Are you overwhelmed by the amount of produce you're harvesting from your garden? Or are your fruit trees overloaded with fruits that you don't want to see wasted? You should be proud to have created such a successful setup. Don't be overwhelmed by the food you can't eat - a pressure canner might save you from wasting it.
Pressure canners can be used to store the excess produce from your garden in cans, where it will keep for months without expiring. We've taken a look at some of the best models on the market. These are our top recommendations.
Top 4: Best Pressure Canners
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This 23-quart canner also doubles as a pressure cooker. If you haven't wanted to invest in a canner because you'll only use it during a few weeks of the year, the two-in-one design might appeal. Pressure cookers can make full meals in minutes when they would normally take hours.
Another innovative aspect of this design is that it can use both methods of canning. Pressure canning is the only safe way to preserve low-acid foods like meat and vegetables. But if you're preserving fruits and high-acid substances, you can use boiling water for the canning process instead.
This is among the larger canners on the market. It's a great choice if you need to handle big jobs like preserving a huge amount of garden produce.
The package comes with the canner itself, a canning rack, and recipe book and instruction manual with 76 helpful pages of information.
The aluminum construction is built with heavy-duty materials that heat quickly and evenly. In addition, the design is warp-resistant, so you won't see the same buckling and flaws that you get over time with most aluminum designs.
In fact, the construction is so solid that every purchase comes with a 12-year warranty. If the mechanisms should fail or the aluminum should warp due to a manufacturer defect, you can get a replacement free of charge.
The cooker works when attached to both smooth-top and regular oven ranges. It has a dial gauge that lets you precisely view the interior pressure of the container. This precision is essential to the canning process, as you need to reach a certain pressure to heat the preserves thoroughly.
The cover locks into place before the pressure begins building. If the cover hasn't locked, the canner will not begin to pressurize. There is an air vent that allows excess pressure to escape, keeping the canner at safe pressure levels. You also can't open the top until the interior pressure is at a safe level to do so.
The overpressure plug automatically releases any excess pressure, so you don't need to constantly monitor the device. There is also a pop-up indicator that will tell you when the optimum pressure has been reached.
The exterior should be cleaned using nonabrasive cleaners like gentle soap and water. If you want the aluminum to remain shiny as time goes on, you can use a small amount of metal polish. After every use, you should take off the sealing ring and clean the rim underneath it.
The gauge is delicately calibrated, so you will need to follow instructions to make sure it remains accurate and steady. Information about this component is included in the instruction book. Cleaning the vent pipe just takes a small cleaning brush. You can also remove the cover lock and plug to clean them.
This is another canner that doubles as a pressure cooker. It comes in multiple different sizes. For smaller canning jobs, there are 10.5 and 15.5 quart options. For larger jobs, there are 25, 30, and 41.5 quart options. This review focuses on a 21.5 quart model.
The canner can hold about 19 standardized pint jars at a time. If you're using quart jars, it can hold about 7. This means that you can preserve almost two gallons of produce in a single session.
The design is crafted from durable aluminum and finished with a satin coating. This coating won't tarnish over time the same way aluminum does. The cover can be easily taken on and off, and the cover clamps make it easy to open and close the device.
Instead of using gaskets, this device functions with a metal to metal system. That ensures that no steam escapes through leaks and cracks. Gaskets offer similarly tight seals, but they need to be replaced frequently as they wear down. You also don't have to worry about cleaning gaskets with this.
The steam gauge has simple markings that are easy to understand. There is also an automatic release valve for when the pressure becomes too high. You don't need to monitor the cooker to make sure the pressure doesn't reach dangerous levels.
You can choose your ideal pressure level before you get started. Different pressures will yield different internal temperatures. The three settings are 5, 10, and 15 psi.
The top handle stays cool to the touch, but the heat conducts evenly through the rest of the device. In areas where the aluminum is likely to wear down, the design has been reinforced with double-thickened walls.
There are two racks included in the package, allowing you to stack multiple layers of jars for preserving. Also included is a recipe book and instructional guide that teaches you everything you need to know.
