- How Pressure Canning Works
- Pressure Canner Vs. Pressure Cooker: What’s The Difference?
- What To Look For In A Pressure Canner
- What Else Do I Need To Use A Pressure Canner?
- How To Use A Pressure Canner
- Top Pressure Canner Brands
- The Best Pressure Canners
Your garden is overloaded with produce during the harvest this year, and you have come to the realization that you just can’t eat that much zucchini, tomatoes, or green beans all at once. But you lack freezer space, or perhaps it’s already overflowing with earlier production. The apple tree is starting to show signs of a major overload, too, warning you that you’re going to need to do something with all of this food.
Suddenly, you recall your grandmother’s kitchen cabinets being stocked with rows and rows of mason jars filled with the produce from her garden. But how exactly does that all work? Do you need fancy equipment? There’s pressure canners and water bath canners. What’s the difference? And isn’t a pressure cooker the same thing?
Best Overall Canner: All American 21-1/2-Quart Pressure Cooker Canner
- Best Canner For Glass Stovetops: Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker
Other Good Choices
- Granite Ware 0730-2 Pressure Canner/Cooker/Steamer, 20-Quart
- Mirro 92122A Polished Aluminum Pressure Cooker/Canner, 22-Quart
- Fagor Duo 10 Piece Stainless Steel Pressure Canning Set
How Pressure Canning Works
Canning, by definition, is the process of sealing food in jars at a high temperature to keep it preserved. But there’s two different kinds of canning: water bath canning, and pressure canning.
Water bath canning is the way most people first learn how to preserve their produce, as it’s used for jams, jellies, pickles, and other high-acid foods (or foods to which lemon juice, vinegar, or citric acid is added). But low-acid foods like most vegetables, meats, and the like are at risk of various contaminants.
The most dangerous contaminant is the bacteria Clostridium botulium – the cause of botulism. High-acid foods are resistant to that bacteria, but low-acid foods aren’t. Water bath canners just don’t heat up quite enough to kill bacteria, although they do heat enough to seal the jars.
A pressure canner offers much higher heat conditions, easily heating your jars of beef stew or green beans to the minimum 240 degrees Fahrenheit that’s required to kill off bacterial contamination. The pressure also assists in forcing any remaining air out of the jar and give it a bit of a suction-seal. The humidity inside the pressure cooker activates the sticky gasket on the canning jar’s lid, adding one more level of safety.
In addition, pressure canners are the only way to safely can meat products, because the risk of bacterial infection on meats is just too high otherwise. So if you want to make homemade chili and store it for later, you need a pressure canner.
Pressure Canner Vs. Pressure Cooker: What’s The Difference?
The pressure cooker you’ve had in the cupboard gathering dust just won’t work for canning your produce. Here’s some details on the differences between the two.
Pressure cookers are generally available in sizes from saucepan up through 6 quarts. These containers are great at rapidly heating your food to cook it quickly. However, they don’t adequately maintain the pressure required for safe canning. They also lose heat too quickly, leaving you at risk for potential botulism contamination in your produce.
Pressure canners are also available in a wide variety of sizes, from smaller home models all the way up to gigantic ones that can process 22 quarts of product. When water inside the pressure canner boils, the resulting steam is stuck in the airtight container. Boiling water in a canner that’s at 15 pounds of pressure will be boiling at an astonishing 250 degrees, which is hot enough to kill any bacteria that might be lingering on your jars or in the food product itself.
Pressure cookers are not pressure canners, and should never be used as such. But there are a number of pressure canners which can be used as pressure cookers, which makes them very handy to have.
What To Look For In A Pressure Canner
There are a number of aspects that need to be considered when you’re shopping for a pressure canner. Some of the most important are noted below.
What’s It Made Of?
Most pressure canners are constructed of either aluminum or stainless steel. Both choices work well, but with a few notes:
Aluminum tends to be less expensive, but is known to get pitted on its surface with time and use. This won’t impact how well it works, but it doesn’t look as good. It will also get oxidized, although you can combat some of the discoloration by adding a couple tablespoons of white vinegar to your pot when you use it.
