Choosing a Pressure Canner

Left:  All American 10 quart Canner,
Right: Presto 16 quart Canner
I’ve been asked more than once about what kind of pressure canner to buy.  Our mother had an early pressure canner back in the fifties, and I’ve been canning or helping can with one ever since.  Her early canner, from Montgomery Wards, which Myrna still has and uses, did need lid gasket replacements several times; I have only replaced one in 50 years.  Apparently the materials are less stretchy today and don't seem to get dried out and cracked as quickly.
Pressure canners are a must if you can meat, fish, poultry, dry beans and vegetables or other low-acid foods; and these products are the ones I can the most.  I like having jars of good food ready to use without thawing and it takes a load off my small freezer.
Don’t substitute a “pressure cooker” for a canner, it heats up too quickly and cools down too fast to meet the processing requirements for your recipe.  You can tell if it’s a pressure cooker; it is 8 quart or less capacity, and doesn’t have variable 5-10-15 pound weights.  The smallest CANNER available now is an All American 10 quart, which I have and like, it has both a dial and variable weight.  I use it to can smaller amounts, and as a second canner when I have more than my Presto will hold.  Some large canners don't have variable weights either, but have a pressure dial.  
I used to have a Presto 23 quart…it got too heavy for me to handle, and I no longer double-stack jars as I did when I canned larger quantities and had help.  I never have felt that having the bottom jars already cooking while I filled the top row was a good idea.  Because of that, I use single-stack canners.  If you can a lot and have help, the canners large enough to double-stack may be just the ticket.
Left:  Stainless Steel Stockpot
with rack for water bath canning;
Right:  Mirro 12 quart Pressure Canner
I have several pressure canners of different sizes, and I often can with two of them going, one after the other.  I now have an All-American 910-10, a 10 quart capacity and a Presto 16 quart capacity canner purchased from Walmart. Up until last year, I also had a newer Mirro 12-quart capacity canner.  
All of them have "jiggler" weights, which I prefer, because I don't want to be tied to watching a dial when I can listen instead. The larger Prestos have dial gauges and the weight is not calibrated for 5-10-15 pounds, so you have to watch the dial, which I hate. At our Iowa altitude (under 1000' but close to it) the weighted gauges work very well and your product won't be over-processed.  Many University extension service offices are no longer checking pressure canner gauges either.  I also think that you have a tendency to do less “fiddling” trying to get the pressure right with a jiggler weight, and prevent some bad jar seals that way.
Presto 16 quart canner
with single rack and book

Check with manufacturers websites to see what their jar capacity is for different models, keep in mind that some jars are larger in circumference than others; my old Kerr jars are the smallest, Ball are in the middle and I usually have to put one less jar in when I use all Golden Harvest jars.  The stated canner capacity is for filling it with liquid, not jars.
I think that of these, I would buy the Presto first...it is fairly lightweight, the price is right, it’s a good size, I can use it on my glass-top range as well as a regular range, and it does a good job. I've never replaced the gasket but they are available and not expensive at our local True Value Hardware.   Our local Walmart was out when I wanted this canner and they shipped it to my door without shipping charges.  I see that this year, it is about the same price as I paid several years ago.
The All-American is great...but it's expensive, heavy to lift, and more complicated to use, with the screw-down seals, etc. You have to oil the sealing surfaces to keep it from locking on...some folks have had trouble with that. It doesn't have heat-proof handles. That said, it will probably last forever, and it has both a weighted gauge and a dial, and doesn't have a gasket that needs to be replaced.  I especially like the smallest size for smaller canning jobs.
All American handle
and screw-down detail
The Mirro has a gauge that spews rust...not as good as the older model I had 15 years ago, and I couldn't recommend it because of that.  I know of several other people who have had the same experience with their newer Mirros.
All of these newer pressure canners work on my glass-top stove as well as my previous types of stoves.
I don’t know that I would buy a large 23 quart canner to double stack jars on a glass top range – that’s a lot of weight when full.
I had my first pressure canner for years until I passed it on thinking I was through canning...big mistake on my part!  They last forever, and with a little care, they don’t cost much after the first investment.
I think you will enjoy pressure canning...it's a hobby that saves money if you garden or hunt or raise your own meat and poultry (or even buy larger amounts on sale) and it's satisfying to just open that jar of meat or soup or stew for dinner without thawing and to see all those full jars on your shelves.  

11 comments:

  1. I have a Presto that I bought on Amazon, and a Mirro that I bought at a garage sale. Both 23-quart. Before that I had a heavy cast-aluminum canner, I don't remember the brand, that had bolts on hinges that fit into slots on the lid and then screwed down. The lid fitted down into the canner without needing a gasket, like your picture of the All American. If it was that brand, I gave somebody a great deal at my garage sale, not knowing any better. But then, I GOT a good deal on it, because I bought it at a garage sale when I first learned to can, years and years ago, and used it for many years. I didn't know about oiling it so that it wouldn't lock shut, and that's the reason why I sold it.

