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If you do a lot of home-grown produce, or just actively looking to preserve your foods, you might have come across pressure canners before.
No more worrying about what the best way is to preserve your foods, and no more worrying about them spoiling. Pressure canners provide a convenient way to do your own home-canning. This allows you to store food for at least a year with minimal effort.
In this article, we discuss the mechanisms of pressure canners and how effective they are. We’ll also talk about how to shop for one, and our own list of the best pressure canners.
If you consider yourself an average home-canner with no specific needs, the Presto 20-qt pressure canner is the best all-around that we’ve come across. We love it that much, to the point where we can’t find a flaw out of it.
For a smaller capacity canner, the 12-qt Granite Ware pressure canner is our recommendation.
If you do a whole lot of canning though, the All American 30-qt pressure canner might be worth the investment. Robust and high-quality, it will definitely continue to satisfy you for a long time to come.
Table of Contents
Why Use Pressure Canners?
Been hearing a lot about this appliance, but not sure how it is able to help you or bring you benefits?
While pressure cookers benefit pretty much every household that does a good amount of cooking, pressure canners target a more specific demographic. Basically, the sole functionality of pressure canners is to enable you to do your own canning of foods, in order to preserve them. It’s perfect for those who have their own home-produce.
Apart from pressure canners, there is also another type of canner that is simpler to set up and use – water bath canners, also referred to as boiling water bath. Between the two though, pressure canning is the more sophisticated approach, and achieves better results.
While pressure canners are able to safely preserve any types of foods, water bath canners are stuck to only being able to work on acidic foods. This is because low-acid foods lack the acidity to kill off microorganisms themselves. So to completely get rid of them, a higher temperature has to be used, which can only be achieved in pressure canners.
On the other hand, pressure canners take a longer time to process. With a boiling water canner, it would only take half the time required.
How Do Pressure Canners Work?
While you technically don’t need to know all this when using a pressure canner, it’s always good to understand the process, at least the basics.
To put it simply, pressure canners are just pressure cookers for canning, and they work on the same principle. A common misconception is that the heavy pressure kills the microorganisms in your foods, but this is not entirely true.
What actually happens is, the high pressure allows for water to boil to a higher temperature, instead of the standard boiling point of 212°F. As certain harmful bacteria are killed at temperatures higher than 212°F, this process allows us to safely can and preserve food.
While some people are concerned with the high pressure that the canner is holding in and the risks associated, they are in fact very safe when used properly. The correct way to go about utilizing a pressure canner would be to at least skim through the instruction manual before using it, just as with any other appliances. Adding onto that, many models come with at least some set of safety features nowadays, making them safe by default.
Pressure Canner vs Pressure Cooker
While they both work under the same principles, pressure canners allow you to more stringently monitor and control the pressure. This is because canning and preserving foods require a certain level of pressure to safely do so.
On the other hand, pressure cookers do not need the same level of strictness when operating. In the worst case scenario when pressure is lower than desired, your food simply cooks slower. For this reason, pressure canners would have some sort of gauge to let you monitor the internal pressure.
In short, you’re able to do everything a pressure cooker is able to in a pressure canner, while the opposite is not true.
Buyer’s Guide: What to Look For in Pressure Canners
If you’re shopping for a pressure canner and you’re not sure what to look out for, we got you. Here are a few things to pay attention to.
Obviously, size plays an important factor in decision-making for any kitchen purchase.
For pressure canners though, the better metric to look at isn’t the actual capacity of the appliance itself. Rather, focus on the number of jars it is able to hold. This is often mentioned in the form of ‘holds X number of quart jars’ or alternatively, pint jars. Which one you look at depends on the capacity of the jars you typically use to can your foods.
Ultimately, the best size for a pressure canner comes down to your use case, but would generally be around 20-qt for most people.
As anything to do with high pressure has risks involved, it is important that you look for a unit with built-in safety features.
The most common ones include locking the lid to prevent it from opening when the unit is pressurized, and only allow it to be opened when the pressure has been safely released. Some units also come with overpressure protection, where they would automatically release any excess pressure.
These are important and should not be a compromise when shopping for a pressure canner!
Type of gauge
Basically, gauges on pressure canners are divided into two types: dial gauge and weighted gauge.
A dial gauge is more of just a meter that shows you how you should adjust the heat from your stove. It shows you the current pressure, and you control your stove burner knob to make it reach your desired level. On the contrary, a weighted gauge automatically releases any pressure above your desired level of pressure.
While a weighted gauge is our favorite if we had to pick one, it doesn’t actually show you how much pressure is built up, only controlling it to make sure it doesn’t go over. There are models that offer combination options where they include both – a dual gauge setup. Often reserved for the pricier models, these offer the best of both worlds.
While this is an obvious thing to look out for when you’re an induction stove user, we feel the need to emphasize this for pressure canners.
Because of the sensitivity of maintaining the correct levels of pressure, the characteristic of induction cooktops where they turn on and off automatically to adjust temperature does not help. For this reason, pay extra attention to what other induction stove users are saying about the product.
In our experience, the Presto pressure canner performs really well on induction stoves.
