How To Can Meat Products

When you go to the grocery store or look for canned meats online the price may shock you. If you want really high quality meats then there is even more of a premium. Canning your own meat is much more economical and not as hard as you might think.

What You Need

Pressure Canner

This is an absolute must. Meat must be pressure canned to be safe for consumption and long term storage. Not using a pressure canner can result in spoilage and in worst cases severe cases of food poisoning. This is definitely not something you want to risk.

For practical purposes we suggest using a larger canner so you can get the most out of each canning session.  is a good choice because it is inexpensive, easy to use, and will hold either 7 quarts or 9 pints at a time. If you can a lot or plan on canning a lot in the future it is highly advisable to get two canners so you can make the most out of your time.

Just so you know and recognize the difference this is a Dial Gauge Pressure Canner: How to Can Meat ProductsAnd this is a weighted gauge:How to Can Meat Products
Get whichever one you are most comfortable with. They are often similar in price now.

Jars

The size of the jar you choose is more important than you might think. I suggest using pints for those that plan on preparing meals for 2-3 people and quarts if you have a family of 4 or more. A pint will hold a pound or so of meat whereas a quart can hold 2-3 lbs depending on the meat and how much broth you want to have in it.

B007QT4H7A Progressive 3-Piece Canning Essentials Kit

Wide mouth jars can be nice because you can reach in them and pack or clean them a bit easier than standard mouth however the lids and rings can be harder to come by sometimes.

  • Funnel For Filling Jars
  • Lid Lifter
  • Jar Lifter
  • Towels For Cooling Jars Off

Canning tools sometimes come in handy kits that are helpful to get if you are just getting started. Here is one from Progressive.

A Quick Note On Stoves

I personally use a gas stove but electric works just fine for canning as well but takes longer to get to temperature required for proper pressure. Even a quality hot plate will work if it is powerful enough. I definitely would not recommend ever using one of the smaller hotplates. You need a powerful hotplate if you are even going to try it and you need to read the specs to make sure it can take the heavy weight of a fully loaded pressure canner.

If you don’t have a stove or want to can outside I recommend looking into a small gas burner that is like that found on a standard gas range. Big turkey fryer style eyes and stands are too hard to regulate.

Don’t get me wrong I have canned with a turkey fryer propane element with help but the manufacturers of pressure canners definitely tell you not to do it and I am not going to do it again. You have to be very careful and keep it turned very low or you burn your food, bust jars, and more. It is so important to be careful with canning. Invest in the right tools for the job and be safe.

Choosing Your Cuts

One thing that can definitely be said about canning meat with a pressure canner is that it will be very tender and just flake apart if done right even if you use very tough cuts.

The more fat in a cut of meat the more broth you will get at the end. Too much fat will result in canned products that have a very distinct layer of fat above the meat. Sometimes these can be good for cooking up with some beans and rice or similar so if you get some jars like this don’t despair.

Smart Meat Buying

Holiday Turkey Canning

One of the cheapest ways to put back some canned meat is to buy up a lot of cheap whole turkeys during the holiday season. Grocery stores often have specials where you can buy a whole turkey for under $0.60 per pound with a minimum purchase. In my area I can get a turkey with each $25 or more grocery order from before Thanksgiving to right after Christmas.

Chicken

There is no doubt that you can get some cheap chicken at times. Marked down whole chickens are good way to go when you can find them. It is best to can them immediately if they have been marked down in price and not freeze them. If you don’t have the time to can chicken immediately you can get the fresh stuff that has not been marked down and freeze it until you have the time if you catch a good deal.

Beef

Beef is going to be your most expensive canned meat but keep in mind that you don’t have to get the top cuts to can. Hamburger, London Broil, Chuck Roast, Stew Meat, etc. can all make fabulous canned meat.

Whole Animal Canning

If you live in a farming area or just know a small farmer you may be able to get a half or whole animal at a reduced price per pound because you are buying so much at once. In my area I can get ½ of a pasture-raised pig for $2.99 lb. Keep in mind that this comes dressed and ready to cook or cut up however I want it. Beef can be done the same way if you do a bit of research and make arrangements.How to Can Meat Canned Meats

Canned pork from a pig raised on pasture. Notice how fat rises to the top and you have your cuts at the bottom. This is typical for canned meat.

