21 Ways To Use Mason Jars And Make Cooking Easier
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21 Ways To Use Mason Jars And Make Cooking Easier

Aug 25, 2023

The humble mason jar has come a long way since it was invented by John Landis Mason in 1858. Mason invented the iconic jar that would come to bear his name as a way to improve the safety of home canning, coming up with the first reusable glass jar that could be hermetically sealed. The threaded neck lets a metal lid close tightly on the top, forming a safe, airtight seal. Despite his creative genius, he never profited from his invention, which is a shame considering how useful and ultimately popular his creation became.

Mason jars are still used for canning today, but they've exploded in popularity for a variety of other uses. They're trending as drink glasses (at home and in restaurants), garden containers, arts and crafts materials, candle holders, beehives, and centerpieces. But a great way to use them is still in the kitchen. Mason jars have proved to be quite versatile for making cooking and food storage easier. Here are ways to make preparing and enjoying your meals more convenient and even more beautiful at the same time.

A neat way to pack a portable lunch is to layer salad ingredients in a mason jar. It's a great way to be able to eat prepared salad ahead of time without it getting soggy before you're ready to eat it. Just make sure the dressing is on the very bottom of the jar.

To make the salad, choose ingredients you love and stack them in individual layers on top of the dressing. Choose raw or cooked veggies, leafy greens, protein like beans or chicken, and any other ingredients you love in a salad like cooked grains, hard-boiled eggs, nuts, seeds, avocado, or hummus. Give it a good shake right before eating. Not only is a mason jar salad delicious, but the beautiful and colorful presentation is an added bonus.

Nothing beats a warm, delicious bowl of homemade soup on a cozy winter night, but we don't always have the time or energy to make a soup or stew from scratch whenever we want a bowl. Having the freezer stocked with frozen portions of soup that just need a quick defrosting is an easy way to serve meals quickly.

Mason jars are ideal for this purpose. Soup can easily be ladled into the wide-mouthed jars and the glass can safely store warm foods. Let your soup partially cool before filling jars, and make sure to leave an inch or two of empty space at the top for the liquid to expand when it freezes. Only put the jars in the freezer once they've cooled completely on the counter or in the refrigerator.

A lovely visual display boosts the appetite, and layering a dessert in a mason jar is a beautiful way to present and enjoy a sweet treat. Build your own parfait in a mason jar by layering custard, pudding, ice cream, or yogurt with dessert toppings like nuts, whipped cream, fruit, colorful syrup, and granola. If you can't eat it all or want to make it ahead of time, the beauty of the mason jar method is that it's already inside a storage container.

A chia seed pudding is another sweet dish that looks fantastic in a transparent jar. Chia seeds are soaked in milk and layered with ingredients like berries, peaches, cocoa powder, ground almonds, coconut, and maple syrup. Make it from 20 minutes ahead to the night before to let the seeds soak up the liquid.

If you're a coffee fan, you're probably familiar with iced shaken espressos popular at coffee shops like Starbucks in the warmer months. An iced version of sweet espresso with milk and other optional ingredients like syrups, sauces, and toppings is taken to new heights after being shaken by hand.

The result is a chilled and frothy drink that both refreshes and provides an energy boost. But you don't have to max out your budget by ordering these out every day. You can make your own iced shaken espresso in a mason jar from the comfort of your home. Sweeten your hot espresso with sugar or brown sugar if desired, and then pour it into the jar with ice, milk, and any desired spices or flavorings. Screw the lid on securely and shake well before enjoying.

A small juicer lid accessory can transform a standard wide-mouthed mason jar into a citrus juicer. Whether you're making a classic lemonade recipe or juicing oranges, lemons, or limes, purchasing a juicer lid can be a more convenient way to juice citrus fruits.

A big plus is that you won't have to transfer the juice to another storage container if you're not using it immediately. Mason jars come in a variety of sizes, and you can use larger jars to hold more juice that can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days. Think of having natural orange juice at the ready for breakfast, or enough lemon juice prepared ahead of time for a summer granita.

Storing pantry staples in mason jars is not only a great way to keep your dry goods organized, but it adds beauty to your pantry, kitchen counter, and shelves. Instead of looking at an assortment of food packages of different colors, sizes, cleanliness, and stages of wear, transferring certain foods to mason jars will create a uniform display. Ingredients like dried legumes, spices, dried fruit, nuts, and seeds will also add pops of color to your kitchen — use the various sizes to your advantage.

