Already cooked chicken.
You see it in recipes all the time.
You know those ones that promise dinner bliss in 20 minutes or less?
But what if you didn’t roast a chicken for Sunday dinner? Or pick up a rotisserie chicken on your way home from work?
How in the world are you going to grab onto that elusive 20-minutes-or-less-blissfullness so you can get the kids to practice on time?
Never fear, my friend! I’ve got your back!
I’m going to teach you how to can chicken.
Having jars of canned chicken in your pantry opens up a whole new world of dinner possibilities that don’t include a deli detour on your commute.
And you can even modify a recipe so you can use the canned chicken. Like, for instance, my Chicken and Broccoli in White Wine Sauce.
Why Can Chicken?
If you’ve been around the blog for even a short while, you know that one of the things I really love is saving money.
That doesn’t mean I’m cheap, I just like to get a good deal.
One of my favorite ways to save money is stocking up on food when it’s on sale. Y’all know I’m all about stocking up!
And one of my favorite ways of stocking up is to watch the sales on Azure Standard. They are a bulk supplier of organic and all natural foods and everything you need for our home. You should check them out here.
I try to always get grass fed or pastured meats. Those tend to be more expensive than other meats, though. So when they go on sale, I’m all over it!
I found a great sale on pastured chicken this week and decided to stock up.
Stocking up on meat can sometimes be a problem, unfortunately. If you don’t have a lot of freezer space you can’t always take advantage of the lower prices.
So, what’s a gal to do?
Can, of course! 🙂
This article from Colorado State University talks about the costs of canning food.
Canned meats are the backbone of my food storage. They are deliciously flavorful and you never have to remember to get stuff out to thaw!
Canning chicken is super simple and frees up a lot of freezer space.
So today I’m going to teach you how to can whole, bone in pieces of chicken like legs and thighs, as well as whole breasts, and breast meat cut into chunks.
You can process the pieces plain, or with spices. I often add a teaspoon of my homemade bouillon to the pint jars of chicken chunks. That’s what you will see in some of the pictures.
Alrighty then! Let’s get started!
Here’s what you are going to need for canning chicken:
- Pressure canner (this is the one I have)
- Canning jars (I like to use pints for chunks and 1 1/2 pints or quarts for bone in pieces)
- One time use lids and rings
- OR Tattler reusable lids
- Jar lifter
- Lid lifter
- Bubble popper or a thin knife to remove bubbles
- Canning funnel
- Sea salt or canning salt (NOT table salt. The iodine will discolor whatever you are canning)
- A pan to heat water for the canner and simmer your lids in
- And, of course, some chicken. 14 to 17 pounds of boneless, skinless chicken breasts will give me a full canner load of 8 pints
The size jars you need depends on how many people you will be feeding at one time.
As mentioned above, I like to put my chunks in pint (2 cup) jars.
Canning Chicken Chunks ~ Raw Pack Method
Make sure the rims of your jars have no nicks or cracks. Either of those will cause the lids to not seal properly.
Wash the jars in hot soapy water and rinse well, or run through the dishwasher with a heated dry cycle. You need to keep the jars hot until you are ready to use them
Prepare your lids according to your manufacturers’ directions.
Heat some water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. This is the water that will go into your pressure canner. Check the directions that came with the canner for the amount you need,
I actually put my regular ole lids in there to heat them up and soften the sealing compound.
Cut your chicken into about 1 inch cubes. They don’t have to be perfect, but try to get them close to the same size.
Using your canning funnel, put the chunks in your hot jars, leaving 1-1/4 inch of headspace. The funnel helps keep the rims of the jars clean.
This is a raw pack method so you won’t be adding any liquid to the jars. As the chicken processes, it will create a broth.
Put 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt into each pint jar.
I will sometimes put 1 tsp of my homemade chicken bullion in each pint jar. My bullion doesn’t have salt in it, so if you want to use bullion with salt, omit the sea salt.
You can put them in before the chicken or after, it makes no difference. I typically put it in before, but that’s because I’m liable to forget it if I don’t… 🙂
Canning Chicken Breasts and Bone In Pieces ~ Raw Pack Method
If you are canning boneless breasts by themselves, just pack as many as you can get into the jar, leaving a 1-1/4 inch headspace. A 1 1/2 or quart jar is great for these, depending on how big they are.
With chicken on the bone like drumsticks and thighs, put the thighs in first and then pack the drumsticks around that. If you alternate the direction of the legs, you can get more in the jar.
Add sea salt. Use about 1 teaspoon in the quart jars.
Attaching Lids and Rings
Which ever type of chicken you are canning, the next step is to dip a clean rag in some vinegar or warm water and wipe it around the rim to remove any juice or chicken bits that may be there.
