Two Ways To Can Chicken Legs

March 27, 2015

Canning, Canning Meat

canning chicken, how to can chicken

Knowing how to can chicken on the bone comes in really handy when you butcher your own chickens or when chicken legs or thighs go on sale at the store. I’ll be canning chicken legs in this tutorial, but you would use the same methods for canning chicken thighs and wings as well.

There are two ways to can chicken on the bone: the “raw pack” method and the “hot pack” method. I’ll demonstrate how to do them both. No matter which method you choose to use, both require a pressure canner. You cannot safely can meat without a pressure canner.

What You’ll Need

Equipment:

  • pressure canner
  • wide mouth quart jars
  • funnel
  • lid lifter or tongs
  • jar lifter
  • ladle

Ingredients:

  • approx. 7-8 chicken legs per quart jar
  • canning salt (optional)
  • chicken broth or hot water

You’ll want to use wide mouth quart jars to best fit the pieces of chicken. I’ve found that 7-8 small chicken legs fit in a quart jar, depending on their size.

canning chicken, how to can chicken

Raw Pack Method

The term “raw pack” refers to the process of canning uncooked meat. It is quicker than the hot pack method, though the flavor or texture of the end product will be different.

canning chicken, how to can chicken

Pack the chicken pieces into hot jars, leaving 1″ to 1 1/4″ headspace (this is the space between the food and the rim of the jar).

Because raw meat will produce its own juice during the canning process, you do not need to add any liquids to the jar before canning. If you would like to add some hot broth for flavor, don’t fill the jar more than halfway with the liquid. Otherwise you risk it overflowing during canning.

canning chicken, how to can chicken

Add 1/2 – 1 tsp canning salt to quart jars, if desired. You can also sprinkle with a little pepper and paprika for extra flavoring, but go easy as spices tend to get stronger during the canning process.

canning chicken, how to can chicken

Hot Pack Method

When canning using the “hot pack” method, the meat should be almost all the way cooked before canning. I prefer to bake chicken legs before canning them, but you could also boil them.

Set the oven to 400*F. Add some olive oil to a baking dish, and roll the chicken legs around in the oil to cover. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and paprika- if desired. Bake for 40 minutes, turning halfway to brown both sides. The meat should not be fully cooked.

canning chicken, how to can chicken

Once the meat has been browned, allow it to cool just enough to be able to handle. Pack into hot jars, leaving 1″ to 1 1/4″ headspace. I like to pack the first layer of chicken legs with the bones pointed up, and the second layer with bones pointing down– you can get more packed in this way.

canning chicken, how to can chicken

Since the liquids have been drawn out during the cooking process, you’ll need to add liquid back to the canning jar. Fill each jar with hot broth or water to 1″ headspace. (Home canned bone broth is delicious to use.) If using water, you might want to add 1/2 – 1 tsp of canning salt to each jar for flavor. Use a plastic utensil to poke around in the jar to release any air bubbles trapped between the pieces of chicken.

Into The Canner They Go!

canning chicken, how to can chicken

Once your jars are packed, wipe the rim of each jar with a cloth dipped in white vinegar to remove any stuck on food or grease. Any particles left on the rim of the jar will prevent the lid from properly sealing, so make sure you wipe them thoroughly. No need to dry the rims.

canning chicken, how to can chicken

Adjust previously simmered two-piece lids. Some canning lids do not need to be simmered, so check the instructions for the brand you’re using. I’m using Tattler Reusable Canning Lids, which do need to be simmered to activate the sealing compound.

canning chicken, how to can chicken

Place the filled jars in your pressure canner. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your particular pressure canner model.

Whether you’ve used the raw pack method or the hot pack method, the canning time and pressure is the same for both. Quarts should be processed for 75 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure. (If you live at a high altitude you’ll need to increase the pressure you use according to safety guidelines.) If you decide to can using pint jars, they’ll need to be processed for 65 minutes.

canning chicken, how to can chicken

Once the time is up, turn off the heat and allow the pressure in the canner to drop to zero before removing the regulator weight and opening the lid.

Use a jar lifter to remove the hot jars from the canner. Place them on a cooling rack or a cloth to cool completely. Check the rings on the lids to make sure they’re tight before the jars cool off. A loose ring can prevent the lid from sealing properly.

Allow the jars to sit for 24 hours before testing the lids to make sure they sealed. Store jars in a cool, dry place out of direct sunlight. For best flavor, texture, and nutritional value, consume the canned meat within 1 year of canning.

canning chicken, how to can chicken

Here’s what the canned chicken legs look like after they’ve been canned. The jar on the left is the hot packed jar; the one on the right is the raw packed jar. Some people say hot packed chicken has better flavor and texture than raw packed chicken. I’ll let you judge for yourself.

For more safety precautions, check out our article: 23 Things You Must Know To Can Meat Safely.

For more information on food preservation, check out our article: Top 10 Off Grid Food Preservation Methods.

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About Kendra Lynne

Kendra shares all of her homesteading adventures on her website, New Life on a Homestead. Also be sure to check out her popular Canning DVD: At Home Canning For Beginners and Beyond!

