How to Can Ground Beef – A Step-by-Step Guide

Canning ground beef allows you to preserve meat for long term storage without needing to freeze it. Having canned ground beef on hand is so convenient for making meals like tacos, pasta sauce, sloppy joes, or casseroles. With just a pressure canner, some jars, and a bit of time you can easily can your own ground beef at home.

In this complete guide you’ll learn everything you need to know about canning ground beef safely and properly.

Why Can Ground Beef?

There are a few key reasons why canning ground beef is useful:

  • Provides a shelf-stable source of meat without freezing
  • Lets you buy large quantities when on sale and preserve for later
  • Handy for quick meals – just open a jar and start cooking
  • Stores for 1+ years if properly processed
  • Takes up less space than freezer bags of meat
  • Works for venison, bison, elk, and other wild game

Canning ground beef means you always have the start of tacos, chili, pasta sauce, etc. ready to go in your pantry.

Step 1 – Cook the Ground Beef

The first step is to cook the ground beef fully before canning it. Raw meat cannot be canned safely.

Cook the beef in a skillet or pot over medium heat, breaking it into crumbles as it browns. You want to cook the beef until there is no more pink color remaining. It does not need to be cooked into a single mass – crumbles are ideal for canning.

Why cook before canning?

  • Heating the meat to 160°F kills any bacteria on the surface
  • Removes some fat renderes out of the beef
  • Prevents meat clumping together in the jar

After browning, drain any excess liquid or fat from the beef and it’s ready for packing into jars.

Step 2 – Prepare the Jars and Lids

While the ground beef is cooking, prep your mason jars and lids for canning.

  • Make sure jars are thoroughly cleaned and have no damage or cracks.
  • Put the jars in simmering water to sterilize them and keep warm until filling.
  • Simmer new lids to soften seals. Used lids need to sit in hot water.
  • Leave jars in the hot water until ready to fill.

Step 3 – Fill the Jars

Once your beef is fully browned, tightly pack the crumbles into the warm jars using a canning funnel. Leave 1 inch of headspace at the top of each jar.

Tap the bottom of the jars on a towel-lined counter to help settle the meat and remove air pockets. Add more beef if needed after settling to maintain the headspace.

Optional Seasonings

If desired, add salt, pepper, taco seasoning, or other dried herbs before filling jars. Use:

  • 1 tsp per pint jar
  • 2 tsp per quart jar

Do not add onions, fresh garlic, or other moisture-heavy items.

Step 4 – Add Liquid

After filling with ground beef, you need to cover the meat with boiling liquid. This can be:

  • Water
  • Beef broth
  • Tomato juice

Leave 1 inch of headspace below the jar rim after adding liquid. The liquid both cooks the meat during processing and prevents fat oxidation after canning.

Tap the jars again to settle contents and adjust headspace as needed.

Step 5 – Apply Lids & Bands

Wipe jar rims with a clean cloth dipped in vinegar to remove grease. This ensures a proper seal.

Apply heated lids evenly to the jar rims and screw on bands just fingertip tight – do not over tighten.

Step 6 – Process in a Pressure Canner

Filled jars of ground beef must be processed in a pressure canner to kill bacteria and create a vacuum seal.

  • Place jars on rack, not touching each other.
  • Add 2-3 inches of water to canner.
  • Follow manufacturer’s instructions for venting and pressurizing the canner.
  • Process at 10-11 PSI, adjusting for your altitude.

Processing Times:

  • Pints – 75 minutes
  • Quarts – 90 minutes

Do not interrupt processing time if pressure drops – restart timer after reaching pressure again.

Step 7 – Cool and Test Seals

After processing is complete, allow canner to naturally release pressure and depressurize.

Carefully remove jars and place on a towel. Leave jars untouched for 12-24 hours.

Check seals after cooling completely. Lid centers should not flex up and down when pressed. Ring should not spin freely. Refrigerate unsealed jars immediately.

Step 8 – Remove Rings & Store

Once cooled and sealed, remove outer bands from jars.

Wipe down jars to remove any grease or food residue from the rims and sides. Label jars with contents and date.

Store sealed ground beef jars in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.

Troubleshooting Canned Ground Beef

Here are some common issues and how to avoid them:

Floating meat – Use a bubble releaser tool to remove trapped air pockets. Add more liquid to maintain headspace if needed.

Fat separation – Allowing beef fat to solidify and pour off before filling jars reduces fat pockets. Rinsing cooked beef also helps.

Loss of liquid – Carefully clean jar rims and apply measured headspace before sealing. Don’t over-tighten lids.

Discolored meat – Meat above liquid line can darken but is still safe if properly processed.

Not sealing – Use new lids each time. Ensure rims are clean. Adjust headspace and process time as needed.

Flavor changes – Limit strong dried herbs and spices or the taste intensifies over time.

As long as you follow the proper canning process, you should end up with perfectly preserved ground beef for meals anytime.

Can You Can Ground Beef in a Water Bath?

No, you cannot safely can ground beef using a water bath canner. Meat is a low-acid food and needs the higher temperature of a pressure canner to kill bacteria.

Using a boiling water bath risks survival of dangerous bacteria like botulism or E. coli. Always use a tested pressure canning method for meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetables.

Tips for Canning Ground Beef

Follow these tips for the best results:

  • Work in larger batches – have at least 7 quart jars ready to process.
  • Keep cooked beef very hot before filling jars.
  • Let canner vent steam for 10 minutes before pressurizing.
  • Process the full time for your jar size and altitude.
  • Cool jars completely before testing seals.
  • Refrigerate and use any unsealed jars right away.
  • Label jars with contents and date after storing.
  • Maximize shelf life by using within 1 year.

