Ground beef canning recipes are a great way to turn economical meat into a quick meal in a jar stored right on your pantry shelf.
Ground beef is one of the most economical cuts of meat, with plenty of protein for not a lot of money. It was a staple in my childhood, and honestly, we rarely ate meat of any other type. My mom learned how to stretch a pound of ground beef into meal after meal, in a rotation that kept things interesting for the better part of a month (interspersed with even cheaper sources of protein, like rice and beans).
When you buy ground beef in bulk, it’s even more economical. We bought a few cases of ground beef directly from the farmer, literally a hundred pounds of local, grass-fed ground meat…for half the going rate at the grocery store. He was overstocked, and it was just too good a deal to pass up.
These days, ground beef is usually stored in the freezer until it’s needed, but that’s a lot of freezer space. By canning ground beef, especially in a ready-made meal in jar ground beef canning recipes, you can turn this economical meat into ready-made meals right on the pantry shelf…and that’s just what we did. It’s ready to go on a busy weeknight, just heat and serve. There’s no defrosting, and it’s not filling the better part of a chest freezer until we use it up.
(I also have a list of more than 30 Beef Canning Recipes, and many of them are also ground beef canning recipes. Where they’re not, the recipe often uses cubed chuck roast, which is also an economical cut. But still, in many of them, you can substitute the browned ground beef in place of a cubed chuck roast without impacting the instructions or canning safety.)
Is Ground Beef Safe for Canning?
Yes, canning ground beef is a safe, tested process, and it’s perfectly safe for home canning. The main thing here is that ground beef (and all types of meat and low-acid vegetables) must be canned in a pressure canner for safe processing.
A simple water bath canner (i.e. the type you use for jelly and pickles) isn’t sufficient for meat. Boiling water only gets to 212 F, but meat needs to be processed at at least 240 F to make it shelf stable. Those kinds of temperatures can only be achieved by a pressure canner.
If you’re not familiar with pressure canning, I recommend reading my beginner’s guide to pressure canning so you can understand all the steps in the process.
Instructions for Canning Ground Beef
The instructions for canning ground beef are only slightly different from canning beef (or meat in general). The most important difference is that while roasts and steaks can be packed raw, ground beef must be browned before canning.
The reason here is that if you pack raw ground beef into jars, it’ll solidify into a block (more or less like a meatloaf) in the canner, and heat won’t be able to penetrate the jar evenly. By browning the ground beef, you ensure that it stays in crumbles during the canning process.
Really, though, even if you could ground beef without browsing first, I wouldn’t recommend it. Browing meat before canning dramatically improves the quality of the finished product, whether it’s ground or not. It’s just always a good idea, though it does add an extra step to the whole process.
Once the meat is browned, it’s perfectly fine to pack it into jars as is and top with hot broth (or water) for canning.
Some recipes, however, will have you drain the fat from the ground beef before canning. I don’t do this for things like taco meat, where the extra fat will help the meat crisp when it’s heated and served, but it is important for recipes that will be served with no way to drain the fat before the meat hits your plate. Namely, things like sloppy joes, where all that extra fat would just lead to a soggy mess.
If your recipe does call for draining the fat, know that it’s optional, and you can successfully can even fatty ground beef without issue. If you’re draining the meat, placing the hot, freshly browned meat in a collander over a pot to drain gets the job done quickly.
Once the meat is prepared, it’s packed into prepared pint or quart jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. This is true for every ground beef canning recipe, as the 1” headspace helps prevent fat from the meat from bubbling up and interfering with the seal. If you use less headspace, jars may not seal properly. If you use much more headspace, there’s too much air in the jars, and they also may not seal during the allocated canning time. (That said, too much headspace, in this case, is better than not enough.)
Either way, always be sure to check for propper seals once the jars have fully cooled.
No matter the ground beef canning recipe, the pressure used is the same and only changes based on your altitude and the type of canner you’re using. All ground beef canning recipes use the following pressure canning pressures:
For dial gauge pressure canners:
- 0 to 2,000 feet in elevation – 11 lbs pressure
- 2,001 to 4,000 feet in elevation – 12 lbs pressure
- 4,001 to 6,000 feet in elevation – 13 lbs pressure
- 6,001 to 8,000 feet in elevation – 14 lbs pressure
For weighted gauge pressure canners:
- 0 to 1,000 feet in elevation – 10 lbs pressure
- Above 1,000 feet – 15 lbs pressure
Canning time will vary based on your specific recipe. For basic ground beef in a jar, packed completely with browned meat and then topped with hot water or broth, is 75 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts. Most ground beef canning recipes also have these processing times.
There are a few exceptions, namely brothy soups that contain ground beef as one of the ingredients. If it’s a soup canning recipe where only half the jar contains solids, then it’s possible that the canning time may be reduced using the general soup canning instructions put out by the National Center for Food Preservation. Those recipes may use process times as little as 60 minutes for pints and 75 minutes for quarts. There are a lot of restrictions when using those instructions, so those reduced canning times can only be used in certain recipes where most of the jar contains broth.
Be aware that there are a few tested recipes that use these lower processing times, but the vast majority of recipes will require longer 75 and 90-minute processing times.
Once the processing time is complete, turn off the heat and allow the canner to come to room temperature on its own before opening it. Remove jars, check seals and remove outer rings (just leaving on the lid). Wash the jars, and store them if properly sealed. (Any jars that didn’t seal can be reprocessed or stored in the refrigerator for use in the next week or so.)