NOTE: For more on selecting the right jars, be sure to check the previously publishing “Canning Jars 101” article here.

Bone-in vs. Boneless

For the sake of space and convenience I strongly suggest either deboning meats before canning and using what is left to boil down for broth that can then be canned. Bones take up a lot of space in jars and you are not going to want to eat them anyway so best to boil them up and can broth.

There are other ways to go about this such as cooking all the meat with the bone in and then allowing to cool and deboning then and then pressure canning what is left after bones are removed. I find this method more time consuming and messy overall.

This being said the rest of this post will proceed using the first method.

The Meat Canning Process

  1. Wash and dry jars, rings, and lids.
    If they are new you can get away with just a quick wash with light soap. New jars have a smell to them from the factory and you don’t want that in your canned foods.
  2. Debone meats.
    This is the part where there is a higher risk of injury especially if you have little experience handling knives. The most important thing to remember is to take your time. As you gain experience doing this type of thing you will get naturally faster.
  3. Cut meat into cubes or pieces that will fit into jars.
  4. Pack jars with meat.
    You can pack meat up to just below the last ring on the jar mouth. You need to leave this one inch head space to allow for expansion during the pressure canning process.
  5. Fill jars to bottom ring of jar with water or broth.
    You can add some salt or other seasoning as desired. One of the great things about canning your own is that you can adjust the salt and seasoning to suit your own tastes and dietary requirements.
  6. Wipe off any food debris from jar rims and place lids on them.
    Add rings and tighten until firm but do not over tighten or you risk cracking a jar.
  7. Place pressure canners on stove and fill with the right amount of water as directed by your pressure canner instructions.
    For your standard canner that holds 7 quarts you would use 3 quarts of water for example.
  8. Place jars in canner.
    Make sure to use the metal stand or rack that sits in the bottom. This is very important as it keeps food from burning and jars from cracking from a major temperature change.
  9. Put lid on pressure canner and lock into place.
    Use medium heat to bring pressure canner to a steam. When you notice steam coming out of the top wait 10 minutes and then add the weight that comes with the canner. If your pressure canner has a gauge then pay attention to that.
    The pressure you can at depends on your elevation. I am above 1000 feet so I use 15 lbs. of pressure, which works well with the included weight with the Presto canner. Below 1000 you can use 10 lbs. of pressure.
  10. Allow the pressure canner to come to pressure on medium heat.
    With the weighted type pressure canners the weight will start knocking back and forth. If it seems to be knocking too hard you can cut back the heat some. You want a steady knock and steam.
  11. Process at pressure for the recommended time.
    Here is a list of the standard times for different meats:How to Can Meat Products Beef ChartHow to Can Meat Products Chicken ChartHow to Can Meat Products Fish Pints Chart
  12. Turn off heat after the allotted time has passed. Allow the canner to cool naturally at least until the metal valve drops back down or the pressure gauge reads zero.
    Even after that there will be a lot of heat and steam in the canner so if you do choose to open it, keep your face away and make sure to use good protective gloves. If possible give it a little more time to cool down. Sometimes I do my canning in the evening and then just allow the canner to cool overnight before I take out any jars.
  13. When things are cool enough remove your jars. You can use a jar lifter if they are still too hot to handle with bare hands.
    Place them on a clean towel and leave for 12 hours if you can. Moving them around too soon can risk breaking the seal. You want your jars totally cooled to room temperature before you go putting them into storage.
  14. Wipe down jars with a rag and allow to dry before storing.
    You will get a greasy layer on the outside of your jars during canning. If you leave it on it can cause a mess or mold to grow on the outside of the jar later.
  15. Store canned meat in a temperature controlled room for best results.
    A basement works just fine but if it is a bit damp the lids and rings will rust over time. Best storage conditions are mid temperatures 55-65 degrees Fahrenheit and dry.
  16. Cooking Down Broth.

Any bones or scraps left over can be cooked down into delicious broth that is excellent for soups, gravies, or adding flavor and calories to rice and bean dishes. To do this put everything in a large pot or two and pour in enough water to cover well. Add salt or spices if you want towards the end of the cooking time.

