Number 10 can (plus a surprise Hibachi)

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Sun Oct 2 20:01:41 UTC 2011

My thanks for finding those. I had searched twice on Wikipedia without finding that ( The description needs a lot of work.

My citations don't provide evidence that "#10 can" means anything other than a can that is a size number 10, so today I tried to find citations illustrating that "#10 can" is used to refer to poorer quality institutionally prepared food.

Google Books did not provide any clear citations, but here are some in no particular order that indicate that the word refers to cans of food in general. They are followed by a couple of other Internet citations.

1. "Purchasing: Selection and Procurement for the Hospitality Industry," by Andrew Hale Feinstein, John M. Stefanelli; John Wiley and Sons, 2007, page 436,

Should buyers purchase individual, filled catsup bottles, or should they keep the empty bottles and refill them with catsup from a No. 10 can or some other bulk pack?

2. "The New York quarterly," Issues 20-25, New York Quarterly Foundation, 1978, page 78,

No author available from GB

Curling up in your corduroy coat a man
for this spare season, grabbing your peas
from a number 10 can cold as buckshot,
bronchitus [sic] coughs and sighs "forgetting-me-not."

3. "New West Cuisine: Fresh Recipes from the Rocky Mountains," by Chase Reynolds Ewald, Amy Jo Sheppard, Audrey Hall; Gibbs Smith, 2008, page 11,

But truckers appreciate a good meal, and these places are often showcases for some anonymous country kitchen baker who has a light touch with baking powder biscuits and old-fashioned pie crusts--even if the fruit does come out of a number 10 can.

4. I have mentioned that the OED does not list the US meaning of hibachi (a shichirin). Here is a citation that morphs the meaning of hibachi a bit further with a number 10 can and provides an h-drop pronunciation to boot:

"A cruising guide to the New England coast, including the Hudson River, Long Island Sound, and the coast of New Brunswick," Robert Fuller Duncan, John P. Ware; Dodd, Mead, 1972, page 441,

…matches, a 9-foot square plastic sheet, an Hibachi stove fashioned from a #10 can, a first aid kit, two quarts of water, a knife, and a journal, every student has his hours of self-appraisal, of seeing himself in unique perspective.

5. "The Best Mexican Food in Seattle," Orgone Research, Matt Crowley, January 6, 2011,

Inevitably they would serve refried beans, not boiled beans. The refried beans generally tasted like they came from a number 10 can…

6. "Tomato Season: The Twilight Days," Prose and Potatoes, Sarah Lenz, October 17, 2010,

Here, she is probably correct that the soup is from a number 10 can, but she probably doesn't actually know that for a fact.

Tomato soup--the generic Campbell's kind straight from a number 10 can with a side of grilled cheese--was one of the most consistent and reliable meals offered at the cafeteria.

7. "Field note from Cape Espenberg," Field Notes, author unknown,

Rae kicks open the throttle on the kitchen machine, this time with me in the side car helping her. Mexican, Italian, Ethiopian, Indian—the woman is a fat man’s dream. From a Number 10 can and a handful of spices I’m convinced she could settle small nation’s wars.

8. "Nice except for……," NVSallyReno, Staybridge Suites Rocklin - Roseville Area: Traveler Reviews, February 13, 2011,
The next evening was Chef Boyardee from a number 10 can and that was so nasty.

9. "in search of the perfect cajun food," Food, Politics and Zombies; Brian Kaufman, January 10, 2011,

I had a bland gumbo that might have come from a number 10 can.

Benjamin Barrett
Seattle, WA

On Oct 1, 2011, at 1:17 PM, Victor Steinbok wrote:

> Wiki does not have full cross-referencing, but you can find the listing
> of traditional sizes under "Tin Can/Standard Sizes".
>> Older can numbers are often expressed as single digits, their contents
>> being calculated for room-temperature water as approximately eleven
>> ounces (#1 "picnic" can), twenty ounces (#2), thirty-two ounces (#3)
>> fifty-eight ounces (#5) and one-hundred-ten ounces (#10 "coffee" can).
> The #2 can long evolved into 18 oz, then 16 oz, then 15 1/2 oz (standard
> sizes for canned vegetables for home consumption). And the #1 can is now
> under 10 oz (typical product--mandarin oranges). But the larger ones
> have not moved much. The reason for standardization was because military
> supplies came canned and had to be stored in fixed spaces. The 1908 US
> Army Manual for Subsistence has detailed tables for converting canned
> goods into portions.
>     VS-)
> On 10/1/2011 2:35 PM, Benjamin Barrett wrote:
>> A common word in the food/restaurant industry, I don't see "number 10 can" in the OED or even on Wikipedia or Wiktionary.
>> A number 10 can, often written as #10 can, is defined as 12 cups (96 ounces) and as 128 ounces on the Internet. What those two definitions share is in being a large can for commercial use. I have heard people joke about food coming from a number 10 can, indicating this is not merely a can of size 10, but a recognizable object (perhaps regardless of whether it is 96 or 128 ounces).

The American Dialect Society -

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