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Once you learn how to use a pressure canner, you’ll be amazed at the kinds of meals you can set aside in your food pantry.
Learning how to use a pressure canner can be a nerve wracking experience. But, once you get used to it, you will become much more comfortable with using your canner.
I’ve been using a pressure canner for years. And yes, I was really nervous when I was learning. And that’s OK!
How to Use a Pressure Canner
If you’ve never canned a single thing in your life, I would really suggest you start by learning how to can using a water bath canner.
It is the easiest way to learn how to safely can food at home. And there are a lot of different foods like fruits, jams, jelly, and pickles that can safely be water bath canned.
Although some foods can be safely canned in a water bath canner, other foods NEED to be canned using a pressure canner.
These include food like any kind of meat or fish. Soups, stews and chili are just some of the foods that need to be pressure canned.
Canning Food Safely
Food safety is so important to me and it should be important to you too. You never want to open a jar of home canned food and have to wonder if it is good to eat.
Sometimes you can see signs of spoilage, but sometimes you cannot. You don’t want to feed anyone food that has not been safely canned.
This makes me very ANAL about how I go about canning and storing food.
I take ZERO shortcuts, I make sure my equipment is clean and my canning lids and seals are in good shape.
When I look at my stocked pantry, filled with home canned foods like lamb stew, green beans, carrots, beets, pickles, jams, jellies and a lot of other items, I get such a sense of pleasure.
Pleasure because I know exactly what is (and what isn’t) in my home canned food. A true sense of satisfaction because I love the look of all those pretty jars on the shelf.
And I know I can feed my family good healthy food that is safe to eat.
Are you as careful as I am when it comes to preserving food? If not, you should be!
Never take a chance – it is not worth it if someone you love gets sick, or even worse, dies from incorrectly canned food tainted by botulism, which is more likely with low-acid foods (like mushrooms, onions, chicken, potatoes, etc).
Water bath canning is a fine option for foods that are higher in acid (think tomatoes, pickles, fruit), but any pressure-canning recipe that features a low acid food will be better off in a pressure canner.
You can get more information about the differences from sources like the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
What are the Different Types of Pressure Canners?
Pressure Canners – Weighted Gauge or Dial Gauge
There are two different types of gauge canners to choose from. One is a weighted pressure canner and the other is a gauged pressure canner.
Each have their own set of pros and cons. Below are a few key differences between each to help you determine which pressure canner you’d like to use.
How to Use a Pressure Canner with a Weighted Gauge
The weighted gauge pressure canner can release any pressure that goes above your desired pressure level. The downside is that a weighted gauge cannot measure the pressure.
It simply keeps track of what level you want the pressure at and keeps it at that pressure.
A weighted gauge will fit over the air vent tube and jiggle to release the steam as the pressure starts to go above your desired pressure level.
You need some way to monitor pressure because canning at too low of pressure can result in food that won’t be canned well enough for long term storage.
Key Features of the Weighted Gauge Canner
- Regulates the pressure inside your canner.
- The open vent is the same one that fits the pressure regulator.
- Continuously allows air to be released to maintain pressure.
- Doesn’t need you to check for accuracy, in fact, you can’t check it.
- Not as flexible with adjustments as the dial gauge pressure canner.
Here’s a good quality weighted gauge pressure canner – over 1400 reviews for you to research.
How to Use a Dial Gauge Canner
The dial gauge pressure canner lid has a dial that allows you to monitor, measure, and change the pressure during the process of pressure canning. This looks similar to a knob you’d see on your kitchen stove.
The dial gauge has a needle that shows you where the temperature is during the process of canning.
A dial gauge pressure canner will allow you to measure the pressure during the process of pressure canning.
This is an excellent option for someone starting off with pressure canning because they can see the pressure and have a bit more control as they learn the process of pressure canning.
Key Features of the Dial Gauge Pressure Canner
- Features the pressure inside, displays this for you to see during the processing time.
