The Pressure Canner is a handy kitchen appliance used for preserving food. In this article, we look at the canning process, and factors to consider when picking the best pressure canner for you.
What is canning?
Providing you are canning correctly; this is a safe way to preserve food. You place a jar of food in hot water, which kills bacteria, enzymes, yeasts, or molds that would otherwise seek to ruin your foodstuff. As the pot is heated, food expands and air vents from the jar. This is how your jar becomes forms a vacuum-sealed. The result is a jar of your desired homemade food that can be stored away for a very long time.
Why do people can food?
People store home-canned food in a cupboard or larder, rather than a fridge or a freezer. This storage method is useful for those who don’t own a refrigerator or lack freezer space. When the jars are opened, the food will still be relatively fresh, be it weeks or months later.
Homemade foods, such as stocks or soups, can be nutritionally a lot healthier than store-bought foods. So, living on a diet comprising foods that you have home-canned can be much better for you too. Add to this the fact that you know every ingredient within the food before you eat it – why on earth would you not want to can your food?
What does the canning process entail?
The traditional method used to do this would be by using a water bath (which only attains 100°C or 212°F). This method can be dangerous. Firstly, you cannot be sure that you have killed all of those poison-bearing critters — secondly, there is the obvious danger of getting burned.
A little acid may also be needed to be added to preserve the food. Such acids are usually in the form of sugar, lemon juice, or vinegar, which can alter taste. This method is excellent for storing high-acid foods like tomatoes, fruits, or preserves like pickles or jams.
However, the pressure canning method is the only method deemed as safe by the US Department of Agriculture.
What is pressure canning?
This method uses pressure and heat to make your food safe for storage. We use a pressure canner to do this.
The pressure canner is a vented electrical appliance used to heat jars of food to temperatures, higher than that of boiling water. When the water-bath temperature reaches boiling point (212°F), bacteria are killed, but not necessarily their spores.
The pressure canner exceeds those temperatures and uses pressure, which will kill their spores. This safer approach means we can store other types of food such as meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetables. These are known as low-acid foods.
Top 8 Best Pressure Canners
Let’s make your search for the perfect canner easier.
Below we have found the eight best canners available today. These are fantastic appliances, and for each, we weigh up the pros and cons.
National Presto Industries own this brand. Their appliances include pressure cookers, canners, fryers, and coffee makers. The company was founded in 1905 with its canner design and has been going strong ever since. That’s a long time to fine-tune a canner design! Be assured that this canner does what you need.
This particular canner is available in two sizes, 16- and 23-quart. The 23-quart model comes at a reasonable price. The main downside is that cleaning it could be hard work. The gauge is fragile, the vent needs cleaning with a pipe cleaner, and the seal needs removing beforehand. This canner weights 12 lbs. There is also a 23-quart induction hob safe version.
- Available in 2 sizes: 16 Qt or 23 Qt
- 12-year warranty
- Reasonably priced
- Induction hob safe version available
- Lighter weight than some
- 16 Qt is nearly twice the price of the 23 Qt
- Cleaning could be hard work
The Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry owns the All American brand. They have been in the canner trade since the 1930s. Their range includes jars, strainers, and any other canning accessory you could imagine, their canner doubles up nicely as a pressure cooker – great for tenderizing those low-cost cuts of meat. Their sealing system is of high precision metal-to-metal. This canner comes with clamping locks to ensure a tight seal. Since there is no gasket, the lid is very easy to open and close. But this does mean you need to take extra care when closing the unit. There is a visible pressure gauge.
- Available in 6 sizes: 10.5, 15.5, 21.5, 25, 30 and 41.5 Qt
- Limited warranty
- Easy to use
- The 21.5 Qt is expensive compared to other similar-sized canners
This unit looks stylish. The only size that this comes in is the 9.5-quart.
The advantage of this appliance is that you can use it for slow cooking, steam cooking, pressure cooking, and canning. This feature could mean that it makes some of your other kitchen appliances redundant. Fantastic if you are looking to conserve space in your kitchen.
Lid lock protection is built-in, which makes sure that the lid is down correctly. There is a multitude of safety features with this product, including an anti-block filter, temperature control, and fuse protection.
- Dishwasher safe
- Very safe
- Expensive for the size if only used for canning
- Only one size available
T-fal (Tefal) is a name known to us all. The name originates from TEFlon and ALuminum. Well known for its non-stick cookware range, the company has been operating since 1956.
This product is reasonably priced and available in 2 sizes, 6 and 22-quart. The unit has an analog pressure gauge with only three pressure options: 5, 10 or 15 psi.
Including a secure locking lid and over-pressure steam release, the canner has numerous great safety features. This canner, however, can only be used on gas and electric coil stoves.
- 10-year warranty
- Well-known brand
- External pressure gauge
- Not suitable for induction hobs
Granite Ware products are made by Columbian Home Products, which is a family-owned business. They also specialize in pans and bakeware, so they know what we need in the kitchen.
