Canned ground beef isn’t for everyone, and believe me, I wasn’t sure it was for me either! However, over the years as I have learned to can it according to one of the recipes in the Ball Blue Book, I have really learned to rely on it as a staple in my kitchen.
I mentioned the other day that we can use home-canned meats in many different dishes, like spaghetti, chili (my recipe found in this post), casseroles, tacos, soups, and anywhere else where the base of this ground beef sauce would fit in nicely. This lovely seasoned ground beef, which comes from the 2014 version of the Ball Blue Book (page 106), cuts time off your dinner prep because it’s already cooked and has a dimension of seasoning that is a wonderful addition to savory dishes.
Ground beef is always hot packed when pressure canning because depending on what the fat content is in the meat, you will likely need to skim fat off the top before canning. The reason for this is because, according to page 98 of the 2014 Ball Blue Book, too much fat in the jar can cause the meat to develop a strong flavor, and it can also lead to seal failure.
This post is going to assume that you understand the basics of pressure canning, but if you are doing this for the first time, or are not quite sure you have the basics down, you can refer to my post, “How to Can Food for Beginners”. It’s a fantastic article that takes you step-by-step through both canning processes. This time you will only need the information under the headings of Steps Before Processing, Pressure Canning, and Steps After Processing.
You can also refer to National Center for Home Food Preservation as a great online guide for canning.
Items Needed for Canning Ground Beef
4lbs ground beef
1-1/2 cup chopped onions (about 2 medium)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups tomato juice
1-1/2 cups beef broth
1 tsp. seasoned salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
tools and equipment listed under “The Tools” section in this post
Canned Ground Beef Step-by-Step
This recipe will make 5 pint or 2 quart jars of meat.
- Step 1, Prep the meat: Peel the onions and chop. Make sure to measure 1-1/2 cups of chopped onions for this recipe. Peel and finely mince garlic. Brown ground beef, and drain off the fat. Add meat back to pan and add remaining ingredients. Simmer 15 minutes or until hot throughout, all the while stirring so the meat and sauce don’t stick to the pan. Skim off any excess fat.
- Step 2, Pack the jars: Ladle hot meat into the jars, leaving 1 inch head space.
- Step 3, Preparing for the canner: Remove air bubbles with a bubble remover, and clean the jar rim. Center the lid onto the clean jar rim and screw on the band only fingertip-tight. Repeat steps 2-3 until all jars are filled.
- Step 4, Fill your canner: Place all jars into your pressure canner. (For instructions on how much water should be in your canner at this point, please refer to the instructions for your canner, as each one is different).
- Step 5, Close the canner and vent: Place the lid on the canner and lock into place, according to the instructions for your canner. Turn heat up to high and wait for the canner to begin exhausting steam from the vent. Allow steam to escape for 10 minutes, then put the weighted gauge on the vent. Bring canner to 10lbs pressure (make sure to check your altitude, because if you are over 1,000 ft altitude, this will be different).
- Step 6, Begin timing: Once the canner is at the proper pressure, set your timer for 75 minutes for pints, or 90 minutes for quarts.
- Step 7, After processing: Once processing time is finished, turn off the heat and allow the canner to depressurize naturally down to zero pressure. Allow canner to sit for 5 minutes, then remove the lid, allowing steam to escape AWAY from you so as not to burn yourself. Let jars cool 10 minutes, then with the jar lifter, remove jars to a towel on your counter. Allow to cool for 12 hours. Test seals, label, and store jars.
I canned ground beef for the first time. Everything went fine except after leaving the jars overnight, they now have about 3/4 inch of fat (solidified grease) on the top of each quart. Is this still safe to eat? Since I used our own grass fed beef which is very lean and produced very little grease, I didn’t drain the grease. It was canned in beef broth and tomato juice per the Ball Blue book recipe. They all sealed fine, but I am wondering if I need to throw them all out and try again because of the fat on top?
Kristi Stone says
Hi Karie! Yes! Your ground beef will be just fine if it is sealed. One of the problems that can happen is that the fat could create issue with the seal, so you may want to check each jar before you use it to make sure the seal is still intact. If not, you’ll need to throw it away, but if it is, you are free to use it!
