Low Temperature Pasteurization + Crab Boil Pickles

October 12, 2016(updated on August 30, 2021)


I have spent the last five years working as an independent, creative person. One of the things I’ve learned about myself in that time is that my path towards getting things done is shaped like a snail shell, with the product at the center and the track towards it running in a spiral shape.


I orbit around the goal for days, weeks or even sometimes for months until I final land on the thing in the center. This is the process I take whether it’s a small project or a large one and people who know me understand that when they ask me how something is going, my response is often along the lines of, “I’m getting closer.”


The reason I’m sharing this with you today? This blog post is one I’ve been circling around for a very long time. I first started thinking about low temperature pasteurization for pickling six or seven years ago. A tool to accomplish it effectively (the Anova Precision Cooker) came into my life more than two years ago.

And the recipe I’m sharing at the bottom of this post was directly inspired by a press trip I took to New Orleans with the folks from Zatarain’s back in January (nine months).


Finally, it’s all come together and I’ve landed on center of the circle.

The story starts with low temperature pasteurization. For many people, this approach is the answer to the question, “How can I make crunchy, shelf stable pickles?” It is preservation technique in which you simmer your filled jars in water that’s between 180 and 185 degrees F.

You do this for a longer period of time (typically 30 minutes) than you would normally process them in a boiling water bath canner. The longer, lower temperature allows you to kill off bacteria while retaining a firmer finished texture.


Now, the trick to low temperature pasteurization is finding a way to maintain the proper temperature over an extended period of time. I have tried it on my ancient electric stove, but found that it was nearly impossible to consistently hit and sustain the target range.

Now, here’s where the Anova Precision Cooker comes in.


Several years ago, various companies started making immersion circulators for home use and the thought occurred to me that it would be the perfect tool for low temperature pasteurization. The reason being that immersion circulators are designed for sous vide cooking, a process in which you bring water to a certain temperature and then hold it at that temperature for an extended period of time to fully cook various kinds of food without overcooking them.


Two years back, the folks from Anova got in touch and asked if I’d be interested in trying one of their immersion circulators. Thinking about low temperature pasteurization, I said yes. They sent me the unit, and then life got the better of me. I moved it from corner of the apartment to another for nearly a year, and then finally tucked it into my closet, forever promising myself that I would eventually use it for processing pickles.


That brings us to 2016. Back in late January, I went on a press trip to New Orleans to learn more about Zatarain’s. Before that trip, all I knew about that iconic brand was the fact that they sold boxed rice mixes. While on the trip, I discovered that Zatarain’s is synonymous with New Orleans food. Never before had I encountered a brand that was so interwoven with the food culture of a place.


It was a magical trip and I came away feeling moved by the welcome of the city and motivated to devise a cucumber pickle recipe that employed the Zatarain’s Concentrated Shrimp and Crab Boil flavoring. The reason for the recipe idea was this. They told us that originally, people would flavor their crab boil with packets of pickling spices. Over time, they’d created the concentrated liquid flavor out of a blend of extracted oils from those classic pickling spices.


Always dreaming up preserving recipes, it seemed obvious that I should make a pickle using the liquid flavor, if for no other reason than it would create a classically flavored pickle without the mess of the whole spices.


So, that brings us up to mid-August. I was home between book events and was determined to finally make my crab boil pickles, and preserve them using the low temperature pasteurization process, facilitated by the Anova immersion circulator. I went to Reading Terminal Market, intending to buy 10 or 15 pounds of pickling cucumbers, and ended up coming home with a bushel (it weighed nearly 50 pounds).


I proceeded to make a lot of pickles. I made horseradish pickles. I make classic garlic dills. I cut them in spears, coins, and halves. All in all, I made nearly 30 quarts of pickles, thanks to an idea, a tool, a trip, and a little bottle of crab boil seasoning.

I realize that cucumber season is done for most of the country at this point, but since I finally managed to pull these things together experientially, I wanted to get this blog post written in this calendar year (and plant the seed that if you value crunchy pickles, perhaps an immersion circulator should be on your holiday list this year).

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Crab Boil Pickles


  • 8 pounds pickling cucumbers
  • 5 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 5 cups water
  • 1/4 cup pickling salt
  • 1 tablespoon Zatarain's Concentrated Shrimp and Crab Boil
  • 1/2 teaspoon peppercorns per jar
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed or minced garlic per jar


  • Prepare a boiling water bath canner or low temperature pasteurization pot and seven quart jars.
  • Wash cucumbers well. Trim away the blossom end and cut into coins (a mandoline slicer is a big help here. Just watch your fingers!).
  • Combine the apple cider vinegar, water, pickling salt, and Zatarain's concentrate in a saucepan or 4th burner pot (rack removed) and bring to a boil.
  • Portion the peppercorns and minced garlic into the prepared quart jars. Pack the cucumber coins into the jars and add the brine, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Using a wooden chopstick, wiggle out any trapped air bubbles, and add more brine, if necessary.
  • Wipe the rims, apply the lids and rings, and process in a boiling water bath canner for 15 minutes, or in a low temperature pasteurization pot for 30 minutes at 180F.
  • When the time is up, remove the jars and set them on a folded kitchen towel to cool. When the jars have cooled enough that you can comfortable handle them, check the seals. Sealed jars can be stored at room temperature for up to a year. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly.