Our Picks of Best Pressure Canners
Here are our picks for the best pressure cookers for canning meat, or any types of foods intended to be preserved. Make sure to skim through the list for an overview and pick the right one for yourself.
If you’re looking for the overall best pressure canner, and don’t need anything particular fancy or large-capacity, this one is very well near perfection in our opinion.
Constructed using heavy-gauge aluminum, it has a thick stainless steel-clad bottom for fast and even heating. It also works pleasantly well with induction cooktops. While induction stoves tend to turn on and off by itself, it seems to have had no effect on the pressure, and the gauge shows a steady reading.
Apart from this, it also comes with a number of safety considerations. The unit has a weighted regulator fixed at 15 PSI. This releases any pressure above the desired pressure level safely. The unit also only starts building up pressure when the cover is properly closed, and only opens after pressure has been reduced.
Finding no real downside to the unit, we happily recommend this as the go-to for anyone looking to do some home-canning. Especially for induction stove users, this is our pick for the best pressure canner for glass top stoves.
- Durable heavy-gauge aluminum construction with thick clad bottom
- Large capacity of 23 quarts fits 20 pint jars, or 7 quart jars
- Compatible with induction cooktops
- Doubles as boiling water canner
- Safety feature only allows pressure to build up when the cover is properly closed, and only opens until pressure is safely released
- Includes canning rack
- Honestly, none that we’ve come across, which is rare!
If the usual 20-qt capacity is overkill for your use case, this model from Granite Ware comes in two variants – a 12-qt one alongside the regular 20-qt. Apart from some minor flaws, this is a good compact alternative.
The construction of this model is made of up hard-anodized aluminum, which makes it even more durable than the Presto. Because of its hard-anodized interior, it also acts as a pressure cooker or a pressure steamer whenever you need them. To add onto that, the unit also includes a steamer insert, as well as a rack.
The regulator is also weighted like the Presto, and it offers three levels of pressure at 5, 10, as well as 15 PSI. It also has a safety feature that prevents the lid from opening when it is pressurized, even just at 1PSI.
However, those with induction cooktops have no choice but to skip this, as it is not induction-compatible. Although not feature-breaking, the handles also get a little loose over time, but can be fixed using a screwdriver. While we’ve not encountered this, some also complained of rusting parts in the canner, resulting from some design flaws.
All in all, it’s a pretty well-made pressure canner. If you’re looking to get the smaller one, this is a good choice. But if you’re going for the 20-qt variant, we recommend the Presto instead.
- Durable hard-anodized aluminum construction
- 12-qt variant fits 7 pint jars or 4 quart jars
- Also able to act as pressure cooker and pressure steamer
- Includes a steamer insert and a rack
- Safety feature prevents lid from being opened when pressurized
- Offers different levels of pressure at 5, 10 and 15 PSI
- Not compatible with induction cooktops
- Handles get loose over time and needs to be tightened with a screwdriver
- Design flaws that make parts of the unit more prone to rusting
Rated by America’s Test Kitchen as the winner for their best canning pots list, this affordable canner is an absolute value buy.
It is capable of holding 7 quart jars as with any standard pressure canners, and is also compatible with induction stoves because of its clad bottom. It includes a stainless steel canning rack out of the box, but doesn’t work very well with half-pint jars due to its wide design, something to keep in mind.
As for actual usage, we’ve found that it comes with some caveats. The temperature gauge works occasionally, other times it’s more of a hit-or-miss. The pot also tends to spit water out from the edges when under high temperature, which sometimes is required to accelerate the process of building up pressure.
While it offers pretty good value for its price, this is only suitable for those who aren’t taking pressure canning too seriously. If you’re willing to spend a little more though, the Presto isn’t much more expensive and is a better pick in our opinion.
- Priced affordably, especially for the quality it offers
- Fits 7 quart jars
- Compatible with induction cooktops
- Includes a stainless steel canning rack that lets you can by pressure or water bath
- Temperature gauge works sporadically
- Rack design doesn’t hold half-pint jars very well
- Lid doesn’t seal well under high temperatures, which the instruction manual’s suggested solution is to bring the heat down
Another product named as a ‘best buy’ by America’s Test Kitchen, it is not to be taken lightly. While this model offers a full set for you to begin your pressure canning journey, it does come in a small size which is important to keep in mind!
Being an advantage for some while a disadvantage to others, its small footprint is what sets itself apart. While most pressure canners come in around 20-qt of capacity, this one only offers half of that at 10 quarts. In terms of actual usage, it is able to fit 3 quart jars, or 4 pint jars. If that’s all you need, then this is a good choice. But if you need something bigger, it’s best to look elsewhere.
While it’s on the pricier side for a 10-qt canner, it does include pretty much everything you need to start pressure canning. It includes a rack, and several accessories like a wrench, a lifter, a funnel, a ladle, and two recipe books. If you’re looking for a quick and easy entry into the world of pressure canning, then this is the best pressure canner for beginners.
- Includes a complete canning kit, e.g. canning rack, jar wrench & lifter, BPA-free funnel & ladle, two recipe books etc.
