What Is a #10 Can? | Build a Stash

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Key Takeaways

  • A #10 can refers to the 6​ 3/1 by 7 inches size can commonly use for food storage.
  • #10 cans are made from tinplate and are lined when used for storing wet foods.
  • #10 cans are commonly used for storing foods in preparation for emergencies and doomsday.
  • #10 cans can hold about 13 cups and weigh 104 to 120 ounces.
  • Food stored in #10 cans can last for years when stored properly.

Ever seen those giant cans of beans while making your Costco run and wanted to know more about them, like how much they weigh and hold?

#10, or ten-pound cans, are large tinplate containers typically used for food storage. The name #10 is the standard can size, measuring 6​ 3/1 by 7 inches, and holds about 13 cups. The cans weigh between 6 1/2 lbs. and 7 lbs. 5 oz. when full or about 9 oz. empty.

As someone who insists on having a large amount of food in case of an emergency, I am very familiar with #10 cans and how they are used. Below I will touch on what a #10 can is made from, how much food it can hold, and how it compares to the other standard can sizes.

Table of contents


What is a # 10 Can?

A # 10 can is technically pronounced ten-pound can. It is a large tin can that holds about 13 cups of food or other items for long-term storage. These cans are popular among survivalists and those preparing fallout shelters in case of disasters.

#10 cans are a common sight in warehouses and wholesale clubs like Sam’s Club and Costco, where people buy food in bulk.

Why is it Called a #10 Can?

Food cans were invented in the 1800s, after in 1795, Napoleon offered 12,000 Franks to anyone who could come up with a method for storing food long-term; as time progressed, canning plants popped up around England and the United States, with more and more foods begin canned.

However, when the cans first hit the market, there was no standard. Food manufacturers made cans as needed to fit the items they sold. However, within about ten years, food manufacturers realized that standard sizes were coming into play and that setting standards could have economic benefits. The #10 was given to the can measuring 6 3/1 by 7 inches.

What Food is Commonly Stored in # 10 Cans?

#10 cans can hold any food; however, they are generally used for dry goods such as:

  • Beans
  • Corn
  • Oats
  • Soup
  • Powdered Milk
  • Freeze-Dried Foods
  • Rice
  • Grains

Of course, you will see wet foods sold in #10 cans, but if you plan to self-can food, this may not be the way to go. Many of the #10 cans available for canning do not have a lining to keep the can from corroding. If the can does become rusty, it will taint the food and possibly cause leaks.

What is a #10 Can Made From?

#10 cans are typically made from tinplate and are the preferred choice for many, thanks to their durability and non-toxic nature. Steel is electrochemically covered with a thin layer of tin, creating an impermeable barrier that stops food from coming into contact with metal components - which could lead to corrosion. Furthermore, these containers can be lined inside using acrylic or enamel to protect against unwanted reactions between substances.

Although other materials such as aluminum and stainless steel may occasionally appear on shelves too, they should not be selected over traditional tinplate when it comes time for storing edibles safely.

How Much Will a #10 Can Hold?

A #10 can will usually hold about 12 to 13 cups. The can dimensions are 6 3/1 by 7 inches, giving you plenty of space for food. The weight will vary by the density of the food. The same holds true for the cups, as the foods are not solid and will have space between them. Here are a few examples:

Food Cups Held Weight in oz.
Rice 12.5 90
Soup 13 117
Salt 10 104
Powdered Milk 11.6 55
Oats 11 39
Powdered Peanut Butter 8.4 32
Egg Powder 11 33

How Does a #10 Can Compare to Other Can Sizes?

#10 is one of the many cans which belong to the U.S. Standard for can sizes. It is the largest in terms of volume and weight. Here is how it “stacks up” to other can sizes.

Can Size Cups Held Approximate Weight in oz.
#1 or Picnic 1 ¼ 10 ½ to 12
#300 1 ¾ 14 to 16
#303 2 16 to 17
#2 2 ½ 20
#2 ½ 3 ½ 27 to 29
#3 5 ¾ 51
#10 12 104 to 120

How Long Can Food Last in a #10 Can?

According to the USDA, many shelf-stable foods are food forever. This includes oats, dehydrated fruits, vegetables, and proteins. However, keep in mind that this is only if the can is free from rust, dents, and swelling. The USDA also provides a handy guide on shelf-stable food safety, perfect for canning enthusiasts.

Of course, this will vary depending on the contents of the can, storage conditions, including temperature, and how the can was sealed. If you purchase a store-bought and factory-sealed can, it will come with an expiration date. This date signifies when the food will lose flavor and no longer be at peak freshness. It does not mean the food is bad after this date. As mentioned, many shelf-stable foods can last for years and years. However, it is best to use your own judgment. Do not eat any food which smells rancid, has mold, or looks gross.

Also, factory-sealed foods will typically last longer than home-canned ones as the canning process is stricter and less prone to contamination.

To ensure your canned foods last as long as possible, store them in a cool and dark location between 55 to 70 degrees. This allows the food to stay cool and away from damaging heat. Also, store them where they will be safe from dents and rust.

What are the Pros and Cons of #10 Cans?

So, are #10 cans right for your needs? Here is a quick rundown of the pros and cons of using #10 cans for food storage.

Pros of #10 Cans

  • Cans are the best way to store your emergency food because they do not let any light, oxygen, or moisture pass through.
  • If you store them properly, the food inside will last for years without going bad.
  • Cans are very durable and can survive natural disasters like tornados without damage.
  • Cans will hold a large amount of food, making them perfect for families.

Cons of #10 Cans

  • The can may be too large for a single person. In addition, perishable items will go bad if not consumed within a few hours or stored in a refrigerator.
  • Once the can has been opened, it cannot be resealed.
  • #10 cans are one of the most expensive for DIY canners to purchase.
  • They are not ideal for wet foods unless lined, and these can be tricky to come by.