Pressure cooker needed to can meat and poultry safely

Last Updated: 
October 8, 2010

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Poultry, red meats and game are low-acid foods that must be processed in a pressure canner to ensure safety. A booklet written by Extension food safety specialists at Washington State University, Oregon State University and the University of Idaho describes specific safe-canning procedures.

The 16-page booklet, "Canning Meat, Poultry and Game," (PNW 361) is available free online or can be purchased for $1 plus shipping and handling by calling 800-561-6719.

The booklet includes recommended processing times for meat, poultry and game in both weighted-gauge and dial-gauge pressure canners. Recipes for chili con carne, mincemeat and vegetable and meat soup also are included.

Following are frequently asked questions.

Q: Why is it necessary to remove as much fat from meat as possible before canning?

A: Fat left on meat will climb up the sides of a jar during processing and may prevent sealing.

Q: Is it safe to can meat that has been frozen?

A: Yes, but it must be thawed first. Thaw meat in a refrigerator until no ice crystals remain. Plan to process it within two days.

Q: Can I use the chili con carne processing times listed in the booklet for my personal chili con carne recipe?

A: The processing time for chili con carne in this booklet is only for the provided recipe. This formulation of chili was developed through extensive laboratory research for safe food canning. Freezing, however, is a safe alternative for preserving foods when no processing time is available.

Q: Is it safe to can other animal products such as butter and cheese?

A: No government agency has tested these methods for safety. The concern is that procedures provided by private sources might not be sufficient to destroy the bacteria that can cause botulism poisoning.

Q: Can two layers of jars be processed in a pressure canner at one time?

A: Yes, but place a small wire rack between the layers so steam can circulate around each jar.

Q: I want to prepare one-jar meals like I see in the grocery store. How do I determine a processing time for those?

A: Some of the foods available commercially do not have a home-canning counterpart. The food industry puts considerable time and expense into research for its own canned products. Also, companies have processing equipment that is not available for home use. As an alternative, choose recipes provided in the booklet and add desired ingredients just before eating.

Q: Why doesn't this guide include a recipe for home-canned meat stew?

A: There are no scientifically research-tested recipes for home-canned meat stew. A thick food such as stew is risky to can because heat penetration varies greatly depending on consistency. The only safe recipe for a home-canned vegetable/meat mixture is the vegetable and meat soup in the booklet. After you open a jar of this soup to eat, you may safely thicken it by adding cornstarch or flour to a small amount of the cold liquid before heating the final mixture.

Author: Judy Scott
Source: Carolyn Raab