Canning 101: How to Help Prevent Jar Breakage

September 27, 2011(updated on October 3, 2018)

broken jar

Jars break. It happens to the very best of us. While it’s impossible to prevent it from happening 100% of the time, here are a few things you can do to minimize breakage as much as possible.

  • Avoid using metal utensils inside your jars. A quick dip of a spoon should be okay, but when you’re down to your last dregs, use a silicone spatula to capture the last drops of jam instead of scraping with a butter knife. This cuts down on the small scratches that can eventually lead to weak points.
  • Store your jars out of extreme weather. If you live in a climate with hot summers and cold winters, your garage is not the best place for jars. An insulated porch or basement is better.
  • Don’t can in the jars you use for leftover storage or as drinking vessels. The kind of wear that jars experience when they’re used every day extracts a toll that they don’t see when used for canning. They end up being weaker and more prone to breakage in the canning pot.
  • Quick temperature changes are the enemy. If you freeze in jars, make sure to defrost in the fridge. When canning, remember that the jars must be hot before you add more hot liquid. Never submerge a cold jar in a boiling canning pot, it will break.
  • During processing, control your boil. A gentle boil is just fine, and the jars won’t bang around from the force of the water.
  • Choose your canning pot wisely. If you’re canning a small batch, find a smaller pot to process in. Two or three jars in a giant pot are more apt to break.
  • Use a canning rack. It ensures that the jars aren’t in direct contact with the heat of your stove.
  • Never can jars that are only half full. They will float around the pot and are more prone to breakage. Find an appropriately sized jar or keep them in the fridge.

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31 thoughts on "Canning 101: How to Help Prevent Jar Breakage"

  • yes! i had jar breakage for the first time in four years this year. i would add that if your pot is too large for the number of jars you’re canning (which i think was my problem), you can fill up the canner with empty jars so they don’t fall over and break or knock around.

  • Had my first jar break on me this month. I hadn’t even realized the jars were sitting in a draft from my open window while waiting to go in the canner. It was apparently enough to cool them down so when they went in the canner one broke on me. Obviously I won’t be opening the kitchen window while canning anymore.

  • Great post! Thanks. I’ve only had one jar break on me so far, but it was a pickle mess that I don’t want to experience again.

  • Oh, I love how jars are good for drinking glasses and food storage, so multipurpose (and the best spill proof lunch container for soup that I’ve found). I’ll have to figure out a way to keep them separate. This very good know.

  • Broke a jar just last night! Followed the Bernardin book for canning tomato sauce and put the cold lemon juice on the bottom of the hot jar (prior to the hot sauce). Crack! Now I put a ladle of the sauce and then the juice.

  • I do a lot of small time canning – this past Saturday I canned two jars of apple butter that were just 1/4 pint each. I’ve discovered when I have those small 1/4 pints to process, that putting my metal vegetable steamer basket in the bottom of one of my pots makes the perfect fit, instead of pulling out my big set. The little jars fit perfectly between the slightly sloping sides of the basket and the middle handle, plus the jars are so short that they’re still covered in water by a couple of inches. This is what my steamer basket looks like:

  • This is a great post. I live in Minnesota and I never thought twice about storing my jars in the garage. Oops! I am going to find a spot in the basement for them right now! Thank you!


  • Recently processed a bushel of peaches. Some in light syrup, heavy syrup, spiced, and jam. Had a whopping 4 breakages over the course of the day! We looked closely at our processes and the only thing could figure out was that they were all the same “off” brand. No more of those in this house!

  • I just had one go on me a few days ago. Not nice to open up the pot and find the water looks like runny applesauce. Thanks for the tips!

  • I just canned 1/2 pint jars of apple butter. When the canning process was done and I placed them for cooling I noticed that their was a lot of bubbling going on in side jar.
    I heard the covers tink but after a few hours cannot see indentation in middle of cap and some caps have a shadow on them. Do you think they are ok.

  • I’m really bad and don’t ever use a canning rack! Whenever I have someone over to can I always give them the “I’ve never broken a jar but this might be it!” warning! Hah! Really bad. I don’t use a “real” canning pot so I haven’t figured out a rack situation that fits. Any creative suggestions?

    1. When I was canning without a “real” canning pot, I put a dishtowel/cloth down between the bottom of the pot and the jars. Worked like a charm.

    2. I read a tip somewhere that says to attach a bunch of extra rings together to cover the bottom of the pot. Then you can place all of your jars on top of those.

  • Before Jarden bought up all the jar manufacturers, jars were molded differently. Not that they never could break, but it’s more likely now. It isn’t just the thickness of the glass, it’s also how they mold the bottoms that make them more susceptible to breaking.

  • Making yogurt in a water bath. No canning machine. I get 1 broken jar for every 15. Seems high. I let the milk come to room temp before putting in water, put a towel on the bottom of the pot, put 3 jars in close-fitting pot, and bring it up to 175 degrees gradually – no strong boil. Still I get breakage. What should I change?

  • I had never had a jar breakage before today and it was 2 in different batches. Also I had 7 jars of tomatoes that didn’t seal. I’ve never had any of this to happen before. Now I’ve got to reprocess my tomatoes. It’s been a rough day. I used anchor hocking jars. This was the first year I used them.

  • I’ve lost 4 jars of tomatoes this year in the canner. My jars were hot, the water in the canner was boiling. I was putting the tomatoes in the jars at room temperature, so thought maybe that was too much of a temperature change. So today I heated the tomatoes before putting them in the jars. Everything was hot and still had one break. Please let me know what I’m doing wrong. Thank you!’

    1. Try cooling down your canner a little. It shouldn’t be higher than about 180F when the jars go in.

  • Is a steam canner more likely to break jars than water bath? I have a high BRU range as well so I guess I am turning down the heat??

    1. It shouldn’t be any more likely to break the jars than a water bath canner. You do have to take care not to let the jars cool too much before getting them back into the canner.

  • I heat my jars up to 200 degrees in the oven for an hour. During this time, I was boiling my tomatoes, garlic, onion, celery on the stove in large pot. When I took out the jars placing them on a wooden cutting board, I poured the hot tomatoes into the hot jars. Two cracked immediately. I have never had that happen. Any suggestions.

    1. Yikes. It sounds like perhaps your jars had cooled down more than you realized? That’s the only thing that could have caused that.

  • I freeze LOTs of food in jars. Recently, I’ve had more breakage. I cool the soup down, leave ample head space and the last time I even put the jar in the fridge to ensure the temp wasn’t too different, still breaking.

    Thoughts? Thanks, I’m glad I found you!

    1. It could be that your jars are getting old and have developed some weak spots having been frozen and thawed a bunch. Make sure you’re using straight sided jars and leaving even more headspace at the top than you’ve tried in the past. If you are still struggling with breakage, you might consider getting some silicone trays designed for freezing food. I have a set of Souper Cubes and really like them.

  • My jars have been really dancing around and I’m afraid they’re going to break. Why are they dancing? Newbie here.

    1. They always rattle when you process the jars. That’s why it’s best to use a pot where the jars fit snugly, so that they can’t move around too much.