Pressure Canners

There have been several requests lately for more info about canners so I’m going to do a post. This post will be mostly for folks who have never canned. Skip over this one if you have no interest in canning.

The first thing to think about is your stove.  If you have a glass top, many recommend that you do not can on them.  The loaded canner is quite heavy!  See what the manufacturer of your stove recommends and make your decision.  I canned for 9 years on a glass top in Kentucky and for 4-1/2 years on one in Missouri and never did any damage but I honestly hoped I would ruin them so I could replace them.  Use your judgment with your stove.  Some folks set up what we call a crawfish burner — the gas setup that you use outside with a propane burner and put a big pot on, and they have success using a canner with that.  Another advantage is that if you’re doing your canning in the summer, you’re not heating up the house.  I’ve tried that method and find it’s a lot easier to do my canning in the kitchen, near the sink and countertop where I can place the jars.  But, if you have a glass top stove, and it is recommended that you do not can on it, you can come up with a setup for outside with a propane tank and burner of some kind where you can do your canning.

Next you’ll have to make a decision about a canner.  I suggest that for your first canner, you go with a new canner.  Used and older canners can have some issues, which are easily fixed — anything from a gasket that needs replacing to a pressure regulator that isn’t registering properly.  It’s so much easier to start with a new canner and then it’s fairly safe to assume that if you follow the directions, things should work right.  Gaskets and pressure regulators are easy and fairly inexpensive to replace so I wouldn’t hesitate to buy a used canner if a second canner is needed.

For an overall, stands up to lots of uses, not terribly expensive canner, I recommend the 23 quart Presto.  I’ve had mine for about 15 years and I’ve canned thousands of jars in it.  I still use it.  It holds 7 quarts or 20 pints.  I’ve seen this canner at Wal-Mart, Target and similar type stores.  I bought mine at a store similar to Tractor Supply.   The Presto has the pressure gauge and an overpressure plug, which should blow before the lid flies off and decapitates bystanders and sprays tomato sauce all over the ceiling.  🙁

With the Presto, I have to do a little more “babysitting” than I do with my All American.  This is the model All American I have.  It will hold 14 quarts or 19 pints.  Don’t ask me why it holds more quarts but less pints than the Presto.  Haven’t figured that out yet.  It’s obviously quite a bit more expensive than the Presto but since I can do twice as many quarts in it, it saves me time and propane. The All American has the pressure gauge as well as the pressure regulator . . two ways to make sure you have the pressure correct.  This one also has an automatic overpressure release to hopefully keep accidents from happening.  I absolutely love this canner and have also purchased a smaller one.  This one holds 7 quarts and 10 pints.  It will pretty much replace the Presto.

The Presto has a rubber gasket, which will eventually need to be changed.  I think I’ve changed the gasket in my Presto twice in 15 years.  The All American has no gaskets that need changing.

From time to time, the pressure gauges need to be checked.  Some home extension or county agents will do that for you.

The Presto is fine for starting out, and like I said, I’ve used it for years and years but, the All American is the dream canner.  When canning with the Presto, I watch it constantly and have to adjust the burner, sometimes even turn the burner off completely because the pressure gets too high.  With the All American, once I find the right stove setting, the pressure never fluctuates.  Still, I wouldn’t recommend spending the $$ for the All American  until you know for sure canning is something you want to do.

If you buy a new canner, there will be an instruction booklet with it.  Read it!  Read it again!  If you follow the directions, there’s nothing to be afraid of.  And I’ll tell you a little secret . . I had the All American for eight months before I was brave enough to try it.  I had the instruction booklet memorized but I was scared of it!  Once I used it, I again said to myself . . what took me so long?  You will do the same if you’ve been wanting to can and putting it off because you were afraid.

So . . don’t feel bad about being intimidated. Truly, if you read the instruction booklet and you follow the instructions, you shouldn’t have any problems!  And, know that feeling intimidated and a bit scared is perfectly normal.  Be careful.  Never walk away from the canner.  You’ll learn that you can hear it and know if something is getting out of control.  Once I’m confident that the canner is holding at the right pressure, I’ll go sit down and knit or read but never far from the canner.

One last tip — there’s a starter kit.  You absolutely need everything in this kit.  It’s impossible to get the jars out of the boiling water without the jar lifter.  It’s impossible to get the lids and rings out of the boiling water without the magnetic lid lifter.  It’s impossible to get all the food in the jars without the funnel.  You’ll need to get the air bubbles out of your jars of food and you shouldn’t use metal (like a knife) because it can crack the glass so you need the little plastic bubble remover.

