the field.
            • Hosts regular career fairs for employer recruitment.
            • Has student housing available.
            • Accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACSCOC).
            Show more [+]
            SPEAK TO AN ADVISOR 1.844.285.6104