Raw Pack or Hot Pack Directions
Bone-In Chicken or Boneless Chicken
These canning chicken directions work for canning chicken, rabbit, duck, goose, turkey, or wild game birds too. Canned chicken is great for homemade soup or casserole recipes.
The directions and pictures here are for a raw pack, bone-in or boneless chicken.
Personally, since it does not save any processing time, I don’t see the point in hot packing chicken.
However, the NCHFP says, “The hot pack is preferred for best liquid cover and quality during storage.” You may prefer hot pack too.
Either way, hot or raw pack…
…when canning chicken, you must use a pressure canner.
Canning Chicken Directions
Gather your canning supplies:
- pressure canner
- canning jars
- canning seals and rings
- jar lifter
- canning funnel
- tea kettle or pot to boil water
- sharp knife or kitchen shears
- towels, dish cloths and potholders
Chicken – Your choice of boneless or bone-in. Separate meat at the joints. Remove the skins.
Depending on the size of your chicken pieces, quarts will hold 6 or 7 small drumsticks or 5 to 6 thighs. These estimates are bone-in. For chicken breasts, I’d generally estimate about a pound of chicken per pint, 2 pounds per quart. But that is an estimate.
Canning Fresh Chicken
I always can commercially purchased chicken that has already been dressed and chilled.
If you are butchering your own birds or have fresh birds, you should dress them out and chill them for 6-12 hours before canning. I have not found a clearly stated reason why they need to be chilled first, but I did find this note…
Note: Remember that spoilage and disease-causing microorganisms thrive on meats and poultry. Following the four “C’s” (clean, chill, don’t cross contaminate, and pressure can properly) is critical to producing safe, high quality canned meats. Source: Clemson Edu.
Editing to add…. A reader offered this reason for the chilling step when canning fresh chicken. and it makes good sense. Thanks Patricia!
“Chilling fresh killed poultry or game is to let the rigor mortis settle or relax in the meat. (I was Raised on a ranch) Canning or even cooking meat that is fresh kill and not chilled causes it to be tuff or elastic. So it is important to chill all fresh meat 6-12 hours before canning.”
Meat is a place where microorganisms would thrive. Fresh meat needs to be processed and stored with care, so follow all instructions. Be sure the meat has been chilled for 6-12 hours.
And here’s a tip. A larger bird will have better flavor for canning. You can process fryers, but the bigger chickens are a better quality
If you raise meat rabbits and want to can rabbit, you’ll follow the same instructions on this page with the addition of a salt water soak. Soak dressed rabbits in a saltwater solution (1 tablespoon of salt to one quart of water). Rinse and proceed with canning instructions.
I can’t seem to get past that cuteness factor! I suppose if I’m starving, I could do it. But for now, I’ll stick with chicken. 🙂
Procedure for Canning Chicken
Start by preparing jars and getting water in your canner heating. (See pressure canning for full directions.)
Prepare your chicken for either the raw or hot pack. Separate pieces at the joints and debone if you prefer. I can chicken breasts without the bones, but I like canning drumsticks and thighs with the bone in. You can leave skin on or remove it according to your preference. Some say that the skins add flavor.
I don’t care for soggy chicken skins, so I remove mine. It still has good flavor!
Raw Pack – Fill your jars loosely with meat pieces, leaving a 1 1/4 inch headspace. Add salt to the jars. Do not add liquid.
Hot Pack – Cook the chicken until about 2/3 done. You can boil, bake, or even steam the chicken for this step. I prefer to boil or bake. Fill your jars with lightly cooked chicken, leaving a 1 1/4 inch headspace. Add salt and top off the jars with chicken broth or water.
Packing Tips for Canning Chicken
I love canning chicken drumsticks on the bone. I then open the jar to make soups. The bone is so well cooked it will crumble in my hand. All the the nutrients have gone into the broth. I don’t actually use the bone in my soup! (I had someone ask me about that.) But that bone is well done by the time it is cooked.
I truly enjoy serving this to my family.
- For drumsticks, it works well to pack 4 legs with the meaty sides down. Then add 2 or 3 to the top, meaty sides up. This way, the drumsticks nestle together and fill the jar nicely.
- Another packing tip if you want to add water is to pack half the jar and add a little boiling water. Then top the meat off and fill the rest of the jar with hot water or broth. This makes it less likely that you will have large air pockets stuck between your chicken pieces. You’ll still need to remove air bubbles. Use that bubble tool, don’t skip it.
After you have filled your jars, remove any air pockets by sliding a narrow, non-metallic item between the jar and the meat. I like to use an orange peeler. A small spatula or other instrument would work also. Do this even if you’ve filled half of the way and added water, then filled the jar the rest of the way.
Wipe the rims of your jar clean with a damp cloth or paper towel. This prevents any food particles or grease from interfering with the seal.
Add your lids and screw bands.
Place jars in your pressure canner and process according to pressure canning instructions.
Boneless chicken has a different processing time than bone-in chicken. Be sure to read carefully and get the correct time requirements.
- Bone-In Chicken – Process Pints for 1 hour 5 minutes, Quarts for 1 hour 15 minutes.
- Boneless Chicken – Process Pints for 1 hour 15 minutes, Quarts 1 hour 30 minute.
Be sure to adjust processing time according to your altitude.
Altitude Adjustments for dial gauge Pressure Canner
Altitude in Feet – Pressure to be used.
0 – 1000 / 11lb
1001-2000 / 11lb
2001-4000 / 12lb
4001-6000 / 13lb
6001-8000 / 14lb
8001-10,000 / 15lb
Altitude Adjustments for a weighted gauge Pressure Canner
Altitude in Feet – Pressure to be used.
0 – 1000 / 10 lb
1001-2000 / 15lb
2001-4000 / 15lb
4001-6000 / 15lb
6001-8000 / 15lb
8001-10,000 / 15lb
For more information on why this is important, see this altitude adjustments page.
Source – Adapted from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
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Canning Chicken FAQs
Is My Canned Chicken Safe to Eat?
I canned cooked cubed chicken today and I didn’t have quite enough to fill that last two quarts up to the inch headroom. They were probably about 1 1/2 inches below the top. I filled each quart with boiling water and processed it for 90 min. Now that they have settled it looks like the jars are only a little more than half full of meat, plenty of water though.
My question is this: will they be safe to eat? Everything sealed fine I’m just wondering if the lower level of food will affect the shelf life somehow.
Thanks for any help.
Yes, as long as the jars sealed and you used the correct pressure for your area, your chicken should be just fine! It is good that you added the liquid to the correct headspace. It sounds as if you did it just right!
Comments from Simply Canning Facebook
My husband is slaughtering 26 chickens today, and for the first time I’m thinking I’d like to can some of the meat/broth. I’ve always froze them whole before and then used them as a three night dinner/stock source. Thinking I’d like to can breasts/drumsticks/thighs/and stock. A couple questions.
Will I be limited with soups/stews/casseroles if I can the meat (I’ve heard it is tender and delicious)? Does the nutrient value of the meat and stock go down after canning chicken? I use bone broth as a healing food for my family. Is the mineral value depleted at all? Thank you so much in advance! love this page!
Remember, if you can it first, it is more suitable for casseroles, etc. It is not like you can open it up and eat it like fried chicken. However, it is perfectly good to just eat it as it is. I’ll open up a jar and heat it up and serve. Canning chicken does take away some nutritional value. I have not done extensive research on this, but it is still WAAAAYYY healthier than the stuff you get at the grocer. 🙂
Page last updated: 10/2/2019.