Step 1: Choosing a pumpkin You can use the seeds from either a carving pumpkin or a pie pumpkin, but avoid seeds from decorative white pumpkins. For 1 cup of seeds, purchase a 10- to 14-pound pumpkin. Smaller seeds work best; larger seeds tend to pop in the oven and get tough.
Tip: You can also use this method to toast seeds from winter squashes such as butternut squash or acorn squash.
Step 2: Removing the seeds Cut a large whole in the top (stem end) of the pumpkin, and remove the top using the stem as a handle. For smaller pumpkins, you can cut the pumpkin in half from top to bottom instead. Use a long-handle metal spoon or your hands to remove 1 cup seeds from the pumpkin(s). Rinse the pumpkin seeds in water until the pulp and strings wash off; drain.
Step 3: Oven-drying the seeds Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Spread 1 cup pumpkin seeds on a parchment paper-lined 8x8x2-inch baking sheet. Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour. This allows the pumpkin seeds to dry out.
Tip: You can also dry the seeds at room temperature instead of baking. Leave the rinsed pumpkin seeds on the parchment paper-lined baking sheet, uncovered, at room temperature for 24 to 48 hours, stirring occasionally until dry. Remove parchment; season and bake as directed below, except increase the baking time to about 30 minutes or until toasted, stirring twice.
Step 4: Toasting the seeds Remove the parchment paper; stir in 2 teaspoons cooking oil and 1/2 teaspoon salt. If desired, also add 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin. Bake the seeds, uncovered, in the 325 degrees F oven for 10 to 15 minutes more or until toasted, stirring once. Transfer the seeds to paper towels to cool. You will end up with 1 cup seeds. Eat them out of hand as a snack, add them to your favorite trail mix or to a bowl of popcorn, or use them to garnish soups and salads. Store the toasted seeds, covered, at room temperature for up to a week.
Tip: You can easily double or triple the seeds, oil, and salt, if you find yourself with an abundance of pumpkin seeds. Use a 15x10x1-inch baking sheet.
Hulled Pumpkin Seeds: Once the white shells are removed from pumpkin seeds, green oval seeds are revealed. This shelled version is available at health food and Mexican markets, both raw and already toasted and salted or seasoned. Called pepitas in Spanish, pumpkin seeds (usually shelled) are popular in Mexico, both as an ingredient in cooking and as a snack.
Try shelled pumpkin seeds in these extra-simple Pumpkin Seed Breadsticks, fashioned from refrigerated pizza dough.