The Ultimate Handbook for Using #10 Cans in Emergency Food Storage

The Ultimate Handbook for Using #10 Cans in Emergency Food Storage

In the realm of emergency food storage, the #10 can stands out as a reliable choice for preserving essentials for the long haul. If you're gearing up for emergencies or simply looking to stock up on essentials, understanding what a #10 can offers is crucial. Let's dive into the world of #10 cans, covering everything from their size to what you can store in them, and how to seal them effectively.

What is a #10 Can?

A #10 can is a cylindrical metal container commonly used for storing food in large quantities. It's named "#10" because it can hold approximately 10 pounds of food, though the actual weight capacity may vary depending on the density of the contents.

How Big Is a #10 Can?

The term "#10" can be a bit misleading, as it doesn't directly denote the weight of the can's contents. Instead, it refers to a standard size widely used for food storage. A #10 can typically measures approximately 6​ 3⁄16 x 7 inches in diameter and height, respectively. In terms of volume, it generally holds around 104 to 117 fluid ounces, which equates to approximately 3 to 3.5 liters.

While the can itself weighs approximately 9 ounces, its capacity can vary depending on what you store inside. Dense items like beans or rice may not completely fill the can to its maximum fluid ounce capacity due to the space they occupy.

Here's a comparison of common can sizes, listed by the ounces they hold and the equivalent cups:

Can Size Ounces Held Cups Held
#1 11 oz. 1 1/3 cups
#1 Tall 16 oz. 2 cups
#2 20 oz. 2 1/2 cups
#2.5 27 – 29 oz. 3 1/2 cups
#3 51 oz. 5 3/4 cups
#5 56 oz. 7 cups
#10 109 – 117 oz. 12-13 cups
#300 14 – 16 oz. 1 1/4 – 1 3/4 cups
#303 16 – 17 oz. 2 cups

It's important to note that can sizes are typically listed based on their liquid capacity, and the actual amount they hold may vary depending on the type of food being stored. Understanding these standard sizes can help you better plan and organize your food storage, whether you're stocking up for emergencies or everyday use.

How Much Food Fits in a #10 Can?

The amount of food that can fit into a #10 can can vary significantly based on the density of the food being stored. For instance, while a #10 can can hold 12 cups (106 oz) of cooked corn, it may only accommodate 9 cups (6 oz) of freeze-dried strawberries due to their differing densities.

Here's a breakdown of how much food fits into a #10 can both by volume and weight:

Food By Amount (Cups) By Weight (oz)
Soup stock 13 cups 117 oz
Cooked corn 12 cups 106 oz
Whole peeled tomatoes 12.5 cups 105 oz
Salt 10 cups 104 oz
Rice 12.5 cups 90 oz
Milk powder 11.6 cups 55 oz
Soup powder 10.5 cups 50 oz
Oats 11 cups 39 oz
Egg powder 11 cups 33 oz
Peanut butter powder 8.4 cups 32 oz
Freeze-dried beef 11 cups 28 oz
Freeze-dried strawberries 9 cups 6 oz


This variation underscores the importance of considering both volume and weight when determining how much food to store in #10 cans. Depending on your storage needs and preferences, you may opt for lighter, more compact items or denser, more filling options. Understanding the capacity of #10 cans for different foods can help you make informed decisions when stocking up for emergencies or long-term storage.

What Are #10 Cans Made From?

Most #10 cans are crafted from tinplate, a type of steel coated with a thin layer of tin. This process, known as electrolytic deposition, results in what is commonly referred to as electrolytic tin-coated steel.

Tin-coated steel offers several advantages for food storage purposes. It is exceptionally sturdy, providing robust protection for the contents within. Moreover, it is non-toxic and non-corrosive, ensuring that the integrity of the stored food remains intact over extended periods.

To further enhance their protective properties, some #10 cans may feature an additional lining. This lining, often made from materials such as acrylic or R enamel, serves as a barrier between the food and the metal of the can. This barrier helps prevent any potential interaction between the food and the can's metal, which could lead to corrosion or other undesirable effects. It's essential to note that unlined cans are typically suitable only for storing dry foods, as they lack this protective barrier.

While #10 cans primarily utilize tin-coated steel, it's worth mentioning that cans made from alternative materials like aluminum or stainless steel do exist. However, these alternatives are less common and generally not recommended for food storage purposes due to their potential to interact with certain foods or affect the taste and quality of the contents.

Understanding the composition of #10 cans and the materials used in their construction is crucial for ensuring the safety and longevity of your stored food items. By selecting cans made from suitable materials and equipped with appropriate linings, you can maintain the freshness and quality of your emergency food supply effectively.

What Can You Store in #10 Cans?

One of the greatest advantages of #10 cans is their versatility in storing a wide range of foods. Here are some common items suitable for #10 can storage:

  1. Dry Goods: Rice, beans, pasta, oats, flour, sugar, and dried fruits.
  2. Powdered Ingredients: Powdered milk, powdered eggs, and powdered cheese.
  3. Dehydrated Foods: Dehydrated vegetables, fruits, and meats.
  4. Liquids: Soups, sauces, broths, and cooking oils (ensure proper sealing for liquids).
  5. Emergency Essentials: Survival foods, first-aid supplies, and emergency kits.

