Safe Home Canning – Is it Safe to Can Rice?

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Not too long ago, I found myself in a discussion with a good friend of mine about home canned foods. Where I tend to stick to the regulations for the most part, she was a wild canner who canned anything and everything solely for the purpose of canning it. For the most part, I let her speak without interrupting her but when she mentioned canning rice, my ears perked up. I have never heard such a thing, but there she was, doing it herself and expecting to feed it to her family at some point. The entire conversation prompted me to head to my kitchen, pull out my pint jars, grab my pressure canner and process a couple pounds of rice. Why? Because I knew that she wasn’t practicing safe home canning and I wanted to prove it to her.

Canning rules are there for a reason! See what happened when we tested if it is safe to can rice! What do you think the answer was? If you don't know, you can't practice safe home canning!

Before we go any farther in this post, I want to make it perfectly clear that I never intended to feed my family this rice. I flirt with a few of the safe home canning rules, but I am very picky about which ones I do that with and I have done enough research on each one to understand the science behind it. For instance, safe home canning rules now say that you cannot safely can shredded zucchini. The reason behind this is not because it isn’t safe, but rather that the organizations who put those rules out for us all lost the research. Because of this and the fact that they do not want to spend the money to re-test, they removed shredded zucchini from the list of foods that are safe to can in 2012. Canning knowledge hasn’t changed much since 2012 so I feel safe enough to can it using the methods that were approved before the research was lost.

Safe Home Canning – Is it Safe to Can Rice?

I have also been known to bake and seal quick breads and cakes. They are baked in the jar at temperatures that kill botulism spores and are sealed with a damp cloth and lid by the heat from the jar. Not only have I done the temperature research on it, but I don’t get too concerned since they never last long enough on the shelf for contamination to be a concern. The vast majority are eaten within 2 weeks. They are the perfect size to take with us when we plan a hiking trip or when we plan a camping trip as a family. When we’re ready to eat them, they are heated back up to a temperature that will kill botulism spores just as an added layer of safety.

With all of that said, canning rice goes against every safe home canning rule that I have ever seen and there is a reason for it. Rice holds moisture and that moisture can cause mold or a false canning seal. It may seem as if your jars are okay when in reality, they aren’t. We will talk more about all of this in a few but first, the method.

How to can rice at home

The process behind what my friend was doing went like this:

  • Mix dry white rice with cinnamon and sugar for flavor. I believe she was trying to create something that could be eaten as a cereal and dessert both.
  • Fill a pint jar 1/3 of the way with dry white rice.
  • Top off with boiling water leaving 1-1 1/2 inch headspace.
  • Process at 10lbs pressure for 30 minutes.

Seems legit, right?

Wrong. As I mentioned earlier, rice holds moisture and that moisture spells death for your canned rice and possible illness for your family (or anyone who eats it). When you can the rice, you add water. That water is absorbed into the rice and over time, that water can create condensation within your jar. That condensation can then seep under your seal and create what is known as a false seal. This false seal can appear to be sealed correctly, but isn’t. It will allow air into your jar which combined with the moisture held in the rice, creates what would amount to your child’s third grade science project.

In addition to that, rice when combined with water becomes very thick. This thickness makes it extremely hard for heat to penetrate. Since heat is what kills harmful organisms such as botulism spores, you are putting your entire family at risk of botulism. In case you have never looked them up, symptoms of botulism include – but are not limited to –  vomiting, diarrhea, blurred or double vision, difficulty swallowing, paralysis and in severe cases, death.

Because of those risks, I was determined to show her exactly what she was risking. So I canned 9 pints of rice using the exact same method that she was using. After 24 hours, all 9 of them had proper seals. They were marked with a gigantic do not eat sign and placed in the back of my closet so that they were in a cool, dark place. At one month I checked them and they were fine. At two months, I checked them and they were fine.

At three months, they weren’t. 

At the three month mark, 6 of the 9 jars looked like this. I want to point out that the lid is still sealed to the jar in the photo. It is still a tight seal that would need to be pried off should I want to open it. I didn’t because eww, but it’s tight enough that I was able to pick up the jar by the edge of the lid and have it hold. Do you see the water in the jar? Right above the F of the middle watermark there is water. That water is what seeped out of the rice as it sat.

Of the 9 jars that I tested, 6 had mold or had popped their seal. 3 of the 6 jars that had gone bad had their lids come completely off while the other 3 still had tight seals. I have no doubt that the other 3 would have gone down the same road given enough time. I wasn’t waiting around any longer though and tossed all 9 jars.

Safe home canning rules are there for a reason. They are there to keep you and your family safe. They are there to ensure that the food preservation you are doing will not only last, but that it will still be safe to eat when you need it.

