7 Common Meat Canning Questions

Sharon Peterson at simplycanning.com is one of our Facebook friends here at Lehman’s. She’s agreed to share her expertise on pressure canning meat and poultry. She and her husband are raising their four boys frugally in Western Colorado. We’re looking forward to working with her again! –Editor, Lehman’s Country Life

As a hunting family we can a lot of meat each year…. At least for the years that we have a good hunting season!  Last year, game was scarce and we are now out of wild meat both in the freezer and the canning cupboard.  I can’t wait for my guys to fill us up again!

Through my website SimplyCanning.com I’ve received a lot of questions regarding this form of preserving.  Here are a few common questions and the answers you need.

One of our best sellers! Learn how to preserve any meat or game. Available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Do you really need to pressure can meat?
Yes, you absolutely need to use a pressure canner to can any type of meat.   Really, you do. There is no way around this.  With any low-acid food there is the risk of botulism.  Botulism is a serious food poisoning that at its worst can be fatal.  You don’t want to mess around with it.

So how do we prevent botulism?? Heat. Botulism can be prevented by processing low-acid foods at temperatures above 240 degrees F.   This is only achievable when canning in a pressure canner. Your jars must seal as they cool. (See question on this below.)

A long waterbath is no substitute for the pressure canner.  No matter how long you waterbath something you won’t ever reach that temperature.

Hot-pack venison in Ball jars, partway through filling process. (Photo courtesy simplycanning.com)

Do you cook the meat first or can it raw?
Meat can be canned as raw packed or hot packed (cooked first).  It is simply personal preference.  If you can it raw, you won’t need to add any liquid. If you cook it first, you’ll need to add broth or other type of liquid.

For us, most things are canned raw.  Elk, venison and chicken are the most common meats I can and I like to do this raw pack.  When you have a couple of elk to process, that’s a lot of meat!  A raw pack is quick and easy.  Elk and venison are cubed as a stew meat. I can the chicken in pieces with the bone in.

There are two things I do suggest you hot pack.  Ground meat is better off browning a bit first so it doesn’t stick together in the jar.  Then can it with a broth, tomato sauce or just water.

When canning a fatty type of meat (like a pork roast) simmer it until it is cooked through.  Allow it to cool and refrigerate it in the broth overnight.   The next day you can skim off the fat before you reheat the meat to pack it.  Be sure to reheat it!  You don’t want to pack your jars with cold meat from the refrigerator. Reheat it and process as a hot pack.

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and more food preservation books are available at Lehmans.com or Lehman’s in Kidron, Ohio.

Do you can chicken with the bone in or out?
This again is personal preference.  Be sure and take note that there is a difference in processing times for bone in or boneless.   Proper processing is important so follow the current guidelines.  (I’m such a stickler for that!)

If you think about how much nutrition is in the chicken bone…. The health benefits are immense.   I highly recommend canning with the bone in.  When you open your jar later to use it the bones are easily separated from the meat.  In fact the bones actually become soft.  You can break them with your fingers.  The nutrition of that bone is pressured cooked right out into the juices and meat that you will use in whatever dish you create.

How long will home canned meat last?
The official recommendations by the USDA are to use up any home canned food within one year.  For meats and any vegetables, I do try to stick to that.   However, if a year has gone by, please don’t throw your meat away!  Just pull it to the front of your pantry and make a point of using it up soon. There is no magical today it is fine and tomorrow it is bad.  Nutritional value will start to go down after a year so plan accordingly.

How do you use canned meat?
You use it just like any canned meat.  It is great for casseroles, chili, enchiladas, soups, you name it.  Remember that the canned meat is cooked.  You won’t have much luck creating a hamburger out of canned ground meat.  And meatloaf is also out.  But anywhere you’d use cooked ground meat, try some canned ground meat.  Need stew meat? Try some home-canned cubed meat.

Can I defrost meat from my freezer and then can it?
Yes!  This is perfectly acceptable.  Be sure the meat is completely defrosted and then can it according to proper methods.  Complete directions are included at http://www.simplycanning.com/canning-meat.html

What if my jars don’t seal?
If a jar does not seal you can reprocess it as long as you noticed it within 24 hours of canning.  You’ll need to empty the jar out, reheat your meat and can it as a hot pack.   The only problem with this is that your meat will be twice cooked.  A better option might be to freeze it or simply place in the refrigerator and use it in a meal within a day or two.

Can I use other seasonings besides salt? Or do I have to add salt?
Salt is optional, it is for flavor only.  You can also add bouillon, tomato juice or tomato sauce, onion or garlic.

You can also season to taste… The only seasoning I can think of that is not recommended for canning is sage; it apparently gets too strong in the jar. Remember, though, that an unseasoned meat is more versatile later.  You can add the seasonings you wish for the particular meal you are making if the meat is unseasoned or only salted.  Generally, I use salt or bouillon only.


  • Remember Safety first!  ALWAYS use a pressure canner when you are canning meat.  I know, I already said this.  It is important enough to repeat!
  • Use wide mouth jars. It is not required but …. they are easier to clean.  And we are all for easy clean up right?!
  • Get good deals on meat on sale and can it for later.  Thanksgiving time is great for turkey. Watch for those sales on chicken breast.
  • If you have any leftover broth after filling your jars, can it up for use in soups or with beans later. Fill a jar and process in the same canner load as the meat.
  • If you can venison or elk after a good hunting season, you may have a lot of meat.  If this is common for you, get a larger canner.  The ability to stack either your pints or quarts saves a lot of time.
  • For some great ideas on how to use home canned venison or elk, may I suggest you take a look http://www.simplycanning.com/venison-recipes.html I’ve included complete instructions for canning elk or venison, plus some family recipes on how to use it once you’ve canned it. 

3 thoughts on “7 Common Meat Canning Questions