Basic Canning Equipment

by Becky
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When getting started with canning, one of the most important steps is making sure you have the right equipment. There are all different kits available but if you’re want to know the best canning equipment and what you actually need to get started, I can help!

This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a very small commission for referring you, but it doesn’t cost you anything extra. Full disclosure is here.

Below you’ll find all the equipment I currently use. You’ll need all these tools but you certainly don’t need the exact same ones I have. In fact, there are a few canning tools that I’ve really wanted to upgrade to better quality but haven’t had the means to do so yet.

But not to worry, I’ll let you know which I like and what I don’t like. I’ll also link up the tools I wish I had and you can find all the details below!

Canning-Tools

This my set-up for WATERBATH canning. Want to pressure can? Replace number 1 on the list with a pressure canner. My favorite is found HERE

  1. Large Pot
  2. Rack for inside stockpot
  3. Mason Jars
  4. Headspace Measuring Tool
  5. Canning Rings
  6. Ladle
  7. Chopsticks or Wooden Skewers
  8. Jar Lifters
  9. Funnel
  10. Jar Lids

#1 Large Pot

 Granite Ware is a very popular and inexpensive canning pot. You’ll find one at almost any place they sell canning equipment. There are a couple negatives of this type of pot however. One is that it rusts very easily. The other is that the uneven bottom surface is not meant for use on glass or ceramic cooktops.

You can use most any large stock pot for canning, but it needs to be tall enough to cover the jars. Honestly, I don’t recommend a granite ware pot if you want to get serious about canning. I’ve already gone through two because they rust so easily.

But if you don’t can much or are on a budget, you can find the granite ware pot HERE (this one is a kit but the best deal I could find).

Update: I now use a stainless steel water bath canning pot and love it! The best part about it is it doubles as a large stockpot and can be used for cooking large batches of food too.

#2 Canning Jar Rack

A jar rack is needed to keep the glass mason jars off the bottom of the pot and allow hot water to circulate around the jars.

Jar racks come in all different styles. Usually when you buy a canning pot will come with a wire rack with handles (this is different from the one shown above). The handles can be nice if you want to lower your jars slowly into the canner. I personally didn’t use the handles for years.

Another note:  The canning rack shown above is usually used with a pressure canner but it can also be used in a water bath canner. 

I didn’t photograph my wire rack individually because it’s so rusty it’s a bit embarrassing! But you can see it inside the granite ware canner in the photo. I’ve used both kinds of canning racks and they both function well.

The wire rack is a little frustrating sometimes because half pint jars don’t balance very well on it and can tip sideways in the canning pot. 

I haven’t really found a good solution to this other than filling the canning pot with enough other empty jars to keep the smaller ones from tipping over. 

You can also make your own canning rack from canning jar rings. This usually works okay in a pinch but canning jar rings do rust really easily.

You can find the wire canning rack I have HERE. You can find the canning rack shown above HERE. Find another good alternative HERE.

#3 Mason Jars

Mason Jars come in all different sizes. The sized used most often in canning are half- pint, pint, and quart size. Pint and quart size jars can come in either regular mouth size or wide mouth size. 

I find that regular mouth jars are nice for canning more fluid foods. For example, you’d choose a regular mouth lid for tomato sauce, applesauce, or juice.

Wide Mouth jars are great for jellied cranberry sauce and pickle spears for example.

Mason jars come in all different brands, I personally choose Ball or Kerr (same company- different names) because I know they don’t break easily. 

Also, just so you know, you want to buy clear glass jars for canning not colored! The colored ones are meant for other uses.

The type of canning jars I buy can be seen HERE. But I highly suggest just trying to find some locally because they are glass don’t ship easily. Plus they are way cheaper in a local store.

Another tip is to check your local classifieds, garage sales, Craigslist, or Facebook Marketplace for used jars. 

#4 Headspace Measuring Tool

This is a very handy tool I consider essential! It measures the headspace of a jar. Headspace is the air space between the food you are canning and the top of the jar.

Different recipes need different amounts of headspace which is why this little tool is so handy it allows you to measure any thing from 1/4th of an inch headspace up to one inch. 

These tools are often used to remove bubbles from food in the jar but I personally don’t like to use it for that. It’s a little too large and has a tendency to bruise foods like cucumbers. 

My tool picture above actually broke in half but it still works great for measuring.

You can find the tool HERE. Or just buy it with a kit HERE

#5 Canning Jar Rings

In most cases, you won’t need to buy these separately. If you buy jars, they will come with lids and rings already on them. 

Rings for the tops of the jars are a necessity for canning and you need rings to hold down the lids as you process the jars.

If you need replacement canning jar rings you can find a great bulk deal HERE.

#6 Ladle

You’ll need a ladle to transfer liquids into the jar. I personally believe its the best tool for the job but I’ve also occasionally used a measuring cup to pour in liquids. 

It doesn’t matter whether it’s plastic or metal. Find a plastic ladle HERE and a metal ladle HERE.

#7 Wooden Chopsticks or Skewers

My favorite tool to use for removing air bubbles stuck in the jars prior to canning are the wooden chopsticks shown above. 

They are small enough not to damage or puncture any of the food you can as long as you use them gently. 

The idea is to slide them down the side of the jar and release any air bubbles that have been trapped. 

Cameron brought these chopsticks back from Korea a long time ago, so I don’t have a link to the exact same chopsticks I have but you can find similar ones HERE or wooden skewers also do a great job. Find wooden skewers HERE.

#8 Jar lifters

A jar lifter is simply a tool to take hot jars out of the pot. You can find an individual jar lifter HERE. Or buy a kit with many essential canning tools HERE.

#9 Funnel

A funnel is definitely an essential on my list. It keeps food from spilling all down the sides of the jar and saves you a lot of wiping and cleaning of the jars before they enter the canning pot. A good metal funnel can be found HERE. To buy the plastic funnel with the kit click HERE.

#10 Jar lids

Canning jar lids are specially formulated to form a seal to the jar during the canning process and it’s not something you can do without.

They come in all different brands. I usually just stick with good ol’ Ball brand for these because I trust the brand. They are usually cheaper to buy locally but if you need to buy some online you can find them HERE.

I’ve also seen bulk lids (not brand name) for a great price HERE but I’ve never tried them. If you try them let me know how they work out for you!

Extras you may be wondering about but don’t really need:

Jar tightening tool

Hands usually work perfect for tightening jars! 🙂 When tightening a canning ring you want it fingertip tight. All that means is to tighten it as much as you can with your fingertips. Using your whole hand can make it too tight.

The jar tightening tool comes with a lot of canning kits and there isn’t anything wrong with using it. But if you are buying things separately you don’t need one of these.

Magnetic lid tool

The magnetic tool helps to lift out canning lids from hot water. If you use Ball brand canning lids, the company says that heating the lids isn’t necessary anymore. There is a great article about that HERE.

This means that that tool is hardly ever used because you don’t need to warm up your lids before canning.

However, old habits die hard and I still feel like keeping my lids in warm water gives me a better seal (or at least peace of mind and a nice clean lid to start with). 

So my lids go into warm water until I’m ready to can. But never so hot I can’t put my hand in the water. You get more seal failure when you have heat lids in too hot of water with temperatures 180ºF or more. I know this because I’ve had it happen to me!

To sum up here, warm water or not heating the canning lids at all is best.

And since there is not hot water involved with heating the lids, the magnetic lid tool isn’t necessary.

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