How to Can Meat: A Comprehensive Guide for Beginners | Food Preservation

Canning meat is an age-old practice that has been used for centuries to preserve food. With the advancements in technology and modern-day equipment, canning meat at home has become a simple and convenient way to store large quantities of meat for extended periods without compromising on quality or taste. Meat lovers who want to make sure they always have fresh, high-quality meat on hand can turn to canning as a reliable solution. However, not everyone knows how to can meat properly, and improper canning techniques can result in spoiled food or worse – botulism poisoning. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything you need to know to get started with canning meat safely at home.


Canning meat is an age-old practice that has been used for centuries to preserve food and ensure a steady supply of protein during harsh winters or times of scarcity. The process involves heating meat to a specific temperature and then sealing it in sterilized jars with the help of a pressure canner. This results in meat that can be stored for months, even years, without spoiling.

Although canning meat may seem like a daunting task, it is actually quite simple and straightforward as long as you follow proper procedures and guidelines. In this comprehensive guide, we will walk you through each step of the canning process, from preparation to storage, and provide you with valuable tips and insights that will help you get started.

Whether you are a seasoned homesteader looking to stockpile food for the winter or a beginner interested in learning more about food preservation, this guide is for you. So buckle up and get ready to learn everything you need to know about how to can meat!

What is Canning Meat?

Canning meat is the process of preserving meat by sealing it in airtight cans or jars and then cooking it at high temperatures. This method has been used for centuries to preserve food and prevent spoilage, especially in times when refrigeration and freezing were not available.

Food preservation is crucial in ensuring that food remains safe to eat for an extended period. Canning meat ensures that it can be stored for months or even years without losing its nutritional value or taste. It’s an excellent way to have a steady supply of meat, especially during times when fresh meat isn’t readily available.

Canning meat requires some preparation before the process begins; the meat is cleaned, trimmed, and seasoned before being packed into jars. The jars are then sealed and cooked using a pressure canner. The high temperature kills any bacteria present in the meat and creates a vacuum seal inside the jar, keeping it free from contamination.

There are different methods of canning meat, such as raw pack method and hot pack method. The raw-pack method involves packing the raw meat tightly into jars, while the hot pack method involves pre-cooking the meat before packing it into jars.

Canned meat can be stored at room temperature, making it convenient for outdoor activities such as camping or hiking where refrigeration might not be available. However, it’s essential to follow proper canning procedures to avoid food poisoning caused by harmful bacteria like botulism.

Overall, canning meat is an excellent way to preserve food and ensure you have a steady supply of meat throughout the year. With the right equipment and knowledge, anyone can learn how to can meat and enjoy the benefits of long-term food storage.

Why Should You Can Meat?

Canning meat is an age-old preservation method that has been used by people for centuries. It involves sealing meat in jars and processing them in a pressure canner at high temperatures to kill all bacteria and other microorganisms that can cause spoilage. Why should you consider canning meat? There are several reasons why it is a smart choice, especially if you are looking for long-term food storage options.

Meat Preservation

One of the most obvious benefits of canning meat is that it acts as a form of meat preservation. Fresh meat only lasts for a few days in the refrigerator before it starts to spoil. However, canned meat can last for up to two years or longer when stored correctly. This means you can enjoy your favorite meats any time of the year without worrying about them going bad.

Long-Term Food Storage

Another reason why you should can meat is for long-term food storage. Canned meat provides a reliable source of protein during emergencies or natural disasters when fresh meat may not be readily available. This is particularly useful for those who live in areas prone to power outages or natural disasters that can disrupt the food supply chain.


Canning meat can also be cost-effective. During the hunting season, many hunters end up with more meat than they can consume, and the excess can be canned for later use. In this way, canning meat provides a way to preserve large amounts of meat and saves money on future purchases.


Canned meat is also convenient because it is pre-cooked and ready to eat straight from the jar. This makes it an excellent option for those who have busy schedules or want to prepare meals quickly.

Health Benefits

Finally, canning meat is an excellent way to retain the nutrients and flavor of the meat. Unlike other preservation methods, such as freezing, which can cause meat to lose its texture and flavor, canning preserves the taste, texture, and integrity of the meat. This means that canned meat is not only delicious but also nutritious.

In conclusion, canning meat is a smart choice for those looking for long-term food storage options and meat preservation. It is cost-effective, convenient, and provides several health benefits. So why not try canning your favorite meats today?

Things You Need to Get Started

Things You Need to Get Started

Before you start canning meat, there are a few essential tools you need to have on hand. Here’s a list of the items you’ll need to get started:

Pressure Canner

A pressure canner is an essential tool for canning meat because it allows you to safely preserve low-acid foods like meat. It works by heating up the contents of the jar to kill any bacteria and create a vacuum seal that keeps the food fresh. When choosing a pressure canner, make sure it has a pressure gauge and safety features like a locking lid and release valve.


You’ll need jars made specifically for canning, which are designed to withstand the high heat and pressure of the canning process. Mason jars are a popular choice, but you can also use other types of canning jars. Make sure the jars are free of cracks or chips before using them.


