“M’m! M’m! Good!” Is there anything better than a savory bowl of Campbell’s Chicken Noodle Soup? Both soups and stews are staple dishes during the cold weather months and in times of illness. However, for those who are wanting to consume this cuisine at a cooler temperature or find themselves without the proper tools to warm it up, can you eat canned soup without heating it up? We have the soup-rising details!
You can eat all varieties of canned soups that are fully cooked and ready to eat without the need for heating them up, as long as they have been stored properly. Additionally, vegetable and meat based home canned soups are safe as well.
However, cream-based and starch-filled home-canned soups are not safe for consumption, whether re-cooked or not. This is because dairy, thickeners and heavy starches interfere with heat processing, allowing for the presence of dangerous bacteria that can cause food poisoning, or on rare occasions, death.
Therefore, those ingredients must be left out, prior to canning. Instead, they can be freshly prepared and added into the soup right before serving. This means that these soup varieties will require heating before consumption.
- Safe Consumption Of Shelf-Stable Foods
- Cooking Protocols For Various Soup Types
- Best Practices For Preserving Soup
- Final Thoughts
Safe Consumption Of Shelf-Stable Foods
Professionally Canned Soups
Canned soup, like all other canned foods, is heat processed at 250 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the optimal temperature for killing both Clostridium botulinum bacteria and the spores that it creates to protect itself. Then, once the products are cooked, they are vacuum-sealed within the cans to preserve them for extended periods of time.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, “commercial canning is done under tightly controlled conditions — careful sanitation and the necessary time and temperature under pressure” are just some of the quality control procedures that these companies use to ensure the safety of their products. Therefore, you can feel safe if you decide to eat canned soup without heating it up!
Low Acid Versus High Acid Ingredients
Additionally, the time frame for canned soup storage directly correlates to the safety of the product. Depending on the type of soup that you hope to conserve, the shelf life can range from 1 to 5 years.
Low-acid foods tend to last longer, whereas highly acidic soups, like the ever-popular tomato basil, will spoil much faster. This is because most bacteria only have the capacity to grow in higher pH environments. A low pH means that the product is highly acidic, and therefore, has a shorter shelf life.
Thus, the life span of canned soup is depends on the ingredients. Thankfully, soup manufacturers take measures to better guarantee that all of their products are safe.
What this means is that your soup is fully cooked and bacteria-free, as long as the cans have been stored in a dry and dark environment at the optimal temperature range and the exterior of the container remains free of damage. Moreover, if it stays within the appropriate window for storage, it is not only safe to eat canned soup without heating it up, but you can also consume it directly out of the can.
IMPORTANT NOTE: The USDA also notes that “dating is for quality, not safety”. Therefore, it is your responsibility as the consumer to pay attention to when you purchased these products and to use them in the advised amount of time.
While many of these soups will stay perfectly edible, certain food types do not last as long as others. This can lead to texture, consistency and flavor changes when items surpass that ideal shelf life. The USDA has a full list of recommended storage times here.
Best of all, both Campbell’s and Progresso soup companies store their products in cans that are BPA-free! This better guarantees the safety of consumers by preventing the incidence of cancers and reproductive issues. Additionally, in the early 2000s, many soup companies started canning their products in microwave-safe, high-density polyethylene soup containers that still feature the stereotypical metal lid and rim.
This more modern form of canning is to remove the need of an alternate container for cooking and consumption. Thus, individuals can safely sip their soups, hot or cold, right out of the specially designed can.
However, if you are using the more vintage-style steel or aluminum cans, consumers should never drink directly from the container. Instead, always use a spoon to prevent an accidental injury from the metal rim.
Home Canned Soups
Canning homemade soups is a convenient way to have food stocked and ready for any occasion while controlling the ingredients. Individuals can safely preserve both vegetable and meat-based soups at home in a can and eat them without heating them up. However, certain ingredients can bring alarming safety issues for consumers. This is because each individual food type has different recommended cooking times and temperatures.