You may have heard me say that when I was wanting to knit socks and couldn’t remember how to cast on, I hung out in the knitting section of Hobby Lobby.  Every lady that came in looking at yarn, I would ask them if they could show me how to cast on.  With canning, I think your confidence would be boosted tremendously by watching someone do it.  You might hang out in the Mason jar section of Wal-Mart and see if a lady who looks nice is buying a lot of jars.  She might help you.  You might post a note on a bulletin board at a grocery store that you’re looking for someone you can “shadow” while canning.  Or, if you’re active in a church, maybe ask some of the older ladies if they would be willing to do a canning demo.  Most churches have nice, big, clean kitchens.

See?  Simple as can be!  All you need now are jars and food to put in those jars.  Be cautious and be careful but don’t be afraid.



  1. 1

    Kathy says

    Hi Judy,
    Just wanted you to know that my husband and I started canning two weeks ago and love it! I’ve been reading about canning for years and after reading your blog about it, talked T. into trying. The first time, we would look around the corner at the canner. Pretty scary. Now we are very comfortable with it going. Our bacon,roast, and chicken are very tasty. We love the fact that if power goes, we will still have food that will keep. I look forward to reading your blog Thanks for sharing.

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    Wendy Johnson says

    Thank you so much for this Judy! I have printed it off and will save it in a canning book I found. I have also saved the canners on my amazon acct. It’s a great starting point article for me. Thank you taking the time to write this!
    Wendy Johnson

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    SarahB says

    I took your advise several years ago and have never looked back! I love to can (well, more accurately, I love the results of canning) and preserve. I also started small, much smaller than you and used an “all-in-one” pressure canner that only reaches 15 psi and regulates there. I can’t remember the name but it’s European and we got it at Macy’s. It served me as a starter but it only did 4 quarts or 6 pints!! Talk about a lot of loads of jars.. anyway, I finally decided that if I wanted to take it serious I needed a much more efficient pressure canner. I found my large Presto, just like yours, at the thrift store for $25. That was my best find of the year! It came with original instruction manual and I carefully checked the gasket and everything was perfect. I use that almost exclusively now. My friend has the All-American but it’s still out of my price range. Maybe someday… :o)

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    Sandy says

    I’ve never done any canning, but I’ve saved your post just in case someday I feel the urge! Thanks for all the information.

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    Wonderful, informative post Judy! You are a gem!
    Our extension office offers canning classes so people might check there too. Super excited to get my first Mother Earth issue!

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    pat hathaway says

    I’ve been afraid of pressure cookers since I was a little girl. When I was about 7 or 8 my mom used to use them all the time and one time she had to run an errand and told me she was going to leave the pressure cooker on because she would be back in a few minutes. I didn’t want to be alone in the house with it so I went next door to my grandparent’s house and swung on the rope swing my grandfather had made for me. When Mom drove back into the driveway I went home and sure enough, dinner was splattered all over the kitchen ceiling. I was so glad I had not been there when it exploded!
    I know they are safer now, but I’m still afraid of them. LOL

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    Deb S says

    I bought the exact same 15 1/2 quart pressure cooker from Amazon back in 2001 – but then it was called “Wisconsin Aluminum Foundry 15 1/2-Quart Pressure Cooker” When it came in the mail – I was amazed at how heavy it was. When I canned my first garden – I was amazed at how well it worked, with no splattering all over my stove. Over the years it has never, ever been “garaged” (where the retired kitchen pots and pans and utensils go) Right now – as cold as it is in NJ – it is given a place on the floor under the table out in our “sun room” I’ll use it all winter long to make soups, as well as to cook a meal from frozen to the table in an hour. My husband will use it to cook and entire 20 lb turkey or 2 or 3 frozen rabbits at one time. It’s heavy – but it was worth every, single penny I spent way back then (the price back then was only $20 less than the one you linked now … and back then it was on sale !)

    • 7.1


      I did a little research because I’ve seen the “All American” canners at flea markets that were EXTREMELY old and looked well used. Since I had seen the “All American” brand, I always assumed that’s the only name they ever had but after reading your comment, I now know that Wisconsin Aluminum Factory has manufactured the All American canners since 1930 and I guess they still do.

      I wonder if any of them still way Wisconsin Aluminum on them or if they all say All American.

      Thanks for that bit of knowledge!

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    Liz says

    Hi Judy, I have yet to try pressure canning and am getting closer to buying a pressure canner. What are your thoughts on cooking in the pressure vessel, not just canning jars in it?
    Thanks once again for your helpful research and sharing of knowledge.

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    Here’s a thought for those on a tight budget. Find canning partner and split the cost of a good canner. My friend and I bought that same 1781 Presto you mentioned, and it travels from house to house all summer and fall. Neither of us has a kitchen big enough for both of us to can at the same time, sadly. If I’d read what you said about the American first, we might have gone that route, but there were some negative comments about it on Amazon, and I’d had this Presto before Paul and I sold everything to travel, so that’s what we went with. I’m not at all unhappy with it. I mostly can pints, since I’m canning for one. =)