- Must be checked regularly to ensure accurate pressure is maintained.
- More flexibility than a weighted gauge.
- Has dead weight to close or open vent for pressurizing.
Here’s a good quality dial gauge pressure canner for the price. Over 8,000 reviews – go over and take a look!
If you’ve always wondered how to preserve your own food, this guide has all the tips you need!
The Process of Pressure Canning
The purpose of knowing how to properly use a pressure canner is so that you’re able to feel confident about serving your family food that’s been stored properly.
Pressure canning helps preserve your harvest so that it has a longer shelf life for storage in your pantry or other food storage space.
Here are some tips and must-know parts of pressure canning to help guide you in canning and storing food properly.
Clean the pressure canner and make sure it’s working properly. Make sure all of the vent pipes are clear and free of mineral build-up.
Check the manufacturer’s directions on appropriate burners, but generally speaking, you’ll want to make sure your gas range doesn’t go over 12,000 BTUs.
Place your cleaned pressure canner in the center of the burner. Put the rack and hot water inside your pressure canner.
If you don’t have an exact measurement for how much hot water for the food you’re about to can, just make sure it’s 2-3 inches high in the canner.
Some foods, like smoked fish, require more water. This is because meat and fish need to be canned for 100 minutes and you don’t want the canner to run out of water.
Be sure to check with USDA requirements on how much water is needed for the food you’re planning to can before starting.
- For hot packed foods you’ll want to bring the water inside your pressure canner to 180 degrees Fahrenheit.
- For cold packed foods you’ll need to bring the water inside your pressure canner to about 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
Loading the Canner
Get your canning jars ready with the food inside, lids and bands secured.
Take a look at this post which shows you what to do to prepare your jars for canning.
This will be what we refer to as “fitted jars” in the next step of the pressure canning process.
You’ll fill the jars with food leaving about half to one-inch headspace between the food and the lid of the canning jar. Screw the lids on tight.
Next, you’ll place your fitted jars on the jar rack in your pressure canner. You should use a jar lifter during this process and keep the jar lifter securely positioned below the ring band of the lid.
Always keep the jar upright to avoid food or liquid spillage during the process.
Start to steam your fitted cans for ten minutes. You’ll turn the heat on high, if not already on high, and leave the vent pipe or petcock open.
When you see steam beginning to escape from the pressure canner, you’ll want to start the timer for 10 minutes.
You’ll need to put the weighted gauge on or close the petcock, depending on which pressure canner you’re using.
Always wear a heavy oven glove when you do this! Protect yourself from the steam coming from the canner.
- Adding Weights to the Pressure Canner
- Read the recipe and instructions for canning this particular food to know which measurement of weights you’ll place on your regulator.
Building Pressure in the Canner
The pressure canner will begin to pressurize now, once it reaches the appropriate pressure level, you’ll begin timing based on how long the food needs to be pressure canned for.
If you’re using a weighted gauge you’ll know when the pressure has reached optimal pressure when the weighted gauge starts to jiggle or rock.
Pay close attention to keeping the pressure at the recommended level for the food as per USDA guidelines to ensure safe food storage.
Once the pressure canning process is complete, it’s time to safely remove the pressure canner from the heat. Allow the pressure canner to cool naturally.
Forced cooling may cause your food to spoil thus ruining food and having to start the entire process over.
Note: It usually takes longer for the pressure canner to cool down than beginners seem to think! Just let it cool on its own, at least one hour.
Older canners will need you to be more careful about removing the weighted gauge once the pressure canner is cooled, as some steam may still roll out.
Newer pressure canners will have a lid lock that unlocks once the pressure canner is cool enough to open.
Removing Jars from the Canner
Use a jar lifter to remove each of the cans from your pressure canner one by one, being mindful to keep your jars upright to avoid food spillage.
Place the jars on a towel or cooling rack with at least one inch spacing between each jar. Don’t crowd your jars!
