What is a #10 Can? The Basics for Preppers

| | ,

What is a #10 Can? The Basics for Preppers

If you are new to prepping you have probably heard of a #10 can. This staple for survivalists and preppers has long been considered a great option for emergency food storage. But exactly what is a #10 can and how does it differ from normal soup cans?

In this article, I will explain what a #10 can is, why it is a great option for long term food storage, and how long food lasts in a #10 can. Once we’re done, you’ll know whether a prepping plan that includes a #10 can is right for you and your family. So let’s get right to it!

History of the #10 Can

Did you know that we can trace the history of canning to Napoleon, who needed an effective food container for his army? Interesting but true! And a direct descendent of these original canned varieties of food is the #10 can.

Now you may be wondering how from such an auspicious start we got the (quite unimaginative) name of #10 can. Well, it is basically a naming convention from the turn of the 19th century, when canned foods became popularized. Sizes can be as small as #1 (which is about 11 fluid ounces) to the #10 can. You are probably most familiar with the #2 can, which is the size of choice for canned beans, corn etc.

This great chart from The Spruce gives you a visual representation of the various sizes of cans.

Now I would wager that you have probably seen a #10 can while going to the supermarket, or more likely at a discount wholesaler. It measures 6.25 in. X 7 in. and is made out of steel, often with a coating of tin. This material is very strong but also non-corrosive.

Now that we’ve described a #10 can, do you know how it looks? Well, think about the large cans of ketchup you might find at Costco.

Now that you know what a #10 can is, let’s move on to why it is considered such a great option for food storage.

Why is a #10 Can Great for Food Storage?

The #10 can is known to be a highly effective container for storing survival foods, which has made them popular with seasoned preppers. But why?

Let’s start with the amount of food the #10 can will hold, which is key for any long term food storage plan. A common misconception I’ve heard is that it can hold 10 pounds. This is not true- #10 cans can store up to 117 fluid ounces, or about 13 cups. This is far more than your average soup cans.

**As an aside, keep in mind that it is not entirely accurate to talk about how much “weight” a given container holds. Think about the difference between a contained filled with water and one filled with beef jerky.

Because of its size, you’ll often see. #10 cans used for dehydrated emergency food sold in bulk.

Augason Farms Dried Whole Egg Product
10,160 Reviews
Augason Farms Dried Whole Egg Product
  • 72 Servings
  • 5,760 Calories
  • Perfect for food storage, emergencies, survival, camping, and everyday use
  • Certified Gluten Free
  • Up to a 10 year shelf life

Anyway, #10 cans are made from high-grade metals and are airtight, which helps preserve food in any kind of emergency. A properly sealed can is pest proof and offers great protection from outside contaminants. It is essentially a “set it and forget it” option for shelf-stable foods.

Cons of #10 Can

While #10 cans are undoubtedly a great option for storing food, it does have drawbacks. First of all, it will be incredibly hard to find being sold commercially. But even if you get access to them you’ll run into a few issues.

First and foremost, they will have to be sealed with a can sealer. That will set you back about $500-$1000. This can get pretty expensive, especially when you can buy pre-made food already stored in #10 cans. So packing and storing your own #10 cans are really a backup option. Your first line of defense should still be normal canned foods, like soup cans.

Furthermore, if you are in a true bug out situation, a #10 can will weigh you down. And even in the comfort of your own home, you need a rather large family to make using a #10 can economical.

How Long Does Food Last in #10 Cans?

So exactly how long does food last in #10 cans? Well, it depends on what kind of food we’re talking about. Less acidic food like soups, beans, and corn will generally last 2 to 5 years according to the USDA. More acidic foods like most juices or tomato sauce will last closer to 12 to 18 months.

But of course this assumes you are buying your canned food appropriately. As a rule of thumb, NEVER buy canned food that is bulging, dented, or rusted. This will ensure that you get the maximum shelf life from your purchase.

If you are looking for truly long lasting food stored in a #10 can, you can go with freeze dried food, which has a shelf life of over 25 years. Several of the most popular food companies sell their food in the #10 can variety. You can understand why: when you are buying freeze dried food in bulk, there are few options better than the #10 can.

To ensure maximum shelf life, make sure the food is stored in a dry and cool place, which means 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit. Anything above 75 degrees will accelerate the loss of nutrients.

Even with the freeze fried option, once your can is opened, you are exposing your food to moisture. Depending on how the amount of exposure to moisture, your food will last anywhere from 2 to 4 weeks. And remember that you will have to reseal with a plastic lid.

Pro tip: You can preserve your food by resealing in mylar pouches with oxygen absorbers. The video from Guildbrook Farm provides an excellent tutorial.


If you are serious about prepping for a major emergency, we believe #10 cans are a necessary part of your preparations. Not only are they easy to manage, but they are huge in size, and properly handled they have an incredibly long shelf life.

But always keep in mind that proper storage and handling is essential, which will allow food to last over 25 years. If your can is rusting or bulging, your food inside will be compromised.

Related Posts
Related Posts