Sterilization in cans

Everything you need to know about sterilization of food packaged in cans

Sterilization in cans

You have probably seen on the shelves of your supermarket a wide variety of preserves packaged in cans. In past times, cans were a great innovation that still persists today. In this article we will tell you the history of this metal container and then focus on its characteristics when it comes to pasteurizing or sterilizing them.

The origin of canned food

First of all, let’s take a brief overview about the history of this type of metal container used to preserve foodstuffs.

It all started with Nicolas Appert, a French pastry chef-confectioner who, at the end of the 18th century, devised a simple method of preservation. If you want to know more about it, you can find out all the details in our article about the History of Canned Food.

Fast forward to 1810, when Philippe de Girard, a French engineer and inventor, based on Appert’s discoveries, decided to replace glass jars with tin containers. He partnered with an English businessman named Peter Durand, who patented the tin can. This patent was sold to Bryan Donkin and John Hall, who in 1813 began the commercial manufacture of canned preserves for the British Navy.

At first, those cans were sealed with lead solder, a highly toxic material that wreaked havoc at that time. One of the most famous cases was the Arctic expedition of John Franklin, in which the crew was poisoned after consuming canned food for three years.

The first can opener was invented in the 1850s and more than a century later, in 1963, cans with the easy-opener system were invented.

Today, cans are made from materials that are completely safe for health and can maintain the full flavor and quality of preserved foods for many years.

Tipos de latas para esterilización

Types of cans used for food preservation

Cans are containers made of tinplate, which is a sheet of iron or steel, tin-plated on both sides.

In addition to tinplate, TFS (Tin Free Steel), which is chrome-coated steel, is also used for food packaging and is mainly destined to produce lids and bottoms, two-piece cans and crown caps.

Today, aluminum is largely replacing these types of steels. Especially, in trays of precooked foods and terrines for custards or yogurts.

Aluminum is a metallic chemical element, with atomic number 13, which has several industrial applications. It is produced from bauxite, which is an aggregate of various aluminum minerals. Although it is very abundant in the earth’s crust, it is a toxic element, therefore, aluminum containers for food preservation must have an internal coating that prevents any possible migration of this metal into foods.

Cans, irrespective of their material composition, come in a duo or trio of parts: container and lid or bottom plate, body and lid.

And in terms of shape, they can be:

  • Round
  • Rectangular
  • Oval
Latas de conservas alimentarias

Advantages and disadvantages of cans for the production of canned food and ready meals

Aluminum is replacing tinplate because it is a lighter and more malleable material. Aluminum can be processed in thinner sheets, which saves costs, both in production and transportation. But in terms of energy, it is a very expensive material to produce.

Both tinplate and aluminum containers withstand the high temperatures of sterilization and remain unaltered over time. Both materials are corrosion resistant and protect from air and light. They also cool quickly because metal is a good thermal conductor.

Another advantage is that these containers can be perfectly recycled and reused, although the aluminum recycling process is simpler because the components do not have to be separated.

As a disadvantage, it should be noted that the content cannot be viewed. And, in the case of aluminum, it can end up affecting the taste of acidic foods.

Did you know that all you need is a magnet to differentiate whether a container is made of steel or aluminum? Tinplate is a magnetic metal while aluminum is not.

If you still don’t know which type of container is best for your gourmet preserves or ready-made meals, take a look at this article and find out which are the most appropriate containers for canned food production.

Canned food and ready meals in cans

The most common gourmet preserves or ready meals that can be found in cans are:

These products come in a range of packaging sizes, starting from small 115-gram options to larger quantities exceeding 1 kilogram, accommodating various consumer needs and preferences.