wikiHow to Can Meat

Three Methods:Getting the Canning Equipment ReadyPreparing the Meat for CanningProceeding With Canning

When you find meat on sale or otherwise procure a large quantity of chicken, beef, pork, or another type of meat, canning it is a great way to preserve it for years to come. Canning meat preserves its taste better than freezing does, since after time spent in the freezer meat can take on a bad taste and smell. It's important to use the right canning technique to make sure the meat doesn't get contaminated. This article provides instructions on canning meat, from getting the right supplies to safely storing your finished jars.

Method 1
Getting the Canning Equipment Ready

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    Get a pressure canner. This type of canner heats the jars of food to 240 °F (116 °C), which is necessary in order to ensure that all the bacteria and other contaminants are killed. Since meat is a low acid food, and does not contain natural preservatives, using a pressure canner is the only safe way to can it.[1]
    • Pressure canners are available new at kitchen supply stores, but you may be able to borrow one or find a used one online.
    • Consider getting a jar lifter to use with the canner. This tool is used for moving the jars out of the steaming water when the canning process is complete.
    • Do not use a simple bath canner to can meat. Bath canners do not raise the internal temperature of the meat to a high enough level to kill the contaminants.
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    Use canning jars and lids. Canning jars are made of glass and come in convenient sizes. You can buy new jars or reuse old ones, but make sure the lids are new. Reusing old lids isn't safe, since they won't properly seal the second time around.
    • Jars come in quarts, pints and half pints. Choose the size that fits the needs of your family. It makes sense to can a meal's worth of meat in one jar.[2]
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    Set up your workspace. Before you start canning, take the time to set up your work area in the kitchen. Be sure the surfaces you'll be using are clean. Lay out your cutting board and knife, paper towels and some vinegar for wiping the rims of the jars. Place your jars within reach of the cutting board so you'll be able to transfer the meat to them right away. Keep the lids and rings away from the meat area to prevent them from getting bits of fat or grease on them.
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    Take safety precautions. When used correctly, modern pressure canners rarely cause the types of accidents that older models used to cause. They have safety features in place to prevent them from exploding with pressure buildup. That said, it's important to handle the machine with care. Take the following precautions before you start canning:
    • Keep children and pets away from the kitchen. The machine gets very hot, and a small child could pull it down from the counter. Kids and pets underfoot could cause you to trip and break a glass jar. It's best to keep them out of the kitchen while you're concentrating on canning.
    • Check the vents in your pressure canner. Each time you use it, check to make sure the vents aren't clogged. If they are, dangerous pressure could build up in the machine.
    • Make sure the pressure gauge is accurate. If it's not, too much pressure could build up without you realizing there's a problem.
    • Be ready to stay close by at all times. Don't leave the kitchen while you're using the pressure canner.[3]

Method 2
Preparing the Meat for Canning

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    Trim the fat from the meat. Removing the fat from the meat, whether it be chicken, pork, beef, venison, or another type of meat, allows you to can prime cuts rather than wasting space with fat. It also prevents fat from getting on the rim of the jar. Fat that creeps into the lid area can prevent the jar from sealing correctly.
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    Cut the meat into cubes or strips. Rather than canning an entire wedge of meat, it's a good idea to cut it into cubes or strips, so each individual piece gets hot enough during the canning process. As you cut the meat, remove any pieces of bone or gristle.
    • If you're canning ground meat, you can skip the cubing step. Form the meat into patties or can it loose.
    • It's easier to cut the meat while it's cold, rather than cutting warm meat.[4]
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    Brown the meat. Heat some oil in a cast iron skillet and brown the meat for several minutes on each side. This shrinks the meat, allowing you to pack more in each jar. Browning meat also brings out a good flavor that will improve over time as the meat sits in the jar after canning.
    • It is not necessary to cook the meat; you can can it raw instead, unless you're canning ground meat.
    • Season the meat with spices before cooking it if you'd like. You could also wait until you're ready to use the meat to season it.
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    Get the canner ready. Fill it with a few inches of water and place it on the stove. Turn on the heat and let it simmer. Place the lids in the hot water and let them stay there until you're ready to use them.[5]
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    Fill the jars. Scoop meat into the jars, stopping two inches below the top of the jar. Pour either water or broth into the jar and fill it to within an inch of the top. You need the extra headspace, so don't fill the jars all the way to the top.
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    Wipe and close the jars. Use a paper towel soaked in vinegar to wipe the rim of the jars, making sure to remove any traces of fat or oil. Use tongs to lift lids and place them on the jars one at a time. Screw the rings onto the jars so that they are firmly in place.

Method 3
Proceeding With Canning

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    Place the jars in the canner. Use the jar lifter to set them into the canner. Fit as many as you can in the canner at once. Close the lid on the canner and lock it in place. Depending on the type of canner you are using, either leave the pressure weight off or leave the petcock open.[6]
    • Be sure to read the instructions on the canner to make sure you complete the process correctly.
    • Don't stack jars on top of one another.
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    Turn up the heat and watch the steam and pressure. The canner is working effectively when it begins producing large amounts of steam. Once the jars are inside and the heat is turned up, it should begin producing the appropriate amount of steam within 10 to 15 minutes. The pressure should hold steady at between 10 and 12 pounds, depending on your pressure canner model and altitude. If it rises above that, turn the heat down a little.
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    Process the jars for the duration of time needed for the type of meat you are canning. This may be anywhere from 65 to 90 minutes, and it changes depending on whether the meat is raw or cooked.[7] It's important to process the jars for exactly as long as is recommended for safety purposes.
    • Stay in the kitchen while the pressure canner is working, and monitor the pressure gauge. If it drops too low or high, adjust the heat on the stove as necessary.
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    Turn off the heat and let the jars cool. When the correct amount of time has elapsed, let the pressure return to zero and the jars cool a bit before you remove them from the pressure canner.
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    Move the jars from the canner to the counter. Open the lid of the canner and remove the jars with the jar lifter, then set them on a dishtowel. Make sure your workspace isn't too drafty or cold; the cool air could cause the hot jars to crack. Set the jars a few inches apart so they cool properly. You'll hear popping noises as the lids seal.
    • Don't touch the jars as they cool, or they may not seal properly.
    • Check the seals after the cooling process is finished. They should be slightly indented.
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    Store the jars. Jars that have been properly sealed can be stores on shelves in the pantry or another cool, dark area. Label the jars with their contents and the date before storing them.
    • Don't store jars of meat in the sunlight or in a warm area.
    • Jars that did not seal should be refrigerated or put through the canning process again.


  • If for some reason the jar doesn't seal, let it cool, remove the lid, repack, and reprocess. Use a different lid and toss the old one in the trash.
  • Always leave an inch of head space at the top of the jar before placing lids on.
  • If liquid boils out of lid at first when you open the canner, don't do anything but sit it aside. Usually once it cools the lid seals and you can just clean the outside of the jar.


  • Can the meat immediately after the lids are placed on the jars to cut down on the possibility of contamination of microorganisms.
  • Do not raw-pack meats for pressure processing at altitudes above 6,000 feet (1,828.8 m).

Things You'll Need

  • Pressure canner
  • Jar lifter
  • Jars and new lids
  • Paper towels
  • Vinegar

Article Info

Categories: Meat