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    What Is A #10 Can and How Do You Use It?

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    What Is A #10 Can and How Do You Use It?

    If you have shopped for emergency foods online or at a warehouse store, you've encountered #10 cans, whether you realize it or not. #10 cans are large metal cans that are ideal for food storage. They are pronounced “10-pound can” rather than “number 10 can.”

    Contrary to what you might expect, the “10” does not refer to the can's size or weight. It stands for the type of can since the actual weight and volume will vary according to the contents. However, the #10 can will hold about 100 ounces or about a gallon of wet or dry food.

    Compare that amount to the #2 can, commonly known as the soup can, which holds about 16 ounces, and you'll get an idea of the #10's big size. It stands seven inches tall and has a six-and-one-fourth-inch diameter.

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    What Are #10 Cans Made Of?

    Most #10 cans are made from steel that has been coated in a thin layer of tin, called tinplate. Tinplate is manufactured using a process called electrolytic deposition, so tinplate is sometimes called electrolytic tin-coated steel.

    Tinplate is a sturdy, durable, non-corrosive, and non-toxic material that is ideal for cans. To create a barrier between the food and the can's interior surface, commercially-packed #10 cans are lined with acrylic or R enamel. This added layer helps prevent corrosion when liquids are present. You can notice the coating in a #10 can of store-bought tomatoes, for example.

    Most #10 cans sold for DIY metal canning are not lined. Therefore, you should use these unlined cans to store dry foods only. You might also occasionally find #10 cans made from aluminum or stainless steel, but these are not ideal for food storage.

    What Can You Store In #10 Cans?

    This large capacity makes the #10 an attractive option for storing freeze-dried and dehydrated foods in your emergency pantry. The can's wide opening is ideal for scooping out the contents. You can take out the dried foods as needed and then close the can with a resealable plastic lid.  

    Some types of food left stored in unopened, factory-sealed #10 cans can last for 30 years or more . Depending on the contents, an opened but resealed can's contents can stay fresh for a few weeks up to a few years.

    The cans are not ideal for the long-term storage of liquids. Liquids can break down the tin or aluminum over time. It's a good idea always to examine any can for dents, rust, holes, or signs of oxidation that may have contaminated the liquids.

    Another way to prevent contamination is to avoid refrigerating #10 cans after opening them. Refrigeration can cause the metal in the cans to leach into the food inside the can. If you open a #10 can and are able to refrigerate the contents, transfer the leftovers into a plastic food container or zippered plastic food bag. (Note: Plastic can leach into the food too, but it takes a much longer time to do so.)

    Proper storage is essential for the safe longevity of these large cans. Storage temperatures should be in the 50- to 70-degree Fahrenheit range, and the cans should be kept in a dry location out of direct sunlight.

    Avoid storing the cans in the basement or anywhere that could get damp. Also, keep the cans away from the wall and off the floor to avoid any chance of moisture damage. Some people have solved the problem of moisture rusting their #10 cans by coating them with paraffin – with a particular emphasis on the seams.

    If you buy empty #10 cans and fill them yourself with rice or beans, dehydrated vegetables, or home-made jerky, the shelf life will vary according to the contents. The average shelf life for dried meats, fruits, and veggies under these circumstances will range from 6 to 12 months.

    Depending on whether you keep the can closed or not, you may get a longer span of time with powders, grains, flour, teas, and coffee. Generally speaking, the less light, air, and moisture the can is exposed to, the longer its contents will last.

    What Are The Pros And Cons Of Using #10 Cans For Long-Term Food Storage?


    • These large cans are very durable and have been known to survive hurricanes and tornadoes in fine form.
    • The cans are relatively lightweight for their size and can stack well in a storage pantry.
    • They are useful for storing dried foods and have a very long shelf life when unopened.


    • Unless you have a large family, the cans can be impractical. You may have less waste with smaller cans.
    • The edges of an opened #10 can be sharp, so they need to be handled with care.
    • Liquids stored in #10 cans need to be removed and stored in the fridge. This task can be impossible during a power shutdown.

    What Are Some Other Uses For #10 Cans?

    Homesteaders like to multi-purpose their belongings as much as possible. Here are some ideas for recycling your clean, dry, and empty # 10 cans.

    1. Build a Rocket Stove

    Here's an article with photos and written instructions.

    2. Use Them as Planters

    The cans are the right size for many garden plants. You just need to drill some holes in the bottom for drainage.

    3. Store Tools and Paintbrushes

    Their size and height make #10 cans ideal for storing art and craft supplies and kitchen utensils. You can paint the cans to blend in with your décor if you like.

    4. Use for Garage Jobs

    Another idea is to keep #10 cans in the garage to help with messy jobs such as oil changes, mixing paint, or making plasters.

    5. Store Nuts and Bolts

    A #10 can be a handy place to store your nuts, bolts, screws, and nails.

    6. Scrap Metal

    You can flatten and re-use the tinplate around the homestead. Perhaps in making a chicken shed roof?

    7. Bake Bread

    Have you ever tried making bread in a can? This article has a recipe for banana bread using a #10 can.

    8. Make Homemade Ice Cream

    You can also repurpose your cans to make ice cream. Here's how.

    Did you know that canned foods hit new sales records in the U.S. last year? According to the Canned Fruit and Vegetable Processing industry, consumers have purchased more canned food over the past year to avoid frequent shopping trips.

    For example, Campbell Soup sales rose more than 60 percent in April 2020, and other canned food companies had sales jumps of 35 percent to 50 percent, according to research by Nielsen. The food industry even has a name for what happened. Although we may all in “hoarding” in some cases, the industry calls it “pantry loading.”

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