Pressure Canning a Whole Turkey: The Effortless Way to Perfectly Cooked Poultry

Are you tired of dry, overcooked turkey? Say goodbye to disappointing holiday meals and hello to juicy, tender, and flavorful turkey with the pressure canning method. This unconventional approach might raise some eyebrows, but it’s a game-changer for those seeking consistently delicious results without the hassle of traditional roasting.

What is Pressure Canning?

Pressure canning is a method of preserving food by heating it to a high temperature while maintaining a specific pressure level. This process effectively kills any harmful bacteria, mold, and yeast, ensuring the safety and longevity of the canned goods. While traditionally used for canning fruits, vegetables, and other shelf-stable items, pressure canning can also be employed to cook and preserve meats, including whole turkeys.

Why Pressure Can a Turkey?

Pressure canning a whole turkey might seem like an unconventional idea, but it offers several advantages over traditional roasting methods:

  1. Consistent Doneness: One of the biggest challenges with roasting a whole turkey is achieving even doneness throughout the bird. By the time the thickest parts reach the desired internal temperature, the breast meat is often overcooked and dry. With pressure canning, the entire turkey cooks evenly and consistently, resulting in juicy and tender meat from the breast to the drumsticks.

  2. Hands-Off Cooking: Roasting a turkey requires constant monitoring and temperature adjustments to ensure it doesn’t overcook or dry out. With pressure canning, you simply prepare the turkey, seal it in the canner, and let it do its magic. No basting, flipping, or temperature adjustments needed, freeing you up to focus on other holiday preparations.

  3. Locked-In Flavor: The high pressure and steam environment of the pressure canner seal in the natural flavors and juices of the turkey, preventing them from evaporating or drying out during the cooking process.

  4. Longer Storage Life: Properly canned turkey can be safely stored at room temperature for up to a year, making it a convenient option for meal prep or stocking your pantry with ready-to-eat protein.

Step-by-Step Guide to Pressure Canning a Whole Turkey


  • 1 whole turkey (12-14 lbs)
  • Salt, pepper, and desired seasonings
  • Water or broth (for the canner)


  • Pressure canner (with a capacity of at least 16 quarts)
  • Canning jars (quart or pint size, depending on your preference)
  • Jar lifter
  • Canning funnel
  • Canning utensils (e.g., lid lifter, bubble remover)


  1. Prepare the Turkey: Thaw the turkey completely if frozen, and remove the giblets and neck from the cavity. Pat the turkey dry with paper towels and season it generously with salt, pepper, and your desired spices or herbs.

  2. Pack the Turkey: Carefully place the seasoned turkey into a clean, sterilized canning jar or jars (you may need to separate the turkey into multiple jars if it’s too large for a single jar). Leave 1 inch of headspace at the top of the jar(s).

  3. Add Liquid: If desired, you can add a small amount of broth or water to the jar(s), but be careful not to exceed the recommended headspace. The turkey will release its own juices during the canning process.

  4. Seal the Jars: Using a damp paper towel or a clean cloth, wipe the rims of the jars to remove any residue or seasoning. Place the lids and rings on the jars, ensuring they are secure but not overly tight.

  5. Prepare the Pressure Canner: Follow the manufacturer’s instructions to prepare your pressure canner. Add the recommended amount of water to the canner and set the canning rack in place.

  6. Load the Canner: Using a jar lifter, carefully place the sealed jars into the canner, making sure they are spaced evenly and not touching each other or the sides of the canner.

  7. Process the Turkey: Secure the lid on the pressure canner and process the turkey according to the recommended time and pressure for your altitude. For example, at sea level, process pint jars for 75 minutes and quart jars for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.

  8. Cool and Store: Once the processing time is complete, allow the pressure canner to cool naturally until the pressure is fully released. Remove the jars from the canner and let them cool completely on a wire rack or a towel-lined surface. Once cooled, check the seals, remove the rings, and store the jars in a cool, dark place.

Tips and Tricks

  • Use a Fresh, High-Quality Turkey: Start with a fresh, never-frozen turkey for the best results. Frozen turkeys can release more liquid during the canning process, leading to a watery final product.

  • Pack the Turkey Tightly: Ensure the turkey is packed tightly into the canning jar(s) to minimize the amount of air trapped inside. This will help prevent discoloration and maintain the turkey’s quality during storage.

  • Consider Brining: While not mandatory, brining the turkey before canning can help keep it moist and flavorful. Simply soak the turkey in a saltwater solution for 12-24 hours before seasoning and canning.

  • Adjust Seasoning After Canning: The pressure canning process can sometimes mute or alter the flavors of seasonings. Consider adding additional seasoning or herbs when serving the canned turkey for maximum flavor.

  • Follow Canning Safety Guidelines: Pressure canning requires strict adherence to safety guidelines to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria. Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions and consult trusted canning resources for proper processing times and pressures.

Serving Suggestions

Pressure-canned turkey is incredibly versatile and can be used in a variety of dishes. Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Shred or slice the turkey and serve it on sandwiches, salads, or in wraps.
  • Use the canned turkey to create soups, stews, or casseroles for a quick and easy meal.
  • Serve the turkey with your favorite holiday sides, such as mashed potatoes, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.
  • Incorporate the canned turkey into pot pies, turkey tetrazzini, or other baked dishes.
  • Use the canned turkey to create a delicious turkey salad or turkey à la king.


Pressure canning a whole turkey might seem unconventional, but it’s a game-changer for those seeking perfectly cooked, juicy, and flavorful poultry. With the hands-off cooking approach and consistent results, this method takes the stress out of holiday meal preparations. Plus, the extended shelf life of canned turkey makes it a convenient option for meal prepping or stocking your pantry with ready-to-eat protein. Give pressure canning a try, and experience the joy of effortlessly tender and delicious turkey any time of year.


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