Small jars are ideal for spices while the largest sizes can store flour and sugar. The tight seal of the jar will keep out insects and keep the food clean, too. Make sure to label the jars with the food's name and expiration date before discarding any packages.

No one likes being elbow-deep in a recipe only to realize that the next step calls for softened butter, and the only butter available is a rock-hard stick in the fridge. Or perhaps you're eating breakfast and putting holes in your toast while trying to spread chilled butter. Luckily, the versatile mason jar has yet another handy use in the kitchen. You can use a mason jar to quickly soften butter when you don't have time to let it sit out on the counter for 30 to 60 minutes.

Microwave a mason jar filled with water for about two minutes, pour out the water, and invert it over a stick of butter standing vertically. After just five minutes, the butter will be a perfect consistency for spreading or using in recipes for baked goods. And you won't have to worry about constantly checking on the butter in the microwave and having it accidentally melt.

You can purchase a mesh pour-over coffee drip filter that fits over a wide-mouthed mason jar and allows you to brew coffee directly into the jar. The filter is made of stainless steel and is reusable, so there's no paper filter waste.

Since the coffee ends up in the jar, it's convenient for grabbing coffee on the go and saves you from washing another mug. You can also use your mason jar to make cold-brew coffee, and you don't need any special accessories for this. You'll mix ground coffee in water in the jar and give it a good shake. Let it rest in the refrigerator for 12 hours while the coffee steeps. This makes both a more flavorful and a more caffeinated cup.

If you're pining for a hot dish you can pack for lunch, prepping noodle soup in a jar is a good solution. Like instant soup, you'll just add hot water when you're ready to eat it, but since it's prepped with real ingredients, it will taste much better. Layer a flavorful sauce, vegetables, noodles, and a source of protein like beans, legumes, or meat in the jar.

You can pre-cook hearty vegetables and put delicate ones in raw. If the noodles are already cooked, your soup will be good to go as soon as you pour in the hot water. Other noodles, like packaged, ramen, bean threads, or pad Thai noodles, will need to stand in the hot water for five to 20 minutes to soften first, depending on the type.

If you love baking and want to make scrumptious muffins or cupcakes but don't have a muffin tin, you can make DIY muffin tins with mason jar lids. You won't be using the jars themselves, which are made of untempered glass and thus unsafe to use in the oven. You'll only need the round bands (the parts that secure the lids to the jars), which conveniently are just the right size for supporting cupcake liners.

Simply fill each liner with batter and stand it inside one of the bands placed on a baking sheet. The beauty of this method is that you're not limited to the 12 muffins that a muffin tin holds. Just place as many as you need on a large baking sheet at once.

Just like with chia seed pudding, mason jars are an excellent container for storing overnight oats, like this strawberry overnight oats recipe. You can mix up a big batch in a mixing bowl and then spoon it into small individually sized jars. Top each jar with fresh fruit or frozen berries to add sweetness and a beautiful presentation, screw on the lids, and place them in the fridge.

The oats will absorb the liquid overnight, the frozen berries will defrost, and voilà! It will be perfect in the morning. Just open a jar and enjoy a ready-made breakfast. The jar is also ideal for taking on the go. If you're prepping enough pudding for the whole week, small jars stacked in the fridge offer a neat and compact storage solution, too.

If you think that making your own butter at home requires living on a farm and using a large wooden butter churner, you may be happy to hear that it's a lot easier nowadays. Butter can be made in a stand mixer or a blender in about five minutes.

In fact, if you've ever whipped homemade whipped cream too long and it started to turn clumpy, you were on your way to making butter. You don't need any special equipment to make butter in the humble mason jar but be prepared to use your muscle power for some vigorous shaking. Shake a jar filled halfway with heavy cream for five to eight minutes until a solid mass forms. There will be liquid in the jar, too — that's the buttermilk. You can't get fresher than that.

It may seem intimidating, but pickling fruits and vegetables at home is simpler than many people assume. It doesn't require canning methods and it's more cost-effective. Whether you're making pickled radishes, beets, classic dill pickles, or even pickled watermelon, a mason jar is a good choice of container for pickling. Since you'll pour hot brine liquid into the jars, the glass material of the jars is a safe pick.

You can use the canning lids that come with the jars or swap them for plastic lids if that's more convenient. Either way, screw on the lids after the vegetables and brine in the jars have partially cooled and before you put them in the refrigerator.

