Letter: Sealing a #10 Can


A friend recently acquired the capability to seal #10 cans. He’s bought a supply of new cans and is still playing around with the concept. He offered me the opportunity to do a few cans of my own. The concept has intrigued me. What would you pack in a #10 can if you could choose the contents?

My preliminary thoughts

My thoughts are a #10 can would be good for stuff that must stay one or more of these:

  1. Oxygen free
  2. Dry
  3. Sterile
  4. Clean

A few other considerations:

  1. A #10 can is essentially a single-use item. Once breached, the advantage is largely (but not totally) lost.
  2. What can it offer that a GI ammo can or vacuum-packing in a plastic bag does not?

Currently: Ammo goes in steel USGI ammo cans. Most emergency med supplies go in vacuum-sealed bags. Electronics go into a grounded Faraday cage. Most storage food goes into Mylar bags with an oxygen absorber in plastic 5-gallon buckets or mason jars for smaller amounts. What  makes sense to you?


  1. Excellent place to hide valuables. A great place to store food stuffs that are prone to chewing insects and rodents. Ammo cans are expensive here. #10 cans are relatively cheap and make for a blend-in storage can.

  2. I would use for a cache. There are plastic lids for these cans – that would be useful once the cans have been opened. As a plus, the can could be used for cooking if I am on the move. Cans are lightweight, water-tight, and protect fragile items in a large pack. Remove top and bottom of can, flatten, and you’ve got a decent size piece of metal to create with. Sometimes seals on the bags fail and I would hedge some of my storage bets with metal cans instead of the plastic/mylar bags.

  3. Where I live at in the world, we have been using metal cans, with a crimp seal for the past 35 years. Particularly after butchering game and domestic livestock. We use cans much smaller than #10 to store our liverwurst (naturally from liver), bloodwurst, kidney pastete and what we call “Saumagen”, which is basically the leftover meat scraps, kidney and hearts. These cans get a crimp seal, get boiled for an hour and last much longer than a year. I recently threw away a few forgotten cans that were packed with liverwurst from 2007, because the taste was off, but the few that were behind the shelf dated 2009 were fine, but bland.

    But… some obvious drawbacks to metal cans are that if one rolls off of the table, the crimp can be compromised. You also don’t really know what is there until you open it up, despite the best intentions at labelling. We are pretty careful with labelling, but my neighbor wasn’t amused when we opened what i thought was liverwurst while fishing, only to discover it was bloodwurst, which is definately an aquired taste. I didn’t manage to make a bloodwurst convert out of him on the trip either.

    The cans also rust, and if the rust get bad enough, it can compromise the can.

    Over the years i have casually experimented with sticking various onjects in cans to see how they last, like ammo or metal machine parts, and they all seem to oxidise to some degree if not treated beforehand. “Hey, which one of these 63 cans had the ammo in it, and not the Saumagen?”

    And the last disadvantage to canning in metal cans, is the one where you cut your fingers on the rim after opening the can with your Buck Knife, because you thought your son brought his p-38, and he thought you had the big opener. ☺

    And, my last observation regarding metal cans; The reality of really finding a good use for 300 used metal cans in a year quickly disappears, you can only use so many paintbrush cleaning cans, tractor vertical exhaust cover cans, and 25 meter .22 reactive targets and most end up in the metal pile to be hauled with the rest of the metal scrap to the scrap dealer.

    1. RE: preventing oxidation in can storage – use N2 (nitrogen) to purge the can as it’s filled, drop in an oxygen absorber to deal with the air that cannot be completely purged, seal the can (same trick works with 5 gallon buckets).

      # 2 1/2 cans (approx a quart) are a good size for loose-fill ammunition (you can get more rounds in the can if you carefully stack them, but no one I know has that much time, and the skin oils and salts from handling each round are a slightly corrosive contaminant, so use gloves if you do). 3M makes “Scotch-Weld™ Hot Melt Adhesive 3798 LM” which cools to a semi-flexible, gummy consistency – perfect for securing a P-38 or P-51s to a can lid. Pricey enough that it’s a good “group buy” thing. P-38s ($25/100+ shipping) and P-51s ($30/100) are available in quantity from Sportsman’s Guide. I’ve attach one to every #10 can I have and when boxing canned goods (a 12X9X9 box exactly holds 24 cans – 8 protein, 8 veggie, 8 fruit, with plastic utensils dropped in between the cans) has 2 38s and 2 51s glued under the box lid.

      Biggest issue with filling your own cans – no matter what’s in them – is labeling that lasts.

