Fingertip Tight for Canning: What Does It Even Mean?

When you’re canning, make sure you know how tightly to put on the bands – it’s fingertip tight!

Did you read a few canning recipes and see the words “fingertip tight” and wonder what they mean?

Nearly every directions for any canning recipe tells you that you need to put the canning rings on fingertip tight. You have to tighten the band on your jar to the right tightness to successfully can anything.

It’s hard to describe what fingertip tight means, but you can describe it as tightening the bands with only your fingers not your arm. You tighten until it gives resistance and go only a little more, like you do when twisting on a peanut butter jar.

It’s important to use the right tightness when putting on canning bands. Keep reading to see why!

Related: 30+ Easy & Delicious Canning Recipes for Beginners

What Does Fingertip Tight Mean When Canning?

When you read canning directions, it will tell you to put on the rings “fingertip tight.” This is how tight the rings should be; they shouldn’t be too tight or too loose.

New canners often make mistakes when twisting on the rings. It’s easy to put on the rings either too tight or too loose.

You might assume that the rings have to be on super tight to cause a seal, so you squeeze them on with all your might. Or, you put the rings on, give a twist or two, and think that’s good enough.

These are easy beginner mistakes but cause problems with the seals.

The rings should be loose enough to let air escape from the jar before creating a seal. At the same time, the rings need to apply some pressure to the lids and not jiggle during the canning process.

When the jar heats up in the canner, it has to vent air out underneath the lid, forcing oxygen out of the jar. After, the jar cools, causing the contents to shrink, sucking down the lid. The seal forms. Air venting is necessary so don’t over tighten!

In general, you should apply gentle force from your fingers, not force from your whole arm, and it should be easy to remove. Don’t use a tool of any kind to assist in the tightening.

Related: 10 Canning Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make

What is the Purpose of the Canning Ring?

The canning ring has a single job: to hold the flat canning lid in place during the canning process.

Many assume that a canning ring is designed to create a seal, but that’s not true. It keeps the lid in place, and the canning process creates the seal. The rings keep the lids in the proper place since they’d fall right off without the ring.

Canning rings are temporary. After you leave the jars to sit for 24+ hours on the counter after the canning process, you should remove the ring and put the jar of canned food into your homestead pantry.

How Tightly Should the Canning Ring Be on The Jar?

When learning how to properly put on the canning ring, you’ll read that you should put the rings on “fingertip tight.” This phrase answers the question of how tightly the canning ring should be screwed onto the jar.

But what does that even mean?

It means that you put the lid onto the jar with gentle force from your finger tips. You shouldn’t put on the lid as tightly as possible, nor should you use any type of tools to tighten up the canning ring.

You’re putting on a temporary ring, not putting together your dining room table.

It should be snug but not so snug that you won’t be able to get it off with ease when it’s time to put the jars into the homestead pantry.

What Happens When You Don’t Tighten the Bands Enough?

If you fail to tighten the bands on your canning jars enough, your jars may not seal properly. Loose bands allow for too much venting, and liquid may escape during the processing.

What Happens When You Tighten Bands Too Much?

Tightening the bands too much causes the lid to buckle, or the jars may break. Putting too much pressure on the rings could stop air from venting out during the canning process.

Buckled lids happen when air forces its way out of the jar, and since the lids are deformed, the seal cannot properly form. This buckling typically happens quickly after the heat processing.

Related: Can You Reuse Canning Lids?

How Do You Know If Your Ring is Fingertip Tight?

Put your finger on the center of the lid when you twist on the band!

All of this is great, but you may wonder – how do you know if your canning bands are actually on fingertip tight?

In general, put the band on the jar and turn it until you feel resistance. Turn one-quarter more then stop. Once the ring stops turning freely – and you don’t want to put too much pressure on it – then it’s tight enough.

It’s the same tightness you would use when putting the lid onto your peanut butter or jelly container.

Another way to make sure you use fingertip tightness is to put your canning jar on the counter, put one finger on the middle of the jar, and use your other hand to tighten the screw band onto the jar. When the jar turns on the counter, the ring is on the appropriate tightness.

How Do You Test a Canning Lid Seal?

The easiest way to test the seal on your canning lid is the finger test method. Press on the middle of the lid with your finger.

  • If there is no movement, then the jar is – most likely – sealed well.
  • If the lid pops or moves, then it’s not sealed, and you have to process again.

Always test the seals on your jars, but you have to wait for the jars to cool completely. Typically, I wait several hours and test. If you need to reprocess, you have to do so within 12 hours.

Learning how tight to twist the band on your canning jars comes with trial and error. It’s normal to over tighten or keep it too loose; you’ll figure it out over time.

Have you ever put on canning lids too loose or too tight? What happened? Let me know in the comments!

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