Another handy use for this product is to make alcohol-infused fruit and vegetables in mason jars. The basic method is to let fruit or veggies soak in your alcohol of choice for a few hours or even a week until the liquid develops a noticeable flavor. Think peaches and bourbon, pineapple-infused rum, or jalapeños and tequila. Similarly, you can infuse chopped fresh fruit into brewed tea to give it a flavorful boost.

For those watching their sugar intake, the natural sugars in fruit will sweeten the tea without the use of processed sugar, and many people prefer the pure taste of the fruit to artificial natural flavorings in commercial fruit teas. Use a mason jar with a handle so your tea will be ready to drink once steeped.

Making eggs for a crowd can be daunting when using a single frying pan that does not hold that many eggs at once. You can use as many mason jar lids as you need placed upside down on baking sheets to accomplish this much more easily. Spray the lids with cooking spray to keep them from sticking, and crack an egg in each lid. Bake them at 325 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 to 15 minutes until they're over easy.

You can cook them less if you like runny eggs or more to have them cooked through. An added benefit is that eggs cooked this way come out perfectly round and beautiful, so you will surely impress your guests.

Granola is a versatile breakfast or snack food that can easily be made at home in a mason jar by following a basic formula. It calls for grain, a sweetener, oil, and at least one extra like nuts or dried fruit. Many people use oats but puffed grains work, too.

You can stick to natural sweeteners like honey or maple syrup, which also help the granola stick together, or add brown sugar. Add-ins like raisins, chocolate chips, cinnamon and spices, cocoa powder, or anything else you love enhance the whole. Add granola plain to mason jars for a snack prepped ahead, or take advantage of the clear glass to make a beautiful presentation by layering granola, yogurt, and fresh fruit that will make your breakfast even more appetizing.

Vanilla extract is the most popular baking extract and the one that's easiest to find, but it does carry a hefty price tag at the supermarket. Other extracts like orange, almond, and peppermint are similarly priced. But whether your goal is to save money or not, making your own extracts at home will reward you with an infusion with a purer, enhanced flavor that's a step above what you can buy. Luckily, you can make them at home, and a mason jar is a perfect receptacle for this. To make homemade vanilla extract, all you need are vanilla beans and alcohol.

Just make sure to plan ahead, because it will need to steep in the jar for a minimum of 30 days. It's worth trying, and the bottle will last you for months.

Sprouting is a process by which seeds germinate and shoots grow out of the seed case. This is a natural process, but you can sprout seeds at home under controlled conditions in order to add them to your diet. Many people eat them for their health benefits because the levels of available nutrients in sprouted seeds like grains are higher than in mature plants.

You don't need complicated equipment to start sprouting at home. In fact, a mason jar is a good container for this use. There are a number of sprouting lids on the market that fit wide-mouthed mason jars. The lids have small holes which allow for air circulation and drainage. If you prefer to DIY it or save money, you can cut out lid-sized round disks from plastic needlework canvas, which contains small holes.

Have you ever tried to mix salad dressing with a fork only to have it overflow and end up on the kitchen counter? Or maybe you have to remember to take out a bowl of vegetables marinating in the fridge, stir them a couple of times a day, and wash the spoon. Try a mason jar instead. Add your dressing ingredients to a jar, secure the lid tightly, and shake vigorously to mix it well. This method gets it mixed better than what you can accomplish with a fork, and any leftover dressing is already in a storage container for later.

And the marinated veggies? Use a mason jar and just invert the jar whenever it calls for stirring. This way, the juices will have a chance to evenly coat all the pieces.

Sun tea is iced tea that's made with regular tea, but instead of the water being boiled on the stove or in a kettle and then poured over the tea, the water is heated by the warmth of the sun. A clear container is filled with water and tea bags and then set out in a sunny spot in warm weather.

It will be ready to drink in one to three hours, depending on how strong the sun is that day and the desired strength of the tea. A mason jar is a great container to make sun tea in. Use a ½ gallon jar to make a large batch, then pour it over ice in individual-sized jars, with or without handles, that double as glasses.

Having a few pots with herb plants growing in the kitchen is a great way to have fresh herbs available when you need them. Herbs like parsley, basil, thyme, sage, and rosemary will also add natural beauty to your space. It's not recommended to start seeds in mason jars, but you can transplant small herb plants into the jars and use them as your pots. You'll need to make sure the jars have drainage.

You can use a drill to make small holes in the bottom but only do that if you wear protective eye and hand gear and you're experienced with using a drill safely. An alternative is to place an inch or two of stones at the bottom to keep the roots out of the water.