Storage cans come in all sizes. There are common sizes and less common sizes, but they all have a single objective: store food and items for long-term usage. The #10 (pronounced ten pound) can is one of the most widely used storage can size and is used for almost every food storage need.
In this article, we will examine the popular can size, explain why it is such an attractive storage solution as well as tell you what you can store in a #10 can, what shouldn’t be stored in them and other uses. We will also cover the volume and shelf space the cans use and the best storage methods.
Read on to find out how the ten-pound can is essential to long-term storage solutions of foods, either for large families or as an emergency closet essential.
Why Use a #10 Can For Food Storage
The large capacity of the #10 can makes it a very attractive storage solution for freeze-dried foods, powders, and some liquids. The can itself stands seven inches tall and has a diameter of six and a quarter inches.
Because of this size, it makes it easy to store large amounts of foodstuffs for extended periods of time. It also has a large opening to allow you to use scoops or utensils without having to squeeze into the opening.
The most common storage solutions for the cans are freeze-dried foods, such as jerky, dried fruits and vegetables and other edibles that have been dried, dehydrated or processed without liquid. Because these foods won’t spoil as fast, you can use a resealable plastic lid with the can to have the food ready to eat whenever you like.
Depending on the food item being stored in the can, you can have a shelf life of a few weeks to a few years.
Sealed cans, if you bought the can already full of the jerky or fruit, for example, will have varying shelf lives up to 30 years! You can save money, stock your pantry or emergency closet and enjoy the food year round or even save it for that big emergency when food prep may be impossible due to power outages or severe storms.
Because the cans are large, it isn’t very feasible to have a lot of them, unless you have the storage space. A kitchen pantry, for example, may have shelving tall enough to accommodate the cans, but having too many will prevent you from using the pantry for much else.
Most solutions have a basement or secondary storage area where the cans are kept. If you do not have space, you should limit your collection of ten-pound cans to the bare minimum.
If, on the other hand, you are purchasing your food in ten-pound cans for the bulk price savings, you can easily transfer the contents to other storage solutions from the cans. Using resealable plasticware or mason jars, for example, will allow you to buy in bulk, save money and still have storage room.
Volume and Capacity of a #10 Can
The seven-inch tall cans can hold a lot of food. The actual capacity, though, will depend greatly on the type of food you are storing in them. Jerky will take up more room because there will be a lot of space between and around pieces.
Things like coffee grounds, though, will be able to fill the can up without a lot of air taking up space. This means you will be able to fit more in the can which can make storage easier and food last longer.
In general, you shouldn’t store liquids in these cans as the tin or aluminum can break down over time. Leaking the contents of the can on the pantry shelves and other food items isn’t ideal. If you do store liquids, though, you should make sure the can doesn’t have any rust, holes or oxidation that can contaminate the liquids.
You should also use the liquids sooner than you think, as the shelf life may be a year or two, but the actual quality can diminish rapidly.
Another "don’t" is not to store these cans in the refrigerator. Doing so can cause leaching of the metal into the food or liquids. If you open the can and need to refrigerate the leftovers, you should empty the contents into a plastic container with a lid or a sealed plastic bag.
While plastic can leach into the food as well, it is far less likely and takes a much longer time to occur. Food safety should be a priority as well as food storage. There isn’t much point is storing your dried beef for a few years if you can’t eat it when you open the can.
How much can a ten-pound can hold? On average it can hold just about 96 ounces. To put it in perspective, those soup cans that are filling up your pantry are generally #2 cans, holding 16 ounces. This means for every size soup cans you have in your pantry you could have one #10 can.
Of course, the measurements are more geared toward liquids, and the solid foods will vary depending on size, not just weight or volume. For those that like to have a guide or visual reference though, the large can will hold about a gallon of food, wet or dry.
You will need to adjust food portions and sizes to fit as much into the can as you can without causing damage to the foods and still able to place a lid on top snuggly. With a little trial and error, you will soon find the best sizes of beef jerky and the like to fill a can for storage.
Shelf Life and Storage
The most common concern with the ten-pound cans is how long they will last on the shelf. Shelf life is indicative of the contents more than the size of the can itself. It also depends on what type of food or liquid is inside, the storage temperature and if the can was factory sealed or a lid was placed on top at home.
