What’s This Can Size?

Have you come across an older recipe calling for #2 can? How about a #10 can? Neither can size give much indication to the weight or volume that is actually required for the recipe.  While our contemporary cookbooks typically breakdown the exact measurement required (ie. “1 – 15oz can of peaches”), that is a relatively recent trend. Older recipes in general are less verbose in their details and directions.

Don’t let that stop you from making Grandma’s famous recipe or trying something new. We’re here to help you convert can sizes into something you can put on your shopping list.

Why were can sizes listed not measurements?

Like the recipes you find in contemporary magazines, older recipes are using terms, techniques, or trend ingredients that are reflective of their era. Tin can size standardization began in the 1870s along with it came a number system which different sized cans would be referred to. By the early 1900s expanding mass production had made canned foods more widely available, but the variety of cans that an average shopper would be familiar with would still likely have been to a few standard sizes. Their appearance in recipes of the early and mid 20th century indicates that they’d reached a level of common familiarity. Recipes calling for “1 #2 can of peaches” and made perfect sense to contemporary readers.

What was a “common standard size” has changed over time so we recommend focusing on the measurement you need.

How to Convert Vintage Can Size in Three Steps

Ready to get converting? Here is a quick breakdown of how to convert a vintage can size for your recipe.

  1. Use the chart below to find the approximate weight in ounces of the can size you need.
  2. Note if the recipes needs the cans to be drained to get a more exact size of the volume needed. Older recipes may not explicitly say that if can needs to be drained.
    • Beans and veggies are typically drained. Fruit and meats are often drained, but not always.
    • Also take a moment to read ahead to see if the can liquid is used anywhere in the recipe.
  3. Head to your pantry or nearest grocery store and find a can of the ingredient in the closest weight. You’ll want to round up verses down especially for ingredients that need to be drained for use, like beans and veggies.
  4. Measure out by volume in a measuring cup or by weight on a kitchen scale the portion you will need or your recipe
  5. Get cooking!


The recipe calls for a #2 can of peaches. Using the conversion chart I find that is approx. 20 oz or about 2 1/2 cups volume. At my local grocery store I find large 29 ounce cans of peaches and smaller 15.24 ounce cans. I buy one 29 ounce can. At home I drain the peaches and measure out 2 1/2 cups of peach slice for use in the recipe.

Vintage Can Size Conversion

We put together this chart of standard can sizes to help guide you. Modern cans you will find in your local grocery store don’t list their can size on the label; but they typically have the both the weight and yield right on the label.

Note: Standard can sizes indicate the potential weight and volume capacity. That weight and volume is always exact and more importantly: it does not necessarily equal yield – the part you will use in the recipe. For example a 14 ounce can of beans may only yield 12 ounce of beans once drained. Moderns can usually list the yield amount, but if not you may need to measure out the ingredient after draining.

 Can Number Weight Volume
 No 1 Picnic (“Picnic”) 10.5 – 12 oz 1 1/4 to 1 1/3 cup
 No. 1 11 oz 1 1/3 cup
 No. 1 tall or square 16 oz 2 cups
 No. 2 20 oz 2 1/2 cups
 No. 2 1/2 27-29 oz 3 1/2 cups
 No. 2-1/2 square 31 oz scant 4 cups
 No. 3 51 oz 5 3/4 cups
 No. 3 squat 23 oz 2 3/4 cups
 No. 5 56 oz 7 1/3 cups
 No. 10 6 pounds 6 oz to 7 pounds 5 oz 12 cups
 No. 300 14 to 16 oz 1 3/4 cups
 No. 303 16 -17 oz 2 cups


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