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In this article, I show you how to can chicken in the Nesco Smart canner. I show you the process for canning plain chicken that you can use in any recipe. I personally like to use my home-canned chicken for chicken salad sandwiches, as well as in casseroles or for chicken pot pie. The great news is that it’s easy to can chicken in the Nesco.

In this article I also give you some ideas on variations of canning chicken in the Nesco smart canner such as canning BBQ chicken, as well as provide some tips for those of you with limited pantry space.

How to Can Chicken in the Nesco Smart Canner

Without further ado, let’s get into how to can chicken in the Nesco smart canner.

Prepare 5 Pint Jars or 4 Quart Jars

canning chicken in the nesco canner

I started with 5 pint jars because that’s the number of pints you can fit in a Nesco smart canner. In my case, I used 4 wide mouth jars and one regular mouth jar, simply because I was low on wide-mouth jars. If you want to can quart size jars of chicken in a Nesco canner, then you’ll want to use 4 quarts.

Heat the Jars in the Nesco Canner

I heated the jars in my Nesco canner by putting the jars into the canner, adding 4-6 cups of water, and closing the lid. I then used the water bath setting. I didn’t do this to sterilize the jars. The goal was just to heat the jars, since I planned to use hot water in the canner.

Prepare the Chicken for Canning

canning chicken in the nesco

While the jars were heating in the canner, I cut the chicken into chunks that were between one and two inches in size. I also cut off larger bits of fat. There were still small amounts of fat on the chicken, which is fine.

The reason to remove the fat is because too much fat can result in seal failure.

canning chicken in the Nesco canner

I have 4.31 pounds of chicken for the 5 pints, so slightly less than a pound per pint. (As you’ll see later, it would be better to have about a pound per pint.)

Put the Chicken into the Canning Jars

pressure canning chicken in the nesco smart canner

Put chicken into the jars. You want the jars to be “full,” but you don’t want to put so much chicken in that you don’t have enough head space.

I started off by using a funnel to put the chicken into the jars, but it’s so easy to put chicken into jars, you really don’t need the funnel.

how to use the carey smart canner

The chicken makes its own juice, so no water is needed.  You can add some salt, and other spices or sauces if desired.  (I’ll talk about this a bit further down when I cover possible variations.) In this case, I put just plain chicken, without salt.

Fill the Jars, Leaving 1.25″ of Headspace

measure headspace when canning chicken

According to National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP), you need to have 1.25″ headspace when canning chicken.

When using Tattler or Harvest Guard lids, it’s even more important to leave adequate headspace.

Debubble, Wipe Rims, and Put Lids on Jars

Once you’ve put the chicken into the jars, debubble the chicken to remove any air bubbles.

canning chicken in the nesco canner

After debubbling, check the headspace again, and add a bit more chicken to the jars if you have the room.

I actually ended up with a couple of jars that didn’t have enough chicken in them, so I took some of the chicken out of some of the fuller jars and put them into the jars that didn’t have enough.

how to use a smart canner

Lesson learned: It’s probably better to plan on one pound of chicken for each pint-sized jar.

Wipe the Rims with Vinegar and Put on Lids and Rings

Wipe the Rims with Vinegar and Put on Lids and Rings

when canning chicken, make sure to wipe the rims with vinegar

Once you’ve filled the jars with chicken, debubbled, and checked the head space, wipe the rims with a paper towel that you’ve dipped into vinegar. The vinegar helps cut any fat residue and removes anything from the rim that would prevent the lids from sealing.

Add lids and rings to your jars, following the manufacturer instructions for the lids. (As an example, make lids finger tight when using metal lids such as Ball, and tighten a bit less when using Tattler or Harvest Guard lids.)

Place the Jars into the Canner and Add 8 Cups of Hot Water

how to can chicken in the nesco smart canner

After putting the canning rack into the bottom of the canner, put the jars into the canner.

Pour 8 cups of HOT water into the canner.

An optional step is to put in the left-over vinegar that you used to wipe the rims.  That just helps to prevent any type of mineral deposits on the outside of the jar. The mineral deposits don’t hurt any, but the jars look nicer without it.

You’ll also want to put the lid down, and turn it to the closed position.

Press High, and Set Time for *75 Minutes

pressure canning chicken

Press high, and put in 75 minutes, using the time button. If using quarts, increase the time to *90 minutes.

After being sure that the valve is in the exhaust position, press start.

The “digital chase” will begin to happen and will continue until the right amount of pressure/heat is achieved. This process can take up to 30 minutes.

Wait for it to Count Down from E10 – E0

canning chicken in an electric pressure canner

Once the right amount of pressure and heat are achieved, you’ll then see E10 on the display of your Nesco or Carey canner.

When it counts down to E0, the canner will beep, and you’ll switch the valve to airtight.

After it hits E0 and you switch the valve to airtight, it doesn’t immediately start counting down. It sits at E0 for a while then the “digital chase” happens, until the right amount of pressure builds.