If the rims aren’t clean, you won’t get a good seal.
Using your lid lifter, remove the lids from the simmering water and place them on the jars.
Screw on the rings or bands until they are finger tight. Don’t use a lot of force. If the rings are too tight the air won’t be able to escape and the lids will buckle and not seal.
And that’s just no bueno…
If you are using the Tattler lids, follow the instructions that came with them. They have a slightly different process.
Processing the Chicken
Now you need to put that simmering water into the canner up to the level your instructions tell you. If you add a splash of distilled vinegar to the water, it will cut down on residue from the water on the outside of the jars.
Now add the jars. They can be close to each other, but try not to let them touch each other.
Make sure when you move the jars in and out of the canner that they are always straight up and down so nothing leaks and gets under the lid.
If you have a big canner and are doing more than 1 layer, make sure that you have another rack between layers. If you don’t have another rack, you can stagger the jars so they are not directly on top of each other.
Once the jars are in, close and lock the lid.
Turn the burner on high and bring the water in the canner to a boil.
Again, following the directions for your canner, exhaust steam from the canner. For my canner, it’s for 10 minutes.
After the steam has exhausted for the required length of time, place the weight or pressure regulator over the vent.
Watch carefully as the pressure begins to build up to the correct amount.
Once the pressure has reached the desired level you will most likely have to play with the heat source to keep the pressure steady. You don’t want to have the pressure up too high. A little high is OK.
But if it goes below the required pressure you have to bring it back up and start timing over again.
You also don’t want the pressure to be going up and down like a yo-yo. After you’ve done this a couple of times you’ll find the sweet spot on your stove.
Processing Times for Canning Chicken
The processing times vary depending on whether the chicken is boneless or bone in, and also depending on the size of the jars.
For chunks or the boneless breasts, pints need to be processed for 75 minutes, and 1 1/2 pints or quarts need to be processed for 90 minutes.
Bone In Chicken
Drumsticks, thighs, or breasts with the bone, pints need to be processed for 65 minutes, and 1 1/2 pints or quarts need to be processed for 75 minutes.
If you have a mixed jar, use the longer processing time.
Both types of chicken need to be processed at 11 lbs of pressure on a dial gauge canner, or using the 10 lb weight on a weighted gauge canner.
And remember, all canning recipe pressures are for processing at sea level. If you are above sea level, don’t forget to adjust the pressure using this altitude adjustment chart.
After processing, turn off the heat and allow the canner to cool down. Don’t run cold water on it or open the lid while it’s under pressure. That would cause the jars to explode.
Major no bueno…
Removing the Jars after Processing
Just be patient and let it cool all by itself. Go do something else for a while. They usually take about 30 minutes or so to cool off.
Once the pressure gauge has reached zero, carefully remove the pressure regulator or weight. It’s not a bad idea to wait another 10 minutes before opening the lid.
Now, carefully, unlock the lid and remove it with the lid facing away from your face so you don’t get a face full of steam. You’ll thank me for that later.
The jars will still be extremely hot and the contents will still be boiling. So be careful when you take the jars out.
Using the jar lifter, remove the jars one at a time from the canner. Remember, don’t tilt the jars. Straight up. The lids will probably not have formed a seal yet. That usually doesn’t happen until the contents begin to cool down and pull a vacuum.
Place the jars on a few layers of towels on a surface that’s out of drafts to cool. If you have a very drafty house, put another towel over the top of the jars.
Leave the jars undisturbed for a minimum of 12 hours. After 12 hours check the seals.
If any jars didn’t seal, discard the contents.
Remove the rings from the sealed jars and wash off the jars. You don’t want any residue on the jars that might attract any critters.
Storing Canned Chicken
Home canned chicken will stay good for up to 10 years if stored in optimal conditions. What are those optimal conditions?
Dark, dry, cool. That’s pretty simple really. If you happen to be lucky enough to have a root cellar, that’s perfect. A cool basement is also a great place.
But sometimes you just have to stash stuff wherever you have a spot to stash. In pantries, closets, and under beds are all places I have used. Just keep a list of what you have where!
For the best taste, texture, and nutrition, this canned chicken should be used within 3 years. But I’ve never had it last that long at my house.
Using Home Canned Chicken
This chicken can be substituted for cooked chicken in any recipe. I use the chunks for chicken potpies, chicken salad, chicken enchiladas, casseroles, and I’ve even battered and fried them for “chicken nuggets”.
Whole breasts I like to shred, which is so easy to do with this stuff, and add BBQ sauce or fajita marinade.
The possibilities are almost endless. And who doesn’t love that?
I hope that now we’ve walked through the process you feel confident canning chicken at home.
What would be your favorite way to use this canned chicken? Let us know in the comments.