Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker
Large capacity for pressure and water-bath canning
Works on almost all cooktops
Built to last
Lightweight for size
Needs regular calibration testing
Comes with only one rack
Home canners generally fall into two groups: You buy and process small batches for gifts and special touches to meals or you harvest or buy produce by the box and fill shelves with food to feed family and friends all year. The Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker has the latter group in mind. When you’re canning low-acid vegetables and meats, from asparagus to veal, you need to process them in a pressure canner to ensure their food safety. If you’re preserving a lot of these foods, you want a canner that will hold plenty of jars at one time.
Presto has been making this large-capacity canner for decades, and it remains the biggest pot in the company’s home-canning lineup. Its footprint in your pantry may be justified by its other uses as a full-size water-bath canner for high-acid fruits and pickles and as a giant pressure cooker.
I spent a couple of weeks testing this pressure canner to see how well it processed beans under pressure, rhubarb sauce and strawberry jam in a boiling water bath, and more. Here is what I found.
Design: Tall and roomy
Presto currently makes stovetop pressure canners in two sizes, and they’re nearly identical, from their dial gauge to their handles and the canning rack inside. The big difference is height: The 23-quart canner stands taller than its smaller quart sibling, letting you process quarts under pressure and in a boiling water bath. You can also stack pint-sized and smaller jars when pressure canning, churning through up to 7 quart-sized jars, 20 pint-sized jars, and 16 half-pints in one batch.
The canner comes with one rack that needs to stay between its base and the jars. Presto recommends double decking by staggering the upper layer of jars on the lower ones. Since inherited and new canning jars can vary slightly in height, I found that buying an additional rack gives more stability between layers.
Presto’s stovetop canners work on gas and electric coil cooktops; an induction-compatible version of the largest model is also available. You may be able to use the canner on a modern glass-top stove, but check your cooktop’s specs: The fully loaded 23-quart canner can weigh up to 52 pounds. For gas stoves, check your burners’ BTUs. Although it’s tempting to set the canner on high heat over the largest burner, power-boil burners with more than 12,000 BTUs can warp the aluminum bottom and void the warranty.
Setup Process: Give it a wash
The 23-quart canner comes mostly assembled. Its most delicate component, the dial gauge, is packed separately, and you’ll need a minute to screw it into the cover. Presto provides detailed directions for this in the canner’s instruction booklet.
Out of the box, the canner will likely have a sheen of manufacturing oil, especially around the cover gasket and rim. Wash it off with hot, soapy water before you set the canner on your stove. Its instruction booklet gives details about how to clean and check the canner before the first and between canning sessions. If you’re a first-time canner, rusty with pressure canning, or new to Presto’s models, take a pressurizing test run with just water.
In its test batches, the 23-quart stovetop canner ran like clockwork.
Features: Dial gauge for precision and safety
Presto’s canners use a dial gauge to register pressure. As pressure builds inside the canner, the dial’s pointer climbs. The dial gauge gives a precise reading and quick feedback, especially on a gas stove. As you learn how your stove and the canner work together, you’ll find the position of the burner’s temperature knob that keeps the canner steaming steadily and safely and the dial gauge’s pointer on target.
The gauge’s precision is also its weak point. It should be kept clean, dry, and out of freezing temperatures. Presto recommends an accuracy check before each canning season, either by a local county extension office or by sending it in to Presto. Otherwise, the canner’s maintenance is minimal. Presto’s website offers a combo pack for the rubber sealing ring and overpressure plug, which should be replaced every three years. Unless you have problems, you should never need to replace the other parts.
Performance: A space hog, but worth it
In its test batches, the 23-quart stovetop canner ran like clockwork. The locking cover felt firm and secure; Presto warns against over-rotating, but that seemed impossible on the unit I tested. With the canner centered over a gas burner, the one behind it was inaccessible during processing. If you’re hot-packing food like soup, set up the canner on one side of your stove and the stockpot and jar-filling station on the other.
Also plan to take water to the canner instead of carrying the canner to and from the sink. The fixed faucet on my standard-size basin is too low to slide the canner beneath it. The canner may be too wide to fit inside a double sink.
The canner’s size was ideal for pressure canning quart jars of baked beans, and it turned a bumper crop of rhubarb into 13 12-ounce jars of sauce in a single water-bath batch. The canner seems oversized for jam. I had to reach deeply over the tall sides with a jar lifter to pull out half-pint jars, especially squat wide-mouth ones. The canner seems oversized as a pressure cooker, too. Presto includes cooking recipes in its instruction booklet, but some make up to 24 servings that you’ll need to eat or freeze since they can’t be safely pressure canned.
It lets you fit a lot of jars into its tall pot for both pressure and boiling water-bath canning. If you keep it in good shape and have its dial gauge checked every year, it should keep steaming away for decades.
Price: A lot of canner for the money
The 23-quart canner’s retail price, over $100, is only slightly higher than Presto’s smaller stovetop version and in the same bracket as some of its competitors. Whether it’s worth the few extra dollars for the large canner—or a few more for an induction-compatible base—depends on how and where you’ll use it. If you mostly can jams and pickles, but want to process a dozen quarts of chili con carne a year, you may prefer Presto’s smaller model. If you go big when canning, with both jar size and jar count, the large model will be your best bet.
For a similar price, you can choose a Mirro weighted gauge canner and avoid the annual checkup. A jump-in price gets you into All American’s dual-gauge, gasket-free canners that are built to last a lifetime with almost no upkeep or part replacement.
Competition: Big things might come in small pots, too
Presto’s 23-quart pressure canner is a good fit for large-scale home canning, but there are some other great options for both similarly sized and smaller jobs.
Mirro 22-Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner: Mirro’s 22-Quart Pressure Cooker/Canner holds almost as many jars as Presto’s 23-quart model and, thanks to its weighted gauge, needs less maintenance. You won’t be able to fine-tune the pressure, but that may not matter with a reliable burner and low elevation. Mirro recommends using a different pot for water-bath canning.
Presto 16-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker: If 23 quarts seems like way too much canner, Presto’s 16-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker still lets you process full-sized batches and saves you a few dollars. It operates just like the larger model and needs the same care, but you don’t have to go fishing quite as deep for small jars.
All American 10.5-Quart Pressure Canner: If you already have a water-bath kettle, the All American 10.5-Quart Pressure Canner can pressure cook and takes up less room. You’ll pay far more for this little workhorse (it retails for around $260), but it will likely be maintenance-free over years of use.
If you go big when canning, this is the model for you.
The Presto 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker lets you fit a lot of jars into its tall pot for both pressure and boiling water-bath canning. If you keep it in good shape and have its dial gauge checked every year, it should steam for decades.
- Product Name 01781 23-Quart Pressure Canner and Cooker
- Product Brand Presto
- Price $199.00
- Weight 12 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 14 x 15.5 x 14 in.
- Color Silver
- Capacity 16-26 half-pints, 16-20 pints, 7 quarts
- Material Aluminum
- Warranty 12-year limited manufacturer’s warranty
- What's Included Locking cover with dial gauge, regulator, vent pipe, air vent/cover lock, overpressure plug, and sealing ring; canner body; canning rack