Another great offering from Presto, this pressure cooker has a slightly smaller capacity of 16 quarts. That's still enough to can several jars at once, but it's not the same heavy-duty capacity as the last option. Because of this, it's also more compact and easy to store.
If you have medium canning jobs that need doing, this is a good place to start. The design doubles as a pressure cooker as well. Like the previous Presto option, this canner can be used for boiling water canning.
The design is built for use with smooth-top, electric, and gas stoves. If you have a smooth top stove, you should make sure the base will fit fully on your burner.
The included pressure gauge shows you the precise internal pressure measurements. This allows you to keep track of how long the canned goods have been at bacteria-killing pressure. The fine calibration of the dial is especially helpful when you're canning in a high altitude place.
The product can hold 12 cup-sized jars, 10 pint-sized jars, or 7 quart-sized jars. It all depends on how you arrange them in the interior. One important note is that you should only use the pint and cup sizes when you're boiling your cans instead of pressurizing them.
This 22-quart option is one of the larger choices on the list. It also has a variety of technologically advanced features to work with. The polished aluminum construction is sturdy, while the fine-tuned pressure gauge shows you the exact pressure in real time.
You can use the pressure control system to use your ideal pressure. Choose between 5, 10, and 15 psi of pressure. For safety, the canner will automatically release steam once it passes your preset pressure level.
The lid locks into place, and the device will not begin pressurizing until the lid is locked. There is also a device in the handle that can monitor the internal pressure. That way, you have multiple sources to sense potential excess pressure.
The package comes with two canning racks, which can be used to create stacks of jars. In total, you can input 26 cup-sized jars, 16 pint-sized jars, or 7 quart jars. Pints and cups must be double-stacked to reach full capacity.
Each package also includes a recipe book. Your purchase covers a 10-year warranty on the canner itself, so you can get it replaced if the aluminum begins to warp or stain. The replacement parts for the design have a 1-year warranty.
One important note is that this product is only suitable for use with electric and gas stoves. You shouldn't try to use it with a glass top, induction burner, or other flat top stove.
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The right pressure canner for you depends on what you need. Safety is important, so you should look for one that automatically releases excess pressure. Make sure you choose a design with a large enough capacity to handle the number of jars you're using.
For those who want to preserve an abundant garden harvest, we recommend the Presto 23-quart canner. This design can double as a pressure cooker. It can also can high-acid foods with water boiling processes. The included shelf allows you to pressurize multiple cans at once, so it's great for high amounts of vegetables.
Frequently Asked Questions
To understand pressure canning, it's important that you first understand canning itself. Canning is a process by which you seal food into jars while it's at a high temperature. This allows it to be preserved without using potentially harmful chemical preservatives.
Pressure canning is one of two canning methods. The other method is called water bath canning.
Water bath canning is how you can make pickles, jelly, jam, and other foods with a high acid content. Most people begin canning using this method. But if you want to preserve meats, veggies, or other foods without much acid, water bath canning leaves them vulnerable to contamination.
That's where pressure canning comes in. Pressure canners reach higher temperatures than water bath canners. As such, they're able to kill dangerous bacteria that other canners can't. That renders the preserves safe to eat after time has passed.
Bacteria needs to be heated to at least 240 degrees to be killed. Pressure canners achieve this. In addition, the pressure system removes excess air and seals the jar. Inside the machine, the humidity will cause the jar's lid to become sticky. This adds another level of sealant against bacteria.
If you want to can any kind of meat, you'll need a pressure canner. No matter what kind of meat you use, a water bath canner will leave serious risks.
There are some serious differences between pressure cookers and canners. Most importantly, you should know that a pressure cooker won't help you can produce. You'll need to invest in a separate canner to preserve the spoils of your garden.
A pressure cooker can come in a variety of sizes. Some only handle the volume of a saucepan, while others can hold more than a gallon of material at once. The design rapidly heats your food, which reduces the overall cooking time. But since they aren't made to preserve food, they won't have enough sustained pressure to kill bacteria.