There are extremes when it comes to shelf life on both ends of the spectrum. There are foods that will last over 30 years in a #10 can that has been factory sealed and left unopened. Likewise, there are others that will only last a couple of weeks.
The biggest factor in shelf life is what is inside. For the purposes of this article and the most common usage of the cans, we will stick to dried foods without hydration. Fruit chips, dried vegetables, and meat that has been jerky or dehydrated.
In general, these foods on their own will last several months before going bad as long as they are kept out of extreme temperatures and out of direct, constant contact with the air.
Storage temperatures should be cool, but not cold. 50 to 70 degree Fahrenheit is sufficient for storage. If the can is factory sealed, such as when you purchase the can from a store on online retailer, you can see the expiration date, or use by date, printed on the can itself. The date, of course, refers to how long until the unopened can will last before food loses its flavor and quality.
Once the can is opened, the date printed is null and void. Jerky and dehydrated meats will still last several months in the opened can, provided you place a lid on it before restoring. This shouldn’t be the lid you removed with a can opener, but a plastic lid designed to fit the can mouth.
Fruits and vegetables that have been dried or dehydrated will last several weeks, up to a few months. Again, proper storage temperatures and lids will need to be used.
If the can is bought empty and filled at home, which is fairly common, the shelf life will be a direct result of what you put in the can, but will never exceed a year. On average you can expect 6 to 12 months of food storage with dried meats and fruits.
Grains, powders and other items like coffee and flour, can extend this time frame based on how often the can is accessed. The less light, air and moisture exposure, the longer the can will last.
As was stated before, food quality will diminish whether the can is opened or not. While nothing will last forever (except maybe a Twinkie), the more you access the contents, the faster they will spoil or go bad.
If you are ever in doubt, it is best to toss the can or contents and start over. It may not be an ideal solution. However, your health is far more important than a piece of beef jerky that may have a bacterial breakdown.
What Can You Store in a #10 Can?
Tin can storage can literally be just about anything. There are people who use ten-pound cans for storage of non-food items, like buttons, thread bobbins, art supplies, tools, small and easy to lose pieces like nuts and bolts, and pretty much anything you can think of.
However, the main purpose is, of course, for food storage. Long-term, bulk foods stored in these cans should be dehydrated or dried. The fewer amounts of moisture, the longer the foods will last.
By far, the most common use is for emergency prep storage of foods that have a very long shelf life. Dried fruits and meats are the most common as they don’t require refrigeration and can be put back on the shelf sealed only with a plastic lid.
Other foods such as soups, can also be stored. Once the can is open though, the contents need to be used, consumed or repackaged for refrigerated storage. If you are using the cans yourself, meaning you are buying empty cans, filling and storing them with your own foods, the shelf life should never exceed 12 months.
You should also attempt to vacuum seal the cans, if possible properly. If you cannot, a plastic lid that fits snug should also be sealed with plastic wrap or even packing tape around the lid to prevent air from entering the can.
Store bought cans will come welded shut and require a can opener to access the contents. Once that lid is compromised, you will need to reseal with a plastic lid. In general, these lids will already be on the can when you buy them.
If the contents are hydrated, you will need to consume them quickly. You should follow the same guidelines of an open can with hydrated contents as you would if you bought that food fresh. A week or two should be the maximum storage time in a ten-pound can for hydrated foods.
It is still wise to transfer the contents to a plastic container with a lid or a mason jar that has been properly sealed to prolong the life of the food when applicable.
Storage experts, emergency preppers and those with large families to feed will find that #10 cans are more useful than almost any other storage container. Their large volume allows you to store many different types of food for long periods of time.
Proper seals and adherence to food quality are essential. Though with the right preparation, dedication to detail and proper temperature, a ten-pound can will last you a year or more. Store bought, and factory sealed cans will last you up to 30 years, depending on the contents.
How you use a ten-pound can is up to you, but for dried food storage the cans are tough to beat. Bulk foods are cheaper and with the right storage, can last you long enough to make the small expense worthwhile.