How to Can Meat and Poultry at Home

Medically Reviewed by Dan Brennan, MD on August 16, 2021
3 min read

Canning meat is an excellent way to preserve food for the long term. With the right knowledge and tools, you might be able to can meat and poultry by yourself at home.

Meat and poultry are low acid foods. They require using pressure cans for safe preservation. ‌‌

To pressure can meat or poultry at home, you'll need: 

  • A pressure canner
  • Canning jars
  • Screw tops and new canning lids

Before you begin the canning process, there are a few things you need to keep in mind about preparing and storing safe-to-eat, high-quality meat. Make sure you: 

  • Ensure the meat and working surfaces are clean and properly sanitized. 
  • Freeze any meat that you may want to can in a few days.
  • Chill the meat after slaughter to prevent it from going bad.
  • Ensure the meat is of high quality before canning. 
  • Trim off the fat, bruised spots, and gristle before canning — too much fat may lead to sealing problems during canning.
  • Check your dial gauges and pressure canners regularly. 
  • Vent your pressure canners for a minimum of 10 minutes.‌

Canning works for various types of meat, including that of: 

  • Large animals, like game, beef, pork, lamb, or venison.
  • Small animals, like rabbits and squirrels.
  • Poultry, including chicken, goose, turkey, duck, or game birds.‌

If you plan to can game meat, you might consider soaking the meat in brine water and salt to reduce the strong flavor.  

When canning meat, consider chopping off excess fats, bruised spots, and gristle before canning. Also, make sure you measure your food quantity to know the number of cans you'll need. Depending on your preference, you can ground, chop, or strip cut the meat into chunks or cubes.‌‌

Thoroughly wash all jars or cans. The cans must be processed in a pressure canner. Ensure they get exposed to high temperatures for enough time. The high temperature helps kill bacteria that cause food poisoning. ‌

When dealing with poultry, consider larger chickens rather than fryers — the healthy, freshly-killed birds for canning.  ‌‌

When preparing to can meat, handle it fast and with complete cleanness. Also, consider removing large bones.‌

There are two methods you may use to can meat. These include:

  • Raw pack. Fill cans or jars with raw meat and leave an inch of headspace. When raw packing, do not add any liquid to your meat. Close the lids and process the cans in a pressure canner. 
  • Hot pack.  For this method, first pre-cook your meat until it's medium done — you shouldn't see any pink color when you cut the meat in the middle. Pre-cooking meat may be done through baking, stewing, or browning using small amounts of fat. Add salt if you'd like. Pack hot meat loosely in hot jars. Fill the jars with meat drippings, water, or tomato juice. Leave an inch of headspace. Remove any visible air pockets, then close the jars and process in a pressure canner. 

Preheat your lids, following the pressure canner's written instructions. With a clean towel, wipe off any residue or spillage along the brim of the jars. Finger tighten the lids and process. ‌

Add two to three inches of water and seal the jars in the canner. Tighten the lid and adjust the heat canner to a high setting. Exhaust the steam for 10 minutes. To pressurize the canner, add a weighted gauge. Time the process against the instructions. ‌

To maintain uniform pressure, continuously regulate the heat. When you get done processing, allow the canner to cool until it's depressurized. Slowly remove the weighted gauge. Wait about 10 minutes before opening the canner's lid.‌

Remove your pressurized cans using a jar lifter. Air cool jars for about 24 hours, then check for any damage to the can's lid seals. If there's any damage or a can is not sealed, you can transfer contents to a new jar and reprocess. 

Don't consume any canned product if you notice that the seal is broken. If you have canned meat, remember to eat it within a year.