How to Use a Water Bath Canner: Step-by-Step Guide with Photos

A water bath canner uses hot water to cook foods sealed inside its lid. They come at a low price point and require no electricity. The downside is they tend to be bulky and heavy. Additionally, the seal on the lid may not hold up well if you don’t use it often enough.

Canning jars are one of the easiest ways to preserve food without worrying about spoiling or wasting anything.

Home canning is one of those things that seems like a good idea, but many people don't know where to start. If you've ever wondered whether water bath canning is something you'd want to pursue, we've got some tips. You'll find everything you need to know about water-bath canning here.

What is water bath canning?

Water Bath Canning, also known as Pressure Canning, is a process where food products are heated to high temperatures in sealed jars and then cooked under pressure. This method of preserving foods increases the shelf-life of your preserves by killing bacteria that may have contaminated them while keeping nutrients like vitamins intact.

The term “water bath canning” refers to cooking food in a sealed container filled with boiling water. Most people refer to this method as pressure canning. What does this mean? Suppose the temperature stays above 240 degrees Fahrenheit (116 degrees Celsius) and there is pressure within the jar. In that case, the food will remain safe from spoilage.

Benefits of water bath canning:

Water-bath canning is a process of cooking foods in a large pot of simmering water. Foods like fruits, vegetables, and even meat and fish are processed in a safe environment to ensure that they remain tasty and nutritious throughout storage.

While it’s essential to keep things like canned goods out of reach of children, pets, and pests, there are ways to ensure that the contents of your jars won’t spoil. Here are five reasons why you should start practicing water bath canning today.

1. Safety

The USDA recommends that you follow specific guidelines to ensure your family's safety while preserving the quality of your food. You don't want to harm yourself because you didn't know what you were doing.

2. Preservation

Preserved foods tend to taste better than those that aren't. This is because they retain moisture and nutrients longer. Plus, you can store them for up to 10 years without losing flavor.

3. Nutrition

You’re more likely to consume healthy foods when they're stored properly. So by following these tips, you'll be able to pack more nutrition into your diet.

4. Portability

Canning allows you to take all your favorite meals with you if you live in an RV or travel frequently. And since you only need a few ingredients, you can always find them wherever you go.

Things you need for bath canning-

If you're just getting into canning, it might seem like you need a lot of equipment. But there are many things you can do without — like buying a pressure cooker. And although you can make do with less expensive options, you'll still want to invest in quality gear. Here's what you'll need:

1. Large Pot

You'll use this for boiling water and sterilizing jars. Look for one with a flat bottom and lid that fits tightly.

2. Lid

A wide-mouth jar lid works well because it allows easy access to the contents. For a tight seal, look for one with rubber gaskets.

3. Jars

Buy several sizes of wide-mouth mason jars, such as pint, quart, half-gallon, and gallon sizes. Have a variety of sizes so you can accommodate different foods.

4. Sterilizer

This tool helps kill harmful microorganisms. It heats water to 212 degrees F (100 C), which is hot enough to destroy most organisms but not so hot that it damages the glass. Look for a model with adjustable settings.

5. Pressure Cooker

You'll use this to create steam pressure inside the jars. Choose a model with a locking lid that seals securely.

6. Food Processor

This makes quick work of cutting fruit, peeling vegetables, and grinding spices. Make sure that it has a variable speed dial and a sturdy blade.

How to Use a Water Bath Canner: Step-by-Step Guide:

Follow those simple steps to make your own canning jar at home-

Step 1: Clean and Process the Jars

  • Wash the jars and lids in hot soapy water, then rinse well and dry.
  • Put the lids in a small saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil for 10 minutes, remove from the water, and cool (this will soften them for sealing on your canning jar). Set aside until ready to use.

Step 2: Prepare the Canner

You'll want to begin by filling the canner with water. The amount of water you use depends on the jar size, but it's usually somewhere between 2 and 4 inches. A full canner will allow for a good headspace in the jars, so don't add any more than what is needed.

Place a rack inside of your canner; this helps keep foods from coming into contact with direct heat from underneath, which could cause them to cook unevenly or spoil faster than intended. It also allows for more even heating around whatever food you're cooking in the pot (e.g., if it is floating at different levels).

Once all that done fill each jar one at a time with liquid or solid foods and secure a lid onto each one before placing them onto racks within your prepared canner(s).

Don't forget about lids. Lids should always be sterilized before being used for any kind of preserving or cooking process—and we recommend doing so by boiling them in hot water for 20 minutes before starting this step: place them all together carefully into another pot (we suggest using glass or stainless steel) filled with water, so they submerg below its surface level; cover securely with aluminum foil until ready to use again later on during Step 5 below where they'll come back out again while still warm enough not to crack when cooled down quickly after opening up once appropriately cooked.

Step 3: Heat the Water

To heat the water, you can use either a stovetop or an electric burner. You'll want to use a large pot using a stovetop and a smaller one using an electric burner.

