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Pressure Canners vs. Pressure Cookers

Pressure Canners vs Pressure Cookers -

There is always much confusion between pressure canners and pressure cookers – which is totally understandable!

  • Their names are similar
  • They look similar
  • And even the words “canner” and “cooker” get confusing.

But even if you understand that Canners and Cookers are actually two completely different tools in the kitchen, you may still be wondering…

Can Pressure Cookers Can?

Can Pressure Canners Cook?

Confused, yet?

Well, although the answers to the two questions above are pretty straight forward, it is still easy to get it ALL mixed up.

So let me see if I can dismantle some the confusion between these two tools.

First, What is the Difference?

Pressure Cooker

A Pressure Cooker

A Pressure Cooker:

  • Is usually a heavy-duty pot with a locking lid and a vent to release steam and pressure.
  • It usually has a knob or switch to change from low to high pressure or it has only one pressure setting.
  • The pot is locked/sealed and heated which brings up the pressure inside the pot.
  • The higher pressure raises the temperature way above boiling and cooks the food much faster than standard cooking.  For example: A beef roast that would normally take 3-4 hours in the oven, can be cooked in 60 minutes or less in a high pressure cooker.
Pressure Canners vs Pressure Cookers -

A Presto Pressure Canner

A Pressure Canner:

  • Also consists of a heavy-duty pot with a locking lid and a vent to release steam and pressure.
  • The pot is usually much larger (to hold jars) and it has either a dial gauge and/or weight gauge to monitor the pressure inside the vessel.
  • It is a more sophisticated piece of equipment with an emphasis on accurately monitoring the pressure.
  • The pot is locked/sealed and heated which brings up the pressure inside the pot.
  • The higher pressure raises the temperature way above boiling and heats the contents of the jars to above 240 degrees for a sustained amount of time thereby killing potentially harmful bacteria and their spores.

Can you “Pressure Can” in a Pressure Cooker?

I think the proper question is:  SHOULD you pressure can in a pressure cooker?

The answer is NO.

A pressure cooker is not as sophisticated as a canner. (That is why it is cheaper.)

First, it is not built for monitoring pressure/temperature as accurately which is SO important in canning safety. So while it might be able to take small jars of food up to a pressure, you really can’t know for sure what that pressure is.

Second, it is not made to maintain a specific pressure with razor-sharp accuracy. If the proper pressure is not met and maintained, then the proper temperature is not met and maintained.

In other words, you may not destroy the harmful bacteria that cause botulism.

The National Center for Home Food Preservation advises against using a pressure cooker for canning. There are just too many different makes, models and brands and most are not as accurate as the manufacturer may claim.

So the bottom line is that a pressure cooker is just built for cooking – not canning.

It is really never a good idea to pressure can in it – especially since we are talking about the potential for botulism here.

Save a pressure cooker for just cooking.

Can You “Cook” in a Pressure Canner?

All American Pressure Canner -

An All American Pressure Canner

The answer is: Yes, sometimes.

It really depends upon the food you want to cook and the brand/size of pressure canner you have.

  1. First, you must check the manual of your particular brand and model size to verify it is okay to pressure COOK in your canner. Some brands vary as I describe below.
  2. You should avoid cooking things that bubble up or foam because they can potentially clog and block the steam vent of the canner. A blocked vent would cause the pressure to build in the canner which would be dangerous.

There are two main brands of pressure canners here in the United States: All American and Presto. And there are different sizes/models of each.

Note: To make things just a little more confusing, Presto also makes cookers (not for canning) and they call their canner a “canner/cooker”. {Sigh – no wonder everyone gets confused!}

The All American Pressure Canning manual states that (due to foaming) you should NEVER cook the following foods in the canner: rice, applesauce, beans, cranberries, rhubarb or spaghetti – plus any other food you think might foam up.

However, the Presto Pressure Canning manual states that you CAN cook these items IF you only fill the canner half way so that the food can not foam up to the lid.

So to cook in your pressure canner, you must find or look up the manual for your brand and model and verify its use.

What About Water Bath Canning?

It is always okay to water bath can in any large pot (stockpot, canner, etc.) as  long as you have some sort of rack to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot.

Yes, you can use your pressure canner or pressure cooker as that large pot IF you do not seal the lid. Sealing the lid would build pressure and you would no longer be water bath canning.

However given the heaviness and bulkiness of a pressure canner or cooker, you may want to use something more light weight like a stockpot or a good old-fashioned water bath canner.

It is totally up to you.

Bottom Line:

  • You should only pressure can foods in a pressure canner which is made for canning food.
  • You should NOT pressure can in a pressure cooker.
  • You can cook in both a pressure cooker and pressure canner IF you follow manufacture instructions for your brand.
  • You can water bath can in both pressure canners and cookers IF you DO NOT seal the lid and build pressure.

Did that help?

What other questions do you have about Pressure Canning?

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About the Author:

Theresa Loe is the founder of Living Homegrown® and the Canning Academy® and is the Co-Executive Producer & Canning Expert on the national PBS gardening series, Growing A Greener World®. Theresa homesteads on just 1/10th of an acre in Los Angeles with her husband, two teenage boys and several disorderly but totally adorable chickens. Learn more about Living Homegrown here and about the Canning Academy here.


