Which mason jars are best?
Old-timey general stores got it right with shelf after shelf of jewel-colored preserved fruits and vegetables, plus dry goods kept fresh under an airtight lid. The mason jar makes food preservation possible, but there is a myriad of other uses, too.
Cooks both amateur and professional all agree that the Ball Wide Mouth 10-Pack 16-ounce Mason Jars are the best mason jars in terms of performance, ease of use and durability.
What to know before you buy a mason jar
Canning jars allow you to store and preserve food for many months in either a vacuum-sealed state or in the freezer. There are a few things to consider before you choose the best mason jar for you.
Mason jars come in five sizes: half-pint, pint, quart and half-gallon. There are smaller and larger jars that may refer to themselves as mason jars, but mason jars use a specific lid and thread band system for a top. They have a wider rim, too. Anything else is just a jar.
Style of mouth
Mason jars are available in two mouth styles. Regular mouth mason jars measure 2.75 inches across, and wide mouth mason jars measure 3.38 inches. Wide mouth jars make it easy to not only put food into the jar but to also get it out.
Both styles are equally effective. It’s a matter of preference as to which you choose.
How you plan to use your mason jars will influence the number of jars you buy and the capacity of those jars. If you will primarily use your jars for water baths or pressure canning, you’ll want to go with a reputable brand that is well-suited to that purpose. If your only goal is to store dry goods on shelves, it’s okay to choose a more economical, no-name brand.
What to look for in a quality mason jar
Clear, sturdy glass
The best mason jars come in clear, sturdy glass. Although colored glass is available, stick to clear glass for a water bath, pressure canning and freezer storage. Colored glass is not as strong and can shatter with a sudden change in temperature.
The measurements on the side of a mason jar allow you to not only know how much of something is inside the jar, but also enable you to use the jar as a measuring cup itself. Make sure the measurements are etched in the glass clearly and are easy to read. The best mason jars have measurements in cups, ounces and milliliters.
The seal indicator on a mason jar lid is your best assurance that the food inside will stay safe for up to one year. This button looks like a very minor indentation when properly sealed. You can test the seal by pressing lightly down in the middle after your canned food has cooled. If it makes a popping noise, it is not properly sealed and will need to be reprocessed or eaten immediately.
How much you can expect to spend on mason jars
As with many other durable goods, mason jars are affected by supply and demand as well as supply chain issues. When everything is running smoothly and it is not the height of the canning season, expect to spend around $20 for a dozen mason jars. If there are troubles along the supply chain, this price can double.
Mason jar FAQ
Is water bath canning the only way to preserve food in a mason jar?
A. Water bath canning is the most popular way to use mason jars for food preservation, but there are other ways too. Pressure canners are great for preserving low-acid foods in a mason jar. You can also use your mason jar in the freezer.
Regardless of the method of preservation that you use, make sure to leave at least a ½ inch of space between the lid and the top of the food you are preserving. This allows for expansion in the freezer and release of air when canning.
What are some other possible uses for mason jars?
A. Mason jars have a wide variety of uses around the house. Not only can they be used to preserve food, but they are great for storing everything from leftovers to dry goods. Use a half-gallon jar to whip up a batch of sun tea or ferment large quantities of cabbage for kimchi. A pint jar makes a great container for hand whipping cream and making salad dressings, and a half-pint jar is good for holding small toys, buttons or other small collections.
Mason jars are also ideal vessels for gift-giving, including homemade jams and jellies or DIY baking mixes. They are great for dividing up large quantities of food into single servings, which means they are meal prep champions. The possible uses of mason jars are unlimited.
What’s the best mason jar to buy?
Top mason jar
What you need to know: The quality of Ball mason jars is unparalleled, and these are the best of the best.
What you’ll love: Home canners love the wide mouth for storing larger food. The lid and band can be replaced, and the jars can be used over and over again. They are freezer-, dishwasher- and microwave-safe. The pint-size holds the perfect amount of food.
What you should consider: There is nothing to complain about here. These are first-rate mason jars.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Top mason jar for the money
What you need to know: The price is right for this pack of six mason jars.
What you’ll love: Home canners will recognize the band-and-lid system from their Ball jars. These also have measurements on the outside. The glass is made of soda-lime glass, the same as Ball jars. They have many of the same characteristics of Ball jars — just not the longevity yet.
What you should consider: Some users noted that although the jars are advertised as holding 16 ounces, their actual capacity is much less.
Where to buy: Sold by Amazon
Worth checking out
What you need to know: Ball rounds out the list with a high-quality, regular mouth jar.
What you’ll love: This jar has all of the same great features of the wide mouth jar: lid-and-band system, measurements on the jar and sturdy glass.
What you should consider: The quality of this is high, but the narrow mouth can be more difficult to fill.
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Suzannah Kolbeck writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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