Stainless steel resists pitting, and will continue to look good for decades. But it’s more expensive, and stainless steel also conducts heat less evenly. If you find a pressure canner that’s steel which has an aluminum base, it will help to spread the heat evenly across the base of the canner and make it function well.
How Much Can It Hold?
Unlike many cooking vessels which are gauged by liters or gallons in size, most pressure canners are sized by how many quarts they can hold. They also state how many jars they will hold, and that’s far less than the quart amount. After all, there has to be space to build up that steam pressure!
Since you’re going to be processing in quart or smaller sizes, checking for jar capacity is a great way to determine the size of canner you will need. When in doubt, pick a larger canner rather than a smaller one. It’s also important to check and see if your canner comes with a rack that allows you to stack jars inside, as not all do.
How Heavy Is It?
Back in the days when wood-burning stoves were the only option, the weight of your canner wasn’t a concern, as they handled pretty much everything on cast-iron stoves. Later, when gas and electric ranges made it onto the scene, they too were built in a sturdy fashion.
But modern glass-top and induction ranges are a bit different. Too much weight could crack your glass top. Also, if your pressure canner is too larger for your burner plates, the extra spread of heat from the base of your canner could cause the the range’s built-in overheating sensors to trip and turn off your heat during processing.
If you’re cooking on gas or electric, any pressure canner should be alright regardless of the weight, but if you’re cooking on a glass-topped or induction range, make sure that your canner is made to work with your range.
Not all pressure canner gauges are created equal. In fact, there’s two main variations of indicators to tell you what pressure your canner is at.
The easiest and safest to use is a weighted gauge, sometimes called a deadweight gauge. With these, different weights will come with your pressure canner, and you select the weight that matches the pressure you want your canner to be set at. The weight is placed into the vent on the top of the lid. When the pressure reaches your desired level, the weight will spin, rock back and forth, or jiggle. This allows excess pressure to be released around the weight.
The other alternative is a dial gauge. With a dial gauge, you will need to keep an eye on the readout on the dial to make sure your pressure canner stays at the optimal range, and will need to adjust the heat. Older versions can be potentially dangerous as they weren’t always built with release valves for excess pressure, but most contemporary models have some form of pressure release valve for when the dial tops out.
Dial-gauge canners should have the gauge tested regularly for accuracy. You should take it in to the local extension office when it’s new, and then once a year afterwards to make sure that it shows the PSI (pounds per square inch in pressure) properly.
In current pressure canners, most lids are a twist-locking mechanism. These usually have a rubber gasket that sits between the lid and the canner body, and when twisted to close, the gasket fully seals the canner. With this style of lid, be sure you keep an eye on the availability of replacement gaskets, as typically that’s the piece most likely to wear out with use.
Older style canners have a series of clamps that secure the lid to the canner body. These don’t have gaskets, which saves you from having to locate replacements, but they do require a bit of lubrication each use.
Grips And Handles
This is probably one of the easiest aspects in picking a pressure canner, as all of the top varieties have quality handles to help you lift and move your canner, and usually a good handle on the lid as well. The main goal in these is that they are sturdy, easy to hold on to, and heat-resistant. After all, if you have 12 quart jars in your canner, it’s going to be heavy!
While I’ve mentioned a few safety features above, it’s important to read about your canner to be absolutely certain that it meets a few safety features. A solid locking mechanism for the lid is essential so that the lid doesn’t abruptly pop off once the base starts to build pressure. Similarly, vents or release valves for excess pressure are necessary. It’s important to make sure that your chosen pressure canner has undergone safety tests and is registered with a noted testing agency as having passed or exceeded their standards.
What Else Do I Need To Use A Pressure Canner?
There’s multiple things that are essential tools when you’re doing canning, so we’ll go over a few of them.
Canning jars: You need appropriate canning jars, as it’s not safe to reuse commercial jars that things like pasta sauce come in. Canning jars come with metal rings and flat lid pieces with a rubberized sealing strip on their underside. You can wash the jars and reuse the rings. You will need to replace the flat lids every time you empty a jar, as they will never seal completely afterwards.
