Canning Helpful Tips Pressure Canners

How to Use a Pressure Canner SAFELY [Step by Step Instructions]

If you’re someone who loves storing fresh fruits and vegetables in their home from their garden or from the local market, pressure canning is a must!

A modern pressure canner is high-grade kitchen equipment that contains a pressure gauge, removable racks, an automatic vent, screw clamps, and a safety fuse. Pressure canners come with dial gauges to display the pressure level or weighted gauges which not only displays but also regulate the pressure level within the canner.

These tools are used to determine and maintain pressure throughout processing, are unique to each manufacturer, and instructions on properly using and reading these gauges should be studied prior to use.

Why Do You Need a Pressure Canner?

A pressure canner is used in order to process low acidic foods at high temperatures for proper long-term preservation. This steaming process works when the water placed inside the canner produces steam, soon replacing the air within the contained environment.

Once the vents are closed, the trapped steam (that becomes hotter than boiled water) penetrates the filled jars with heat. A pressure canner’s internal chamber can reach up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit.

Learning how to use a pressure canner is a necessary investment to healthily keep and store your foods for safer eating. Pressure canning is the safest way to prevent Clostridium botulinum from sporing in the foods, a bacteria that can produce a deadly illness called botulism.

Furthermore, pressure canning is useful in cultivating a more self-sustainable lifestyle.

Preserving foods through canning promotes less food waste and increases skill in preparing for future meals. During long power outages, stormy weather, or freezer malfunctionings, you’ll still have freshly stored food safe for consumption.

Reusing glass canning jars will also lessen the production of containment waste over the course of years (glass jars can last up to ten years).

What Foods Require Pressure Canning?

Foods that require canning are typically those with low acidity, which means their natural pH levels must rise above 4.6. More specifically these foods include;


  • Mushrooms
  • Okra
  • Corn
  • Winter squash
  • Asparagus
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Peas
  • Lima beans
  • Green beans
  • Pumpkin


  • Cantaloupe
  • Watermelon
  • Apples
  • Berries
  • Cherries
  • Grapes
  • Grapefruit and Oranges
  • Peaches
  • Pears
  • Pineapples
  • Plums

Foods to Avoid While Canning

While canning can create excitement and motivate you to preserve everything in your kitchen, there is a list of foods that shouldn’t go through this process.

  • Fats:

Lard, oil, and mayonnaise. Fats should be avoided due to their ability to rot quicker than other foods, and their viscosity will prevent the heat from properly piercing every layer.

  • Dairy:

Butter, milk, cheese, sour cream, yogurt, and buttermilk. These should be avoided for reasons similar to fats; they all have a significantly shorter shelf life and will be difficult to fully decontaminate with heat.

  • Grains:

Oats, wheat, barley, bread, rice, pasta, noodles, pie dough, crackers, and biscuits. Once heated, grains can actually rot faster than they would preserve, leading to more bacteria sporing from the inside. The intense heat will also extract the nutrients and shorten its lifespan.

  • Thickeners:

Cornstarch, tapioca, cornmeal, and flour. These thickening agents are susceptible to turning under the intense heat of processing, and it’s recommended to add the thickening agent to your foods after preservation is complete in order to keep the food safe to eat.

  • Specific Vegetables:

Cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, eggplant, lettuce, summer squash, olives, Brussel sprouts, artichokes, and mashed potatoes. Through the preservation process, these vegetables can become very mushy and inedible.

Some of these choices may be better to pickle versus using a pressure canner, so it’s better to look up which vegetable you would like to preserve and the best method to do so.

  • Nuts:

These may seem like a good contender to can, however, the oily coating on the outside of the nuts places them in a similar category of fats. The oily residue can be too thick for the heat to penetrate and fully decontaminate the nuts.

  • Refried Beans:

Refried beans should be avoided during canning due to their thicker consistency, which will prevent bacteria from being eliminated properly. It’s recommended to prepare refried beans in a crockpot and freeze them for storage.

  • Purees:

Similar to refried beans and fats, purees are simply too viscous for the heat to penetrate, which can potentially lead to bacteria and molding. It’s suggested to either freeze the purees until ready or to can the vegetables in larger portions.

