How to Sterilize Canning Jars

Canning jars are a staple for any home canner, and it is important to know how to sterilize them. Sterilizing the jar before using it will ensure that your food will be safe from harmful bacteria, which can make you sick. Sterilizing jars is more than just washing them with hot water and drying them. This post will introduce you to some different methods you can use to sterilize your jars.

There are several different ways to sterilize jars, and in the sections below, we will describe each one in detail. However, before you start sterilizing jars, you must understand what sterilization means.

Sterilization is a process where you expose your supplies, in our case, the canning jars, to high heat to kill off any bacteria that may be present on or in them. Sterilization may seem tedious for some, but this extra step ensures that you have a safe product!

Is Sterilizing the Same as Sanitizing?

How to Sterilize Canning Jars

Sanitizing is not the same as sterilizing! Sanitizing does not remove the germs and bacteria completely while sterilizing does.

It’s important when preparing your jars for canning that you sterilize them. The hot temperature that canning jars are exposed to is what helps in sterilizing them.

Steps to Follow Before Sterilizing Canning Jars

There are a few steps you must follow before you move on to the sterilization steps. Its important that your jars are clean before you sterilize them.

  1. Soak all the canning jars you plan to use in a pot filled with hot soapy water for at least 10 – 15 minutes.
  2. Soaking the jars will help you remove any residue that may be stuck stubbornly onto your canning jars.
  3. When the 15 minutes have passed, drain out the hot water, ensuring that you don’t burn yourself.
  4. Under flowing water, rinse each jar carefully to remove all traces of soap, and the jar is completely clean.

By following these steps, you have successfully sanitized your jars. Now, it’s time to sterilize them.

Sterilize Canning Jars in the Oven

Jars
  1. Once your jars are all washed, place them on a clean cloth or a cooling rack to air dry them.
  2. When they are dry, place them onto your oven racks so that none of them touch each other, and there is plenty of space between them for the hot air to flow.
  3. Turn on the oven to a maximum of 220 degrees Fahrenheit and let the jars sit for a good 20 minutes. You can extend the time to 30 minutes if you wish, but do not raise the temperature above 220 degrees as you will risk your jars shattering due to excess heat.
  4. When the time is up, turn off the oven, and if you are ready to start filling your jars, remove each jar right before you need to fill it. Use thick oven mitts to remove the jars so that you don’t burn yourself.
  5. If you aren’t quite ready to start filling the jars, don’t worry; leave the jars in the oven until you are done with your preparation.
  6. It’s important to note that when filling jars for canning, you fill hot food in the hot jars. If you fill hot food in cool jars or cold food in hot jars, you risk your jars bursting during the canning process.

Tips

  • Don’t put the jars in a hot oven. Placing your jars in a hot oven and then heating them can lead to them bursting in the oven.
  • Always sterilize more jars than what you anticipate you will need. Sterilizing the jars using the oven method is a process that takes time, and you don’t want to end up having to sterilize one lone jar because you didn’t anticipate you would need it.
  • The oven method for sterilizing jars is a trusted and safe way to sterilize your jars. You can control the temperature at which you are sterilizing your jars which is always important to make sure you are killing off all bacteria.

Sterilizing Canning Jars in the Microwave

Canning Jars

Before you use a microwave to sterilize your canning jars, the first thing to know is whether this method is guaranteed to sterilize your canning jars. The answer is simple, no, it doesn’t. A microwave is an instrument that is famous for its fast and hot heating, and it’s tough to gauge the actual internal temperature even if you are setting a specific temperature on the control panel.

So does this mean that you can’t sterilize canning jars in the microwave? Well, it doesn’t mean that either. You can sterilize the canning jars to a certain degree in the microwave. However, go for this method only if you don’t have any other alternatives or are on a time crunch.

Here’s how to use the microwave to sterilize your canning jars:

  1. Once your jars are all washed, place them in the microwave while they are still wet.
  2. Depending on the size of your microwave, you may be able to place 2 – 4 jars at a time inside.
  3. Blast the microwave on full power for 30 – 60 seconds or however long it takes for the water to evaporate from the jars.
  4. When the jars are ready, remove them using oven mitts and fill them with the prepared food.

Tips

  • Remove the jars from the microwave only when you are ready to fill them as they will cool quicker if left outside.
  • When you remove the jar from the microwave, don’t place them on a cold countertop as it could burst. Instead, set it down on a mat or a cooling rack as you fill them.
  • If you are using the microwave to prepare your jars, make sure you don’t use anything that’s metal in the microwave.

Sterilizing Canning Jars in an Instant Pot

Instant Pot

Instant pots are equipped for sterilizing your canning jars. You can either use the Sterilize cycle on the newer models or the Pressure Cook or Steam Cycle on the older ones.

  1. Add one cup of water to your instant pot and two tablespoons of white vinegar. White vinegar will help to kill the bacteria and also prevent any residue from forming on your jars.
  2. Place the trivet in your pot so that the jars aren’t directly touching the bottom of your instant pot.
  3. Make sure the gasket is seated correctly on your instant pot lid and is not loose.
  4. Select the appropriate cycle according to your instant pot and set the timer for 15 minutes.
  5. Close the lid and set the valve to “sealing” if you are using the steam cycle.
  6. When the cycle completes, lift out your jars carefully.

Tips

  • Once the cycle has completed, don’t open the lid immediately. Instead, let the pressure inside release naturally. When the pressure has released completely, you can remove the lid.
  • Leave the jars in the instant pot until you are ready to use them. The steam inside the pot will help keep them warm until you are ready to fill them with food.

Frequently Asked Questions

Sterilize Canning Jars

Can I use the dishwasher to sterilize my canning jars?

Dishwashers like microwaves are not a foolproof way of sterilizing your canning jars. However, you can sterilize your canning jars to a certain degree if your dishwasher has a high-temperature setting or a steam cycle. Like all other methods, leave your jars in the dishwasher once the cycle completes so that the jars remain warm until you are ready to fill them.

Should you sterilize the canning lids as well?

You must sterilize all supplies that are used during the canning process, and this includes the canning lids and rings. You can sterilize the rings along with the canning jars if you are using a metal-friendly way for sterilization. For canning lids, boil the lids in hot water for 10 – 15 minutes to sterilize them.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, sterilizing your jars is what’s going to help you keep home foods preserved foods for a long time without worrying about them going bad or being infested with bacteria! Follow the steps above to sterilize your jars before you pack them full of delicious food.

Check out some of our canning guides to find out what you can use your sterilized jars for!

Charlotte King

Over the last 8 years, I have been perfecting my skills in preserving food! From canning, to drying, to freezing, and brining, I've done it all. Using this information, I create informative posts on CannedNation to help you on your food preservation journey!

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