  4. I think if you get one of those side cutting can openers you can reuse the can. Of course it is incrementally shorter each time. Maybe what you had in it first influences what goes in second. Ammo on the second use comes to mind.

  5. I previously used this same type of dry canner which I borrowed from the church. I like using #10 cans because they are tougher than mylar and food saver bags, easier to stack and store, mice resistant, and pack smaller portions than contents in a 5-gal bucket. I put anything dry or contained in them. I used to package emergency items (water, food, tools, etc in them to put in vehicles or college dorm rooms and give them as Christmas gifts. Unfortunately, I don’t have access to one any more, but I would put FD items in #10 cans if I could get one.

  6. “Canning”, whether in Mylar bags or metal cans is an excellent way to store not only dry foods like rice, dried beans, pastas, grains and more, but also any other item you need to keep dry. Used with an oxygen absorber the contents of your can will remain usable for a very long time. You need to research how long that time is. The LDS Church did this for many years until the government forced them out of the activity. You can find #10 and smaller sized cans with lids and do it yourself very easily. The canning machines aren’t cheap so a group buy can solve this problem. You may have to buy cans in bulk to get the cost down and a group buy here will be beneficial also.

    For the casual, beginner or reluctant canner with cans I’d stay away from meats and breads. If you do decide to try this, do your homework first. There are other more proven and reliable methods for meat canning using jars. I buy my canned bread and store the dry products for making fresh breads. Storing grains that can then be ground is better than storing flour, although, I do have some stored white flour to mix with my home ground soft and hard whole wheat.

    Get a side cutting can opener if you are worried about cutting yourself. Be creative about what to do with the used can(s). They can be used to cook in, carry water, store dry goods (with a plastic top), nuts and bolts, be made into camping stoves, planters, heating/lighting candle containers. If you need to patch a shingle roof or even a whole roof, the cans can be cut and flattened to make a metal roof shingles. Don’t limit your creativity.

    Mylar and metal cans have both advantages and disadvantages. Both are good for what they can do, but you still have to protect them. All dry packed foods need to be stored in a cool, dry place. As long as the bags aren’t punctured they will last a very long time. I store mine in 5 gallon food grade buckets and cardboard boxes.

    I like smaller Mylar bags so I don’t have to open a larger one and then consume all at once. Critters can chew through them so you need to be aware. Metal cans protect against this but will be susceptible to rusting. Whichever you use, be knowledgeable and provide for the best protection of your assets.

    Mylar bags require some kind of heating tool to seal. Most home owned canning machines (mine)are hand cranked but can be powered with the right accessories.

    Regardless of which you prefer, just do it! Commit! Be prepared.

  7. A few years back I experimented w/#10 cans.I put up a variety of things, food, ammo, gear.
    I used a Wagner Power sprayer to coat them w/ clear enamel and threw in a small O2 absorber and a desiccant pack and they are still pristine on the outside.
    Havent opened any but if the arent compromised, I see no reason to fool w/ them.
    The only drawback I see w/them is weight when filled w/ammo, but otherwise seem to be a good way to go.

  8. This caning method is used by Mormons. They can probably give you a lot of good information on this. I can tell you these canners can be used with more than one size of cans.

  9. Have a few tons of #10 cans full of food stuffs from the LDS cannery. Never had a problem with seals or can rust. Have put up popcorn,salt and a number of other things over the years in cans. Only problem was the move a few years back. The new house is 125 miles from the old one. A pickup was not going to work so rented a truck with lift gate on it. Glad there is no weight station between the two as I would have been in trouble.

  10. Hmmmmm……If you have the means and equipment, why not combine the two methods of vacuum sealed mylar bags for small volumes, then stuff several of them into one #10 can for long term sealing/storage.

    Sometimes redundancy is a good thing.

    1. I have been doing this for years. The small mylar bags hold about a gallon worth of dry goods and can be reclosed. I put in an O2 absorber seal the bag and into a can it goes. Works very well for me

  11. What would I seal in #10 cans, if given the opportunity? Dry bulk items; wheat, rice, sugar, salt, powdered milk (if I had any).

    BTW, speaking of……
    What is a good brand/source of readily available powdered milk? I live in the Salt Lake City valley. My Local Big Box Grocery Store used to sell something marketed as a “powdered milk alternative” (or something like that), with a lot of dry chemicals and whatnot, and very little (if any) cow juice.

    1. D B Woodman,
      We here in the Midwest go to local Big Box Food Stores for real 100% powdered, dried milk.

      My fav in No. Ohio is a huge Drugstore called “MARC’S” which has a few sizes of great 100% powdered, dried milk. I put this up in wide-mouth Mason jars and then evacuate the air with a FoodSaver ($99 on sale) and wrap the Mason jar in tin foil (keeps the degrading sunlight out) and I’m GTG!


