10 Common Canning Myths - Debunked!

Home canning isn't difficult. But perhaps because it's evolved over the years, there are many myths associated with it. If you're afraid to can, or you just want to become a more expert canner, check out these common canning myths - and the real facts behind them.

Myth 1: There's no way I'm home canning anything. I'm not going to risk making my loved ones sick  - or evening killing them with botulism!

The Facts: Modern canning is quite safe as long as you follow a modern canning book, like The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving or the guidelines at the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP). The steps are simple and when followed completely, you won't get botulism. (If you've read some recent news stories about home canners getting botulism from their home canned food, please note they did not even come close to following proper canning guidelines! Don't skip steps. They are there for a reason.)

Myth 2: I can in an oven. My grandma did it, so I know it's safe.

The Facts: Oven canning is not safe, and never was. This is because the oven doesn't get the food hot enough to kill all the bad bugs.

Myth 3: Butter is totally safe to can.

The Facts: Dairy products aren't suitable for home canning. Learn more here.

Myth 4: Canning lids contain BPA - a chemical I don't want in my diet.

The Facts: Ball and Kerr lids are now BPA free, as are Tattler lids.

Myth 5: It's okay to store my jars with rings on them. It's also okay to stack jars one on top of the other during storage.

The Facts: Both are highly discouraged; here's why: When you leave the rings on canning lids, or when you put something on top of the jars, those jars may unseal - then reseal themselves. This can result in spoiled food - but you won't be able to tell it's spoiled (unless it happens to grow mold or take on a strange smell - which may or may not happen). On the other hand, if you leave the rings off and don't put anything on top of the jars, if they happen to unseal, you'll know about it! The lids won't be able to reseal because there will be no pressure on them, so it will be obvious there's a problem with the seal. (FYI: It's not often that canning lids come unsealed, but under the right conditions, like exposure to too much heat, they may.)

Myth 6: There's no need to boil or simmer lids. They get sterilized during canning, anyway.

The Facts: The purpose of simmering (not boiling) canning lids is not to sterilize or clean them. It's to heat up the rubbery part so it will properly seal the jar. So yes, you do need to simmer them before placing them on jars. The newest canning lids do not require boiling or heating before placing them on canning jars and processing them in a water bath or pressure canner.

Myth 7: It's okay to can vegetables in a water bath canner. My grandmother did it all the time!

The Facts: There was a brief period where some put up vegetables in a water bath canner. But that was before we knew as much about food poisoning as we do now. In addition:

* People rarely died from this unsafe type of canning because after they opened the jar of canned food, they boiled the vegetables to death. This killed all the bad bugs - but it also made the food mushy and removed much of the nutrition from it.

* We now have bacteria and other bugs in our environment that grandma did not.

* Even in Grandma's day, this was risky. It just isn't worth the risk - especially when you can easily can vegetables in a perfectly safe, easy to use pressure canner.

Myth 8: I don't put my jams, jellies, or tomato products in a canner. I just sterilize the jars, put the food in, put the simmered cap on, and turn it upside down. It seals fine!

The Facts: This is the traditional method for canning jams and jellies. However, a quick 10 minute boil in a water bath canner makes the food safer to eat. It's not difficult or time consuming, so why risk making someone sick with unprocessed jams and jellies?

As for tomato products, it's very risky not to process them in a canner. When you cook tomato sauces and other tomato products on the stove, they don't get hot enough to kill bad bugs.

In addition, modern tomatoes may have less acid in them than old-fashioned tomatoes; lower acid means a greater risk for food poisoning, unless the tomatoes are processed in a canner. In fact, some experts recommend only canning tomatoes and tomato products in a pressure canner, to reduce the risk of illness even further.

Myth 9: I can make up my own recipes to home can. I don't have to follow a recipe that's been tested in a laboratory for safety. After all, the canned foods we buy in a store aren't made from "approved" recipes.

The Facts: First, the commercial canning process is entirely different from home canning. And yes, commercially canned recipes are tested for safety - the recipes just aren't shared with the public and are only safe with commercial canning methods.

That said, it's possible to create safe jam recipes, as long as you understand the important balance required to make jam or jelly. In addition, there is some leeway when it comes to soups, as long as you understand density and that some foods just aren't appropriate for canning. However, it's wise for new canners to stick to approved recipes, such as those found in the Ball canning books or on the NCHFP website. In addition, you may wish to check out the books Putting Up and Putting it Up More by Steve Downdey, which explain the process cottage canning businesses use to come up with their own recipes. (Be forewarned; these books are controversial because they set forth not home canning guidelines, but guidelines used in commercial kitchens.)

Myth 10: I always sterilize my canning jars and lids. It's the only safe way to go!

The Facts: It's almost never necessary to sterilize jars and lids before filling them with food. That's because the canning process itself sterilizes them. Learn more here.


  1. I was thinking of trying to can veggies this summer but I was definitely not going to get a pressure canner or follow some recipe to the letter (I never do!). I guess it's just not worth doing that: Something worth doing is worth doing well. I will wait until I have all the items I need to can appropriately. :) Thanks for this post!

  2. Tereza, I'm glad you changed your mind! Watch for sales on pressure canners. I highly recommend Presto; I have the 23 qt., and I can do two layers of pint or jelly jars in it. Also, I use it as a water bath canner (to save on storage space); I just don't seal the lid when water bath canning. I can usually find them on sale (new) for $65-75. It's definitely worth the investment! I do recommend getting the rocker gauge: http://www.proverbsthirtyonewoman.blogspot.com/2011/03/why-im-switching-to-rocker-gauge.html#.U9pjY2NtUz4

  3. My mother in law canned some figs and after she had the lids on I touched one and it popped like it sealed. She said because I did that, that it wouldn't seal. Is this true that you're not supposed to touch them?

  4. Mary, touching a canning lid before it has completely cooled can cause a false seal, meaning the lid has sealed unnaturally and will likely unseal later.