While not the most attractive or cheapest canner available, this product does the job. Constructed of hard-anodized aluminum, this bit of kit has “stay-cool” handles and a locking lid made of stainless steel. The canner cannot be opened whilst pressurized at all. The pressure regulator can be calibrated at 5, 10, and 15 psi. The instruction manual also includes recipe adjustments for varying altitudes. Available in 20-Quart.
- Can be used at high altitudes
- Great for low or high acid foods
- Cannot use on glass stoves
- One size only
Buffalo has specialized in cookware since 1957. They currently supply water-filters, induction cookers, and a variety of high-quality pans.
There is a lot of information out there stating that pressure cookers should not be used as a canner. That information is correct, but it all depends on the spec of the pressure cooker itself.
This cooker is safe to use on all ranges, including induction. Made from stainless steel, this product is easy to use and clean. Safety features include an extra safety valve, pressure indicator, and precision interlocking flange.
- Available in 8.5, 13, 16, 21 and 32 quart
- Great for double stacking
A well-known brand amongst canners, the history of the company dates back to the 1890s. Over the years, the direction of the brand has changed. Yet, the quality of this canner does not show it.
Made from heavy-gauge aluminum, this canner is available in 16- or 22-quart. This is another canner with set pressure options at 5, 10 or 15 psi. It’s quite heavy for its size, but good value for money. You can buy an 11-inch pressure cooker rack as an optional extra for a few extra dollars. A little adjustment may be required when sealing and it’s not suitable for glass top ranges. That aside, this is a good budget canner.
- 10-year warranty
- Works well as a water bath
- Sealing may need a little adjustment
Victorio offers products ranging from food strainers to apple peelers. They began life in 1937. Their first product offering turned homegrown tomatoes into pasta sauce.
Strictly speaking, this is not a pressure canner, but a canner well worth mentioning. This device will safely help you process high-acid foods using steam. You get a lot of bang for your buck with this baby!
It is the only steam canner on the market that has a temperature indicator to let you know when to start the canning process. There is a stainless steel option for this canner, which is more expensive and heavier.
- Very light
- Low cost
- Easy to handle
- High acid foods only
- 1-year warranty only
How to Choose the Best Pressure Canner
When picking your canner, there are certain factors you need to consider. Below we outline the main criteria to think about when choosing the best canner for you and your family.
Simplistically, a pressure canner is a huge saucepan that will get very hot and will do so very quickly. Scalding hot steam will vent. The pan and the handles will get extremely hot. You need a canner that has considered these hazards. Look for items that have sturdy lids with locks and seals that keep in the steam.
Too much steam within the canner is also no good. Over-pressure plugs can overcome this. This plug releases steam if the build-up becomes excessive.
After use, the first thing you will need to do is pick the canner up. It will still be hot, so stay cool handles are a brilliant safety feature.
Heat is critical in the process. So think about elements that will heat up quickly and evenly throughout, like aluminum. Also, the pressure used can be excessive, so warp resistant material is an advantage. Although steel is stronger than aluminum, note that this will make the canner heavier.
Smooth Top Ranges
Some canners have inwardly dipped bottoms. On a flat heated surface, it is possible that a seal will form between the stove surface and the canner. A vacuum forms. When you then come to take this vat of hot water off the stove, you won’t be able to with ease. In trying to do so, you could end up burning yourself or breaking your smooth top range.
A full canner can be very heavy. Consider whether your stove can carry this heavy load without breaking it, and the shape of the bottom of the canner.
Canners work by holding a constant temperature. If you have one of those stoves that cycle on and off, you won’t achieve a steady temperature. Stable temperatures are essential for successful sterilization and preservation.
If you are not sure what your stove is capable of, test it. Boil a pan of water to 212°F and measure the temperature with a candy thermometer. If the temperature remains stable at around 212°F, then you’re all set.
Quarts is the measure used to differentiate between canner sizes. The smallest canner holds 4 quarts. Do not use anything smaller. Even heat dispersion is necessary for the process to work effectively, which may not be possible with smaller canners.
16-quart canners are of a similar diameter to their 22-quart counterparts. Usually, the difference between the two comes from the height of the canner. The downside of this is that in the 16-quart, you won’t be able to double stack jars.
Using a canner that is too big for your needs does not jeopardize the process. But, you will be using more energy than you need and increasing your carbon footprint. This option is a no-no to canners wanting to reduce their cost of living, or to those who think green.
Also, remember that you will need to store your canner when it is not in use. Think about the size of your kitchen tops, and available cupboard space.
Weight is not only significant when considering what type of stove you have. Think about it this way. You now have a huge pot filled with water and jars of food. That’s not going to be a cinch to carry across the kitchen. Even when it’s empty, such a considerable pan is not going to be user-friendly if it is too heavy for you. The weight of kitchen appliances can put you off using them regularly – even if you need to. Take a little time to read the spec.