Tongs are an important tool for canning because they allow you to handle hot jars safely. Look for tongs with rubber-coated handles that provide a secure grip and won’t slip when wet.


A funnel makes it much easier to fill jars with meat and liquid without making a mess. Look for a funnel that fits tightly into the jar opening and is made of a durable material like stainless steel.

Meat Thermometer

A meat thermometer is crucial for ensuring that your canned meat is cooked to the correct temperature. It’s important to follow the recommended guidelines for processing times and temperatures to ensure that your canned meat is safe to eat.

By having these essential tools on hand, you’ll be well-equipped to start canning meat at home. With a little practice and patience, you’ll be able to enjoy delicious, preserved meat all year round.

Steps to Can Meat

Step 1: Preparation

Step 1: Preparation

When it comes to canning meat, preparation is key. The process starts with cleaning and trimming the meat, then seasoning it to add flavor. Here are some tips for each step of the preparation process:


Before you start canning meat, make sure you clean it thoroughly. Rinse the meat under cold water and pat it dry with a paper towel. If there are any visible pieces of fat or gristle, trim them off with a sharp knife.

It’s important to note that you should never wash your meat with soap or other chemicals. This can actually increase the risk of bacterial contamination.


Trimming your meat is an essential step in the preparation process. By removing excess fat and gristle, you’ll end up with a more tender and flavorful product.

When trimming your meat, use a sharp knife and remove as much fat as possible. If there are any large pieces of connective tissue, cut them off as well. While some fat is necessary for flavor, too much can cause your canned meat to spoil more quickly.


Once your meat is cleaned and trimmed, it’s time to add some flavor. The type of seasoning you choose will depend on your personal preferences and the recipe you’re using.

Some popular options include salt, pepper, garlic powder, and onion powder. You can also use fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary, or sage for added flavor.

When seasoning your meat, be sure to coat it evenly on all sides. This will ensure that every bite is full of delicious flavor.

By following these simple tips for cleaning, trimming, and seasoning your meat, you’ll be well on your way to canning delicious and flavorful products.

Step 2: Cooking

Step 2: Cooking

Once you have prepared your meat, it’s time to cook it before canning. This step is crucial to ensure that the meat is safe for consumption and will preserve well in the jars. Here are the two main methods used for cooking meat before canning:


Pre-cooking involves fully cooking the meat before packing it into jars. This method is recommended for meats such as ground beef, stew meat, and poultry. By pre-cooking, you eliminate any risk of undercooked meat in your jars, which could lead to spoilage or even botulism.

To pre-cook the meat, simply brown it in a skillet until it’s fully cooked. You can also simmer it in water or broth until it’s tender. Once the meat is cooked, remove it from the heat and let it cool slightly before packing it into jars.

Raw Pack Method

The raw pack method involves packing raw meat directly into jars. This method is commonly used for meats such as beef, pork, and wild game. The benefit of using this method is that the meat will retain its texture and flavor better than if it were pre-cooked.

To use the raw pack method, simply pack the raw meat tightly into the jars, leaving about an inch of headspace at the top. Do not add any liquid to the jars, as the meat will release its own juices during processing.

Hot Pack Method

The hot pack method involves partially cooking the meat before packing it into jars. This method is commonly used for meats such as chicken, rabbit, and fish. Partially cooking the meat before canning helps to reduce shrinkage and results in a firmer texture.

To use the hot pack method, simmer the meat in water or broth until it’s partially cooked. Then, pack it into jars and cover with the cooking liquid. Leave about an inch of headspace at the top of each jar.

In conclusion, choosing the right cooking method is essential for successful meat canning. Whether you choose to pre-cook your meat or use a raw or hot pack method, be sure to follow the guidelines carefully to ensure safe and delicious results.

Step 3: Packing

Step 3: Packing

Once your meat is cooked and ready to be canned, the next step is packing it into jars. This may seem straightforward, but there are a few important things to keep in mind.

Packing Meat

When packing meat, it’s important to leave adequate headspace in the jar. Headspace is the area between the top of the meat and the rim of the jar. This allows for expansion during processing and helps prevent the jars from breaking.

It’s recommended to leave 1 inch of headspace for meats such as beef, pork, and venison, and 1/2 inch of headspace for chicken and other poultry. Use a utensil to pack the meat tightly into the jars, removing any air pockets or gaps.

Adding Liquid

After you’ve packed the meat, you’ll need to add liquid to the jar. The type of liquid you use will depend on the recipe and method you’re using. Generally, water or broth is used to cover the meat, but some recipes may call for other liquids such as tomato sauce or vinegar.

Be sure to leave the recommended amount of headspace after adding the liquid. It’s important not to overfill the jars as this can cause them to break during processing.

Remember, properly packing and adding liquid to your jars is crucial to ensuring the safety and quality of your canned meat. Take your time and follow the recipe closely for best results.

Step 4: Processing

Step 4: Processing

Processing is the most critical step in canning meat. It involves pressure canning, which is the only safe method for preserving low-acid foods such as meat and vegetables. The process of pressure canning involves heating the jars to high temperatures under pressure, which destroys any harmful microorganisms that could cause food spoilage.