Once the right amount of pressure builds, the canner will automatically show the time you put in (in this case, 75 minutes) and the timer will count down from there. The right amount of pressure needs to build, and when that happens, it will immediately start the countdown.

Organize Your Canning Life without Breaking the Bank!

My Canning Planner Printables will help you accomplish and keep track of your canning goals and projects so you can stock your pantry with home-canned food your family loves!

After the Chicken Processes

Once the timer counts down, unplug the canner, and let the pressure come down naturally before attempting to open the lid. Don’t even attempt to open the lid until at least 60 minutes have passed. Depending on what I’m canning, sometimes it takes as long as 90 minutes to come down off pressure naturally.

The Finished Home Canned Chicken

Here is the finished product. You’ll note that even though I didn’t put any liquid in, there is plenty of juice that came out of the chicken.

When using the chicken, you can drain the juice, but since the juice has a lot of flavor, unless I’m using the chicken for something like chicken salad, I just leave the juice in.

You can see that one jar has the ring on it. That jar didn’t seal, so I put the ring back on and put it in the fridge. The next day I use that jar of chicken to make Indian Chicken Salad sandwiches.

Canned Chicken Variations

I decided to can plain chicken this time so I could use it in whatever way I wanted. For instance, this canned chicken makes great chicken salad, can be used in casseroles, stir fries, or soups.

Canned BBQ Chicken

Here is a picture of BBQ chicken that I canned earlier.

canning BBQ chicken in the Nesco canner

To can BBQ chicken, I put some chicken in, added some BBQ sauce, added more chicken, then more BBQ sauce. I didn’t measure, but I probably used about 1/3 – 1/2 cup of BBQ sauce for one pint of chicken.

As you can see in the photo, there is a lot of liquid. When opening the jar, I didn’t drain the liquid because I knew there is a ton of flavor in the liquid. I poured the chicken and liquid into a skillet, used forks to shred the chicken, and then simmered it until the moisture was absorbed. It made absolutely delicious BBQ sandwiches.

Other Canned Chicken Variations

Here are some other canned chicken variations to try:

  • Asian Chicken – Add some soy sauce (a tablespoon or two), garlic, ginger, and if you want a little heat, some red pepper flakes
  • Buffalo Chicken – Add a tablespoon or Frank’s Hot Sauce

Tip: If you don’t have a lot of pantry space, do a variety of different types of chicken each time you can. For instance, 2 cans of plain chicken, 1 pint of BBQ chicken, 1 can of Buffalo chicken, and 1 can of Asian chicken. This way even if you don’t have a ton of room to store food, you can have a variety of chicken in your pantry to quickly prepare whatever you’re in the mood to eat.

Check out this related article: Is the Nesco Smart Canner Safe?

You may also want to check out my Ultimate Guide to Canning in the Nesco Smart Canner.

Here are some of my favorite canning tools

Thank you for reading this article. I hope you found it helpful as you strive to stock your pantry with delicious home-canned food! Here are some tools that I use as a canner that I’m hoping you’ll also find helpful. These are affiliate links, so if you do decide to use any of them, I’ll earn a commission. Please know that these are the tools that I actually use and recommend and believe in 100%!

Nesco Smart Canner: You can see that many of the posts on my site show me using the Nesco canner. This is by far my favorite canner to use, and because of that, it’s the one that I recommend. Note that the Nesco and Carey Smart Canners are the exact same thing. So, if you go to Amazon and see that Nesco canners are out of stock, but the Carey is available (or cheaper!), then by all means buy a Carey. As long as you have either a Nesco or Carey, you can follow along with what I demonstrate on this blog.

Tattler Reusable Lids: I use both Tattler and Harvest Guard reusable canning lids. They are both American made, made by the same family. I prefer to buy my Tattler lids from Lehman’s, since they are a small, family-owned company. You can get Tattler lids from Lehman’s here, but if you prefer to buy from Amazon, you can get them here.

Metal Canning Lids: I have always been a fan of Ball canning lids. However, due to cheap knock offs on Amazon that claim to be Ball lids, I no longer purchase them from Amazon. You can get them from Lehman’s here. Another solid brand that Lehman’s sells is Superb. They are thicker and seem to have better quality gaskets. Here are the regular mouth lids and here are the wide mouth lids.

Norpo Canning Tools Boxed Set: I love this set of canning tools because it truly includes all the basics that you need, whether you’re water bath or pressure canning. Occasionally I’ve lost one of the items in the set and to replace it, had to buy it separately. It’s definitely more cost effective to buy the entire set.

The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving: This is the first canning book that I purchased, and it’s still the one that I refer to most often. Especially when you’re first learning to can, it’s important to use trusted recipes and instructions that you know are safe. This book provides some great canning recipes to get you started, and also gives a lot of great “how to” canning information. When in doubt, look it up in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving!