Pressure Canning Introduction

Is your garden overflowing with fruits and vegetables? Maybe you have extra meats in your freezer that you don’t want to get rid of. Learn all about pressure canning and how you will be able to preserve and enjoy different foods all year round.

Why Pressure Canning?

Pressure canning on a stovetop

Interested in learning about preserving food at home? Pressure canning is great for beginners and for canning low acidic foods.

There are two ways to can foods: water bath canning and pressure canning.

Water bath canning is used for preserving high acidic foods:

  • Fruits
  • Jams
  • Jellies
  • Pickled products
  • Salsa

Pressure canning is used for preserving low acidic foods:

  • Meats
  • Seafood
  • Poultry
  • Tomatoes
  • Dairy Products
  • Vegetables

Molds, yeast and other enzymes are killed off at temperatures below 212° F (the temperature at which water boils), water bath canning is enough to destroy those agents. The bacterium Clostridium botulinum produces toxic spores which cause botulism. These spores are not destroyed at 212° F and this bacterium thrives in low acidic food in the absence of air, which is why pressure canning needs to be used when canning meats and vegetables.

For canners that are just starting out and do not want to have both a water bath canner and a pressure canner, you can preserve high acidic foods with a pressure canner as well. However, low acidic foods cannot be canned with a water bath canner because it will not reach the necessary temperature of 240° F in order to kill Clostridium botulinum.

Choosing a Pressure Canner

Before you start pressure canning you need to consider what kind of canner will work best.The larger the pressure canner the more you will be able to can in one batch. Keep in mind that the larger the surface area of the bottom of the pot, the longer it will take to heat. Plan ahead about how much you will need to can. Many canners these days have pressure release valves. They are used as a safety mechanism in case the pressure gets too high. If the pressure gets too high, the valve releases the pressure. Modern pressure canners have removable racks so you can stack canning jars on top of one another. They also have an automatic vent/cover lock, a vent pipe (steam vent), and a safety fuse. A dial gauge pressure canner reads the pressure inside. Weighted gauge pressure canners “jiggle” in order to maintain the correct pressure.

What Pressure Canner Material Is Best?

Most pressure canners are either made of aluminum or stainless steel. There are benefits and drawbacks to each type.

Aluminum Pressure Canners:


  • High rate of heat conductivity
  • Provides uniform and even heating across the bottom surface
  • Lightweight
  • Less expensive than stainless steel


  • Less durable
  • Weaker material
  • Can become dented, dinged and pitted
  • Built for economy, not longevity

Stainless Steel Pressure Canners:


  • Extremely durable
  • Finish will remain beautiful and lustrous
  • Built to last
  • Non-porous


  • 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