Pressure Canning: A Step-By-Step Guide

Rack and water in pressure canner before loading jars. Leda Meredith
  • 01 of 08

    Pressure Canning

    If you want to can unpickled vegetables, soup stocks, beans, or any non-acidic food, you’ve got to use a special piece of equipment called a pressure canner.

    Other foods, including fruit, sweet preserves, and pickles can be safely canned in a boiling water bath without special equipment.

    Each brand of pressure canner is slightly different, and you definitely want to read through the manufacturer’s instructions carefully before using a new pressure canner for the first time. The instructions that follow apply to pressure canning in general. Hopefully, they will demystify the process for you.

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  • 02 of 08

    Place Rack in Canner & Add Water

    Rack and water in pressure canner before loading jars. Leda Meredith

    Pressure canners come with a removable rack. Make sure the rack is in the canner before you add water and load the jars. Add the amount of water specified in the manufacturer’s instructions. If no amount is specified, go for a 3-inch depth of water. Add even more water if the food will be processed for longer than 40 minutes.

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  • 03 of 08

    Turn On Heat If Hot Packing Jars

    If the food will be hot when you fill the jars before processing, you can go ahead and turn the heat on under the canner and start heating up the water. Do not turn the heat on yet if the food will be cold packed into the jars or the jars could crack when placed in the water.

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  • 04 of 08

    Fill Jars and Place in Pressure Canner

    Lowering a jar of soup stock into a pressure canner using a jar lifter. Leda Meredith

    Fill clean canning jars, leaving ½ to 1-inch headspace. Screw on 2-piece canning lids. Use a jar lifter to lower the jars into the canner. Hold the jars upright so that the food doesn’t get on the adhesive ring on the inside of the lids. Leave a little space between the jars.

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  • 05 of 08

    Close Canner and Vent Steam for 10 Minutes

    The lid of a pressure canner has a vent or a petcock to allow steam to escape. Leda Meredith

    Fasten the pressure canner lid on; how to do this varies depending on which brand you’ve got. Leave the vent pipe or the petcock open. Turn the heat on high if it isn’t already. When steam begins to escape from the vent or petcock vigorously, start timing. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for how long to allow the steam to exhaust. If unspecified, let it go for 10 minutes.

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  • 06 of 08

    Raise Pressure and Process the Jars of Food

    A weighted gauge placed over the vent of a pressure canner lid. Leda Meredith


    Put the weighted gauge on the vent or close the petcock, depending on the model of canner. The pressure will start to go up, which you can see on the dial gauge or tell by when the weighted gauge starts to hiss and jiggle.

    When the pressure specified by the recipe is reached (typically 10 lbs. of pressure), begin timing according to the recipe's instructions. Adjust the heat as necessary to maintain that level of pressure for the entire processing time.

    If the pressure ever goes below the specified amount, you have to raise the heat to bring the pressure back up and start the processing time all over again from the beginning. This is not optional – it’s a safety first thing.

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  • 07 of 08

    Depressurize the Canner Before Opening

    When the timed processing is done, turn off the heat and let the canner cool down until 5 minutes after the pressure gauge reads zero. The canner is not only cooling down during this time, it is also depressurizing.

    Remove the weight from the vent or open the petcock slowly. If there is any hissing sound when you start to do this, then the canner is not fully depressurized. Leave it weighted or closed in that case and give it an additional 5 minutes of cool down/depressurizing time.

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  • 08 of 08

    Open Pressure Canner and Carefully Remove Jars

    Jars of soup stock cooling after being pressure canned. Leda Meredith

    Carefully open the canner lid. Remove it by lifting the side that is away from your face; a lot of steam will be released and it could burn you if you open the side closest to you first.

    Remove the jars with a jar lifter, being careful not to tilt them. Place them on a heat-resistant surface where they can remain undisturbed until the jars are completely cooled. After cooling, test the lids to verify that they are sealed. Label and store away from direct light and heat.