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What Happens if You Don’t Sterilize Canning Jars?

Last Updated on February 28, 2024 by Lauren Beck

Dear kitchen adventurers, come together for a story of courage in canning and the one vital step that must not be overlooked: sterilizing the jars.

I’ve had my fair share of canning escapades, and trust me, what unfolds when you bypass sterilization is a culinary cautionary tale worth heeding.

What Happens if You Don’t Sterilize Canning Jars?

If you skip the canning sterilization step, you play a risky game with your food. Harmful bacteria and microorganisms can survive in the jars without proper sterilization, leading to spoilage and even foodborne illnesses. 

Sterilization is essential to create a safe environment for your preserved foods and ensure their long-lasting quality.

Ways to Sterilize Canning Jars

  • Boiling Water Bath: The classic method involves submerging jars in boiling water for a set duration.
  • Oven Sterilization: Pop those jars into a preheated oven to kill off any potential spoilers.
  • Dishwasher Dash: You can sterilize jars in the dishwasher, but ensure it has a hot water cycle.

Do I Need to Pre-sterilize My Jars for Canning?

Absolutely. Canning isn’t just about the right recipe; it’s about a dance between flavors and safety. 

Pre-sterilizing jars is crucial to prevent harmful bacteria and microorganisms from ruining your hard work.

How Long Do You Need to Sterilize Jars for Canning?

The time varies depending on the method you choose. Boiling water bath sterilization usually takes about 10 to 15 minutes, while oven sterilization can take around 20 minutes. 

Dishwasher sterilization relies on a full hot water cycle.

What Causes Jars to Break in a Canner?

Crack! Jars breaking in a canner can be heartbreaking. Rapid temperature changes—like placing hot jars in cold water or vice versa—can cause thermal shock and shatter the glass. To avoid this, warm jars gradually.

What Is the Fastest Way to Sterilize Canning Jars?

Person Sterilizing Canning Jars

If time is of the essence, microwave sterilization might seem tempting, but it’s not recommended. 

Uneven heating can lead to unpredictable results. Stick to trusted methods like boiling water baths or oven sterilization.

Can You Boil Canning Jars Too Long?

Yes, you can overdo it. Boiling jars excessively can weaken the glass and increase the risk of breakage during canning. 

Follow recommended sterilization times to ensure safe and effective preservation.

Why Is Sterilization Important in Canning?

Sterilization isn’t just an optional step; it’s the foundation of safe canning. 

Harmful bacteria like Clostridium botulinum [1] can survive without proper sterilization, leading to foodborne illnesses or spoilage. Sterilizing jars ensures you’re creating a haven for your preserves.


When it comes to the world of canning, treating jar sterilization as optional is like leaving your front door wide open in a sketchy neighborhood. The consequences can be nothing short of a culinary catastrophe—soured foods, potential contamination, and the alarming risk of foodborne illnesses. 

So, whether you’re preserving luscious jams or tangy pickles, keep this wisdom close: investing those extra minutes in proper sterilization yields a bountiful return of safe, flavorful treasures. 

Remember, in canning, where flavors and safety dance harmoniously, sterilization is responsible for ensuring every bite is a worry-free delight.


Lauren Beck
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