Recommendation: Ball Wide Mouth Quart Jars
Backup lids and rings: When you need them, you really need them right then, and having them on hand saves you an inconvenient trip to hunt them down.
Canning funnel: This sits just inside the top of your jar and allows you to fill it easily, plus it provides a marker to help you know where to stop filling (the bottom of the funnel, usually). This leaves space for expansion of the food during heating.
Recommendation: HOXHA Wide-Mouth Canning Funnel (Regular and Wide Jars)
Jar lifter: This is a device, usually with a silicone grip, which allows you to easily put jars into or remove jars from your canner. This is essential, especially when the jars are super-hot!
Recommendation: Ball Canning Jar Lifter
Canning lid lifter: This is usually just a magnet at the end of a long plastic piece. It’s used both to remove air bubbles from the canned goods and to pick up boiling-sterilized lids.
Recommendation: Norpro Magnetic Lid Wand
How To Use A Pressure Canner
It can be complex to use a pressure canner, so here’s a step-by-step process. Always follow your manufacturer’s directions, especially if anything here is different.
Preheat your jars: Place a large pot of water on the stove and put the jars in it. Simmer the jars (don’t boil them). Also, wash your lids in warm soapy water, rinsing them thoroughly, and set them aside to dry. This is also a good time to check your jars for chips or cracks, and your lids for scratches – if any are evident, don’t use that jar or lid. You can also preheat your jars inside a dishwasher.
Prepare your canner: Once your jars are heating, put 2-3 inches of water into the canner (or the level recommended by the manufacturer). Place over medium heat and bring it to a simmer, maintaining the simmer until you’ve gotten your jars in place.
Prepare your food: Be sure to use a tested and safe recipe for canning. Some recipes don’t preserve well, or just aren’t safe for canning purposes. Prepare your food based on the directions of the recipe.
Remove one jar: Using a jar lifter, remove a jar from the hot water or dishwasher. Empty any water that’s inside. Set it on a towel and place a clean jar funnel into the jar’s mouth.
Fill the jar: Fill the jar per the recipe’s directions, being sure to leave the amount of space that the recipe recommends. The space ensures that the food has room to expand during the pressure canning process.
Close the jar: Remove the funnel, then use a canning lid lifter, bubble remover, or small spatula to remove any air bubbles if the recipe calls for it. Use a clean, damp cloth to wipe the top of the jar and the threads of the jar, removing any residue. Place the flat lid on the jar, being sure the sealing compound makes contact with the glass underneath, and put a ring on, tightening it to fingertip-tightness. Don’t overtighten the ring.
Place jar in canner: Using the jar lifter, pick up your filled jar and set it gently into the canner.
Repeat process until all jars are filled and in the canner.
Check water in canner and close lid: Doublecheck your manufacturer’s directions, and make sure the right amount of water is in the canner. Typically that’s 2-3 inches. Then lock the canner lid into place, being sure to leave the vent pipe open.
Prep the steam: Bring the heat to medium-high, and allow steam to continue to release through the vent. Once there’s a steady stream of steam coming up from the canner’s top, set a 10-minute timer and allow it to vent for that full 10 minutes. That makes sure there’s no air left in the canner, only steam.
Process your jars: Once your timer ends, close the vent using the weight or by the manufacturer’s directions. As needed, gradually increase the heat to bring the pressure to the desired level. Once it’s at pressure, process your jars as per the instructions in your recipe. You may need to adjust for altitude, as higher altitudes take longer to process.
Allow canner to rest: When your processing time is over, carefully remove the canner from the heat source. Allow it to cool on its own until the pressure reaches zero naturally. Don’t remove any weights from the vents at this time – wait until the pressure is at zero.
Remove jars to towel: Once the pressure is at zero, carefully open your canner. Using your jar lifter, remove the jars, setting them on a towel. The towel helps prevent breakage from temperature differences between the surface you’re putting the jars on and the jars themselves. Allow them to sit, undisturbed, for 12-24 hours.
