Canned foods are a stable and convenient way to store various foods for an extended period. Whether buying commercially canned foods or canning foods yourself, they are a great way to keep foods for long-term storage and should be an essential item in any prepper’s pantry. But can you store canned foods just anywhere, or are there certain places that work better than others?
You can store canned foods outside as long as you ensure that they are protected from extreme heat and cold and stored in a dark, dry location. Foods stored in this manner can be kept outside and safe to eat until their best-by date.
The rest of this article will explain a few topics related to this question in great detail, including a bit of background about canned foods and how to choose safe ones. It will also cover how to store them properly and give you some tips about keeping canned food outside.
Choosing Safe Canned Foods
Canned foods are a staple in any pantry and have been an integral method of food storage since the 1790s. In fact, Napoleon Bonaparte himself offered a massive reward to anyone to develop a long-term strategy for storing food.
A chef, Nicholas Appert, developed a method of cooking meats, putting them in jars, and submerging them in boiling water to form a tight seal on those jars. It was this method that ultimately won the prize.
While we’ve come up with many other ways to preserve food, canning continues to be a significant player in food preservation. While we have become more effective at storing foods through canning, the method hasn’t changed much.
Testament to this is how often we find canned foods from 100 years ago that are still intact! One of the key reasons why some of those canned foods have remained preserved is because the containers themselves have remained undamaged.
When choosing canned foods for long-term storage, it is crucial to take care to only select cans that have no dents or signs of damage. Over time, these can lead to rust which will spoil the food inside. Make sure you’re checking the best-by dates on the cans and choosing ones with the most extended hold date. Be aware of cans or jars that are dirty or dusty or show any signs of wear. When selecting foods in jars, make sure the lids are flush and not bulging.
Safe Canned Food Storage Conditions
As mentioned earlier, canned food is preserved using heat. However, once canned food is preserved, heat is a canned food’s worst enemy. According to the University of Michigan Extension, canned foods will spoil if stored over 100 °F (37.78 °C).
This is because the seals on jars and the cans have been made under heat. Reintroducing heat to these seals can break the seal. This allows oxygen to enter the container, resulting in bacterial and mold growth, which will result in the food inside spoiling.
You will also need to protect canned food from freezing as well. The water inside cans and jars can expand and break the container, introducing the food inside to oxygen, resulting in spoilage from mold and bacterial growth. With this in mind, the ideal temperature for canned foods is around 75 °F (23.89 °C).
Another enemy of canned foods is moisture. For metal cans and the metal lids on jars, water creates rust. These cans and jar caps can again lose their seal with enough rust, resulting in oxygen exposure and spoilage.
Finally, UV light can be an enemy to canned foods, especially those stored in jars. Most jars will allow some measure of UV light to pass through, which, even if the temperatures don’t get above 100 °F (37.78 °C), can result in the food inside breaking down from the UV rays. If you must store something in the sunlight, you can purchase amber-tinted mason jars for at-home canning or cover the outside of the jars with dark paper.
Creating Safe Canned Food Storage Solutions
It is easy to create storage solutions outdoors for canned food as long as you keep the enemies of canned food in mind. This means avoiding extreme temperatures and keeping your food in a dark, dry place.
An easy option for outdoor food storage is keeping your food underground. According to Discover Magazine, many ancient people relied on underground food storage in caves and pits. You can follow suit by digging out a cellar and lining it with moisture-proofing. This will mitigate the effects of underground moisture, and the underground chamber will provide a dark, cool space.
If you’re not about to dig a hole cellar, you can dig smaller holes as long as you go below the frost line. If you don’t know your area’s frost line, you can look it up here. When you reach the appropriate depth, you can place an old ice chest or other insulated containers into the hole and pack it with canned food. Then, you can cover it back up or create an easy access hole.
If digging a hole isn’t an option for you, you can always store your food above ground. Ensure it is out of reach from scavengers like bears or raccoons and is covered, away from the elements. This could mean storing the food in parts of your garage or shed.
You could even build a structure specifically for food storage. If this is the route you go, you can take steps to allow for more insulation or even install cooling in the summer. If you aren’t able to heat or cool your space and extreme temperatures are an issue, you might reconsider the underground option.
You can store canned foods outside as long as you ensure that you store quality canned foods in a protected environment. This means protecting your canned foods from extreme heat and cold and keeping them dry and dark. Canned foods can be a considerable part of your food strategy when prepping for survival with those critical factors in mind.