In addition, pressure cookers quickly lose heat once the cooking process is over. Since the interior contents aren't kept at extreme temperatures for long periods of time, your produce might become contaminated by bacteria. There isn't enough time for the bacteria to die.
You can also buy a pressure canner in multiple sizes. Some are small, built for standard jars in an average home. Some are huge, built to process gallons upon gallons at once. These are typically used in industrial applications.
When the water in the canner reaches a boiling point, the steam remains trapped inside, increasing the pressure. If a canner has fifteen pounds of pressure, the water inside will reach 250 degrees. That's more than the threshold necessary to kill bacteria in the jar.
A pressure cooker simply doesn't meet the safety requirements needed to preserve food without serious risks. But many pressure canners have features that allow them to be used as a cooker as well. If you've been considering investing in a pressure cooker, you might want to get a two-in-one canner instead.
The two most common materials used to construct pressure canners are stainless steel and aluminum. These are both effective, though the right one for you might vary.
Stainless steel is known for being extremely durable. It will not lose its shape over time. As the name implies, it also won't stain or rust. You can trust a stainless steel appliance to retain its shine and splendor for multiple years after purchase.
However, stainless steel is significantly more expensive than aluminum. It also isn't the most even conductor of heat. Some stainless steel canners are built with aluminum bases. These have durable exteriors with interiors that spread heat evenly.
Aluminum is the more inexpensive option with more even heat distribution. But the surface might become warped and pitted as time goes on. This won't affect the canner's ability to do its job, but it will make the appliance look worn.
In addition, aluminum might become oxidized while stainless steel won't. You can slow or stop the discoloration process by using a few teaspoons of white vinegar with every use.
Pressure canners come in dozens of different sizes. While most cooking implements use gallons or liters as measurements, canners are measured by the number of quarts they hold.
The product description will also tell you how many jars a canner can hold. Since you need to leave room for the steam pressure to build, the number of jars will not equal the volume of quarts.
To figure out what canner you need, your first step will be to check the volume of your jars. How much material do they hold? Are you using small jars or large ones? How much extra space will you need to maintain the pressure?
If you're still not sure, it's better to use a large canner than a small one.
Another thing to check is whether the canner supports a rack for jar stacking. This will allow you to pressurize multiple cans at a time. Some canners only let you work on one jar per session, while others might allow for multiple layers of shelving.
The weight of your pressure canner matters if you have a glass-top or induction stove. If you use a more traditional woodstove, the weight doesn't make a difference. Cast iron woodstoves are capable of handling very heavy equipment. Similarly, you probably don't need to worry if you use an electric or gas stove.
With a glass-top stove, on the other hand, you have to keep the fragility of the design in mind. Some glass tops might crack under too much weight. Another problem is that a large canner might be bigger than the burner. As the heat spreads through the base, it might heat the stove top itself, triggering the overheating sensors.
While this won't necessarily damage your stove, it will cause the appliance to shut itself off before the canner's job is done.
If you're working with induction or glass designs, double-check the weight rating for your stove. Make sure that the canner doesn't exceed the weight limit, and double-check that the base is compact enough to rest entirely on the burner.
The gauge on a pressure canner tells you about the pressure inside the device. But there are two different types of gauge that you might encounter.
One type is weighted gauges. These are the safest type, and they tend to be the easiest to install. If your canner uses a weighted option, the package will include several different weights. You will use the one that matches your ideal pressure.
Once you've selected the weight that works for your purposes, you'll slide it into place on the lid. As the device reaches the selected pressure level, this weight begins jiggling or spinning. Any additional pressure will escape around the edges of the weight, so the device will remain at the same pressure level for prolonged periods of time.
This allows you to maintain the same pressure without the device becoming overpressurized. That's important, since too much pressure can cause a pressure device to explode.
Dial gauges are another option. These require more manual involvement. With a dial gauge, the monitor will tell you about the pressure level in real time. You will watch the dial to make sure it stays in the correct pressurizing range. If the pressure becomes too high, you'll turn down the heat source.
The oldest dial gauges didn't have release valves. This made them dangerous, since excess pressure buildup didn't have anywhere to go. It led to explosive hazards.