Now is the time to leave the canning jars alone for 24 hours so that they can cool completely. Once the jars are cooled completely, you can handle the process of making sure the bands are removed and the middle of the lid is pushed down to fully seal your food.
If you find that some of the cans wouldn’t seal properly, place them aside or in your fridge and use these cans first.
It’s best to be safe than sorry when it comes to pressure canning the food you’ll be eating and serving to your family!
Most Common Pressure Canning Mistakes
There are some common pressure canning mistakes that people make during their first time with this process.
As a means to help you have a successful batch of pressure canned food, I wanted to give you a list of common mistakes to help you avoid making them during the process of pressure canning:
- Not adjusting the pressure canner timer and pressure due to higher altitude. If you live more than 1000 feet above sea level, you’ll need to adjust the pressure and add more time to the process. Check your manual.
- Overfilling the jars. You need to leave about half to one-inch space in the jars between the top of your food and the rim of the jar.
- Using cracked or chipped canning jars. Inspect your canning jars before use for any minor or major damages. Only used canning jars that are free of cracks and chips.
- Not using enough water in the water bath. The jars must have at least 1-2 inches of water surrounding them inside the pressure canner to ensure safe food canning.
- Not letting the pressure canner cool naturally. It’s important you leave the pressure canner alone until it naturally depressurizes before doing anything with your cans that are inside.
FAQs about Pressure Canning
Can You Use a Pressure Canner on a Glass Top Stove?
Sometimes. It depends on the make and model of your stove.
We do our pressure canning on a propane burner on our front porch. We have a glass topped stove and some glass stoves are not equipped to handle a pressure canner.
Since we have the ability to do our canning outdoors, we just don’t want to take the chance using the stove.
Check your stove manual and if in doubt, use one of these propane burners instead.
Bonus: Canning outdoors keeps your kitchen and house much cooler in the summer.
How Much Water to put in a Pressure Canner?
You need to have at least 2 inches of water in your pressure canner. The one thing you do NOT want to happen is to run your pressure canner dry!
So put in extra – as an example when we can meat (remember, 100 minutes at 15 lb pressure here for us), we add 4 1/2 quarts of water to the canner.
Where to Buy a Pressure Canner?
You can buy a pressure canner on Amazon. Take a look at the number of reviews and take the time to read through some of the reviews.
The best pressure canner companies are:
- All American pressure canners
- Mirro pressure canners
- Presto pressure canners
These are all good quality pressure canning brands.
Is a Pressure Cooker the same as a Pressure Canner?
No, a pressure canner and a pressure cooker are NOT the same thing. However, you can use a pressure canner as a pressure cooker.
You can NOT safely use a pressure cooker as a pressure canner.
Food we Can Using a Pressure Canner:
- Read about how I home can salmon to learn the process I use for using the pressure canner.
- If you want to learn how to can food using a water bath canner, check out this post on canning cherries.
- After reading these posts, think seriously about buying a canning book. The Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving is a really good resource.
If you are going to can anything with meat in it, it MUST be pressure canned.
I’ve had my pressure canner for over 10 years and it still works great. I’m replacing the gasket this year and ordered it through Amazon.
So, if you’re new to the idea of preserving your own food, don’t be afraid. If I can do it, you can too. Just remember to always think of Safety First!
Now that you know how to use a pressure canner, it’s time to get started canning!
By the end of this year’s harvest, you will be able to put your own home canned jars of great food in your pantry.
More Articles about Food Preservation:
- Want a list of every article about how to preserve food that is on the site?
- Want to find out how I go shopping all winter long without even leaving my house?
- Here are the 4 Ways we Store and Preserve Food.
Are you new to the idea of self sufficiency? Here is how to get started providing for your family by growing your own food and raising some of your own meat!
Want to find out which are The 5 Easiest Vegetables to Grow?
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originally published August 2017; last updated August 2022