Properly pressure canned ground beef recipes will maintain peak quality on the pantry shelf for 12-18 months. After that, they’ll start to degrade in quality, but they’ll still be safe to eat so long as the jars are sealed.
Ground Beef Canning Recipes
There are a lot of ways to can ground beef, either alone as plain ground beef (or as seasoned ground beef) or incorporated into recipes. Ground beef finds its way into pasta sauce, soup recipes, and even old-school classics like sloppy joes in a jar.
Canning Plain Ground Beef
When canning plain ground beef, you can use either pint or quart jars. The seasonings are completely up to you, and you can add any dry seasonings you’d like without impacting canning safety.
For canning liquid, you can use meat broth, vegetable broth, tomato juice or water. All are considered equal when it comes to canning times. If you’re adding salt, the general recommendation is 1 tsp per pint or 2 tsp per quart, but that’s optional, and you can use more (or less) depending on your tastes.
The interesting thing here is you can also ground beef in patties, as hamburgers, if you’d like. You have to pre-cook the patties, but after canning, they will crisp up in a pan with a little fat. Kinda crazy that it works, but it does, and it’s a tested and approved method.
More often, though, if you’re using this method, people choose to make Salisbury steak and heavily season the patties, and then serve them with the broth in the jar turned into a gravy.
Canning Ground Beef Chili
Ground beef works really well in homemade chili, where the spices can really liven up the meat. The addition of beans and tomato sauce also helps to stretch the meat, and you only need a few pounds for a whole canner batch.
Classic chili con carne is what most people make at home, but there are plenty of variations you can try at home.
- Canning Ground Beef Chili (Classic Chili con Carne)
- Meat Lovers Chili
- Chipotle Ground Beef Chili (no beans)
Canning Sloppy Joes
Sloppy joes in a jar are basically just canned ground beef in a rich sauce, along with onions and peppers.
The whole thing is heated, and then served on a bun. It was a classic from my childhood, but they’re less common these days now that there’s so much prepared food available in every grocery store. They’re incredibly delicious and well worth making, though!
Canning Taco Meat
While you can take plain canned ground beef and quickly turn it into taco meat at serving, adding the spices before canning helps them infuse into the meat (and obviously saves time at serving).
When canning taco meat at home, you can use whatever seasoning you’d like. Many people opt to add a packet of pre-made taco seasoning to each pound of ground beef, and then brown it before packing it into jars. We tend to make our own homemade taco seasoning. Either way, it always comes out delicious.
Canning Pasta Sauce with Meat
I have basic canning instructions for pasta sauce without meat, but you can also add ground meat to make it a heartier meal. When you add ground meat to home-canned pasta sauce, the canning instructions change a bit, obviously, but the results are delicious.
You can use any type of ground meat, including sausage, turkey, venison, or, you guessed it, ground beef.
Since you can process ground beef as patties, it actually doesn’t matter what shape you use, and meatballs are perfectly fine, too.
The main thing here is you cannot use cheese or binders in your meatballs, so no parmesan, bred crumbs, or eggs. That said, you can season them however you like, and they can be canned in broth (or tomato juice).
- Canning Ground Beef Meatballs in Stock
- Canning Meatballs with potatoes or carrots
- Canning Meatballs in Tomato Juice
Canning Ground Beef Soups
Most people don’t think about soup when they have ground beef, but there are a number of delicious ground beef soup recipes that adapt really well for canning.
Taco soup is one of my favorites, taking things south of the border, but it also works well with classic American hamburger soup and Italian meatball soup too.
Meal in a Jar Ground Beef Canning Recipes
Just about every recipe up until now is a meal-in-a-jar ground beef canning recipe. Some of them are served as is, others are warmed and served over rice, pasta, toast or polenta.
They all fit nicely into categories, while these are just all the rest. The creative meal in a jar recipes that aren’t quite soups, and aren’t quite chili…they’re just tasty. And they’ll add variety to your prepared meals, but still on a budget since you’re using ground beef.
- Savory Beef with Vegetables Meal in a Jar
- Canning American Chop Suey (or American Goulash)
- Un-stuffed Cabbage Rolls
Ground Beef Pie Fillings
Mincemeat pie filling got that name for a reason, as it’s traditionally made with minced meat. There is still an approved national center for food preservation recipes for canning mincemeat pie filling with ground beef, though many mincemeat recipes these days use mock mincemeat and don’t contain much (or any) actual meat.
This is a more traditional mincemeat, and it’s a great way to change things up in your ground beef canning.
- Canning Mincemeat Pie Filling with Ground Beef
There are no canning recipes for these on the internet (yet), but they’re on my to-do list:
- Ground Beef Stroganoff – Same as the regular stroganoff canning recipe, but use browned ground beef.
- Philly Cheese Steak in a Jar – Ground beef (or shaved beef) with peppers and onions, serve on a roll.
- Korean or Mongolian Beef Bowl – Ground beef and sauce in the jar, maybe some vegetables, serve over rice.
- Tourtière Filling – This is a French Canadian meat pie often made around the holidays in Canada and New England. It’s made with ground beef, pork, and potatoes. I’m working on adapting this recipe for canning.
If you have other ideas about how to preserve ground beef in a canning jar for quick weeknight meals, I’d love to hear them. Leave me a note in the comments!
Canning Recipe Lists
Looking for more canning ideas?