Food Types To Avoid In Canned Homemade Soups
Ingredients like flour and cornstarch are fantastic for giving soup broths a full body and a hearty consistency. Unfortunately, the food experts at Penn State University have conducted studies that show “adding flour or other thickening agents to a product for home canning, prevents the heat from penetrating to the center of the jar interfering with safe processing to destroy the bacterial spores that cause botulism. [Therefore, one should] never add thickening agents to a home-canned product.”
This also applies to high starch foods like pasta, potatoes, barley and rice. Instead, they advise canning these soups without the thickeners or starches. Then, when it is time for consumption, cook and mix in these ingredients immediately before serving.
Additionally, “butter, milk, cream, cheese and other dairy products are low acid foods that should never be home canned. Again, add butter and milk to soup just before serving.”
While this can be a tedious extra step for those who are hoping for ready-made meals, it is a necessary safety measure that will require additional heating before eating.
Cooking Protocols For Various Soup Types
With so many soups to choose from, it can be hard to remember the guidelines for consumption. Thankfully, all brands of professionally prepared canned soup, whether you are eating chicken noodle soup, vegetable soup, meat based varieties or even the classic tomato, are perfectly safe to eat without cooking.
Home canned vegetable soups and vegetable and meat stews also do not require further cooking. Additionally, this guideline will not change with low sodium soups.
Conversely, home canned cream based soups and those that have heavy starch ingredients and thickeners should never be consumed. However, if these items have been left out of the soup recipe, then the canned mixture will need to be cooked again. This can allow the individual to freshly prepare the excluded ingredients and safely add them in when it is time to eat!
Best Practices For Preserving Soup
Soups and stews are extremely eclectic dishes. They can be a mishmash of so many different ingredients. Therefore, when canning soup at home, it is always best to base cook times on the ingredients that need the longest times in controlled heat. Moreover, educators at the University of Minnesota advise always using a pressure cooker in order to avoid bacteria growth. A boiling water bath will not suffice.
Furthermore, “for vegetable soup, fill the jars half full of solids, and add broth allowing 1 inch headspace. There needs to be space for the hot liquid to circulate between the food particles.” Lastly, expect the processing times to take an average of 60 to 90 minutes. Without following these guidelines, it will not be safe to eat canned soup without heating it up first.
The final step in the preservation of home-canned products is the cooling process. A study presented in the research journal titled Food Science & Nutrition found that “most of the lethality during home canning occurred during air cooling, making the cooling of home-canned foods of great importance.”
These half-gallon jars and other larger containers a bad choice for canning. Why? They don’t allow for even cooling of the soup. Therefore, use smaller containers for canning. This will help you to achieve optimal thermal processing.
This is especially important for highly acidic foods that have a higher propensity for bacteria growth. These can include ingredients like pumpkin, zucchini, spinach, kale and tomatoes. Seafood and eggs also tend to be acidic in nature.
If you do make cream-based soups and use ingredients with heavy starches, canning is not a recommended method of preservation. Thankfully, freezing is a fantastic and safe alternative! Researchers note that “although freezing temperatures do not kill bacteria, microbial growth stops in the freezer.” It is also best to store soups in individual serving sizes since you will not be able to refreeze leftovers.
Cold soups like Gazpacho have been popular for centuries, especially in warm weather climates. For those who want to eat cold or ‘raw’ canned soup without heating it up, you are in luck! However, always err on the side of caution with the homemade varieties. It is also best to inquire about the ingredients used to ensure safety and cook them prior to eating.
Furthermore, do not consume soups with damaged packaging. This is especially true if you notice bulging or rust. While inconvenient, the health of you and your loved ones is always the most important thing.
Lastly, the best way to ensure the quality of your canned soups stay intact is to have a ‘first in, first out’ policy. Rotate old products to the front of the shelf every month and throw out home-canned items after a year.
Also, make a point to eat the food that you have purchased! The United States has a major food waste problem with “more than $161 billion worth of food thrown away each year.” Therefore, be a part of the solution, not the problem!
Heidi is a wife, mother, Newfie owner, writer and Meteorologist. She was born and raised in Texas and has worked in the broadcast industry for over a decade.