These days, gauges without a release valve are a huge liability. Most manufacturers don't sell them. The majority of modern models automatically begin releasing pressure when the dial reaches its maximum limit.
If you do purchase a canner with a dial instead of a weight, you should test the dial regularly. That way, you know it has accurate readings. An inaccurate dial gauge can lead to dangerous situations.
The rule of thumb for testing dial gauges is to have it tested once before using it, and then once yearly.
There are a few types of lids that might be used when you're making preserves. Most of today's pressure canners use twist-locking lids. When the lid is screwed onto the jar, a rubber gasket seals the device so that no air or contaminants can get in.
If you use a twist-locking lid, double-check that you can purchase replacement gaskets. The rubber is likely to wear down with time. Worn-out rubber might not seal the can properly, which can lead to contamination.
There are also traditional canners that use clamps to seal the lid to the jar. Since there aren't any gaskets, you don't have to worry about replacing worn-out parts. However, you will need to lubricate them to use them, which can be a pain.
After you purchase your canner, make sure that you thoroughly read the user instructions. Your user manual should explain the safety precautions you should take. These might include storing the canner on a level surface, following certain protocols for the canning process, and using the built-in safety features.
If a pressure canner has too much pressure built up, the lid might pop off or the entire device might explode. Modern models are designed with ample measures against this, as it's a major liability.
It's important that the lid locks tightly to the body. That way, it won't fly off when the pressure builds. It's also vitally important to have release valves or extra vents that can release excess pressure before it reaches explosive levels.
Make sure that your canner has been tested for safety. It should be noted as having met or exceeded the standards of a major product safety agency.
Your pressure canner will take care of the canning process. But you need several other components as well.
The first component is, obviously, the jars. Keep in mind that canning jars are different from commercial jars. You can't recycle your pasta sauce jars to use for canning purposes.
A canning jar has a flat lid and metal rings. The underside of the lid has a rubber seal, which keeps contaminants from getting in. Recycled commercial jars lack this important seal.
After you eat the contents of a jar, you can wash it and use the sealing ring again. It is important to replace the flat portion of the lid, though. You won't be able to seal this flat component twice.
It also helps to have some backup sealant rings and lids, just in case your first ones become worn out or misplaced.
A canning funnel is another good investment. You'll place the funnel in the jar so that it can be filled with preserves. In addition, the funnel can be used as a measurement tool so you know when the jar is full enough. With most models, the bottom edge of the funnel is the highest the jar should be filled.
Make sure you don't fill your jars all the way, as the preserves will expand when they heat. Overfilling the jar might cause it to break or explode.
You'll also need a jar lifter. This handy device can take the burning hot jars out of the canner once they're finished. Potholders won't often be enough, and they may be dangerous if your exposed hands touch the hot canner. Jar lifters tend to have grips made of silicone, which can withstand extreme heat without melting.
A canning lid lifter is another important component. This simple tool tends to use a magnet attached to a plastic handle. You'll use it to take air bubbles out of your preserves, as well as to lift sterilized can lids that are still extremely hot.
Several brands of cookware and home appliances create pressure canners. Some models are more affordable, while others are built with extra features and advanced technology.
All American is a good place to start, as the company has been creating canners for almost a century. Instead of using gasket seals, these canners use metal-on-metal seals. They also have both weighted vents and dial pressure readouts to let you track the ongoing internal pressure.
Presto is another company with a long history. They began making industrial pressure canners in 1905 and then branched into commercial devices for home use. You can get pressure canners in stainless steel and aluminum to outfit both your home and industrial kitchen.
T-Fal is another name you might know already. It's common for grocery and department stores to stock T-Fal cookware. This company has been creating Teflon and aluminum cooking implements for almost 70 years. T-Fal pioneered and grew the concept of nonstick cookware. Pressure canners from T-Fal are affordable due to their heavy-duty aluminum construction.
Granite Ware is a brand known best for creating granite-speckled enameling. However, they also create several different types of cookware. The company creates both pressure canners and pressure cookers.