  • Pickled Eggs:

It’s common to see other people can pickled eggs, however, it’s not fully certain that all bacteria are effectively killed off during the preservation process.

It’s advised to avoid canning eggs because of thickness, which as mentioned before has shown to prevent the heat from traveling to all layers of the food.

  • Meat:

It’s very important to not use a home canner when it comes to preserving meat. Even though canned meats can be found at grocery stores, commercial-grade canners have a higher heating limit and ability to destroy bacteria and mold than a home pressure canner would.

The thick oils on the meat and fish would prevent a home canner to penetrate and preserve them for safe consumption.

Choosing the Right Pressure Canner

Purchasing a pressure canner as a first-timer can be quite intimidating. There’s a variety of pressure canners on the market, all ranging from traditional to more modern appliances.

Even though you may want to start small to get the hang of things, it’s better to purchase a pressure canner with more space in order to save you time. You should look for a pressure canner that can hold up to at least seven quarts and/or nine pints worth of jars.

Don’t buy a canner that is too big for you to lift, as it will be difficult to properly move, clean, and store. The cost will vary depending on branding, size, and how advanced the equipment is however, it’s worth spending more as a quality canner can last for a couple of decades.

It’s also very important to consider matching the pressure canner to how your stovetop operates. Not all pressure canners will work on every stove; some canners work best with gas stoves and others can become damaged with electric stoves.

A propane camp stove is a good compromise for a lot of (gas-operated) pressure canners and will save you in a power outage. In order to resource the appropriate canner with utmost quality, it’s best to purchase from a retail store, online, or directly from a manufacturing company.

Adjustment for Altitude Prior to Canning

Before you dive into the journey of pressure canning, it’s crucial to check the altitude of your general location. This is due to boiling temperatures changing depending on how high or low the water is from sea level.

At about one thousand feet or more above sea level, boiling temperatures for water will decrease since air gets thinner at higher altitudes. Processing time for canning should be increased with higher altitudes in order to properly eradicate any harmful bacteria.

C harts for adjusting according to your location’s altitude can be found online, at your local town or city’s webpage, or even at a zoning location nearby.

How to Use a Pressure Canner: Step by Step

Step 1: Collect and assemble all your materials. Wash with soap and hot water, air dried, and ensure that neither the jar nor the tops have any cracks or nicks. Also, prep the foods that will be used by following a chosen canning recipe!

Step 2: Pre-heat your jars in a large pot with enough water to fully cover the jars. Cover the pot with a lid and simmer at 180 degrees Fahrenheit for ten minutes.

Step 3: Using your pressure canner (with a rack), add at least three inches of water and bring to a simmer until ready to add the filled jars.

Step 4: With your prepped foods and liquids ready, place them in the heated jars using tools such as ladles and funnels.

Step 5: Remove any bubbles or trapped air from inside the jars using a plastic canning tool or a rubber spatula. Leave adequate headspace at the top of the jar as per the canning recipe instructions.

Step 6: Carefully remove any spilled food or liquid from the top and sides of the jars using a clean, damp cloth.

Step 7: Apply lids to each respective jar making sure to screw to a snug fit. Using a jar lifter tool, place the jars onto the rack in the pressure canner within 2-3 inches of boiling water. Make sure that the jars have significant space in between to refrain from touching.

Step 8: Set the pressure canner lid in place and leave the vent pipe open. Modify the heat settings on the stove to medium-high in order to allow steam to escape properly. Continue this for ten minutes or until there is a constant flow of only steam released from the canner. (This is a sign that there is no air left within the equipment.) Close the vent using the method that comes with your specific canner, and keep watch in order to bring about the advised pressure level.

Step 9: Keep the advised pressure level (according to an altitude chart) for the time listed within the canning recipe. Once time is up, turn off the heat. Allow the canner to settle uninterrupted until the pressure reads as zero. After ten minutes, detach the weighted gauge and unlatch the lid, making sure it’s aimed away from your body. Let the jars cool for an additional ten minutes.

Step 10: Once fully cooled, remove the jars with your jar lifting tool and place them standing on a clean towel. Allow the jars to remain uninterrupted for twelve to twenty-four hours.

