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There's one way to safely can low-acid foods like corn, beans, and pork without pickling them: Use a pressure canner. The large pot creates a tight seal, heating water above its boiling point and trapping steam to create pressure. The ultra-high temperature kills bacteria—most importantly, those that cause botulism.
Pressure cookers resemble pressure canners, but they're not always dual-purpose, even when marketed that way. The ones that are right for the job must pass two safety checks: The first, by Underwriter Laboratories, certifies that it works safely (look for the UL approval symbol stamped on the pot's bottom) and the second, regulated by the National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP), ensures that the food sealed inside jars is safe to eat.
The NCHFP doesn't approve specific models, so you must look for several features: Will the canner hold four quart-sized jars? Can you vent, monitor, and adjust its pressure? Does it work on a stovetop or pressurize and depressurize as slowly as a stovetop pressure canner? All of those answers should be "yes" if you want to use the device for pressure canning. Always read and follow your canner's directions, as well as the U.S. Department of Agriculture instructions to ensure that your canned food is safe to eat.
With those guidelines top of mind, here are the best pressure canners on the market.
Best Overall: Presto 01755 16-Quart Aluminum Pressure Canner and Cooker
Not compatible with induction cooktops
This classic 16-quart pressure canner has stood the test of time and resembles models the USDA used to set its pressure canning guidelines. It holds ten pint-sized jars, and like many larger canners, it can also hold seven quart-sized jars. It even doubles as a water-bath canner for pint and half-pint jars (but not quart jars) of high-acid foods.
This aluminum pressure canner works on gas, electric, and glass ranges, but not induction cooktops. The dial pressure gauge helps you adjust the pressure needed for safe canning at high altitudes, and the 35-page instruction manual includes recipes for pressure canning, water-bath canning, and pressure cooking.
Best Large-Capacity: Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker
Works on most cooktops
Needs recalibration occasionally
Not compatible with induction cooktops
A bumper crop or large catch calls for a large-capacity canner. The trick is balancing size versus weight. Larger pressure canners are available, but this 23-quart model weighs less than 11 pounds when empty, holds 20 pint-sized jars, and isn't too heavy to lift when fully loaded. You'll need to stack the jars to fit that many pints, which is easiest if you purchase a second rack.
The canner's dial gauge makes necessary altitude adjustments easily, but like all dial gauges, it should be tested and recalibrated occasionally. The aluminum pot can double as a water-bath canner for all jar sizes and works on gas and electric stoves. Newer glass cooktops may support its loaded weight, but you should check your stove's rating first.
Best Small-Capacity: All American 10.5 Quart Pressure Cooker & Canner
Takes up minimal space
Seals without a gasket
If you can small batches and treat your pressure canner with love, a small-capacity canner can last a lifetime. All American makes some of the sturdiest and most reliable canners out there, but they're also among the heaviest and most expensive.
This 10.5-quart pressure canner is among the smallest on the market that meets NCHFP guidelines, holding four quart- and seven pint-sized regular-mouth jars. Even then, it's too small for safely canning smoked fish, but its size makes it the lightest All American model, weighing approximately 13 pounds when empty.
It comes with a dial gauge and a regulator weight that does the real work of maintaining consistent pressure, so the canner doesn't need recalibration. Its sealing system also differs from other brands: Instead of a gasket that can wear out, wingnut clamps seal the lid to the pot. The rubber overpressure plug should still be replaced annually.
If the thought of pressure canning makes you feel like a mad scientist, an electric pressure cooker or multicooker may seem tempting, but researchers have questioned their safe use for pressure canning. A study from Utah State University found that electric pressure cookers have "a high risk of producing home-canned foods that could develop the deadly botulism toxin."
In the time since the study was published, Presto released an electric pressure canner that has been tested against USDA guidelines. However, the USDA and NCHFP have yet to weigh in publicly on its safety for pressure canning.
Best Budget: Mirro 92122A Polished Aluminum Pressure Cooker
Doesn't need recalibration
No fine-tuning at high elevations
Not compatible with glass or induction cooktops
For a large-capacity canner on a budget, Mirro's 22-quart model may fit your needs. It holds 7 quart-sized jars or 16 stacked pint-sized jars. If you live near sea level, its biggest boon may be the weight gauges for different pressure levels. This is less ideal if you live at a high altitude; instead of making an incremental pressure adjustment for your elevation, you must use the 15-PSI regulator, potentially affecting food quality. The trade-off is that you'll never worry about calibration testing.
Mirro's pressure canners have concave bottoms, so they aren't suitable for flat-top surfaces, whether glass or induction. The 22-quart canner comes with two jar racks, one for the pot's bottom and one for stacking pint-sized or smaller jars. The only added expense will likely be the occasional replacement of the rubber sealing gasket.