- Able to employ pressure canning or water bath canning
- Two adjustable pressure levels – 8 or 15PSI
- Compatible with induction stove tops
- Rather pricey considering its size, but offers the convenience of bundling everything you need for pressure canning
- 10-qt of space fits only 3 quart jars or 4 pint jars, which is perfectly fine if you’re not doing a lot of canning anyway
- Does not come with a gauge
All the previous models weren’t enough to satisfy your needs? Maybe you do some serious canning, or just simply looking for a robust and versatile purchase that will last you a long time. In either case, the All American pressure cooker might be for you.
Made in the US – specifically in Wisconsin – this model is honestly one of the more premium-feeling canners we’ve come across. Well, it better be, considering the price tag!
It comes in a hand-cast aluminum construction with a satin finish, which we like a lot. This also makes it easier to clean. Our favorite thing of the canner by far though, is its generous capacity. If you do a lot of pressure canning, you would really appreciate the extra space! Effectively cutting down the number of batches you would have to do your canning in.
Its inclusion of several safety features, as well as adjustable pressure levels, make this a complete package. If you’re an induction user though, do note that this is not suitable for use on glass top stoves due to its weight.
If you love the robustness that All American promises, but don’t need the large capacity, they do offer a 10.5-qt variant as well as a 25-qt variant in the same listing. Those might be better picks depending on your use case!
- Durable hand-cast aluminum construction with a satin finish
- Large 30-qt capacity holds 14 quart jars, or 19 pint jars
- Lid is easy to take on, off and to lock
- Steam gauge with automatic overpressure release
- Automatic venting features include a safety control valve & overpressure plug, which provide extra safety
- Offers settings of 5, 10 or 15PSI
- Includes a canning rack
- Very pricey option
- Not recommended for use on glass top ranges by manufacturer due to its heavy weight
The Ball electric pressure canner is a little different from the other ones on our list, in that it’s not a pressure canner at all. This one is strictly a water bath canner and is not capable of pressure canning.
However, it does offer a few advantages because of that. For starters, it is a standalone appliance and is powered by electricity, so it doesn’t require stoves. It also saves around 20% electricity compared to canning on stoves, according to the manufacturer.
The best thing about this is probably the spigot used for draining, and offers more convenience than you might have expected. Instead of having to lift the entire pot to pour out excess water or to adjust the water level, simply turn the tap on and it’s done. We didn’t expect for it to be our favorite feature, but it somehow is!
Being a water bath-only canner, it also comes with some disadvantages. The biggest one being the inability to safely can foods with low acidity. This is because non-acidic foods require more effort to completely eliminate microorganisms, due to their own inability to kill them off. Because it’s powered by its own heating element, you’re also at the mercy of its efficiency, which we’ve found to be lacking. Water usually takes longer to boil than we’ve expected.
That being said, if you don’t do canning of low-acid foods very often, and don’t mind waiting around for the water to boil a little longer, this is a pretty solid option. The robust construction paired with the inclusion of the unique spigot makes this
- Electrically-powered standalone unit that doesn’t require stoves
- Simple dial to set the precise temperature
- Large 21-qt capacity holds 7 quart jars or 8 pint jars
- Includes a canning rack and a recipe book
- Comes attached with a spigot for easy draining/water level adjustment
- Lid and rack are dishwasher-safe
- Functions as a stockpot for pasta etc. or a steamer pot
- Unable to safely can low-acid foods, as it works only on the principle of water bath canning
- Water takes longer to boil than expected
How to Pick for Your Use Case?
For most people without any specific needs, we would recommend that you go for the Presto pressure canner, and you can stop reading further. Honestly, it offers way too good of a value at its listed price. We even struggled to find what was bad about it, it is that good.
If you’re looking for a smaller capacity canner though, we have a few recommendations. For the best value, the Granite Ware 12-qt pressure canner is our pick. Although the similarly-sized Zavor DUO offers a complete experience with its full set of accessories, we enjoy the overall experience and the quality of the Granite Ware unit more.
If you’re that serious food canner and do a lot of it, the All American pressure canner is worth investing into. The only caveat is its inability to be used on glass top stoves due to its weight, but other than that, it really is quite the perfect durable canner that would last you a very long time.
And if for some reason you want to avoid the stove for canning your foods, the Ball freshTECH electric canner may be worth looking into. It comes with its set of disadvantages, and unless you really want to go the stove-less route, we generally wouldn’t pick this over the others.
Pressure canners make it easy for you to carry out your own preservation of foods in the comfort of your own home. Taking only a short time of up to an hour, you’ll be able to can and preserve several jars of foods, lasting for at least a year.
To reiterate, when shopping for one, be sure to pick the size that is right for your unique scenario. Pay more attention to the number of jars it holds, rather than its volume capacity, as that is the more practical metric. Safety features are almost a must, due to the involvement of high pressure.
If you need help picking to one for yourself, be sure to skim through our short guide and follow through the links to check the latest prices.
Since you’re all about convenience, you might also be interested in snagging an electric skillet for your kitchen – these things are highly versatile in the foods they are able to cook up. Or, if you need a cookware that does everything well, check out our reviews of the best carbon steel pans, or the best, safest non-stick pans without Teflon, if that interests you.
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