Step 11: After the allotted time has passed, detach the screw band and look at the jar lids for seals. Check by carefully pressing the center of each lid. If sealed correctly, there should be no movement of the lid. If a lid is not sealed after the twenty-four-hour time frame, instantly store the jar(s) in the refrigerator. Use these jars first.

Step 12: Label properly sealed jars and store them in a dry, cool room refraining from direct light.

Step 13: Once completed clean, dry, and store the canner according to its manufacturer instructions.

Safety Tips to Keep in Mind While Using a Pressure Canner

  • Read all instructions thoroughly and comprehend them before fully diving into a canning recipe.
  • Only use pressure canners that have the Underwriter’s Laboratory (UL) approval, which ensures that a pressure canner is safe for use.
  • Use canning recipes that are easy to comprehend and follow to create safe and successful canning experiences.
  • Always inspect your pressure canner before use. Make sure the canner itself, gauges, and latches are functioning properly and free from any cracks or breaks. Make sure to purchase a pressure canner from a trusted resource rather than a market or secondhand as this increases the chances of a part being missing or broken.
  • Safely release pressure using the recommended methods that s accompanied in the instruction manual
  • Watch out for hot steam and condensation when opening the pressure canner. It’s better to have hot pot holders (mittens) in case there is any hot liquid on the lid. Open the lid facing away from your face and body.
  • As altitude within a pressure canner increases, water boils at lower temperatures.
  • Therefore, the canning pressure must be increased to produce a safe product. Make sure to keep track of altitude in accordance to pressure levels within the canner using a manufacturing or online guide.
  • Do not purchase a canner that is too big for you to lift and move around.
  • Preserve foods that you know that you and your family will be sure to eat in order to enjoy the full canning experience!

Common Mistakes to Avoid with Pressure Canning

Making alterations to a canning recipe: don’t do this, follow it through and through! Changing or adjusting aspects of the recipe can result in canning foods that are no longer safe to ingest. Finding safety-approved recipes is a must to stay within the appropriate pH level of the food or produce you plan to preserve.

Using an untested dial gauge. In order for the canner to display accurate pressure readings, the dial gauge should be tested yearly. An untested dial gauge can also lead to ingesting unsafe foods. A weighted gauge can be used instead, which does not have to be tested for accuracy.

Overfilling the pressure canner. Do not overfill the pressure canner much past three inches, as that will be too close to the jar necks and tops. With pressure canning, the jars should never be fully submerged in water even if the jars are double stacked.

Overlooking the necessity of headspace. Creating the appropriate amount of headspace within the jars after filling is imperative to achieve a proper seal.

Ignoring the altitude of your location prior to canning. This can lead to derailing the preservation process, causing the foods to be heated at the incorrect temperature and/or for an incorrect allotted time. Bacteria can grow and fester in this kind of condition, potentially resulting in consuming dangerous foods.

Rushing the cooling process. Another common mistake is prematurely releasing the jars from the canner before the internal pressure (and heat) cools down. Hastening this process can result in ruined recipes, cracked jars, and even a malfunctioning pressure canner.


How much water do you use in a pressure canner?

Generally speaking, it’s recommended to have at least 3 inches of water within a pressure canner. A little over three inches won’t cause much harm, however, too little water can result in it boiling dry and causing issues. A lack or even a surplus of water will cause malfunction within the pressure canner, resulting in food that can become spoiled.

How long do you leave jars in a pressure canner?

Leave the jars in for the given time frame stated within the canning recipe during the canning process. After the time has been completed, allow the jars to remain in the pressure canner for an additional five to ten minutes to cool down before removal. Everything will be extremely hot!

Can jars touch in a pressure canner?

It’s better to avoid jars from touching within a pressure canner to prevent cracking or breaking, and to ensure each jar has proper space for the circulation of boiling water. A rack with a divider for each jar should prevent the jars from bumping each other, the sides, and the bottom of the pressure canner. This space between jars allows for a cleaner and safer preservation processing.

What happens if you don’t put enough jars into a pressure canner?

It is recommended to pressure can at least two-quart jars or a minimum of four-pint jars. If you have a partial load (not enough produce to fill the minimum number of jars needed), fill a jar with water to compensate. This method ensures that all jars are being processed evenly and at the correct temperatures.

Originally posted 2022-04-12 17:14:29.