DIY Home Canning 101:
Pressure Canner Buying Guide
The most important piece of equipment you will need for home canning, it can also be the biggest investment: The Pressure Canner. There are hundreds of products you can choose from to can foods at home, but how do you know what size canner or canner type you need? Here, we provide answers to a few basic questions you may have about buying a canner, as well as important features you might want your pressure canner to have.
- Expert advice from Paula K., Home Canning enthusiast and helpful Blain's Farm & Fleet associate for over 5 years at our Madison location.
Before making any purchase, it's important to decide what you're going to be canning. Since different foods may need different canning processes, see Home Canning 101: The Styles of Canning That Keep Food Safe. This will help you determine whether or not you need to invest in a pressure canner.
What Size Do I Need?
Pressure Canners are generally sold by the size of their total liquid capacity. Depending on what you will be canning, the total usable capacity may be far less as extra space is needed within the cooker to allow steam to build. For canning, you will want a 16 Qt - 23 Qt model.
Keep in mind you can stack jars on top of each other in these canners. If you are always using small jars you may not need a very large canner. If you're doing pickles in 2 Pint jars, you may want something taller for stacking.
The smaller sizes are generally pressure-cookers only, which will not be suitable for home canning. However, these large pressure canners can be used for pressure-cooking as well. For more on this, see our article - Home Canning 101: Pressure Canning vs. Pressure Cooking.
What Canner Material Is Best?
Most canners are either made of aluminum or stainless steel. There are benefits and drawbacks to each type.
- High rate of heat conductivity
- Provides uniform and even heating across the bottom surface
- Less expensive than stainless steel
- Less durable
- Weaker material
- Can become dented, dinged and pitted
- Built for economy, not longevity
Stainless Steel Canners:
- Extremely durable
- Finish will remain beautiful and lustrous
- Built to last
- Less heat conductive - you will want to purchase a multi metal cooker with a typically aluminum-clad bottom. This feature virtually eliminates scorching and provides excellent heat conduction and easy cleaning
- Slightly heavier
- More expensive
Important Features to Consider:
- Pressure Regulator: This control is the means to indicate the cooking pressure inside the pot. Be sure to select a regulator with a maximum operating pressure of 15 Pound per Square Inch (PSI), which is the standard used when pressure canning. If the operating pressure is lower, your cooker is not being optimized to its potential time saving usage.
- Pressure Valve: The valves control the pressure inside the unit.
- Weighted valves rock back and forth to maintain pressure so you can see the pressure cooker is operating properly.
- Modified weighted valves intermittently release steam in short bursts to maintain pressure.
- Spring valves are short pop up valves that indicate pressure. These are not audible so you have to watch the unit to ensure pressure is being maintained.
- Cover Interlock: This is an extremely important safety feature for pressure cookers. This device prevents pressure from building until the cover is properly locked and keeps the cover locked until the pressure is reduced to a safe level.
- Handles: When you pick up a pressure canner, it's going to be heavy. Be sure you feel comfortable picking up the cooker and the handles feel 100% strong and secure.
- Cooking Rack: This is an important feature for any canner. It allows the water to flow around the jars and keeps them separated, which prevents breakage.
Regardless of what canner you choose, proper cleaning and care for your equipment will ensure it lasts. See our DIY Project: Home Canning 101: Canner Cleaning and Care
Expert advice from Paula K., Home Canning enthusiast and helpful Blain's Farm & Fleet associate for over 5 years at our Madison location.