View all posts by Kendra Lynne

39 Responses to “Two Ways To Can Chicken Legs”

  1. deerflyguy Says:

    I must be a dummy, I guess, but after these are canned, must/should they be further prepared by additional baking, frying, boiling, etc. – especially the raw cold packed ones?

    Reply

    • Kendra Lynne Says:

      No, that’s a great question! Yes, you will need to re-heat canned chicken legs to eat them, but they don’t require further cooking. Not even the raw packed ones, since they get cooked during the canning process. I would recommend broiling or grilling canned chicken legs just until warmed through and slightly browned. Hope that helps!

      Reply

    • Kathleen Bobbitt Says:

      During the pressure canning process the meat is thoroughly cooked. By the time it comes out of the pressure canner it has been subjected to at least 10 psi for over an hour.

      It is ready to be re-heated or added to your favorite chicken dishes.

      I pressure at least 20 chickens annually.

      Happy Canning!

      Reply

  2. AppyHorsey Says:

    Will this work for Chicken BREASTS? Or just for legs/thighs? Also, if the SHTF, COULD these be eaten straight from the jar? (Even the “raw packed” ones?) Or would they HAVE to be heated thru to be “safe”? Thanks. And thanks for this article.

    Reply

    • Kendra Lynne Says:

      AppyHorsey,

      YES, you can do chicken breasts the same way. As a matter of fact, if you were processing a whole chicken you would remove the organs, cut it up, and can all of the chicken using either one of these processes (hot or cold pack).

      I would not eat the chicken straight from the jar unless it was absolutely life or death and you had no means of heating it. It just isn’t safe.

      Great questions!

      Reply

      • Dee Says:

        Greetings, After a through continuous 75 min of cooking under 10 pounds of pressure (without dropping the pressure at all during that time, the contents should be sterile, void of all microbes. That’s why the contents are safe from anerobic and aerobic bacteria. Totally safe to eat chilled or reheated, much like opening a can of tuna, you wouldn’t have to heat it back up to make tuna salad.
        Raw packed doesn’t LOOK as good, much like slow boiling chicken on the stove starting with a low heat first. Some of the juices don’t appear appetizing.
        This is a good way to use any older roosters and past egg-laying hens. Canning is the best use of an Old Bird vs a Spring Chicken! I appreciate your article very much. It opens the door to many who are reluctant to start canning meats. Sometimes I add a small bit of salt and vinegar to my jars. It keeps the meat from falling apart as much when using a young store-bought bird, and gives a slight more of a safety edge. If for any reason you doubt the vacuum seal or doesn’t look quite right. Don’t eat it. Anerobic bacteria is tastless and doesn’t go away from reheating. OH one more thing, store your canned goods without the rings on them. If the seal ever fails (as in freezing and refreezing) you don’t want the jars to re-self-seal themselves.
        Thanks again for a fine article.

        Reply

        • Kendra Lynne Says:

          Thank you for the additional comments, Dee! :) Very helpful.

          Reply

          • Paula Says:

            Kendra,
            Could you give me a reference for the time? I have always processed meat for 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts per my manual and the Ball Canning Guide( it is an older copy). It looks like you are using quarts. Is the time different because of the bones? I process all of our meat – no more freezer burn ever! If I am busy with summer canning I will freeze the meat until I can get to it but I have found the texture and taste to be better if the meat is never frozen. I do brown the beef, venison and elk but chicken and turkey works well with just the raw pack. My project for next month is to do hamburger patties, browned and then stacked in a wide month quart jar. Has anyone done this? Should I put parchment paper between the patties?

          • Kendra Lynne Says:

            Paula,

            The canning time is according to my Ball Blue Book. It gives different times for chicken with bones vs. boned chicken. I’ve never canned hamburger patties, sorry I can’t help you there. :)

        • samnjoeysgrama Says:

          Great post Kendra! I”m 69 and I’ve been eating my Mom’s, Grandma’s, and my own home canned food since I was little. All these instructions are spot on. The book that comes with a pressure canner usually has times and pressures for your altitude (altitude is important). I often add a 1/4 tsp vinegar to my canned meats if they are bone-in. Bone broth is really popular now and vinegar helps get the good stuff out of the bones. It looks to me like canning chicken on the bone would make the broth into a bone broth.
          Any jar that has a lid that has popped off or pops up and down when you press on it should be eaten or refrigerated as soon as the other jars in that batch have cooled enough to go “boink” and seal. You didn’t do anything wrong, you just get a jar like that occasionally. You should use it the way you would a commercial can of chicken that was opened. Just don’t let it sit around at room temp after it cools from the canner.
          Be aware that if you add a lot of spices or garlic (especially garlic) your end product probably won’t taste at all like it did when you canned it. Many spices really take over! I add those after I open the finished product to use in a recipe.
          To repeat what other’s have said: do not eat any meat, fruit, or veggie from a jar that lost it’s seal over time on the shelf. It would kill the bacteria that was in it to reheat it, but that isn’t what makes you sick. The bacteria produce a toxin while they are working inside that unsealed jar. That toxin doesn’t always smell or make the lid swell up. Heat can’t get rid of the toxin anymore than heating rotten meat will make it OK. Don’t feed it to your dogs, pigs, or chickens either. It can kill them, too.
          With all that said, canning isn’t hard BUT YOU MUST FOLLOW THE DIRECTIONS TO THE LETTER! It is more of a science than a creative cooking adventure. Don’t adjust the recipe, the pressure, or the time to “make it your own”. People have been canning since they used wood cook stoves. We have it a lot easier!