Check the seal: Once the jars have rested for 12-24 hours (and not before), press lightly on the center of the lid. It should not flex up and down. Carefully remove the ring, and with your fingertips, lightly try to pick up the lid. It should remain in place, fully sealed. If the lid flexes, or comes off during the fingertip test, store the jar in the refrigerator and use the contents soon. If the lid doesn’t flex or come off, you have a good seal. You can replace the ring if you wish.
Label and store the jars: Be sure to label your jars with not only what’s inside, but with the date of processing. Store in a cool, dark place. Use the contents within a year’s time.
Your pressure canner may be a model which can also be used for pressure cooking. If so, read the manufacturer’s instructions for more information on how to use it for cooking.
Also, you might be able to use your pressure canner to sterilize bedding for oyster mushrooms, although that probably won’t be covered in most manufacturer’s directions!
Top Pressure Canner Brands
There’s many different brands out there, so let’s take a short look at the background of the most popular pressure canner brands.
The Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry has been making All-American pressure canners for over eighty years. Their canners have a metal-to-metal seal between the lid and the canner base, rather than a gasket seal, and have both a geared pressure readout plus a weighted vent system.
Founded in 1905 in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, National Presto Industries, Inc. started out as a pressure canner manufacturer for industrial-size use. While they’ve branched out into commercial products from there, they still produce a selection of home-use pressure canners in both aluminum and stainless steel, over a hundred years later.
Columbian Home Products, the makers of Granite Ware, have been in business since 1871. While they’re known more for their speckled enamelware, they do offer multiple other types of cookware, including pressure cookers and canners. While the Granite Ware line of enamelware is still made in Terre Haute, Indiana, the pressure canners they offer are not made in the USA.
Mirro began in 1909 as an aluminum cookware company based in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. It is now a subsidiary brand of Groupe SEB, the same company that owns the WearEver and T-Fal brands, as well as a number of other household names. They offer a range of aluminum pressure cookers and canners in multiple sizes. As of 2014, Mirro cookware was still being produced in Manitowoc.
This European company has been in existence for at least fifty years, and creates a wide variety of kitchen and household goods. They have production plants in six different countries internationally, with subsidiaries all over the world. Their products are sold in over a hundred countries. Currently, their stainless steel pressure cookers are made in their plant in China.
The Best Pressure Canners
Let’s get into the details on each canner, and why I think it’s worth considering.
Best Overall Pressure Canner:
All-American Pressure Canner / Cooker, 21.5qt.
|Size||21.5 quart – holds 19 pint jars or 7 quart jars|
|Features||Geared steam gauge, weighted pressure regulator, automatic overpressure release. Gasket-free metal-to-metal lid with wing-nut clamps. Comes with All American Pressure Canner Manual and a rack.|
Sometimes, you just can’t beat a classic design, and the All American 21-1/2-Quart Pressure Cooker Canner is just that.
Made of hand-cast aluminum with a satin finish, the All American pressure canner has an easy to remove lid that has no gasket, meaning you’ll never be searching for a replacement part. An easy-to-read pressure gauge tells you what PSI your pressure is currently at, and it also has a weighted pressure regulator that can be set for 5, 10, or 15 PSI. It has an emergency release valve in case the canner gets overpressured.
Extremely heavy-duty, this canner is built to last through the use of multiple generations. However, it is rather heavy at 20 pounds, so many people put it on the stove before trying to fill or empty it. It’s also pricier than a lot of other options, but the knowledge that your kids and grandkids can use the canner is worth the extra cost. In this case, you truly get what you pay for!
Best Canner For Glass Stovetops
Presto 23qt. Pressure Canner / Cooker
- The only method recommended safe by the US...
- Doubles as a boiling-water canner for preserving...
- Constructed of warp-resistant heavy-gauge aluminum...
|Size||23 quart – holds 18-20 pint jars or 7 quart jars|
|Features||Pressure dial gauge, gasketed turn-and-seal lid. Works on glass top ranges. Comes with a rack, manual/cookbook, and a limited warranty.|
If you have a glass-topped range, you’re going to want to consider the Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker. While it has a flatter lid than the more domed shape of the All American, it also weighs eight pounds less, and has fewer bells and whistles than the All American does.
