Common Questions about Pressure Canners and Pressure Cookers

Learn more about the difference between pressure canners and pressure cookers, if its safe to use electric pressure cookers for canning, when to use which one and types of pressure canners available.

Can You Use Your Pressure Cooker (InstantPot)  for Canning?

The answer is No and a little bit Yes.

electric pressure cooker
Electric pressure cookers like the Instant Pot should not be used for pressure canning.

YES, you can use a pressure cooker like a big pot for hot water bath canning high acid foods without using any pressure. Just like any big soup pot can be used for hot water bath canning.

NO, you can not use a pressure cooker for pressure canning low acid foods (soups, meats, beans, pumpkins, etc.). This includes all makes and models of electric pressure cookers. Even the Instant Pot Max which goes to PSI 15 and says it can be used to pressure can low acid foods. This cooker has not been sufficiently tested to be given the green light by the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Because it is an electric pressure cooker, it functions differently and reaches the necessary temperatures needed for safe pressure canning differently than dial or weight gauged pressure canners. Until it passes more inspection, I don’t recommend using it for pressure canning.

stove top pressure cooker
Pressure cookers also come in stove top models. These are also not suitable for pressure canning.

Are Pressure Cookers and Pressure Canners The Same?

No they are not the same and they are not interchangeable. Pressure cookers are for cooking only. Pressure canners operate under higher pressure than cookers and are the only tool that can be safely used for pressure canning. You could cook food in a pressure canner, but chances are the food will be cooked to mush – not ideal.

dial gauge pressure canner
Dial gauge pressure canner. Easy to read and know exactly what the pressure is, but this gauge needs to be tested annually.

Can you use pressure canning instead of hot water bath canning?

I know what you’re thinking, if pressure canning is canning at a higher temperature and eliminates more dangerous pathogens, can’t I just pressure can everything? Wouldn’t it be faster, safer and use less water? Why bother with hot water bath canning at all? It’s not that simple. If you pressure can food that is recommended for hot water bath canning, you will likely end up with a poor quality product. The temperature and pressure will overcook foods and you’ll end up with soft, mushy foods. It’s not recommended. Here’s more on When to Use Hot Water Bath and When to Use a Pressure Canner.

Nor can you just reduce the cooking time to make up the difference. We simply don’t know what that safe cooking time would be. And it takes a little more time to get the pot up to pressure, so overcooking is still a concern. The easiest, simplest and safest thing to do is to follow a trusted recipe and use the canning procedure recommended and follow the timing exactly.

all american dual gauge pressure canner
This All American dual gauge pressure canner looks intimidating, but is a top of the line pressure canner. The weighted gauge is easy to use and will last for decades without needing to be calibrated. The dial gauge provides extra information and confirmation of the pressure inside. The large size and rugged construction makes it perfect for any size canning job.

What Are Different Styles of Pressure Canners?

There are three main types of pressure canners – Dial Gauge, Weighted Gauge and Dual Gauge Canners (Dial & Weighted)

If you’ve lost your user manual, are new to canning or are just a little bit rusty since the last time you canned, please google or read up on how to use your pressure canner.  Here’s a botulism survivor telling how she misused her pressure canner.

Dial Gauge Pressure Canners

With a dial gauge canner you adjust the heat of your stove to ensure the dial reads the pressure indicated in your recipe. It is easy to read and you can change the pressure by changing the heat level on your stove.

These canners should be tested annually to ensure the pressure is accurate for safe canning. After many phone calls and attempts, I know first hand that it is VERY DIFFICULT to find someone who will test your dial gauge here in Manitoba and in other parts of Canada. In the US most Ag extension offices will test your gauges or be able to identify someone who will. We’re not so lucky where I am.

If you can’t confirm the accuracy of your pressure canner – you can’t be sure your food is safe. This is a deal breaker for me.

presto dial gauge pressure canner
This Presto dial gauge pressure canner is great – but only if you know you can get your dial gauge tested annually. Contact the manufacturer to ask about testing or kits to convert your canner to dual gauge.

Weighted Gauge Pressure Canners

With weighted gauge pressure canners you place the weight specified in the recipe in the opening and then watch for it to “jiggle”. You adjust the heat on your stove to get the correct amount of jiggle or rocking per minute as outlined in your recipe or by the canner manufacturer. (It sounds more technical than it really is – it’s super easy!).