          Reply

          • samnjoeysgrama Says:

            BTW, As Kendra suggests, use canning salt. Iodized salt can give things a slightly odd taste. Canning salt has no iodine in it.

      • Larry Clifton Says:

        What about dove breast or pidgeons?…same process?

        Reply

      • Julie Green Says:

        What??????? Of course it’s safe to eat directly from the jar!!! If it’s not, you are not canning correctly. It doesn’t matter if you’ve cold or hot packed it, it should be well cooked and preserved safely…that’s the meaning of preserved, meaning it’s safe to eat as is, right out of the jar. Much like you can eat foods right out of the can that you buy from the store.

        Reply

  3. Walker Says:

    We have been canning chicken breast for about a year now using the “Ball” recipe. We do pints of raw pack chicken breast and use them for chicken salad and many other things. Eating it out of the jar is safe according to USDA, Ball and other sites. Being cooked at 10 pounds of pressure for 75 minutes kills whatever is bad. Its no different than canned chicken from the grocery store.

    Reply

  4. Patty Says:

    My DIL and I have been canning chicken thighs for 3 years, now, and I’ve learned that there’s no need to de-bone the thighs before canning. We do the hot pack method after I skin the thighs, and when using them later, the bones slip right out of the thoroughly cooked (through canning) chicken. We find the ‘dark’ meat so much moister than the chicken breasts. Makes great chicken salad right out of the jar, and I’ll save the broth for another dish. She’s much better at devising recipes with her canned chicken than I am; I like preserving the 99ยข/lb price!

    Reply

  5. Carol Says:

    Can you add sauces to the meat before you can it? I think I’d like opening up a jar of chicken with BBQ sauce on it!

    Reply

    • Kendra Lynne Says:

      Carol,

      I’ve never done that with this chicken, so I’m leery to recommend that as an option… but maybe? I know you can can shredded beef in BBQ sauce. The time and pressure wouldn’t change if you added sauce. I can’t think of any reason why you shouldn’t try it though. I’d just do it with hot packed chicken- raw packed might not get cooked all the way if in sauce. Hope that helps!

      Reply

  6. Roman Says:

    I always really enjoy your canning articles. Thank you for sharing your knowledge!

    Reply

  7. Jeanna Says:

    I’m really curious about this. I saw in your comment that you can reheat them by grilling/broiling them. Is that the only thing you recommend doing with them? And how do they taste? Thanks so much.

    Reply

  8. Dyana Says:

    In picture number 10 from the top down the canning lid is white, I have only seen silver. Do I need that type to can meat? I would like to try this with chicken breasts.

    Reply

  9. joe Says:

    I apologize if this was said and I missed it but …how long will canned chicken legs (such as you describe above) still be edible?

    Thanks (and thanks for posting this information!)

    Joe

    Reply

    • Kendra Lynne Says:

      Joe,

      For best flavor, texture, and nutritional value, consume canned goods within one year. If properly canned and stored, it will still be safe to eat after several years, though the quality diminishes over time. I usually toss home canned foods if they’re over 5 years old. Hope that helps!

      Reply

  10. Becca Says:

    I would like to can chicken thighs and legs in half gallon jars. I presume it would use the 10 lbs pressure but how long should I process?

    Reply

    • Kendra Lynne Says:

      Becca,
      Unfortunately, it would not be safe to can meat in a half gallon jar. It’s much too big to get heated adequately during the canning process. The only things you can safely can in a half gallon jar are apple juice and grape juice. You risk serious food poisoning otherwise. Hope that helps!

      Reply

  11. Noelle Barbaro Says:

    I am fairly new to canning and have never canned meat before. My question is does all meat type canning(soups, etc) need to be pressure canned or can you process in a hot water bath?

    Reply

  12. Ryan Poppy Says:

    Do you need too use a pressure cooker ???

    Reply

  13. Thelma Says:

    My Aunt use to can chicken legs by frying them (no coating) until they were browned and then putting the legs into jars without adding liquid. It made some liquid on its own and tasted like fried chicken. Has anyone heard of this?

    Reply

  14. Debi Says:

    I have been pressure canning chicken breasts and quarters for one and a half years now and love it!!!!!!! It’s so versital…. quick for any recipes calling for cooked chicken. I have some I call my chicken soup starter. Just add more broth,celery,onion,carrots,parsley,some chicky bullion for flavor cook till the veggies are done. In the meantime I cook my noodles/drain and rinse them. When veggies are done and your flavor is right add the cooked noodles.
    I do it this way and the flavor comes thru much better.

    Reply

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