But the Presto pressure canner is quite functional. The gauge is a pressure dial, and it comes with a single weight (a 15PSI weight). A 5-10-15 PSI weight can be purchased separately. While you’ll need to take the Presto pressure cooker in to have the gauge tested occasionally, this unit works extremely well for canning, cooking, and can even double as a water-bath canner to save you space and time. The price is very reasonable, too, so it also wins my pick for Best Inexpensive Pressure Canner!
Other Good Choices
Granite Ware Pressure Canner/Cooker/Steamer, 20qt.
- USDA recommends pressure canning as the only...
- Granite Ware Pressure Canner features heavy gauge...
- Also functions as a Waterbath canner and steamer...
|Size||20 quart – holds 7 quart jars, 8 pint jars or 24 half-pint jars|
|Features||Anodized aluminum resists stains, weighted pressure gauge, gasketed turn-and-seal lid. Comes with rack, steamer insert, canning jar rack, steamer trivet, manual, and a limited lifetime warranty.|
If you want a truly multi-purpose tool, the Granite Ware 0730-2 Pressure Canner/Cooker/Steamer, 20-Quart can be used as a steamer and a water-bath canner in addition to pressure canning and cooking. Made of anodized aluminum, it is stain-resistant and sturdy. The Granite Ware pressure canner is shorter than the Presto and All American pressure canners, which gives it a bit less capacity for stacked pint jars, but all in all it’s a really functional unit, and as it doesn’t have a dial gauge, you never have to worry about taking it in to be PSI-tested.
Mirro Polished Aluminum Pressure Cooker/Canner, 22qt.
- The pressure canner is constructed from rustproof...
- Maintains steady pressure with 3 cooking pressure...
- Reusable overpressure plug, sure locking lid...
|Size||22 quart – holds 7 quart jars, 9 pint jars|
|Features||Weighted pressure gauge, gasketed turn-and-seal lid. Manual is poorly written and needs additional information for use. Includes bottom rack and limited warranty.|
At the time of this review, I was surprised to note that the Mirro 92122A Polished Aluminum Pressure Cooker/Canner, 22-Quart was actually the cheapest option on my list! This no-nonsense canner is incredibly simple in terms of design and functionality. It features a weighted pressure gauge, a gasketed turn-and-seal lid, and a very basic aluminum body with secure handles. However, its manual lacks a lot of detail, and I highly recommend that you check out some personal reviews on this particular model on Amazon or other sites to see helpful hints from other users of this model. If you just need a basic pressure canner, this is it… but if you want something that’ll hold up for the long-term and has detailed documentation, look elsewhere.
Fagor Duo 10-Piece Stainless Steel Pressure Canner
- Extremely versatile, pressure canning is the only...
- Can and store your favorite preservative-free...
- Save time in the kitchen while preparing healthful...
|Material||18/10 stainess steel|
|Size||10 quart – 2 quart jars, 4 pint jars, 6 half-pint jars|
|Features||Gasketed turn-and-seal lid with good handle. Unusual pressure gauge only offers 8 or 15 PSI (pressure cooking temp or pressure canning temp), so is not variable to lower PSI ratings. Includes home canning cookbook, pressure cooking booklet with recipes, rack, funnel, ladle, jar lifter, jar wrench, bubble remover, magnetic lid lifter, instructional DVD, user manual.|
Last but not least on our list, we have a small starter set, the Fagor Duo 10 Piece Stainless Steel Pressure Canning Set. As this is made of stainless steel, the Fagor pressure cooker works beautifully on induction cooktops, but its 10-quart capacity is very small — it can only handle 2 quart jars, where all the others on the list today can handle 7. However, this starter kit is truly that, as it includes everything you could ever possibly need to do most canning or pressure cooking tasks on a small scale. If you are limited on space, this is a great option. Best of all, it has an instructional DVD, a booklet of pressure cooker recipes, and a cookbook filled with pressure canning recipes, making it the most new user-friendly of my picks today.
So, are you inspired to start preserving your backyard produce for the winter months? Have you done any pressure canning before, and if so, what’s your favorite thing to preserve?
The Green Thumbs Behind This Article:
Last update on 2020-01-25 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API