Best for Induction Ranges: Presto 01784 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker
Works on all cooktops
May not work with portable induction burners
Pressure canners are generally aluminum, but Presto added a stainless steel-clad base to its 23-quart model. It also works on gas, electric, and smooth-top ranges. It's still best to check burner specs if you have a glass cooktop or portable induction burner, which may not handle the weight of a full canner. Portable burners can also lack the power to achieve canning pressure. Besides the stainless steel bottom, the induction canner is essentially Presto's all-aluminum 23-quart device.
Best for Small Kitchens: Granite Ware 20-Quart Pressure Canner Cooker Steamer
Doesn't need recalibration
Small pint jar capacity
Granite Ware is known for its speckled water-bath pots, but has branched into pressure canners with a different, hard-anodized aluminum look. If you have limited storage space and want one pot that will steam tamales, cook beans, and can soups, this 20-quart canner may be your ideal tool.
The weighted-gauge canner has three interchangeable regulators for different pressure levels, and the steamer rack sits several inches off the bottom. The canning rack features folding handles familiar in water-bath canners, too. It can hold seven quart-sized jars, but only eight pint-sized jars because of its low sidewalls. On the upside, it's easier to pull jars in and out of a short pot.
The Presto 01755 16-Quart Aluminum Pressure Canner and Cooker (view at Amazon) is our top choice because it is large enough to hold a full batch of jars, but small enough to move when full. For smaller batches, the heavy-duty All American 10.5-Quart Pressure Cooker and Canner (view at Amazon) is built to last.
What to Look for in a Pressure Canner
Pressure canners need to hold at least four quart-sized jars for safe processing. Large canners that can handle seven quart-sized jars and sometimes three times as many pint-sized jars will make quicker work of your harvest. Even larger canners are available, but difficult to move when full.
A pressure canner spends more time in storage than in use, so be prepared to stash away a big pot with a bulky lid. The larger the pot, the heavier it will be, especially when it’s full of water and jars of food. When choosing a pressure canner size, how much weight you want to lift is just as important as how many jars you want to process at one time.
Pressure canning combines heat and pressure to kill microorganisms. To do this safely and effectively, a pressure canner must have a UL approval symbol and meet NCHFP guidelines. It also needs key features, including a locking lid, steam vent, pressure gauge or regulator, safety plug, and jar rack.
Most pressure canners are made from aluminum to cut down on weight and cost. You’ll need one with a stainless steel bottom if you have an induction cooktop.
How do you use a pressure canner?
Pressure canning is a process, and each step ensures your jars of food are safe to eat. Be sure to read and follow the specific directions that came with your canner, plus the NCHFP instructions for pressure canning. They’ll tell you to heat several inches of water, add properly filled and lidded jars, and lock on the canner lid. Let the canner steam and then come up to and maintain steady pressure before you start timing. When your timer goes off, let the canner cool and depressurize naturally before removing the lid and jars. Those are the basics, but the safety really is in the details from the canner’s manufacturer and the NCHFP.
When should you use a pressure canner?
To ensure food safety, use a pressure canner any time you want to preserve low-acid foods at their natural pH level. This includes meat, poultry, seafood, and vegetables, including soups and stocks. Low-acid foods have a pH higher than 4.6. You could use pressure canning for high-acid foods, like most fruits, but it will take more time and might be less tasty than if you chose boiling water-bath canning.
What is the difference between pickling and pressure canning?
The alternative to pressure canning for low-acid foods is pickling. By adding an acid like vinegar to, say, green beans, you can raise the pH enough to safely process the jar in boiling water. Without that extra acid, you need the combination of ultra-high temperature and pressure—achieved with a pressure canner—to kill microorganisms. If you want canned green beans that mimic their fresh flavor, choose pressure canning. If you want green beans that keep their fresh crispness, but have a tangy taste, pickle them.
What else do you need?
Canning requires jars specifically made for home canning and flat canning lids with rings to hold them in place until they seal. To have the most fun and least mess when canning, you’ll also want a ladle, a wide-mouth funnel for filling jars, and a jar lifter for moving full and hot jars. A second jar rack helps when stacking jars in a pressure canner. Don’t forget a marker or labels, so you can write down what’s in the jars and when you canned them.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
This roundup was written by Julie Laing, who has been a writer and editor for more than 25 years. She currently specializes in pickling, preserving, sourdough baking, and generally making good food from scratch year-round. She grew up pressure canning foods from the family garden and published her first cookbook, "The Complete Guide to Pickling," in 2020.