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The Right Kitchen Tools for Canning and Preserving Foods

2 of 8 in Series: The Essentials of Canning and Preserving

When canning and preserving foods, you need the right kitchen tools and utensils to do the job properly. Some of the basic food preservation tools, like a jar lifter or a lid wand, are only used for canning. Other tools, like pots, pans, and knives, are used throughout the year for everyday tasks.

Using the proper tool for the job decreases the chance of a jar failing to seal or being able to harbor bacteria. It can also reduce the chance of mishaps and injuries.

Basic canning tools and utensils

The tools that make canning and preserving easier are many of the same tools that are in most well-stocked kitchens: measuring cups for dry and liquid ingredients, measuring spoons, potholders, kitchen towels and paper towels, heat-resistant rubber spatulas, vegetable peeler, lemon juicer, cutting board, and scissors for opening food packages.

The following basic tools are also indispensable when canning and preserving:

  • Knives: You need three basic knives: a paring knife, a multipurpose knife with a 6-inch blade, and an 8- or 10-inch chef’s knife. Look for stamped or forged blades and blades made of stainless or high carbon steel.

    Properly caring for your knives protects your investment. Keep your knives razor-sharp. Store them in a block or a magnetic knife storage strip and hand-wash them.

  • Spoons: You need at least a couple of cooking spoons made of nonreactive metal that won’t change the taste of acidic foods they come in contact with. Look for stainless steel, anodized aluminum, glass, enameled cast iron, or wooden spoons.

  • Tongs: Tongs are handy for all types of kitchen chores, especially moving large pieces of food into and out of hot water. Try the spring-loaded variety in different lengths.

  • Ladle: Use a ladle that’s heatproof with a good pouring spout.

  • Box grater: A box grater gives you four or more options for shredding and grating.

  • Timer: Choose a timer that’s easy to read, easy to set, and loud enough to hear if you leave the room.

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  • Potato masher: This makes quick work of smashing your cooked fruits or vegetables.

  • Melon baller: With a melon baller, you can easily remove the seeds from a halved cucumber without having the seeds end up all over your kitchen.

  • Corer: This tool removes apple cores without damaging the fruit and is a real timesaver.

  • Waterproof pens and markers: Select ones that don’t rub off.

  • Labels: You can make labels from masking or freezer tape, customize your own on your home computer, or order small quantities from a company like My Own Labels.

  • Candy thermometer: In canning, a candy thermometer measures the temperature of cooked items. Some candy thermometers have marks indicating the gel point for jelly (220 degrees). Purchase a candy thermometer that’s easy to read with a base to support the thermometer so the bulb portion doesn’t touch the bottom of your pan. If this occurs, your temperature reading won’t be accurate. Many come with a clip attached to keep the bulb off of the bottom.

  • Microplane grater: This tool is perfect for removing the zest from citrus fruit.

  • Zester: Before the microplane grater, a zester was the tool for removing citrus fruit zest (just the skin without the bitter white part). It’s still an asset when you need a small amount of zest (a teaspoon or less), but for larger amounts, use a microplane grater.

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Pots, pans, mixing bowls, and more

You probably already have an assortment of pots, pans, and mixing bowls. If not, don’t worry: You don’t need to purchase everything at one time. Start with a good basic assortment and add pieces as you find a need for them.

  • Pots: Pots have two looped handles (one on each side), range in size from 5 to 8 quarts, are deep, and allow space for the expansion of your food during a hard-rolling boil. A good-quality, heavy-bottomed pot provides even heat distribution for cooking jams and jellies.

  • Saucepans: Saucepans range in size from 1 to 3 quarts. They have a long handle on one side of the pan and usually come with a fitted lid.

  • Mixing bowls: Keep a variety of mixing bowl sizes in your kitchen. Bowls made from glass and stainless steel are the most durable.

    When mixing vigorously, place a damp dishtowel under the bowl. This prevents the filled bowl from sliding.

  • Colander: Colanders aren’t just for draining pasta. They’re perfect for washing and draining fruits and vegetables.

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