Simply remove the fat upon opening and using, or keep it if you’d like!
After canning ground beef without draining, when I open the jars, I discovered that the fat had settled in a thin layer as the ground beef at the top of the jar had shrunk a little. It looked like a lot of fat, but wasn’t actually very much. When I open the jars and removed the meat, I have left behind or skimmed off whatever fat I didn’t want.
Tammy W says
There really isn’t that much fat in your jars. The fat will cling to the side of the jar. If you cleaned the rim (cleaning with vinegar is best since it will cut the grease or sugar)
And the jars sealed. You may want to keep an eye on the jars just in case.
Hey. I’m new to canning, so this question may sound dumb, but here goes.
I want to can ground beef. I browned it and put it in a pint size Mason jar.
Can I then use my FoodSaver Jar Sealer? It seals the jar fine, but I didn’t know if the heat from boiling was needed. Or do I have to find and buy one of those big canning pots?
Kristi Stone says
Hi Stacie! Yes, in order to make your ground beef shelf stable, you would need to process pints in a pressure canner (not cooker) for 75 mins. The reason for this is because the heat of the canner will kill any bacteria or botulism spores that may exist on the food before processing. The foodsaver will pull the oxygen from the jar, but it doesn’t not make it a safe product to eat the way processing in a pressure canner will. I’m sorry!
When I did this the meat shrunk down to about half of the pint jar I was using on 3 of my jars. Is it safe to use? Why did it shrink so much even though it was already cooked a drained?
Kristi Stone says
Hi Lauren! Hmm, that’s odd, but not so odd that it never happens. My best guess on that is that it wasn’t completely cooked, or all the fat wasn’t cooked off the meat, and when processed, two things happened: The meat cooked further, AND you lost liquid from your jar because sometimes that just happens! I would use it pretty much right away if the jar was sealed, and throw it away if it wasn’t (unless you refrigerated it right away). I know you asked me this two weeks ago–it should still be okay, but PLEASE make sure to smell it to make sure, and don’t eat it if it was unsealed and left on the shelf. I hope that helps!
Is this meat recipe going to be soupy?
Hello, two fold questions, why tomato juice and not tomato sauce? Can I do half onions half peppers but still keep the same amount ?
What is the shelf life on canned ground beef
Carolina Dalglish says
I too would like to know the shelf life. Do you have a recipe for JUST ground beef? I want to use for dishes that just require plain ground beef. However I will be making this for dishes with tomato sauce.
Kristi Stone says
Hi Carolina! The “official” shelf life is up to one year. Here is a link to a recipe you can use for just plain ground beef:
Hope that helps!
Hi! I canned ground beef but 6 jars did not sealed. I left them cooling on the counter for about 20 hours and then put them in the refrigerator. Can they be reprocessed again since they were not sealed? I don’t know if because they were out of temp for that long, the meat still good to eat.
Sharon Wegner says
I made this last night. I am using one jar that did not seal for spaghetti tonight. I think it went really well. I have 4 sealed pints and I am really happy how they turned out.
I am wondering why the burger has to be cooked twice? Once before canning and then 90 min in the canner..seems like overkill and the meat would be more like jerky by now. If all other types of meat are able to be raw packed, why not ground beef? Im lost in this one, honestly.
Because ground beef is fattier than most meats and the ground nature of it will cause it to clump in the jar as soon as it begins to cook, which would then not allow the needed temp to penetrate the CENTER of the glob of meat. Obviously the main reason is that this is the tested method…whether or not other methods would have proven safe given the right conditions is not know because we don’t know what else they tried before settling on this method. I’ve been told no other testing has been done in many years due to lack of funding. My understanding is the reason for the pre-cooking and adding liquid (which makes the meat unpleasantly soft IMHO) both result in the proper heat distribution inside the jar. Each thing we pressure can has a certain algorithm for how long that food, in the center of the jar, needs to be at a certain temperature in order to effectively kill any botulism spores that may be present. If those conditions are not met, there is a risk.