The risks involved in canning items that are not meant to be canned are far too big to even mess around with.

If you’re new to canning, I highly recommend that you pick up the Ball Blue Book before you get started. Once you’ve taken a look at that, you’re ready to learn the basics of canning. Canning is an incredibly safe way to preserve food for long term storage, but as you can see; it absolutely must be done safely.

“Because so and so did it” or “My grandma canned this way” simply doesn’t cut it when it comes to the safety of your family. If you want to preserve rice, use a mylar bag and an oxygen absorber. It is just as easy (if not more so) to bag it and it will last much longer.

Canning rules are there for a reason! See what happened when we tested if it is safe to can rice! What do you think the answer was? If you don't know, you can't practice safe home canning!

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Stacy Williams

Stacy Williams is a 37-year old wife to a USAF Gulf War Veteran, mother of two teen girls and fur-mamma to a rescued pit bull. The face and brain behind the frugal living and lifestyle blog Six Dollar Family, she also owns and manages Long Haul Wife, Republic Preparedness, The Genealogy Queen and a handful of others sites. By the age of 30, Stacy had overcome a drinking problem, a drug addiction, divorce, survived domestic violence, and had built a life for herself and her daughter after spending 10 months in a homeless shelter. Stacy is passionate about homeless advocacy and addiction education.  Her first book, also called Six Dollar Family is available on Amazon.

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  1. Perhaps after showing your friend what could happen, A quick side by side with a vacuum sealed jar of dry rice that could be years old would give her a safe way to do what she wants. Giving someone safe options can be as effective as proving what they are doing is dangerous.

    • Stacy Barr says

      Hey Dan, thanks for the comment! I actually showed her how to use mylar and O2 absorbers instead 🙂

  2. I’ve never canned rice- but I do PC beans. How are they different than rice? Both seem very wet and moist (actually most canning things are- so what makes rice different?)

    • Rice is different because it is a denser product and doesn’t allow the heat from the high pressure to penetrate the product. It is the same when you can chili. You can safely can it with beans or with meat but not both. Otherwise it is too thick to get that high heat and pressure through the product. When that happens, it allows bacteria like botulism or mold to grow.

  3. Thank you for this information. I was thinking of pressure canning chicken and rice soup using both raw meat and raw rice but I guess that is not a good idea. I have a question. I raw pack meat to pressure can. the meat is cold and the jars are cold why do they say to pour boiling water over the cold food? Why not cool water? What difference does it make. It is going to be pressure cooked for 90 minutes.

    • Linda, I believe it is to kill any bacteria that is on the meat initially, but I will say this. It isn’t a good idea to add boiling water to cold meat and jars. It can cause your jars to weaken which can cause them to shatter. Instead, what I would do is simmer the jars/meat a bit in your canner before adding the boiling water to bring them up to a temp that is going to be more equal so that you don’t run the risk of weakening the jars. Just don’t cook the meat since you would be doing so dry and could burn it. Did that make sense?

  4. John McKeel says

    I understand the risks you point out. I haven’t canned for long and started out canning anything I could imagine, Jambalaya for one, with rice plus chili with beans and meat. I’ve been eating both for months. In the case of chili, a couple years. However, I didn’t quite have the temperature control down on my electric stove and my pressures were up around 14 psi. Could a higher pressure plus longer processing time compensate? But in another way, canning rice overcooked it and I won’t be doing it again.

    • Stacy Barr says

      John, the biggest issue with canning rice or chili with beans and meat isn’t actually the pressure. There isn’t much difference between 14 and 15 psi honestly. It is the fact that even at 15 psi for 90 minutes (recommended canning pressure and time for quart sized jars of meat), items that are too thick; chili with beans AND meat or rice, are too thick for heat to penetrate fully to make it safe. You’ve been eating it for months and you’re fine, but the next jar, you may not be. It simply isn’t worth the risk in my eyes. Botulism is rarely fatal, but it makes for one really bad hangover. 🙂

  5. So, why is it one can purchase cans of soups with rice, cans of rice and beans, etc.

    • They are able to can at a much higher temperature as well as add more pressure and seal better than you are able to in your kitchen.

    • Commercial cannery’s can produce a much higher canning temps, preservatives, etc then the standard home canner is capable of

  6. For great storage of rice, I Dry Can ours in jars that are enough per meal for our family. I was curious about wet canning (pressure canning cooked rice), but afraid of just what you pointed out…thanks for confirming my suspicions.

    • Brandy, do you dry can your rice in the oven? I have a friend that warms her jars in the oven, fills them with rice, and warms them again (@250 for 45 to60 minutes, I think). Then she removes them one at a time from the oven, buts a lid and ring on them, and sets them on the table, and they seal as well as pressure sealed foods. I’m very curious about this procedure.

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