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
- pressure canner
- wide mouth quart jars
- lid lifter or tongs
- jar lifter
- approx. 7-8 chicken legs per quart jar
- canning salt (optional)
- chicken broth or hot water
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.