  12. They will make fantastic Faraday shields for small electronics like portable radios. Battery packs like NiCd and NiMH will not be affected by an EMP or Carrington event, but most Lithium ion batteries contain a tiny circuit board to limit fault current. The field effect transistors and tiny integrated circuit in a protected Li cell could be damaged, so it would be prudent to shield them along with the charger.

  13. Junk silver! Have a label printed up… something like canned pickled SALMON with a VERY expired date. Something that NO ONE in their right mind would want to eat. Make sure it is muffled somehow so when someone shakes it it will feel and sound like a disgusting lump of mystery meat.

  14. Five or six years ago, I splurged and bought a Gering & Sons #10 canner like the one seen here: http://www.geringandson.com/canner.php. I also acquired two pallets of #10 cans and lids.
    For us, the biggest benefit has been to can dried foods for long term storage. You can buy your own dried foods and can them for far less than the pre-made cans sold by commercial long-term storage companies. We have also put up cans of things we want to stay dry and rodent free, such as strike-anywhere matches, batteries, and even socks. We have never canned ammo, simply because I like the handle and the toughness of the 50 caliber ammo can. (A #10 can is nowhere near as strong as an ammo can.)

    On multiple occasions, we have gathered like-minded friends and family members to have canning parties. Three or four families working together makes sealing 120 or more cans an easy afternoon’s work. We pour dried foods (see below) into #10 cans, marking their contents and the date on the outside with a Sharpie. We prep dozens of cans and when we are ready to go, one person sticks a 300 cc oxygen absorber or two inside and pops on the lid while the others operates the canning machine. (It goes fastest with one or two people moving cans on and off and one operating the machine). It is a very straight-forward process that takes a little arm strength to force the lid to seal, but most of the work on our unit is done by the motor. Be sure to anchor the sealer VERY securely to a large solid surface as you need something to push against, otherwise you can send the table it is mounted on sliding across the floor.

    It is important to note that #10 cans sealed by this and similar machines are ONLY good for dry pack canning. That means dried foods, dehydrated foods, and freeze dried foods. The dryer the better! NO wet foods should be preserved at home in #10 cans.

    Comments made by others about preserving meats in #10 cans scares me because doing this at home is NOT a safe or approved method of food storage. Meats and other moist foods should be canned in Ball Jars using a pressure canner and following the directions of a good canning book. Never rely on boiling or hot water canner processing for meats and low-acid foods; the danger of botulism and other food poisoning is too high.

    Our rule of thumb is that if it is dry, has a decent shelf life, is sold in a bag or box, and does not require refrigeration before or after opening, it can probably be dry-pack canned in a #10 can. But dry means really dry! Under 10% moisture content with lower being even better. We’re talking crunchy banana chip dry, not the mushiness of dried apricots or dates. You do not want things to mold in the can.

    What we have found works best are grains, rice pilaf and similar mixtures, oatmeal and other hot cereals, all sorts of dried beans, pasta, seasoning and spices, powdered milk, and hot chocolate. Baking mixes work tolerably well but sometimes the leavening agents can cause problems over the long term.

    Outside of commercially produced banana chips, we have not canned dried or dehydrated fruits or vegetables because in my opinion home-dehydrated veggies and fruits they are potentially too moist. I would not hesitate to can freeze dried fruits, vegetables or other food, including freeze dried meats. While we do not own a Harvest Right freeze dryer the combination of the two would be powerful!

  15. If you are at the point where you are planning on helping others, a #10 can could easily be transformed into an easily stored, and distributed 72 hour kit. If packed correctly a #10 can could hold quite a bit of small but vital items. By adding a P-38 duck taped to the lid and then filling the can with a few vitals such as a couple sealed mylar bags with dehydrated or dry food, a old medicine bottle filled w/ matches, a space blanket, printed instructions on using the empty can for water purification, a track with scripture from your local church, and so on. With a little bit of brainstorming and a couple trips to the dollar store this could be made into a useable low cost 72 hour kit. Of course they would be distributed via your local church to preserve your families OPSEC.

  16. On the re-use of the gallon cans. I can use every single can I can get my hands on. I spray paint them to keep them from rusting. I have drilled 2 holes in the top and put a wire in, to make an egg basket. I have removed top and bottom and used as a collar around tomato plants to keep cut worms away. I have used the can as a water trough for chickens in my chicken tractors. I usually line it with a cut off vinegar jug, to keep the water from rusting the can.

Comments are closed.