If you don’t have a pot or a pan to cook canned food, you might want to know if it is safe to heat canned food in the can.
It is not safe to heat canned food in the can since harmful compounds like BPA, nickel, and chromium can be released into the food. Though you might not suffer any immediate ill effects, you could increase the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer by eating food heated in the can.
I like bringing canned food with me on camping trips since they are easy to carry, store, and eat. Though heating canned food in the can might be convenient, I try to always have cooking equipment with me to avoid the dangers of heating food in a can.
Is It Safe To Heat Canned Food In The Can?
I’m not the best cook in the world, so I often eat canned food when I’m at home, in the mountains, or just about anywhere else.
Canned foods can be an excellent emergency food resource when you don’t have normal access to food.
They can sometimes last for several years depending on the contents of the can and its storage conditions.
Though I enjoy eating certain canned foods without heating them up, some canned foods taste much better to me when they are heated.
Eating food in an unaltered can is generally safe, but eating food in a can that has been heated can be unsafe since toxic chemicals may be released from the can.
Many canned foods today have a protective lining made with BPA (bisphenol A) between the food and the steel can.
Canned food with this type of can may release BPA, nickel, and other hazardous compounds when heated at high temperatures.
Eating food that was heated in a can might not cause immediate adverse reactions, but it might cause long-term health like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and elevated blood pressure.
Chemicals released from a heated can might also increase the risk of child development problems and certain types of cancer.
To reduce the risk of illness, you should look for canned foods with cans that are BPA-free.
Though you should avoid heating any type of canned food in the can, your chances of getting sick should be much less if you heat the food in a BPA-free can.
You keep in mind that toxic chemicals such as nickel and chromium can be released from a BPA-free steel can, so heating canned food in the can should still be avoided.
If you decide to heat food in a BPA-free can, you should remove the lid or poke holes in it to prevent the can from exploding.
You should also remove the label so it doesn't catch on fire and release harmful smoke around your cooking area.
You should slowly cook the food with minimal heat to keep the temperature against the can as low as possible.
You should definitely avoid heating unopened canned foods under any circumstances as the pressure from the heat could cause the can to explode.
Not only can you lose or contaminate the food, you can severely hurt people nearby due to fast and sudden projections from the can.
Canned food should not be heated in a microwave since dangerous metal reactions can occur that might lead to sparks and full-on fires.
What Are Other Potential Dangers Of Canned Food?
Before eating any type of canned food, you should make sure that there are no holes, cracks, or other ways oxygen could leak into the can.
Even if you are able to heat the canned food in a pot or pan, you should make sure your canned food is damaged or past its expiration date.
Though I prefer heating certain types of canned food to make it taste better, heating it may be pointless if the food is spoiled.
When opening canned foods, you should keep your eye out for small bits of metal that may have broken off of the lid.
To avoid having scraps of metal in your food, you should open your canned food with a proper can opener or use improvised can-opening tools like knives with extra care.
Striking a can with heavy force may be required to open canned food with a hammer, rock, or some other blunt object.
Before eating food in a can, make sure to remove all pieces of metal that may have fallen in so they don’t get stuck in your lips, mouth, or throat.
Ingesting even the tiniest pieces of metal might cause you significant gastrointestinal distress, which likely won’t bode well if medical care is out of reach.
If you’re not sure if certain canned foods are safe to eat, you should look for the expiration date on the can and make sure it hasn’t passed.
How Can I Safely Consume Canned Food?
Before consuming canned food you want to heat, the food should be removed from the can and heated in a separate cooking tool such as a pot or pan.
You should also read the label for preparation instructions and any other information that is relevant to that can of food.
If you're in a very tight situation and don't have the ability to get much food, eating canned food that is slightly past its expiration date might be worth the risk.
Canned foods with “Sell By” or “Use By” dates may not have precise expiration dates, so they will likely be safe to eat for a short period after the expiration date.
Heating may be recommended to enhance the food’s flavor, but it will likely not be required to safely consume the food.
Does Canned Food Need To Be Heated?
I usually don’t enjoy eating unheated food of any kind, but unheated canned food is often my best food option when I’m not in a place with easy access to clean food.
In general, canned foods are pre-cooked or prepared in a way that makes it safe to eat the food straight from the can.
Certain foods such as canned vegetables like green beans and corn might be safe to eat in a can if you don't heat it.
Even though some foods like soups and spaghetti may be odd to eat unheated, it will typically be safe to eat those foods straight from the can.
Though some foods may not taste so great if eaten without being cooked, it’s good to have a safe and easy option for eating the food when cooking isn’t possible.
Since I don't like to eat certain canned foods like tomato soup or beef stew without heating them, I try to store canned foods that are typically eaten unheated such as tuna fish, olives, and mandarin oranges.
Pickled canned foods can be a good option when heating isn’t possible since they are typically not meant to be heated before eating.
Pickled foods like sauerkraut can also help to add good bacteria to your diet, which can be beneficial for digestion.
About THE AUTHOR
I have over a decade of experience in food and beverage management, including a ServSafe food safety qualification. As part of this qualification, I have been professionally trained in safe food storage.Read More About Mark Walker