This easy step by step guide show how to sterilize glass jars for canning using three methods. Sterilizing your equipment prior to canning is important to stop food spoilage and reduce the chance of bacteria growth in your canned food.
Preparing the Glass Jars and Lids
Always check your jars for any chips or cracks then discard any with defects. Check the lids for rust spots and dints then make sure the seal is intact. Discard any lids you are unsure about.
Wash all equipment to be used including the jars, lids, tongs, spoons, saucepans and funnels in warm soapy water. Rinse well then let air dry. It is preferable to use stainless steel where possible as it can be easily sterilized. Plastic may not hold up to the higher temperatures although silicone that is oven safe will be fine.
Sterilizing Glass Jars in a Water Bath
This is a good method if you are using a water bath canner to can your food as you can reuse the water and it will take less time to boil as it is already hot from sterilizing your equipment.
Time needed: 20 minutes.
How to Sterilize Glass Jars
- Wash Your Equipment
First wash, rinse then dry all of your equipment. Make sure there is a trivet in the bottom of the saucepan to keep the canning equipment off of the bottom of the pan then place the jars, lids and other equipment on top.
Cover with hot water making sure the jars are filled or they will float. Cover with a lid then bring to a boil. Reduce the heat a little then boil for 10 minutes.
- Remove the Jars and Equipment
Place the saucepan in a sink. This will make it easier to get the equipment out if you are short. Use the tongs to remove the equipment being careful not to burn yourself, then place on a clean baking tray.
- Keep Warm in the Oven
Place the tray in a preheated oven 212°F (100°C) to keep the jars hot until ready to fill.
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Sterilizing Glass Jars in the Oven
Wash the jars, lids and other equipment in warm soapy water then rinse well. Leave to drain while you preheat the oven to 275°F (140°C). Place on a clean oven tray then place the tray in the oven for at least 15 minutes.
After the 15 minutes you can reduce the temperature to 212°F (100°C) to keep the jars hot until ready to use.
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Sterilizing Jars in the Microwave
This method only works if you are using jars that don’t require metal lids or have metal hinges such as screw-band jars. Bottles requiring a cork stopper could also be sterilized in the microwave if they fit.
Wash the jars in warm soapy water then rinse well. Leave to air dry. Place 4 tablespoons of water in each jar then microwave on high for 2 minutes. Drain then dry upside down on a clean rack or paper towels.
Sterilizing your equipment is an important step in canning and preserving food. Never skip this step. Contaminated food can make people very sick and can cause death but please don’t be put off.
Creating your own delicious preserves, relishes, jellies and jams isn’t just important for self-sufficiency. The flavours are so much better than anything you can buy at the store.
For more information on preventing spoilage of food see this guide to Food Preservation. You can reuse pasta jars for canning. See this guide to getting the Labels Off Jars. You might also like this Homesteading guide.
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