The Best Fermentation Crocks and Jars According to Pros

Fermenting food is a process, and it all begins with the right vessel.

Julia Skinner is a food historian, educator, and founder of Root, an Atlanta-based company focused on fermentation and bringing historic food to the modern world. She has published several books on food and food history, including Our Fermented Lives (2022) and Afternoon Tea (2021). Bento Lunchboxes

The Best Fermentation Crocks and Jars According to Pros

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Fermentation requires very little equipment to get started, but a crock or a jar is essential. Lacto-fermentation, which gives us ferments like kimchi, sauerkraut, full sour dill pickles, and more, relies on anaerobic bacteria to work – in other words, bacteria that can live without oxygen. Making a safe and delicious pickle, then, means keeping your ferment under your brine so the lactic acid bacteria can work their magic while the baddies that might spoil your food aren't able to get to it. Fermentation crocks and jars don't need to be complicated to work. But, they work well because they are watertight and can be packed with your future pickles and brine before you top it all off with a weight and a lid.

Today, there are so many different kinds of fermentation crocks and jars on the market that it can feel overwhelming to know where to start if you haven't fermented food before. Even if you've been fermenting food for years, you may want to add a new crock to your repertoire or branch out and try a new kind of crock or jar. To help you find the best fermentation vessel for you, we looked for crocks and jars that will stand the test of time: ones that are durable, food-safe, and easy to use, giving you years of fermentation fun. Once you have your crock or jar, you’ll only need some brine, some time, and a recipe or two.

Pros: A durable, beautiful crock like this can double as decor, and it will last for years. 

Cons: Stoneware crocks can be heavy, and their large size can be hard to store in small kitchens. 

When you think fermentation crock, the first thing that comes to mind probably looks a lot like this Ohio Stoneware crock. Though the company itself has only been around since 2005, its design and craftsmanship resemble that of classic American stoneware crocks. These crocks come in a range of sizes, but I like the two-gallon version because it's large enough to fit a nice batch of sauerkraut but small enough that it doesn't take up too much space in most home kitchens. Ohio Stoneware also offers lids and fermentation weights that fit inside of the crocks, which help you keep your pickles under their brine.

Price at time of publish: $41

Pros: This jar seals tightly to prevent leaks and is versatile enough to use around the kitchen. 

Cons: Its one-liter size may not be large enough for some pickling projects.  

In my kitchen, Le Parfait Super jars are pressed into service for everything from storing flour to fermenting pickled beans, and they're attractive enough to occupy pride of place on countertops or shelves. The 1-liter version is good for most projects, but there are many other sizes available, from 8 ounces to 96 ounces. 

For fermentation, this jar offers a few advantages. One is that it's clear, so you're able to check your ferment's progress easily. The sealing lid also helps with leaks, though if your ferment is actively bubbling, it's still a good idea to set it on a plate or tray to capture any stray drips. And finally, its size works well with fermentation weights like Masontops Pickle Pebbles, which help keep what you're fermenting under the brine. 

Price at time of publish: $20

Pros: Small jars are versatile and easy to store. 

Cons: Metal lids can corrode over time.

Pint jars are the best option for making small batches of fermented foods. I ferment in both wide-mouth and regular-mouth jars, but I love these wide-mouth jars for their straight sides, which make it easier to pack your pickles into the jar and pull them out when it's time to eat. In other words, these jars can both ferment and store food. The jars are also easy to pack in the dishwasher, though the metal lids can rust if not hand-washed and dried. Not only that, salty, acidic brine can also corrode the lids over time. To prevent this, you may want to invest in some BPA-free plastic lids, which will hold up to your experiments for years to come. 

Price at time of publish: $14

Pros: This all-in-one set makes a great gift for yourself or a fellow fermentation enthusiast.

Cons: Stoneware crocks like this tend to be heavier and bulkier than some other fermentation vessels. 

If you're looking for an all-in-one fermentation set that's beautiful, durable, and easy to clean, I recommend this set. It includes a 1-gallon crock, a lid, and fermentation weights to keep your pickles under their brine. It's the perfect option for someone looking to try their hand at fermenting, including as a gift.

Like other Ohio Stoneware products, this versatile crock is made in the USA from food-safe materials. The 1-gallon size is large enough to comfortably hold your sauerkraut or pickled cucumbers, while still being small enough to store easily even in relatively small spaces. If you want a larger starter kit, a 2-gallon version is also available. 

Price at time of publish: $71

Pros: The crock would look nice on a counter, and it comes with the tools you need to make sauerkraut. 

Cons: Unlike glass-lidded crocks, you can't check your ferment's progress without lifting the lid. 

I've long been a fan of water channels in fermentation crocks, which serve as an airlock, helping to keep pickles crisp and tasting good. Many are on the market, but I love this one because it's durable, attractive, and a reasonable price. Plus, it comes as a set, so you have everything you need right away.

Unlike other fermentation sets, it comes with a wooden tamper, traditionally used to pack shredded cabbage tightly into a crock before fermentation. Tamping helps to remove air bubbles and give your kraut-making microbes the anaerobic (without oxygen) environment they need to thrive. Although the crock is advertised for kraut making, other pickle lovers fear not: you can use this same crock to make whatever lacto-fermented pickles you’d like.

Price at time of publish: $61

Pros: This attractive, lidded crock is durable and easy to use.

Cons: It doesn’t come with fermentation weights, and it’s not dishwasher-safe. 