You can cook down bones and scraps as long as you want really but it gets more and more concentrated so you need to keep this in mind when cooking with it. Of course if you are trying to save on jars and are low on storage space then cooking it down more may be best for you.

When you are done cooking it down, ladle the hot broth into jars and process at pressure using the chart below. If you want a clearer broth you can run it through cheese cloth or a fine mesh colander before putting into jars.How to Can Meat Products Meat Stock Chart

All charts are courtesy of The National Center For Home Food Preservation and the USDA

Final Word

A shelf life of 1-2 years is standard for canned meats that have been stored under reasonable conditions but you will find that the best flavor is within the first year. Still this is a good way to put back some protein that doesn’t require refrigeration and allows you to take advantage of good deals when you find them.

If you are a bit wary of canning, be sure to check out Gaye’s original post on overcoming the fear of canning here.


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How to Can Meat Products: Canning your own meat is economical and not as hard as you might think! Find out how with this step-by-step guide to safe canning.

  1. 1. I’ve used the Presto canner (started canning 40 years ago), and it is good, but there can be problems with the rubber gasket. I’ve recently (10 years ago) moved to an All American canner, that has metal to metal seal. Works great, and can be bought with 41 Quart size.

    2. Adding a dash of vinegar to the canning water will prevent clouding of the glass jars.

    3. If you have the time and space, debone your meat and put back in the fridge. Put the bones in a pot and cover with water. Add salt, seasoning, and veggies (carrots, onions, celery) as desired. Simmer for 12-24 hours. If you add a dash of vinegar you will leach out more calcium into your broth. After the broth has simmered, filter through cheese cloth or other medium and use the broth to can the meat as indicated in the article. Instead of using water, use more flavorful liquids.

    Ray

    1. Why would my home canned meat only have a two year shelf life?
      Canned meats from some prepping sites say they have up to a twenty five yr shelf life?
      Personally, I have used my home canned vegetables for 10-12 yrs beyond their original canning date and they have been as good and tasty as the day I canned them.

      Granny

  2. This article is great and is presented in a manner that you feel like “This is something that I really want to do”. We live in mid FL and storing canned goods with air conditioning is too costly at the temperatures you suggest. In summer we run the air at 79. In the winter many year around residents heat between 72 & 74. Any suggestions of how to handle storage in the hot climates would be welcome. In a disaster inside temperatures can get quite warm without electricity. Keep up the good work.

    Ellie

    1. If you have an inside closet that doesn’t butt up to an outside wall, it will stay cooler longer. I have one in my guest bedroom that also has an A/C vent in it, so I use that one for a lot of my food storage….I, too , live in sunny and warm Florida! May I also suggest you look into buying some reusable Tattler lids. They are plastic with a rubber gasket, so there is no metal to rust!

  3. always thought wiping down the filled jar rims with some vinegar was fairly standard practice for the experienced canning crowd ….

  4. If you’re going to be doing a lot of canning you should consider getting a larger canner (21+ quarts). It holds the same number of quart jars (7), but twice the number of pints (17 or 18) in two layers. Just remember that it’s going to be very heavy, so decide if you’re going to be able to lift and carry it fully loaded (and very hot!) if you don’t have the space to let it cool down in place on the stove.

    It is best to load the canner in place on the stove. If you load it elsewhere and carry it to the stove you run the risk of the jars shifting and leaning against the side of the canner. It is fine if the jars touch each other, but if they touch the side of the canner it is much more likely that they will either break or fail to seal. After I’ve loaded the jars I run something thin, like a small spatula, between the jars and the canner to make sure than none of the jars are touching the canner. I think the amount of tightness on the lids is key. Too tight is just as bad as too loose. It took me a while and some experimentation, but now I rarely have a jar fail to seal. My trick is to tighten the lid down really tight then back off and retighten to just a light to medium tightness.

    With any of the brands of canners that have a gasket you will have gasket failures. These are usually not a total disaster, but you have to wait for the canner to cool down and fiddle with or replace the gasket (if you’ve remembered to buy a replacement and you remember where you put it) which takes time. The All American is more expensive, but it doesn’t have a gasket so it is more reliable in this regard. It is also much heavier and takes more heat to get up to pressure so YMMV. For any canner you buy you should get a set of replacement parts for all the parts that are likely to or designed to fail (i.e. gasket and/or overpressure plug) so you’re not stuck without a working canner in the middle of a canning session.