When it comes to processing meat, timing and pressure guidelines are essential. If you don’t follow the correct guidelines, your canned meat may not be safe to eat. The recommended processing time and pressure depend on the type of meat, the size of the jar, and the altitude at which you live.

For example, if you’re canning beef, the processing time can range from 75 to 90 minutes, depending on the size of the jar. Additionally, the USDA recommends a processing pressure of 10 pounds for most altitudes. However, if you live above 1000 feet, you need to adjust the pressure accordingly.

It’s crucial to follow these guidelines precisely to ensure the safety of your canned meat. Over-processing can result in dry, tough meat, while under-processing can lead to bacterial growth and botulism. Therefore, investing in a good quality pressure canner and using a reliable resource for timing and pressure guidelines is vital.

In summary, processing is the most critical step in canning meat, and it requires following precise timing and pressure guidelines. By doing so, you can ensure the long-term safety and shelf life of your canned meat.

Step 5: Storage

Step 5: Storage

Once you’ve finished processing your meat, it’s time to move on to the final step of the canning process: storage. Proper storage is critical to ensuring that your canned meat remains safe and edible for months or even years to come. In this section, we’ll discuss some essential tips for storing your canned meat.


After processing your meat, it’s important to allow it to cool down before attempting to store it. This helps to prevent the jars from cracking due to sudden temperature changes. To cool your canned meat, simply remove it from the pressure canner and place it on a cooling rack or towel. Avoid placing hot jars directly on a cold surface as this can also cause them to crack.

Checking Seals

Before storing your canned meat, it’s crucial to check the seals on each jar to ensure they’re properly sealed. A good seal is indicated by a concave lid that doesn’t move when pressed. If you find any jars with weak or broken seals, don’t attempt to reprocess them – instead, refrigerate and consume within a few days.

Storing Canned Meat

Proper storage is key to maintaining the quality of your canned meat. Store your jars in a cool, dark, and dry place like a pantry or cellar. Avoid exposing them to direct sunlight or extreme temperatures as this can lead to spoilage. It’s also important to store your canned meat away from any sources of chemicals or strong odors, as these can affect its flavor.

When it comes to shelf life, most canned meats will last for up to two years. However, it’s always best to use your own judgement and inspect the meat before consuming it. If you notice any discoloration, foul smells, or strange textures, discard it immediately.

By following these simple tips for proper storage, you can enjoy your canned meat for many months to come. So go ahead and start canning – you’ll be rewarded with delicious, long-lasting meat that’s perfect for quick meals or emergency situations.

Safety Tips

Food safety is of utmost importance when it comes to canning meat. One of the biggest concerns with canned meat is the potential for botulism, a rare but serious illness caused by a toxin that can develop in improperly canned food. To ensure the safety of your canned meat, it’s crucial to follow proper canning procedures.

Proper canning procedures involve a combination of factors such as using a pressure canner, following recommended processing times and temperatures, and inspecting jars for signs of spoilage before consuming. It’s important to note that boiling water bath canning is not recommended for meat products due to the risk of botulism.

When using a pressure canner, make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully and monitor the pressure gauge throughout the process. You should also use tested recipes from reputable sources and avoid altering the recipe or ingredient ratios.

In addition to these steps, it’s important to maintain a clean workspace and practice good hygiene when handling meat and canning equipment. This includes washing hands thoroughly, sanitizing surfaces and utensils, and using gloves when necessary.

By following proper canning procedures and practicing good food safety habits, you can reduce the risk of botulism and other foodborne illnesses associated with canned meat. Remember to always prioritize safety over convenience and take the necessary precautions to ensure the safety of your canned meat.


The process of canning meat may seem intimidating at first, but with the right equipment and knowledge, it can be a rewarding experience. By following proper canning procedures, you can ensure the long-term preservation of your meat and have a reliable source of food storage.

One of the most important things to keep in mind when canning meat is safety. Botulism is a potential risk associated with improperly canned meat, so it’s crucial to follow guidelines for timing, pressure, and sealing. By investing in a good pressure canner and using reliable sources for canning instructions, you can minimize this risk and enjoy your canned meat with peace of mind.

Another key takeaway from this guide is the importance of preparation. Cleaning and trimming your meat, as well as seasoning it to your preference, can make a big difference in the final product. Choosing the right packing method and adding liquid can also impact the quality of your canned meat.

In conclusion, learning how to can meat can be a valuable skill for anyone interested in food preservation or prepping. With the right tools, knowledge, and attention to safety, you can create a stockpile of canned meat that will last for years to come. So why not give it a try and see how satisfying it can be to preserve your own food?
In conclusion, canning meat is not only a practical method of food preservation but also an essential skill for anyone interested in self-sustainability. By following the steps outlined in this comprehensive guide, beginners can feel confident in their ability to safely and effectively can meat for long-term storage. Remember to always prioritize food safety by using proper canning procedures and equipment, monitoring processing times and pressure, and checking seals before storing canned meat. With careful preparation, cooking, packing, processing, and storage, you can ensure that your canned meat remains safe and delicious for years to come. Happy canning!

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