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How to Open a Canning Jar: My Jar is Stuck Closed

Canning jar stuck? You’ve already tried the trick where you smack the bottom or the spoon around the edge of the lid? If you’re wondering how to open a canning jar that’s stuck, or has a tightly secured lid that just won’t budge, there are a few tricks you can utilize to get the job done. Obviously, depending on what’s in the jar (liquids, powder, etc), you’ll want to be careful in your execution to prevent spilling. But, these are a few simple ways you can go about opening a canning jar, that’s been sitting in the cabinet for too long and simply won’t twist open.

Heating

Yes, thermal expansion is your friend when it comes to removing the lid off of a canning jar. The reason heat works is because

  • When heated, all matter (even canning jars and lids) expand
  • Metal expands more than glass does, so placing heat on the jar lid is the best approach
  • Heat the metal lid ring to help it expand and pop open

You can utilize a warm water bath, boil it, or even hold the canning jar and lid upside down over the stove for a few minutes. With this final approach, be careful and cover the glass (with a cloth or dish towel should suffice) to prevent overheating the glass and breaking it. Simply running warm water out of the sink’s tap onto the metal lid for several minutes, will usually suffice to help get the jar’s lid ajar, so you can easily open it. Even a blow dryer might help if you don’t want to sit under the sink with hot water for several minutes.

Regardless of the heat source you choose to utilize, remember that heat helps with thermal expansion. Therefore, if the lid is sealed tight, and won’t open any other way, this is likely the best approach to get it unhinged.

Make a Hole in the Lid

This approach is one you’re only going to want to utilize if the canning jar and lid aren’t reusable. If this is the case, you can take a knife or other sharp object, to puncture a hole through the top of the lid. Or, to poke several holes on top of the lid. Doing this is going to serve the purpose of relieving the pressure and helping remove air from the can. Similar to the vacuum seal process below, this method will help increase air flow which is constricted, and will make it much easier for you to unhinge the top of a canning jar, if a lid is stuck on extremely tightly and will not budget. Remember, however, with this approach, you’re going to have to toss the canning jar and lid once you do puncture the hole through it.

Rubber Grip

Rubber will help you get a good grip onto the metal jar lid. Wear a rubber glove to try to open the canning jar. The rubber glove will allow you to get a better grip on the jar, where your bare hands aren’t going to have as much texture, therefore, you can’t apply as much strength to opening the jar. And, if you’ve previously applied heat to the jar’s lid to help loosen it from the can, this is a great approach to twisting it off quickly and easily, instead of trying to grip onto a hot metal lid with your bare hands. If you did previously run it under warm water, make sure you do dry the lid and canning jar off, in order to guarantee you get the best and firmest grip around the lid with your rubber glove.

Breaking the Vacuum Seal

If you’re dealing with a brand new, vacuum sealed canning jar, using a vacuum to help break the seal is a good approach to opening it up for the first time. A bottle opener, or even a butter knife, are great options to help you prop the seal off. These will help eliminate the vacuum closure around the jar, and remove the built up air pressure which is shutting the canning jar’s lid onto it so tightly.

The Spoon Test

Yes, we did mention this in the introduction, but it can help release some of the tension under the lid, to help you prop open the canning jar. Take a metal or wooden spoon, and tap it around the edges of the jar’s lid. Make sure you go around the entire jar’s lid to help remove air from the seal. Using a spoon will also help to remove any dislodged food which is stuck beneath the lid. If foods are liquid or if they are sugary, this can create an additional barrier, which will make the canning jar even harder to open. Therefore, utilizing the spoon to remove that food, and help eliminate some of the tension that’s built up below the lid, will help make it a little easier for you to untwist the lid and get the canning jar opened a little easier.

Turn it Upside Down

No, this won’t automatically cause the lid to twist off on its own magically. However, this can help relieve some of the air tight pressure and compression that’s causing the lid to remain intact in a right side up position. While upside down, you might want to tap the sides of the lid with a spoon or even utilize that handy trick of smacking the bottom of the jar. This can further help relieve some of the tension that’s built up, especially if the jar’s been closed tight for some time.

Conclusion

As you can see, there are several approaches to helping you get a jammed lid off of a canning jar. The most popular method, and the best approach, is to rely on heat. Thermal expansion is your best friend in these instances. And, as metal expands so much, this is the superior approach to helping you get that lid off of your canning jar that’s been sitting in the fridge, with your favorite chutney recipe in it, for a few months. Patience is also critical, so make sure you take your time with each of these approaches!

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