    I raise chickens so I can a lot of chicken. The breasts I can skinless and boneless but the other parts I generally do skinless but bone-in because it just takes me too long to debone them. My one exception to preferring to can in pint jars is chicken drumsticks and wings. Unless your chicken is very big the drumsticks will fit in a quart jar without deboning or sawing off the end of the bone and the wings fit in the spaces around the drumsticks. But, because of the amount of bone in drumsticks and wings you don’t get much more meat in a quart jar of drumsticks than you do out of a pint of boneless chicken.

  5. Growing up in NC, Granny canned everything. We usually hit the 700 pint/quart jars every summer with just vegetables. My wife and I decided to give chicken a try. We have that top of the line canner (huge/made in USA) believe it holds 17 each cooking. Well, we did it. Process took about 3 hours start to finish. I WILL NEVER GO WITHOUT MY OWNED CANNED MEAT AGAIN!!!!!! Perfect for quick dinners – gas stoves, so power outages, SHTF etc B patient but start now – you too will see how easy and delicious this is.

  6. This was a very good article. Focused on a single topic with step by step instructions. I feel confident I could follow the instructions. Really, the author was so specific that all my questions were answered by the article.

    By contrast, the other recent articles since Gaye left have been unfocused and unclear. I did not learn anything new, and sensed that the author was winging it and got the information off the internet.

    Perhaps none of that is true, perhaps the author was familiar with the material but just didn’t write well enough to be helpful. Either way, those articles need work.

    I’m sorry to be critical. I know this is a time of transition for the blog. But if I say nothing I will end up leaving. I am hoping I don’t have to do that. I think Gaye’s blog has been a lifeline for a long time. We really felt we had a partner in prepping. It will take time to trust new ownership.

    The bottom line is that Gaye was in her kitchen testing and learning. Or in her yard or garden. Trying things different ways until she had a process that she felt confident writing about.

    I miss her a lot. This transition is like losing a good friend. If you’re going to be a good editor, then this step by step post on canning is a good example of the type of articles that have given this blog such a great reputation.

    Thank you for reading this comment and considering my words.

    1. Thanks Karen, we really do appreciate the feedback! We are constantly refining the process to find the right mix of personal + practical.

  7. There is a difference between a pressure cooker and a pressure canner. A pressure canner reaches higher temperatures because of higher pressure. The USDA tested all recipes in pressure canners that will hold 4 glass US quart jars or more. Smaller units should NOT be used. Electric canners have not been tested and are not certified by the manufacturers as safe for canning low acid foods. Only Presto brand certifies their pressure canner for use on smooth glass cook tops. On induction stove tops only Fagor certifies their unit. You should have your pressure gauge tested every year or two (check with your extension office) and the gasket should be replaced just about as often. The stories about pressure cooker/canners blowing up come from poorly made products usually made shortly after WWII, after 1980 all pressure cookers made in the US are safe. If you’re going to take the time to do it yourself…be safe and do it right! You don’t want to die over a $2.00 jar of bad food.

  8. I AM 62 YEARS OLD AND HAVE BEEN CANNING MEATS FOR OVER 3 YEARS. WE JUST USED THE LAST JAR OF CHICKEN I CANNED IN AUGUST OF 2014. IT WAS GREAT. I BUY CHICKEN BREAST AND GROUND BEEF IN BULK FROM ZAYCON FOODS. ALDI’S HAS HAMS ON SALE PERIODICALLY, AND I CURRENTLY HAVE 4 IN MY FREEZER. I COOK ONE ONCE A MONTH AND CAN THE LEFTOVER HAM WITH THE BROTH USED TO COOK IT. SOMETIMES I HAVE TO ADD SOME WATER. I ALSO CAN DRY BEANS . I PAR-BOIL THEM FIRST. I MAKE MOST OF MY OWN JAMS, JELLIES , PICKLES AND JALAPENOS. I LOVE CANNING. WISH I HAD STARTED DOING IT SOONER.

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