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Canning Mistakes to Avoid When Water Bath & Pressure Canning

If you plan on doing any canning, it’s important you follow safe canning protocols, but more importantly, there are some common canning mistakes you may not be aware of! Here are the top 5 canning mistakes to avoid whether you’re water bath or pressure canning.

A jar of tomato soup being lifted out of a water bath canner.

Did you plant a late summer garden this year? Or maybe you’re in the middle of the harvest season and ready to put up all that fresh food for winter. Or maybe you just butchered a cow and you want to can meat with the raw pack method or make canned ground beef.

If any of these pertain to you, then chances are you are there are some key things you need to know to avoid the top 5 canning mistakes so you stay safe and don’t lose any of that hard work you did to feed your family healthy nutritious homegrown food!

Common Canning Mistakes to Avoid

  1. Not cooling jars in the canner.
  2. Not getting pressure dial gauge tested.
  3. Using an electric pressure cooker or an Instant Pot to can food.
  4. Not venting the pressure cooker before bringing up to pressure.
  5. Storing food with the canning bands on.
Canning jars sitting inside a pressure canner.

Not Cooling Jars in the Canner

Once the canning time is complete, the timer goes off, and you turn your burner off, one of the biggest mistakes we see is people immediately removing their jars right away instead of letting them cool in the canner.

This can promote siphoning of liquid which could push the food out of the jar, resulting in really dirty jars, and potential seal failure due to the food seeping through the lid.

The best way to avoid this is to turn the heat off, remove the water bath canner lid, and let the jars sit for 5 minutes.

If you’re pressure canning, once the pressure has dropped back down to zero, remove the lid and let the jars sit for 5 minutes before removing the jars.

The dial gauge of a pressure canner pointing to zero.

Not Getting Your Pressure Gauge Tested

If you’re not getting your dial gauge checked every year (especially brand new pressure canners) your dial gauge could be reading incorrectly.

That means you may not be coming up to a high enough pressure for long enough to ensure you’re killing off all the bacteria.

Likewise, if you’re cooking at too high of a pressure, you’re overcooking your food and it just won’t taste as good once finished.

Some canners may have a home-test kit, but the standard thing to do would be to take the pressure gauge and lid into your extension office to get tested.

Sometimes this is offered free of charge, but I’ve found there can be a charge of up to $20.

Don’t skip this step though! It’s important!

The workaround to getting your pressure gauge tested would be to use a weighted gauge pressure canner. This means your jiggler, or weight is what determines the pressure and not a dial gauge.

A blue water bath canner next to multiple jars of canned peaches sitting on a butcher block counter top.

Using an Instant Pot or Electric Pressure Cooker to Can Food

Many people get pressure canners and pressure cookers confused. Maybe it’s because you can cook in a pressure canner, but you can’t can in an electric pressure cooker. I’ve written more on pressure canning in an Instant Pot here.

Have I confused you more? Bottom line, the popular Instant Pot (or other electric pressure cookers) are not safe to can in. The reason is these appliances are not able to be properly calibrated for safe canning.

There are absolutely no circumstances when canning food in them would be acceptable.

Just don’t do it!

If you have a true pressure canner, it is possible to cook food in it, however, I usually find my pressure canner to be much too large for the job.

It’s best to just get yourself an Instant Pot and leave that for the cooking, and your pressure canner for the canning.

Pressure canner with the lid on.

Not Venting the Pressure Canner Before Processing

Many years ago there was no recommendation to let the steam release from your pressure canner before putting the weighted gauge on to start letting the pressure build up.

The reason this is now recommended is that you need to push the air out of the pressure canner in order to get a correct reading.

Your pressure canner needs to steam for a solid 10 minutes BEFORE you put that canning gauge on.

The reason for the change is that our knowledge of microbiology has improved over the years and the number of botulism cases has diminished drastically.

Following these proper protocols does add a bit of time to the overall process, but it’s highly recommended for safety.

Jars of food lined up on a pantry shelf.

Storing Jars with the Canning Ring On

Occasionally when canning, your jars will create what is called a “false seal”. This is where your jar lid will indent and look like it’s sealed properly, but as it cools the seal will break and your food will not actually be sealed correctly.

When this happens it’s sometimes impossible to tell from the outside that the jar isn’t sealed correctly.

The lid may still be indented, you may even be able to “test” the lid by lifting it gently with your fingers and it won’t come loose.

This is why it’s so important to allow your jars to cool completely before moving to long-term storage.

This is also why we remove the bands and let them sit on the shelf. That way whenever you go get a jar of food from the pantry, you can check that lid to make sure it’s properly sealed, even a year later.

If you have space, it’s recommended to store your jars in a single layer. However, if you need to stack jars for space reasons, just be sure you put something like a layer of cardboard in between the jars so the weight of the jar is not on the center of that lower jar lid causing a potential false seal.

Because you don’t need to store food with all those canning rings, be sure to check out my video on how to store canning bands!

A woman holding up a jar of home canned food pointing to it. More canned food on the counter in front of her.
A man and wife smiling.

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Josh and Carolyn bring you practical knowledge on how to Grow, Cook, Preserve and Thrive on your homestead, whether you are in a city apartment or on 40 acres in the country. If you want to increase your self-sufficiency and health be sure to subscribe for helpful videos on gardening, preserving, herbal medicine, traditional cooking and more.

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