If you have food that you want to can, then the main question is, what method should you use? Each canning method is good, and there are slightly different steps. A main influencing factor when canning is to make sure that you use the proper canning method, and that it is done properly so that the food stays good for two years.

The three safe canning methods include pressure canning, water bath canning, and steam canning. When canning, keep the jars and lids clean so that no bacteria enter. Ensure the cans reach the proper temperature to kill off any bacteria that might already be on the food and seal the lids properly.

But what are the individual steps that you have to take for each of the different canning methods? This article will tell you how to perform all three of the canning methods, along with how to ensure that your canned goods will last until you need them and still be safe to eat. We will also talk about which method can be used on certain foods, so keep reading to learn more!

Pressure Canning

safe canning methods

This article includes affiliate links.

First, you must have a pressure canner to use this method—pressure cookers are not able to properly can foods. You also likely will want to have a jar lifter to help move the hot cans.

Here are the step-by step instructions for pressure canning.

1. Heat the Canning Jars

The first step to pressure canning is to heat the jars. You will want to set the cans into the canner with 2 to 3 inches of water. (Follow the manufacturer instructions that came with your canner to make sure you use the right amount of water.)

Make sure the cans are not touching each other and then place the lid on the pressure canner loosely. (At this point, do not lock the lid into place. You will lock it into place later.) After a few minutes, the cans should be steamy hot and ready for the next step.

2. Fill Jars

You will then add whatever food you want into the heated jars.

Note that it’s important to put hot food into hot jars. If by chance you are canning a cold-pack recipe, you can skip the jar-heating step. Just wash the jars thoroughly before filling them.

Take the jars out of the canner one jar at a time to fill. It is recommended you use a funnel to avoid getting anything on the edge of the jar, as that can prevent proper sealing.

After the food is in the jar, add the heated liquid (whatever liquid is in your recipe).

When filling with the liquid, make sure that you have left enough headspace in the jars.

Pro tip: Read this article, What is Headspace in Canning? to learn more about headspace.

You will then want to carefully remove any air bubbles from the sides. This can be done with a small spatula.

3. Add Lids

safe canning methods

Next, wipe off the rim of the jar, place the lids, and screw on the band.

Pro Tip: I recommend Superb Canning Lids that you can get at Lehman’s.

You want to make the band fingertip tight—meaning only use your fingertips to screw it on—so it still allows air to escape so the jar can properly seal.

Read this article, How Tight Should a Ring be When Canning to better understand how much to tighten the bands.

Pro tip: Read my article, Can Canning Lids be Reused? to learn when you can and can’t reuse canning lids.

4. Fill Canner

There should be a few inches of water in the canner, but it shouldn’t cover the jars. After you replace the last jar, place the lid of the pressure canner and lock it into place.

“Turn heat to high and allow a full head of steam to come out of the vent pipe. Allow to vent for 10 minutes. For a weighted-gauge canner, adjust weights on the pressure regulator, if needed, and set the pressure regulator on the vent pipe to plug it.”


After you’ve vented the canner for 10 minutes, make sure the can is properly pressurized.

This will vary based on whether you use a canner with a weighted pressure gauge, or with a dial gauge. It will also depend on your altitude.

Pro Tip: To better understand how altitude impacts canning, and how to adapt any canning recipes based on altitude, check out my article, How Altitude Impacts Canning | How to Adapt Canning Recipes Based on Your Altitude

5. Finishing Up

Once your timer finishes, wait until the pressure gauge is at 0 and then open up the canner.

Wait for the jars to cool for about 10 minutes and then take them out of the pot onto a towel or cake rack and let them sit for 12-24 hours.

After that, make sure each jar has been sealed properly, if not, place it in the fridge and eat within the next several days. (Source)

Water Bath Canning

Water bath canning is a great option for canning high acid foods such as fruit. You can use a pot specifically for water bath canning such as these water bath canners on Amazon.

You can also use a regular pot that is deep enough so that you can cover the jars with water, as long as you also have a rack that fits into the bottom of the pot.

Now let’s get into the step-by-step instructions for water bath canning.

1. Preparations

As with the pressure canning, you need to heat up and clean the jars before you start.

While doing this, fill the water bath pot halfway with water and let the water simmer. Once the jars are ready, add the food in the same way as before and make sure to remove any air bubbles.

Then add the lids and screw on until fingertip tight.

2. Water bath

Add the jars into the water bath, not touching any other jars, and make sure there is about an inch or two of water covering the jars. Turn up the heat until at a boil and cook for the time the recipe tells.

Important note: Water bath recipes are based on canning done at an altitude of less than 1,000 feet. If you’re at an altitude above 1,000 feet, you need to adapt the time based on altitude.

3. Finishing up

Using a jar lifter (Amazon), carefully remove the jars and place them in a heat-safe location to cool. Let the jars cool for 12-24 hours.

During this time, you should hear some glorious “ping” sounds—this means the jars have sealed properly. After the jars have cooled, double-check that they have sealed properly and then store. (Source)

Steam Canning

Steam canning is done in a very similar method to pressure canning, however, it has a few different steps allowing for more acidic foods, like fruit, to be canned.

It’s also important to use a device specifically made for steam canning, such as Kitchen Crop Steam Canner on Amazon.

Step-by-Step Instructions for Steam Canning

Here are the basic steps to keep in mind when steam canning.

1. Preparation

First, prep the jars in the same way as before, and then carefully add the food into the jars. While doing this, you will also want to preheat the water in the canner.

You only want to have a few inches of water in the canner as you are having the steam do the preparation rather than boiling water. Follow the instruction manual for your specific canner to know exactly how much water to use.

Once preheated, add the jars carefully so that they don’t touch one another.

2. Steaming

Once you close the canner, you will want to have the temperature of the water and steam be around 210-212° F so that the heat will kill off any bacteria. If you don’t reach this temperature, then the food may become unsafe to eat. Begin your timer once you can see a steady trail of steam from the vent.

3. Finishing Up

As with the other canning methods, take the lid off and let cool for a few minutes and then remove and place the jars in a safe location to finish cooling.

After around 24 hours, double-check to make sure they have sealed properly.

It is important to know that none of your recipes using this method should require processing longer than 45 minutes, as the canner will begin to dry boil the jars. (Source)

What Foods Can Be Canned and How

Food Being CannedPressure CanningWater Bath CanningSteam CanningTypical pH
Red MeatsYesNoNo5.2-7.0

Where Can I Find Instructions to Safely Can Specific Foods?

The National Center for Home Food Preservation is a great resource for anyone new to canning or any other form of food preservation as they offer instructions on the proper way to prepare and preserve different foods. They also offer recipes to help can a wide variety of foods from applesauce to meats and soups.

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!