Barbecue sauce is a staple in many households, adding a tangy and smoky flavor to grilled meats and other dishes. But when it comes to preserving homemade barbecue sauce, there are two common methods: water bathing and pressure canning. Both techniques have their advantages and considerations, so let’s explore which method is best for preserving your delicious barbecue sauce.

Water Bath Canning

Water bath canning is a popular method for preserving high-acid foods such as fruits, jams, jellies, pickles, and some tomato-based products. The process involves submerging filled jars in boiling water for a specific period of time to kill any bacteria or microorganisms that could cause spoilage.


  • Simplicity: Water bath canning is relatively simple and requires minimal equipment. All you need is a large pot with a rack or a specialized canner with built-in jar racks.
  • Accessibility: Most home cooks already have the necessary equipment for water bath canning in their kitchens.


  • pH Level: Barbecue sauces are typically low in acid due to the inclusion of ingredients like vinegar or Worcestershire sauce. Therefore, it’s important to check the pH level of your sauce before deciding on water bath canning.

    If the pH level is below 4.6 (acidic), water bath canning may be suitable.

  • Jar Type: When using the water bath method, it’s crucial to use jars specifically designed for canning. These jars are made with tempered glass that can withstand high temperatures without breaking.

Pressure Canning

Pressure canning is a method primarily used for low-acid foods such as vegetables, meats, and soups. This process involves using a pressure canner to reach higher temperatures than boiling water alone can achieve. The increased heat kills off any harmful bacteria or spores that may be present.

  • Safety: Pressure canning ensures the destruction of harmful microorganisms, making it the safest method for preserving low-acid foods.
  • Longer Shelf Life: Foods preserved using pressure canning have a longer shelf life compared to those preserved with water bath canning.
  • Equipment Requirement: Pressure canning requires a specialized pressure canner, which may not be readily available in every kitchen. However, investing in a good-quality pressure canner is worthwhile if you plan on preserving various low-acid foods regularly.
  • Cooking Time and Heat: Pressure canning requires longer cooking times and higher temperatures to ensure food safety. It’s essential to follow recommended processing times and pressures specified for the type of food you are preserving.

The Verdict

In the case of barbecue sauce, the decision between water bath canning and pressure canning ultimately depends on its acidity level. If your barbecue sauce has a pH below 4.6, you may choose to use the water bath method. However, if your sauce has a higher pH or contains ingredients like meat or vegetables, pressure canning is the safer choice.

In conclusion, preserving homemade barbecue sauce is possible using either water bath canning or pressure canning. Consider the acidity level of your sauce and the equipment available in your kitchen before deciding on the appropriate method. With the right techniques, you can enjoy your mouthwatering barbecue sauce all year round!