    I did not know, until recently, that there was any kind of pressure regulator on canners except the dial and the fact that I had to stand there and turn the heat up and down. What a drag! I cooked with gas at the time, and after awhile I could usually find "the sweet spot" and not have to stand right there the whole time, but it made canning a real chore. Then we moved outside the city limits, where there are no gas lines, and everybody is all-electric. The first thing I thought was, "Pressure canning is going to be impossible". But then I found my canner that has the rocker gauge and that was a real revelation to me. LOL! God truly does watch out for fools and little children.

    And then I discovered another fact, on-line, and that was that you can buy a pressure regulator on Amazon that pops right on the stem that is made for the petcock, and you can use your gauge-type canner without having to stand there and turn the heat up and down. Just go on Amazon and search "Presto Pressure Regulator". The kind I bought has "layers" that you can take off, depending on how much pressure you want to maintain. This item has a five-star rating from 273 customer reviews.

    I prefer to use my Presto canner, because it is thicker on the bottom (If you turn it bottom-side-up, there is a "raised" circle about as big as a cookstove burner). I am given to understand it is safer to use canners that are made like this on glass or ceramic-top cookstoves. I have a ceramic-top stove in my garage and this is where I do my canning so as to keep the heat out of the house. So I use the pressure regulator I bought and I have the added advantage of seeing what the pressure is on the gauge. It occurred to me that I could've probably just taken the rocker pressure regulator off the Mirro canner and used it on the Presto. Heh.

    I wouldn't stack quarts in a canner if using a glass- or ceramic-top cookstove, either. But pints or half-pints ought to be ok.

    If people grow a garden, they need a pressure canner. There are lots of foods that can't be safely processed with just a water bath canner, and the only other alternatives are freezing or dehydrating. I've never canned meat products, but thanks to you and Myrna, I'm going to start. Oh, and I found that BHG Home Canning book that you mention so often, as a used book on Amazon, and purchased it. It was only $4, with shipping, and should be in my hands in a week or so. Thanks much for sharing your knowledge and experience.

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  2. I have my grandmothers pressure canner from 1946. Still using it today. I think about her every season. It is a National Pressure cooker company canner. That was a company bought out by Presto. Presto helped me replace the weighted vent on the lid and so from now on its Presto everything.

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  3. The canner I've ever used was a Mirro. I did find an All American on Craigslist (used once) at a steal.....that dial scares me. I don't think I really want to know how "bad" my canning has been. lol

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  4. Hello- I am also from Iowa and truly enjoying your blog. I too have an old National. Mine is #10. I have a new Presto that I purchased about 20 years ago, but I still prefer my old National. It heats up faster and I think the pressure is much easier to maintain than in the new Presto. I just canned 25 quarts of green beans yesterday. Thanks for sharing!

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  5. Hi Jodi and mdoe37
    Isn't it nice that people still can. 26 quarts of green beans sounds like a lot of work to me now. Good for you. I am guessing you have a garden or access to one.

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  6. Glad to see so many good comments with lots of good information for newer canners.
    Thanks! Good to see so many like-minded folks.

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  7. Hi There. I have a presto canner for use with my glass top stove. The stove's directions said not to use any canner that is more than 1/2 inch bigger than the burner or the heat might crack the glass top. The Presto has a raised part on the bottom that fits the large burner. It is also OK to can quarts with this canner on a glass top stove.

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  8. Thank you for this timely posting! I am looking to invest in a pressure canner and start canning. I have one question about the jiggler -- how loud is it? I am partly deaf and soft sounds as well as high pitched sounds are quite difficult for me to hear.

    Many thanks,
    Donna

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    Replies
    1. I'm not sure I can answer your question...it seems pretty loud to me, but I have good hearing.
      Perhaps your best bet is to purchase a canner with both a variable weight jiggler and dial; that is the way the All-Americans are currently made,
      I understand Prestos with dial gauges can be reconfigured to use a variable weight jiggler; if you can hear the one that comes with the canner (it is only a 15# one); then maybe adding the variable weight one would also make sense.
      Dial gauges work...they just need a little more attention. I would encourage you to try canning, it is a valuable skill and a satisfying hobby.

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  9. I have an All American and LOVE it. It's MADE IN AMERICA. That's enough of a reason to buy it. And, my daughters can inherit in 20 years! It's easy to use and is heavier than others - but then, for something that can easily blow a hole in my roof, I like heavy, sturdy canners! But, I also have a gas stove... would never think about using this one on a glass top. At any rate, just wanted to give a shout out to my favorite canner!

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    Replies
    1. Good to have your opinion, Genie...I do like my All American...but unless you intend to can for the long haul, it's a big investment.
      That said, I've been canning 50 years or more, since my teens, and I haven't quit yet, so for me, it was a good choice.
      I do use my small one on my glass top, wouldn't use anything that's too heavy when loaded. I only use a 16 quart Presto for the same reason.
      Myrna still has our mother's old canner and it works just fine!
      Thanks for sharing!

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