  • John says:

    Theresa, Why is a rack needed when hot bathing?

    • theresa says:

      Hi John,

      You need a rack or something inside a water bath canner to hold the jars up off the bottom. The purpose is to keep the jars from being in direct contact with the hot bottom of the pot (which can cause breakage) and to allow for heat flow all the way around the entire jar (so the inside of the jars are heated evening and reach the proper temp).

      • John says:

        Thanks Theresa. I have another question that maybe you could assist with also. Sometimes my pickles are not as crunchy as I like. I do add a slight amount of alum to each jar but it doesn’t seem to help much. My sister-in-law tells me she never hot baths her pickles but rather just lets the hot brine poured into jars do the work.
        Would you give your take on this? Also if I may pose another question. Since green beans also grove abouve ground and I am not worried about anthrax, I usually just wash and blanch them or just freeze them the way they are until time to cook. Is thank ok?
        Thanks again


        • theresa says:

          Hi John – Let me see if I can answer these one by one.

          Pickle Crunchiness: There are several factors that affect how crunchy your pickles will be. The BIGGEST is freshness. Make sure you are taking those cucumbers from harvest to jar as fast as possible (I’m talking hours rather than days or weeks). Another factor is processing time. Although processing for the correct time is important for safety, over processing will destroy the texture. So don’t over do it. Watch time closely.

          Pickle Safety: I’m assuming your sister-in-law is making quick pickles and not fermented pickles, right? If you want to store the quick pickles on the shelf, you should water bath can them. It is not considered safe to pour hot brine on them and put on a lid. That really does not kill all the bacteria and it does not always create a strong enough vacuum inside the jar. If you want to do that and place them in the refrigerator, THAT would be fine. And yes, you would probably have a crisper pickle by refrigerating rather than water bathing/pantry storing. But from a safety standpoint, no – you should not open-kettle can (which is what you are describing).

          Here is info on the “whys” from Penn State:

          Freezing Green Beans: Yes, it is perfectly fine to blanch/freeze green beans until ready to cook. In fact, it is a GREAT way to preserve them. Yes, you can just freeze them without blanching, but they will lose their texture quality. The purpose of blanching is to kill the enzymes that cause the veggies to soften in the freezer. A quick blanch will keep them bright and crisp in the freezer.

          Hope that helps!

  • Karen says:

    Great topic! Thanks for the clear answers and explanations.

  • Ruth Harms says:

    Thank you for the information on the differences between pressure Canners & pressure cookers – Very helpful. However, I do have one question about using a pressure canner. I’ve never bought one, as I have been told that you should NOT use a pressure canner on a smooth/glass top stove, as it can not maintain a steady heat. Is this true? I do have a pressure COOKER, which I have used on my smooth top stove, with no problem.

    • theresa says:

      Hi Ruth,

      You ask a great question. You are correct: It is okay to use most pressure COOKERS on a smooth top IF they are small (not wider than 1 inch past burner and not too heavy).

      However, it is NOT recommended that you use a pressure CANNER on a smooth/glass top for several reasons. (Temp fluctuations due to how those stoves work, weight, size, heat on glass top can cause breakage) I wrote a whole post on that awhile back on our TV show website here:

      I hope that helps.

      • Ruth says:

        Thank you so much – I’ll check out the link.

      • Susan says:

        Presto says theirs is safe on glass cooktops per their website. I was getting ready to buy one. Are you saying it is not? All American told me theirs works on specific models only of glass tops. Confused!

  • Donaldo says:

    THANK YOU for addressing this issue. I am a Master Food Preserver in Oregon and this is a big issue. Many of the manufacturers try to double the duty of a pressure cooker and as you point out this is a safety issue. Even The All American states that the 10.5 and 15.5 Quart canners should not be used to can smoked fish. These units heat up and cool down to fast to safely can the smoked fish. Think what the cookers would do. If you use a canner with a gauge please remember to get it checked EVERY YEAR!

  • Lisa R says:

    Thank you, Theresa for your clarity!

  • Grammy Karen says:

    I really enjoy this site and as long as I have been canning and freezing I’m learning new stuff. Thank you for all your efforts.

  • I love my pressure cooker and I love my pressure canner. I keep them separate. I prefer to keep as many areas of my life as simple as possible.

  • Sophene Marshall says:

    Hello, I’m new to canning as well and I read that as long as the equipment can hold 4 quart jars, it is ok to pressure can. I found used pressure cooker/canners on eBay that is 8 qt capacity. They all contain locking lids, rubber gasket, vents, and 5, 10, and 15 psi weights. I have a small kitchen and smooth cooktop so the newer pressure canners are either too big or for gas stoves only. The older mirro and presto are perfect size, but are they safe to use as pressure canning? I only want to pressure can small batches at a time. Thank you for your input.

  • Melina says:

    My mom and I are going to attempt pressure canning her pasta sauce w/ meat…so we are “virgin” canning ladies. What is your recommendation as to the minimum size of pressure canning? There are so many choices and I am not sure what is the best size to start with?

  • Tara says:

    I have never canned before, but would like to can my strawberry and blueberry compote. What is the easiest and cheapest way to do this?

  • Wendy says:

    Is there a pressure canner that can be used on an open fire or would it be dangerous to do this?

  • Jason says:

    So to can veg soup can I do it in a water bath canner

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