7 Mistakes Everyone Makes When Canning

Canning mistakes not only waste your time, but they can be dangerous, too! Luckily, each one of these mistakes is easy to avoid.

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Preserved food in glass jars, on a wooden shelf. Various marinaded food
Shutterstock / Artem Shadrin

Canning might be a great way to preserve the bounty from your summer garden, but everyone makes mistakes. Don’t worry, though: all of these common mistakes are easily avoidable!

New to canning? Check out our definitive guide.

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Homemade dill pickles canned in glass jars on display at a farmer's market.

Mistake #1: Overfilling Your Jars

Most recipes instruct you to leave some headspace–anywhere from 1/4-inch to 1 1/4-inches–between the top of the jar and the top of the liquid. If you’re overfilling your jar, you won’t be able to get a good vacuum seal. That means your food can discolor or spoil sooner than it should.

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Green beans in a traditional process of canning and preserving at home
Shutterstock / B Brown

Mistake #2: Using the Wrong Jars

It’s great to reuse your store-bought glass jars…just not for canning purposes. Canning jars are specifically designed to hold up under the high temperatures of the water bath and can handle the right amount of pressure without breaking.

Purchase a 12-pack of 16oz. Ball mason jars ready for canning here. ($21)

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Closeup of three glass canning jars on a rustic wood farmhouse style kitchen table.
Shutterstock / Steve Cukrov

Mistake #3: Reusing Lids

We’re all about recycling, but those canning lids are meant to be single-use lids. The rings won’t provide the same seal the second time around, making them less than safe. Feel free to reuse them for refrigerator pickles, just not those canning recipes.

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Variety kimchi masson jars.

Mistake #4: Not Following a Recipe

Canning is all about safely creating a precise pH level inside the jar, so you’ll definitely want to stick to approved recipes. Otherwise, your shelf-stable goods could make people sick! Check out these top-rated recipes if you’re not sure where to get started.

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Canning green beans with red hot chili peppers in glass jars with pickled cabbage cauliflower broccoli sour preserved hands add herbs fermented process.
Shutterstock / casanisa

Mistake #5: Using the Water Bath Method Instead of the Pressure Canning Method

This mistake is all too common–and it can be pretty deadly, too. High-acid foods like pickles or foods preserved with sugar (like jam) do well with the water bath method. Low-acid foods (like soups or meats) need to be processed with a pressure canner to prevent botulism.

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Canning raspberry jam.
Ms. Trouble Maker/Shutterstock

Mistake #6: Leaving the Air Bubbles Undisturbed

Did you know you have to remove the air bubbles from the jar before twisting on the lid? It’s especially important for thicker mixtures like jam. All that trapped air can add to your headspace, causing an improper seal. Make sure you use a plastic tool to free the bubbles (as metal tools can damage the jars).

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Band being screwed onto the jar as part of the canning process
Shutterstock / Keith Homan

Mistake #7: Overtightening the Lids

It’s normal to want to screw the bands on super tight to make sure the contents are sealed, but resist the temptation. Overtightened lids can prevent air from releasing, causing buckled lids and improper seals. Simply screw on those bands until they’re fingertip tight and let the water bath do the rest.

Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay is a Taste of Home food writer with a passion for sustainability. Although she left restaurant life behind, she still cooks professionally for pop-up events. Drawing on her professional chef background, Lindsay develops recipes that masterfully blend flavors from various cultures to create delicious dishes. Her expertise lies in guiding cooks and food enthusiasts to embrace seasonal ingredients and craft meals that celebrate their region’s unique offerings.