You probably know how to pick a pumpkin for carving, but do you know how to choose one for cooking? If you’re heading to the pumpkin patch, you can grab a gourd or two to use in your seasonal recipes, but you need to know what to look for to get the best ones. Here’s how to do that, according to pro chefs.
- Know the varieties - Some are more decorative and better for carving, while others are ideal for cooking and eating. Olivia Roszkowski, chef-instructor of Health-Supportive Culinary Arts at the Institute of Culinary Education, says there are dozens of edible varieties to choose from, including Sugar Pie, New England Cheddar, Long Island Cheese and Blue Doll.
- Size matters and the smaller the better - Skip the huge pumpkins and look for smaller ones, which will be easier to cut and tend to be sweeter, juicer and have less starchy flesh, Roszkowski says. For baking, Bonnie Shuman, executive chef at Weavers Way Co-Op, advises looking for pie pumpkins, which are much smaller, weighing in at three to five pounds.
- Watch for bruises and rotting - Pumpkins at the patch often get stepped on, picked up and dropped or just put back down, leaving them bruised and that’s no good for cooking. Isabella Flint, pro chef and founder and CEO of Frantically Food, recommends using “the old-fashioned fingernail test” to check the outer shell for internal bruising. Scratch it with your nail & if you can’t make a puncture or indentation in it with your fingernail alone, it’s fine to eat.
- Check if it’s hollow - "Just like watermelons, the best pumpkins to pick have a deep, hollow sound when you tap them," says Elena Dyulgerova, the Founder and CEO of VegeVega. "To test for a good one, hold the pumpkin with one hand, place your ear next to the pumpkin, and knock on its side with the knuckles of your other hand. If you hear an echoing, hollow sound, it's a good one. The louder the sound, the better the pumpkin."
- Note the stem - Chef Flint says to look for a stem that’s brown, dry and still firmly attached.
- Check out the color - The ripest pumpkins will be a “dazzling, deep orange” and won’t have spots of brown or green, which can indicate it’s damaged or unripe and not good for cooking.
- Use your nose - “When choosing the perfect pumpkin, looks can be deceiving but your nose is your best tool,” says chef David Kirschner. “A ripe pumpkin should smell sweet and profoundly 'pumpkin-y.' No smell equals no flavor!”
Source: Eat This, Not That