For anyone who wants to keep a stockpile of canned foods on hand, it’s important you follow certain tips for storing them, especially in hot climates.
Canned foods are a lifesaver when a situation arises that we need to be able to have excess food on hand that is easy to store and even easier to prepare. Whether it’s a pandemic, a power outage, or something worse, having a good supply of canned food items is always a pantry staple. But did you know that even canned foods can eventually go bad, especially when temperatures rise? There are some important things you need to consider when packing those cans into your pantry.
Here are three tips for storing canned food in a hot climate:
- Try to keep the cans in the coolest spot possible in your home
- Check the expiration dates and rotate cans as necessary
- Use aluminum containers over glass containers when you can
Canned goods have been a staple in our homes, restaurants, schools, and business for over one hundred years and seem to be in higher demand than ever before. Canned foods are usually inexpensive, easy to attain, and oftentimes are just as high in nutrients as the cooked version of what’s inside them. But the idea that canned foods will last indefinitely is one to be challenged, especially in hot climates where the food inside the can will be exposed to extreme heat or sun. Let’s learn more about canned foods and what tips are available to help us preserve their shelf life as long as possible.
I love gardening and recently learned how to can my own vegetables when they are ready to come off the vine and into my home. While researching the canning process, I found a ton of information about storing canned foods, whether they be home-canned or commercially canned. Hopefully, some of my tips will help your canned foods last as long as you need them to.
Tips for Storing Canned Food in a Hot Climate
Though the first canned foods were first invented in France during Napoleon’s reign, they became popular in the United States in the early 1800s, as settlers began moving out west to discover new land. As these frontier people needed a way to carry food easily and for long periods across mountains and plains, the concept of food in a can became an important one.
The first canned foods came in bulky tins and were hard to open. When the can opener was invented in 1858, it was a game changer.
As the demand for canned foods grew, more American businessmen jumped on the bandwagon. In 1869, Campbell’s Soup Company was begun, and in 1892, Del Monte gave the world the first can of peaches.
Today, there are few pantries that don’t contain at least one can of Campbell’s soup or a Del Monte product or two. Canned goods have continued to prove to be an important staple in our lives, especially during times when getting to the grocery store is challenging or near impossible.
Part of what makes canned goods so desirable is that they maintain their nutritional value almost to the same level as cooked food can.
In fact, in some cases, it is believed that a food that has gone through the canning process is actually richer in nutrients, because of the way canning works. Canned tomatoes are a good example of this.
All this said, there can be downsides to canned foods. Though they were invented to be used as a food source for individuals who have limited or no access to other types of food, canned foods are still subject to spoilage under certain circumstances.
The biggest enemy of a can of food is heated. Excessive heat can change the nutrient level of the food inside the can, making it less ideal as a viable source of the necessary vitamins and minerals we all need to sustain life.
Even worse, too much heat for too long can also spoil the food inside the can, making it not only less healthy, but not edible at all.
So, how do you store your cans in hot climates, in order to make sure the food continues to be nutritious and edible? Read on to find out.
1. Try to Keep the Cans in the Coolest Spot Possible in Your Home
Anyone who is planning to keep a stockpile of cans and lives in a climate that tends to be hotter than most, will want to follow this tip above all else to ensure their canned food stays intact and is ready to eat when you finally go to open that can.
Finding the coolest spot possible in your storage space will go a long way toward keeping your canned foods fresh.
Most canned food will not start to lose nutrient quality until after the can has been exposed to temperatures above 75 degrees for a consistent period of time. The food inside the can will still be fine to eat, but some of the nutritional value will be lost if the temperature of the storage areas tends to stay above 75 degrees.
More importantly, however, is if your canned food is kept in an area where the temperatures reach 100 degrees and above, the food inside the can may spoil and no longer be appropriate for consumption.
A day or two at high temperatures like this won’t ruin your entire storage arsenal of canned foods. But, if you experience a power outage that lasts for a week or more, and the cans are left in an area where temperatures climbed above 100 degrees, you may need to be prepared to throw out the entire supply.
Finding an extremely cool spot in your home – a cellar, the back of a pantry with airflow, or even burying your cans in a shady spot in your yard – can keep your cans viable, even when the temperatures climb to harmful levels.
2. Check Expiration Dates and Rotate Cans as Necessary
Here’s another great tip if you live in an area where the climate heats up frequently and you are worried about the integrity of your canned goods.
Even if you’ve found the coolest spot possible to keep your nonperishable food items, it’s still a good habit to frequently check expiration dates on your canned goods and rotate them as necessary.
It’s easy to buy a new stockpile of beans or soup when they are on sale and shove them into our pantry or storage unit, not thinking about the cans behind them.
But when a crisis happens, you may not remember which ones were purchased the most recently, and which ones have been sitting on your shelf for a while.
All canned foods come stamped with a “best used by” date. Remembering to look for these and place the cans in the front that need to be used first is a good practice to start, especially when you live in a hot climate where even canned goods can spoil more quickly.
3. Use Aluminum Containers Over Glass Containers When You Can
Another important tip for storing canned foods in hot climates is to try and buy items that are packaged in aluminum containers over glass ones whenever possible.
Glass reflects light and will heat up more quickly than aluminum. Food items that may be stored in a glass container will break down and spoil more easily when there is too much sunlight or exposure to heat.
Aluminum is made to withstand the elements, and heat is no exception to this. As I said earlier, the temperatures will really have to climb before the food stored in an aluminum can is affected, whereas glass containers are more vulnerable to heat and sunlight and not ideal for long-term storage.
Aluminum is also much lighter than glass and easier if you need to transport it.
And, as we already know, glass is more fragile than aluminum. If you really want sustainable, long-term storage, try to find food items that don’t come packaged in glass.
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