There are many reasons to love onggi, the Korean earthenware pots used to ferment a variety of foods. In addition to delicious batches of kimchi, these crocks can work for whatever lacto-fermentation project you can dream up. Their design is functional, attractive, and timeless, and I appreciate any fermentation vessel that comes with a lid. Like a cast iron skillet, these crocks do require a bit of extra TLC. Using soap (or throwing it in the dishwasher) can eventually make your food taste like soap, so many onggi users scrub their jars out using hot water, and multiple rounds of rinsing, instead. 

Price at time of publish: $50

Pros: This beautiful pickling vessel keeps air out and allows you to watch your ferment's progress in real-time. 

Cons: It’s a bit more fragile than thicker stoneware fermentation crocks. 

We've been longtime fans of these glass fermentation vessels, often used to make Sichuan paocai, a fragrant, spiced perpetual-brine pickle. The first thing you'll notice is just how beautiful these crocks are, making a statement sitting on the counter even when not in use. When they are, it's a lot of fun to watch your ferment bubble and convenient to watch its progress as the days pass. The thick-walled glass crock has a sealing lid, thanks to the water channel along the top of the crock itself, which helps to keep air out and keep your pickles bubbling along. 

While I’ve heard of people putting these glass crocks in their dishwashers, I recommend against it, as there is the potential for breakage. To keep your crock in top condition, hand-wash it with warm soapy water before storing it. 

Price at time of publish: $50

There are many fantastic fermentation crocks and jars out there, but I love the old reliable standby, the Ohio Stoneware 2-Gallon Crock for its durability, ease of use, affordable price point, and the fact that it's made in the U.S. 

How much fermented food do you plan to make at one time? If you just want to experiment with small projects for one person, maybe jars will work for your needs. If you like to make big batches for yourself or for a restaurant, consider a larger capacity crock to meet your needs.

Crocks come with a range of coverings, including stoneware lids or water-sealed lids. Sometimes, you can also purchase aftermarket lids from other retailers that will fit your crock, or you can improvise with your own lid. Think about what kind of a covering you need for your fermentation vessel of choice, and make sure you have it ready before you get started. When buying a crock, check to see if a lid is included. If not, you'll need to find another way to cover your crock during fermentation.

When looking for a crock, make sure the material is food-safe and durable. I like stoneware and glass the best. 

The aesthetic of classic stoneware crocks is no doubt in style, but if you've got a tiny apartment kitchen, you may not have a place to store them. Consider how much space you've got to devote to storing your crock between uses, and how much counter space you've got for your crock while it's in use. If you're short on space, consider a smaller crock or even a jar (or several jars) to house your fermentation experiments.

The best conntainer depends on your needs. As mentioned, jars are accessible for beginners who want smaller projects. Yet, there's an advantage to using a crock, according to Christina Ward, author of Preservation: The Art and Science of Canning, Fermentation, and Dehydration and the Master Food Preserver for Wisconsin. "The composition of the crock keeps the ferment at a consistent temperature, which is needed for successful fermentation," she says, adding that crocks have long been stored in basements or root cellars for their lack of light and consistent temperatures. 

"My ideal is a heavy stoneware crock, best if seasoned over generations of use,” says Ward. “A new crock works well and can be the start of a new heirloom. Used crocks can be found but often command a higher price as a collectible or decorator item than as a crock. If you do find an older crock, check it for significant cracks prior to use. Surface cracks, or crazing, are common, but avoid crocks that have a crack that runs through the exterior to the interior."

Fill your crock with your future ferment (shredded cabbage, fresh veggies, and so on), add your brine until it's completely submerged, top with a weight and a lid, and place it out of direct sunlight in a place with a consistent temperature. “Though I always give the note that crock placement should be away from any stored chemicals, solvents, and cat boxes!" says Ward.

"Colder temperatures will cause the bacteria to slow down their digestive process. Extreme cold temperatures will kill the bacteria. I recommend refrigeration of a fermenting crock only when ‘peak pickle’ is achieved, and you want to enjoy eating the food while slowing down more fermenting. In the example of a small batch of sauerkraut, when you’ve reached your ideal flavor, place the entire crock in the fridge and serve," says Ward.

"I use and recommend hot water only if you’ve had a successful ferment. Yet, if you’ve had a bad ferment, or had contaminated batch of something, then a full scrub with hot, soapy water is in order. I never use bleach or anti-bacterial soaps. Fermentation is about encouraging bacterial growth, so using anti-bacterial cleansers makes it more challenging," says Ward.

Cleaning jars doesn't need to be intimidating. "Hot soapy water is the ideal cleansing method," says Ward.

"Look for a solidly constructed crock without cracks or missing chunks along the top rim. The best crocks are about a half inch to an inch thick. Crocks under a half inch thick tend to break and are a waste of money," says Ward.

"Absolutely,” says Ward. “As noted above, check for cracks and chips but if all is well, then use the crock. I have crocks that are over 100 years old. Many families pass down beloved crocks, and a few families fight about who gets the crock!"

Julia Skinner, Ph.D., is a writer, fermentation educator, avid gardener, and food preserver. She is the author of the award-winning fermentation history book Our Fermented Lives. She writes about and teaches fermentation and food preservation through her business, Root. You can follow her work on social media (@bookishjulia and @rootkitchens) or through her newsletter. 

Christina Ward is the Master Food Preserver for Wisconsin and the author of Preservation-The Art and Science of Canning, Fermentation, and Dehydration. She has appeared as an expert on Milk Street Radio, Padma Lakshmi's Taste the Nation, and numerous NPR programs. In addition, she has contributed to Serious Eats, The Wall Street Journal, Maggot Brain, and more.

The Best Fermentation Crocks and Jars According to Pros

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