When using a stovetop, keep the jars off of direct flame but still in the boiling water during heating (in other words, don't put the jars on the bottom of your pot).

If you're using an electric burner set on high heat, then place each jar with 1 inch beneath it in order for it to submerg in enough water that covers at least 1 inch above their tops (you may have to adjust pot height accordingly). 

Once heated to 180 degrees F - which takes about 15 minutes for most pots - remove from heat immediately so as not to overcook or damage any food inside your canned goods.

Step 4: Put the Jars in the Canner

Once you’ve sterilized the jars, you can place them in your water bath canner. The process for identifying the jars in your canner will vary depending on your type of canner. For example, how many jars you’re planning to process at once? So it’s essential to refer to the instructions that came with your particular type of canner for proper guidance.

For most types of water bath canners, you simply need to place the rack on top of some kind of heat-proof surface in order for it to fit inside your pot or pan.

You can also use a pressure cooker as an alternative method by placing the rack inside the pot and filling it with water until it covers at least 2 inches (5 cm) of water. Steam bubbles and liquid won't overflow like they would if you used boiling temperatures instead.

Once everything is ready, carefully lift each jar out with tongs or another utensil while wearing gloves (it's best not to touch anything hot). The jars should be placed directly on either rack - if needed, try turning one end slightly to prevent too much liquid from spilling out during cooking.

Step 5: Cover and Boil for the Recommended Time

  • You will need to boil the jars for the recommended time in order to kill off any undesirable microorganisms that may be present in your food.
  • Remove the jars from the canner, leaving at least 1 inch of water above them.
  • Place them on a towel or cooling rack so air can circulate around them and cool them down quickly.

Step 6: put your recipe into the jar.

You should have prepared your can food by the time right now. If the jars and lids are moist, food can spoil faster. Make sure they are 100% dry before filling. Put the food into the jar carefully. After putting the jar, you need to make sure there isn't any air bubble inside the jar.

To do that, grab any type of sponge, press it into the jar, hold the jar with the other hand and start rolling it. By doing this, the air bubble will release. If there is any left out, fill it up with more food. Clean the surfers' area with a clean cloth before closing it.

Step 7: sealed the jars.

Make sure the jars are upright and not touching each other as you lower the jar rack into the kettle, continuing to fill with hot water, and cover the tops of the jars with water. The maximum amount of hot water you can handle is one to two inches. Add more water from a tea kettle or pan.

The jars should be boiled for the recommended time when you cover the kettle with its lid. After removing the jars from the boiling water with the jar lifter, place them on a clean kitchen towel away from drafts without adjusting the bands or checking the seals. After about an hour, the jars should ping.

To check the seal, press the center of the lid, and if it feels solid and does not push down, you've got a good vacuum seal. You have a good vacuum seal if it pushes down in the center and pops. When that happens, the jar isn't sealed. You need to put that jar in the fridge in that case.

Step 8: Cool and Store Your Jars

  • Cool jars. When the canning process is complete, and you've removed your jars from the hot water bath, place them on a cooling rack or clean dish towel to cool for 24 hours. Never return hot jars directly to an empty kitchen countertop or table; doing so will cause them to crack and make an awful mess.
  • Store canned goods in a dark cupboard or other calm, dark environment with low humidity. Keep jars in this condition for at least one year before using them. However, some recipes can be used immediately after processing; others may require further aging before consumption (this information should be included for each recipe).

Frequently asked questions

1. What are the most common problems with canning jars?

Inspect each canning jar for nicks, cracks, uneven rims, or sharp edges.

2. How do I know if it is safe to use water-bath canning?

Before you start water-bath canning, review your recipe and instructions.

3. What are the different types of canning jars?

Stainless steel canning jars: These jars are made of stainless steel and can withstand high temperatures. They are available in several sizes and two opening options (regular and wide-mouth).

4. What tools do you need?

Canning tool sets: An essential canning tool set typically includes lid and jar lifters, a funnel, and a bubble remover/headspace tool.

5. What is the Difference Between Pressure Canning and Water-Bath Canning?

The significant difference between these two canning methods is the types of food each preserves: Water-bath canning is for more acidic foods, and pressure canning is for less acidic foods.

6. What are low-acid foods?

Pressure canners need if you want to can low-acid foods like red meat, seafood, poultry, milk, and fresh vegetables, except most tomatoes.

7. Is it possible to can without a water bath?

There was never a water bath used in the manufacture of the cans. I grew up with that, so it's what I've seen and experienced. It is also faster to can without using a water bath. I often make a jam between other things when I have some time.

8. Does it matter how long you boil when canning?

Molds, yeasts, and certain types of bacteria cannot survive boiling temperatures. Botulism bacteria or toxins, however, are not destroyed. So, although the jars were sealed, you could still have toxic food in your pantry after boiling your green beans in the water bath canner for three hours.


Congratulations. You have successfully canned your first batch of food. Now that you know how to use a water bath canner, what are you waiting for? Get out there and start preserving those tasty treats.


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