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26 thoughts on "Low Temperature Pasteurization + Crab Boil Pickles"

  • fas.cin.nating. I have never heard of low-temp pasteurization for keeping pickles crisp! Just opened a jar of dills today that was mushy (flavor was good, so ok).

    Think I could maintain the correct temp with my gas stove?? I supposed it’s worth a try before I get a new gadget.

  • I’m really interested in hearing more about your low-temp pasteurization experiments. For one thing, how do you know it works as well as, say, water-bath canning? How does one go about testing? Also, technique across different brands of immersion circulators? I don’t even know all the questions I have about this just yet. Looking forward to reading more soon 🙂

  • I’ve been low temperature processing on my gas stove for several years now. It’s a pain but worth the better quality pickle. There are not a lot of recipes out there that say they are safe for this process. How do determine what recipe will be safe?

  • Sounds like a great alternative for those who might not want to use calcium chloride (Pickle Crisp).
    I am going to have to try the Zatarain’s recipe, though!

  • Concerned about a prime ingredient in the Zatarain’s – polysorbate 80 – not sure i want this in food i prepare! What can you tell us about it marissa?

    1. It’s an emulsifier. If you’re concerned about it, use a traditional pickling spice blend and skip the Zatarain’s.

  • Sounds very interesting and I’m willing to invest in the Anova Precision Cooker.
    Is there any reason to think this wouldn’t work with carrots, radishes, beets, etc? Would there be any changes to the time if different vegetables with different levels of water content such as those described above were processed with low temperature pasteurization?

    1. I need to do a bit more research, but I believe that this technique can be used for a wide variety of pickles. The only reason I might skip it for root vegetables would be that their texture doesn’t suffer as severely during the boiling water bath canning process.

  • Dear Marisa, I am going to the class you are having in Glassboro NJ on November 16th, Would it be possible to try your pickles at the class? I have never had crab boil pickles before. It would be an adventure We could put on our list of canning recipes for next year if we like them and we could name them Marisa’s crab boil pickles. Hope to see you on the 16th, Cathy

  • Congratulations on finishing your research on the pickles! Sounds really tasty and intriguing, but until I get past the unknowns of the pressure canner – and have space to store one more thing (!), I will certainly enjoy reading more about your experiences with your finally-out-of-the-box canning equipment!

  • Will the Anova heat and circulate enough water to process quart jars, and if so, would it be as many as fit in most canners (i.e. 7 quarts)? Also, how long did it take the Anova to get the water up to temp in the pot you have pictured which I am guessing holds about 4 pints? What do you see as the biggest limitations for this method of processing? Thanks!

    1. The pot pictured here held seven quarts and took about 25 minutes to come up to temperature (I brought it up to 180F while prepping the pickles and then it took the 25 to return to that temp). I wouldn’t use the Anova for boiling water bath canning, though.

      1. Thanks! I use pickle crisp and so don’t really have a problem with soft dills, but I am almost curious enough to buy one to see if low temperature processing really does produce better quality pickles. If I am reading your reply correctly, I think you’re saying it takes a lot of extra time and maybe really isn’t worth it.

  • This post totally blew my mind! Are your other pickle recipes on this site compatible with the low temperature pasteurization method?

  • Any chance you can bring a jar of pickles for us to sample at your November 3rd class at the Exeter Community Library? I’ve never been able to make a truly crunchy pickle and am hoping the low pasteurization method is the answer. And using Zatarain’s Crab Boil is genius!

  • You don’t really need a new appliance to do the low pasteurization method, but a nice thermostat that has an alarm for a low temp as well as for a high temp is very handy. If the temp goes below 180 degrees you have to start the timing over and if it goes over 185 degrees you risk mushy pickles. I started using this method this summer and I can’t tell you how much better my pickles are! I started with a regular thermometer without the low temp alarm and I had to stand at the stove and watch the thermometer to make sure it didn’t go too low but it was really worth it.

  • Haha! I just checked out the Anova and I want one, lol! It really would be a lot easier to make those pickles with. :p

  • I have been meaning to ask you for a while how these pickles turned out! Were they crunchy?
    I don’t have problems with carrots or beets water bath caning, but I have been so disappointed in the texture of my cucumber dills, especially because they taste so good! Even using pickle crisp hasn’t helped. So I would love be to hear if the texture remained crispy!

  • I’ve been doing low temp pasteurization of pickles for several years now on a gas stove. It’s a pain to try to keep the temp in a narrow range (180-108f) and I now have an ANOVA sous vide. My old recipe from America’s Test Kitchen called for 30 minutes once the water gets to 180. Most of the sous vide pickle recipes on the web call for two and a half HOURS at 190. What gives? Is the longer time just because it takes that long for the Anova to warm up the water?

    1. There’s a difference between low temperature pasteurization and sous vide pickles. You can use the Anova immersion circulator to preserve using the low temperature pasteurization technique, but they are different methods.