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Pressure Canners vs. Pressure Cookers

Pressure Canners vs Pressure Cookers - LivingHomegrown.com

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 - LivingHomegrown.com

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 - LivingHomegrown.com

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.