Can You Pressure Can Hamburgers?

Yes, you can absolutely pressure can formed hamburger patties using the same process.

  • Form ground beef into patties and brown just until no longer pink.
  • Layer patties into hot jars leaving 1 inch headspace.
  • Cover with boiling liquid – water, broth, or juice.
  • Wipe rims, apply lids, and process.

The patties turn out fully cooked and ready for a quick sear or grill when opened. Perfect for busy nights!

What to Can Ground Beef In?

You can preserve ground beef in either pint or quart sized mason jars.

Here are some guidelines for amounts:

  • Pint jar – Holds approximately 1 pound beef
  • Quart jar – Holds approximately 2 pounds beef
  • Half pint – Holds approximately 1/2 pound beef

Having a mix of pint and quart jars on hand provides flexibility. Just be sure to adjust process times based on the jar size.

How Long Does Canned Ground Beef Last?

If properly processed and stored, canned ground beef can safely be preserved for 12 – 18 months.

Over time, the quality decreases so it’s best to use within 1 year. If the jar seal remains intact, the beef is technically safe to consume but the texture and flavor will degrade beyond 2 years.

Always inspect jars before opening – look for broken seals, cloudiness, or any signs of spoilage. Discard any questionable jars.

For maximum shelf life, store jars in a cool, dry, and dark place around 50°F to 70°F. Avoid temperature extremes.

How to Use Canned Ground Beef

The possibilities are endless for how to use your canned ground beef:

  • Tacos – crisp beef in the rendered fat
  • Spaghetti sauce – add to tomatoes, herbs, etc.
  • Chili – combine with beans and spices
  • Casseroles – great base ingredient
  • Sloppy Joes – mix with sauce and serve on buns
  • Soups and stews – add rich flavor
  • Stir fry – quick protein boost

You can also crack open a jar and form the beef into patties for quick grilled burgers.

Since it’s pre-cooked, you just need to warm the beef through until hot. The fat in the jars also gives great flavor when crisped up.

Can You Can Ground Venison and Other Wild Game?

Yes, the same canning process works wonderfully for ground venison, elk, moose, bison, bear, boar, rabbit, and other wild meats.

Always cook game meats thoroughly to at least 160°F internal temperature before canning as a safety precaution. Then follow the same steps for filling jars, processing times, and storage.

Canning is a great way to preserve bulk quantities of ground venison after hunting season.

Make Your Own Canned Beef Meals

With a little planning, you can create ready-to-eat canned beef meals by adding complementary ingredients:

  • Beef taco filling – Season beef with taco spices before canning
  • BBQ pulled beef – Mix in your favorite barbecue sauce
  • Beef ragu – Saute onions and garlic with tomato paste before adding beef
  • Chili con carne – Layer beef with beans, tomatoes, chili powder, cumin, oregano
  • Beef stew – Include potatoes, carrots, peas, and pearl onions
  • Beef tips & gravy – Add onion, stock, mushrooms, and thickener

Get creative with recipes to save time later. Just avoid thickening agents and maintain proper headspace.

Is Canned Ground Beef Safe to Eat?

Yes, commercially canned ground beef is fully cooked and safe to eat straight from the can (although it has a significantly different texture than fresh-cooked).

Home canned ground beef is also safe if processed correctly using an appropriate pressure canner for the full required time based on your altitude and jar size.

Always inspect jars before opening and discard any that are damaged or show signs of spoilage. Look for:

  • Broken seals with lid flexing up and down
  • Cloudy broth or spoiled meat
  • Bulging lids
  • Mold growth
  • Unpleasant odors when opened

If you followed the proper canning process and the jar seals are still intact, the ground beef should be fully shelf stable and safe to consume.

Enjoy the Benefits of Canned Beef

Canning ground beef provides a handy way to preserve meat from the grocery store or your own grass-fed cattle for use all year long. Take advantage of sales on beef and game meat when available.

In less than 2 hours, you can have a shelf-full of canned ground beef ready to convenient meals anytime. Just be sure to use a pressure canner and follow all safety guidelines. Then enjoy the benefits of having pre-cooked beef on hand for favorite recipes and dinners in a snap.



Can you can raw ground beef?

No, you cannot can raw ground beef, it must be fully cooked before canning. Raw ground beef is one of the foods not suitable for canning. That is the first step for making canned ground beef. The reason for this is that you don’t want the ground beef to cook into one massive clump during the canning process.

How long will canned ground beef last?

High acid foods such as tomatoes and other fruit will keep their best quality up to 18 months; low acid foods such as meat and vegetables, 2 to 5 years. While extremely rare, a toxin produced by Clostridium botulinum is the worst danger in canned goods.

What is the best way to can beef?

Raw pack – Add 1 teaspoon per pint or 2 teaspoons of salt per quart to the jar, if desired. Fill jars with raw meat pieces, leaving 1-inch headspace. Do not add liquid. Wipe jar rims, adjust lids and process in pressure canner.

How long do you pressure cook ground beef for canning?

Put lids on. Processing pressure: 10 lbs (69 kPa) weighted gauge, 11 lbs (76 kpa) dial gauge (adjust pressure for your altitude when over 300 metres / 1000 feet.) Processing time: half-litre (US pint) jars for 75 minutes OR 1 litre (US quart) jars for 90 minutes.

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