Additional kitchen appliances
Some canners can double up as other kitchen appliances. Consider your current needs and equipment. Do you want to add a tenderizer to your existing range? Or perhaps get rid of the slow cooker in the corner? Some products have different canners within the same brand, but their functionality is very different. Work out what features would be essential versus those that are merely beneficial.
We all want an easy life when it comes to cleaning. Some canners need to have their seal removing before cleaning, risking seal failure when you re-apply it. Others only allow for non-abrasive cleansers. Also, vent pipes might require a pipe cleaner. Not all canners have a dishwasher safe interior. Read the cleaning instructions carefully before you buy your canner. How much effort do you want to endure in the cleaning process? Be realistic, and consider what additional items you might have to buy to keep your new pressure canner pristine.
If you live in high altitudes, you will already know you cannot adhere to pressures and times specified in canning recipes.
Water boils at 207.1°F at 2500 feet above sea level, not 212°F. The further you are above sea level, the lower the atmospheric pressure becomes. So the two key factors, heat and pressure, necessary for safe pressure canning, are at risk.
Since the environmental pressure is lower, you need to increase the canner pressure. Also, you will need to increase the processing time.
The table below outlines how much you should increase the processing time.
|My altitude (feet above sea level)||Processing Time Required by Recipe (minutes)||Change to processing time (minutes)|
|1001 – 3000||20 or more||+5|
|3001 – 6000||20 or more||+10|
|6001 or more||20 or more||+15|
|1001 – 6000||Less than 20||+5|
|6001 or more||Less than 20||+10|
Where your canner is concerned, pick one with a visible and precise pressure gauge, preferably digital if possible. The table below shows how much you need to change the pressure by, at various altitudes.
|My altitude (feet above sea level)||Change to pressure (psi)|
|1001 – 3000||+2|
|3001 – 5000||+3|
|5001 – 7000||+4|
|7001 or more||+5|
Can I use a pressure cooker instead?
It is not recommended practice to use a pressure cooker instead of a canner. That said there are some cookers out there that will do the job. Research how others have used the cooker before you buy, and the manufacturers’ recommendation for use.
Can I alter the recipe or use one my grandmother used?
No. We know that different acidity levels require different treatment in the canning process. For your safety, it is essential that you follow the recipes supplied with your canner or other canner-safe recipes. Any alteration could affect acidity. This, in turn, will affect the sterilization process. If you need to make a change, pick a different recipe altogether. For example, a person with diabetes may want to lower sugar levels in a recipe. Don’t! There will be other recipes out there that will suit your needs.
Do I half the time and pressure if I am only making half a batch?
No. Keep both the time and pressure at the recommended levels irrespective of batch size.
Can I re-use this old peanut butter jar to can products?
No. Such jars are not designed for re-use. They are not durable, and do not come in standard sizes. If they get scratched, this will weaken the glass and cause the glass to break during the process.
What kind of jar should I use?
Mason jars. These are durable as they are made from heat-tempered glass. This feature means they can withstand the excessive pressures during canning. They are specifically designed with a wide-sealing surface, and a deep neck, which aids to provide a tight seal. As they come in standard recipe sizes, recommended processing times will work just fine. Don’t forget, the recipes you are following were researched using the same jars they stipulate for your use.
What is the best way to prevent my aluminum canner interior from discoloring?
You will need some white vinegar! Once you have done processing, add 2-3 tablespoons of white vinegar to the water. Not only will this prevent staining of the interior; it will also avoid any hard water stains appearing on your jars!
If staining has already occurred, you will need an aluminum cleaner to clean the inside.
What should I do if, after processing, my jar did not seal properly?
Either reprocess it, freeze it, or refrigerate it to use within 3 days.
It is imperative to establish why the jar did not seal, so you can avoid this in future. Here are a few reasons why this might be the case:
- There is food on the sealing area of the jar. Wipe this away with a clean damp cloth before closing the jar.
- The jar was overfilled. Food will expand when heated, so be sure to leave about 1 inch of room at the top of each jar.
- Air bubbles take up volume within the jar. Work these out before sealing.
Can I use my pressure canner as a boiling water canner?
Yes, of course. Make sure that the water level is about 1½ inches above the jar. Remove any over-pressure plug or pressure regulators. As the water boils, put the lid on the canner with the sealing ring.
There is a vast range of canners available on the market today. Also, the canning process can seem intimidating. So, you need to establish what your needs are first.
How much canning will you do? Do you want a multi-purpose device? Do you have a space big enough to store it when it is not in use? How much are you planning to can at the same time? How long can you spend canning? Are you likely to need to double-stack? Buying a bigger canner than you need keeps all your options open. But maybe, it would be better to buy a second canner should you find you become addicted to the process.
Through this article, we have demonstrated that there is a wide range of canners to choose from. By taking some time to think about your own preferences, you are bound to find the one that is right for you. Happy canning!