No annual testing required!

 

All American weight regulator
With weighted pressure canners you simply place the correct weight regulator over the opening based and set heat according to the recipe. This is the weight used on the All American pressure canner.
presto weight regulators
The three piece weight regulators of the Presto pressure canner look different but are equally easy to use.

Dual Pressure Canners

These canners have both the dial gauge and the weighted gauge to get pin point accuracy and not have to worry about getting annual testing.

The dual All American 921 is what I use.

all american dual gauge pressure canner
The All American dual gauge pressure canner. I have model 921 which has room for 21 1/2 Quarts (Liquid), 7 Quart Jars, 19 Pint Jars. Yes, you can stack jars when pressure canning.

Can I Use a Pressure Canner on A Glass Stove Top?

Pressure canners are heavy and some are slightly concave (the entire bottom surface does not rest on the stove) and some glass top stoves use a heating method where the heat goes on and off in order to regulate temperature. Put all those factors together and it means that not all pressure canners will work on all glass stove tops. It really depends on the make and model of your stove and your pressure canner.

To be sure, read the owner’s manual and/or contact the manufacturer to ensure you’re safe to proceed and won’t end up with an expensive stove repair bill

Can I Use a Pressure Canner on an Induction Stove?

Induction stoves don’t cycle on and off, but they may have a maximum heat limit and the same concerns about weight and concave pots exist as mentioned above. In addition, if your canner does not hold a magnet, it will not work on an induction stove.

Read the owner manual and/or contact the manufacturer to double check.

When To Pressure Can vs Hot Water Bath?

For jams, jellies, salsas, relishes, pickles and pickled vegetables you do not need a pressure canner – a hot water bath (boiling filled jars in water in a big pot) is all that’s required. These are considered high acid foods that cannot support the growth of dangerous Clostridium Botulinum pathogens.

For all low acid foods that aren’t in a vinegar or acid brine you need a pressure canner – green beans, potatoes, meats, fish, soups, low acid tomato mixes and other individual or mixed vegetables.

For both methods, always follow a tested, reliable recipe when canning. The recipe will tell you which process to use, how long to process and whether or not pressure is needed. Here’s more on When to Use a Hot Water Bath and When to Use a Pressure Canner.

The undisputed best source of credible, reliable information on safe canning is the National Center for Home Food Preservation. It is one of the only places that continually tests home canning recipes and procedures.

chart of water bath or pressure canning
Follow reliable recipes to get specific details on how to safely can your food.

How Do I Know A Recipe is Safe?

Good sources of trusted recipes are the National Center for Home Food Preservation(NCHFP), Bernardin, Certo, CanadianLiving and cookbook or blog authors like me that demonstrate they follow the standards set out by the NCHFP.

If you find a source on the world wide web – read their credentials, look at their general tone and how they write about canning and preserving. Anyone who has credible canning information should be referring to national standards and safe canning practices. If they do not and they’re just posting a canning recipe without any further information – be suspicious. If they are promising shortcuts and information that’s contrary to what you’ve been reading elsewhere – be suspicious. If they’re sharing their amazing, top secret family recipe that’s been around since forever and no one has ever died from it but it doesn’t follow today’s canning practices – be suspicious. It may be the tastiest preserve, but it could also be the deadliest. Just because Grandpa doesn’t wear his seatbelt and he’s 97, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t wear ours!

And by the way, it’s not just individuals that are sharing questionable recipes, corporate sites are doing it too. Be cautious in the recipes you follow.

That’s a quick look at common questions I get about pressure canners. Let me know if you have more!

I would love to hear about what you’re canning this year.  If you have a question or want to share info, leave a comment below or tag me on Instagram at #getgettys or Facebook @GettyStewart.HomeEconomist. 

Getty Stewart is an engaging speaker and writer providing tasty recipes, time-saving tips, and helpful kitchen ideas to make home cooking easy and enjoyable. She is a Professional Home Economist, author of Manitoba’s best-selling Prairie Fruit Cookbook, Founder of Fruit Share, mom and veggie gardener.

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