How to Seal #10 Cans

Properly sealing #10 cans is crucial for preserving the quality and freshness of the stored food. Here's a simple guide to sealing #10 cans effectively:

  1. Prepare the Contents: Ensure that the food items are clean, dry, and free from any contaminants.
  2. Fill the Can: Fill the #10 can with the desired food items, leaving some headspace at the top for sealing.
  3. Sealing Process: Use a commercial can sealer or a manual can sealer to seal the can securely. If using a manual sealer, follow the manufacturer's instructions carefully.
  4. Labeling: Clearly label each sealed can with the contents and the date of packaging for easy identification and rotation.
  5. Storage: Store the sealed #10 cans in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and moisture to maintain optimal freshness.

Pros and Cons of #10 Cans for Food Storage

#10 cans offer a convenient and reliable solution for long-term food storage, but like any storage method, they come with their own set of advantages and limitations.


  1. Durability: #10 cans are constructed from sturdy tin-coated steel, making them highly durable and resistant to damage during storage and transportation.

  2. Longevity: The protective coating and sealing mechanisms of #10 cans help preserve the freshness and quality of stored food items for extended periods, often lasting several years or more.

  3. Versatility: These cans come in a standard size that accommodates a wide range of food items, including dry goods, liquids, and even powdered or dehydrated foods.

  4. Space Efficiency: #10 cans are designed to stack neatly, maximizing storage space in pantries, emergency shelters, or other storage areas.

  5. Protection: The sturdy construction and protective linings of #10 cans help shield food from external elements such as light, moisture, and pests, ensuring food safety and integrity.


  1. Limited Portion Control: Due to their large size, #10 cans may not be suitable for individuals or small households seeking smaller portion sizes or more diverse meal options.

  2. Bulkiness: While stackable, #10 cans can take up a significant amount of space, especially when storing multiple cans of various food items.

  3. Opening and Re-Sealing: Once opened, #10 cans may require alternative storage methods, as resealing them may not always be practical or effective, potentially leading to food waste.

  4. Weight: The weight of #10 cans, particularly when filled with dense items like beans or rice, can make them cumbersome to handle and transport, especially in emergency situations.

  5. Limited Compatibility: While suitable for a wide range of foods, #10 cans may not be the best choice for certain types of perishable or highly acidic foods that can react with the metal.

Understanding the pros and cons of #10 cans can help you make informed decisions when planning your emergency food storage strategy. By weighing these factors against your specific needs and circumstances, you can effectively utilize #10 cans to ensure your readiness for unexpected situations while minimizing potential drawbacks.

How to Seal #10 Cans at Home

Sealing #10 cans at home can be a cost-effective way to preserve your own food or store bulk ingredients for long-term use. While commercial can-sealing machines are available for larger-scale operations, here's a simple method to seal #10 cans at home using manual tools:

Materials Needed:

  1. #10 Cans: Ensure you have clean, empty #10 cans ready for sealing.
  2. Lids: Obtain compatible lids for the #10 cans. These are often sold separately and may come with a built-in sealant or lining.
  3. Can Sealer: Invest in a handheld can sealer specifically designed for #10 cans. These sealers are typically affordable and readily available online or at specialty kitchen supply stores.
  4. Can Opener: A sturdy can opener will be necessary if your #10 cans do not come with pre-cut lids.

Step-by-Step Process:

  1. Prepare the Cans: Ensure that your #10 cans are clean and dry before sealing. Any residue or moisture can compromise the integrity of the seal.

  2. Fill the Cans: Fill each #10 can with the desired food items, leaving a small amount of headspace at the top to accommodate the sealing process. Be mindful of the type of food being stored and avoid overfilling the cans, which could hinder the sealing process.

  3. Place the Lid: Once filled, place a lid over the opening of each can. Ensure that the lid fits securely and evenly over the rim of the can.

  4. Seal the Can: Using a manual can sealer, carefully position the sealer over the lid and press down firmly to crimp the edges of the lid onto the can. Work your way around the perimeter of the lid, applying consistent pressure to create a tight seal. Repeat this process for each can.

  5. Inspect the Seals: After sealing, visually inspect each can to ensure that the lids are securely attached and there are no signs of leakage or compromise. Any cans with imperfect seals should be resealed or discarded to prevent spoilage.

  6. Label and Store: Once sealed, label each #10 can with the contents and the date of sealing for easy identification and rotation. Store the sealed cans in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight and moisture to maintain optimal freshness.

By following these steps, you can effectively seal #10 cans at home, providing a reliable method for preserving your own food or storing bulk ingredients for future use. While manual sealing requires some effort and attention to detail, the process is straightforward and accessible for home use.

After sealing your #10 cans, explore creative ways to repurpose empty food cans with our guide on 10 Creative Uses for Empty Food Cans: From Trash to Treasure.

Don't forget, you can conveniently purchase your #10 can food kits at SafeCastle for the lowest prices available

Back to blog

Leave a comment