How to Use a Pressure Canner – Part 1

I don’t know if it’s the pregnancy or what, but I am in a canning mood this year…

As of the time this post was written, I’ve put up 2 batches of chokecherry jelly, 14 quarts of pickles, 8 pints of pinto beans, and 9 quarts of beets– not to mention the raw strawberry freezer jam I made up earlier in the year. And I have plans to do a lot more before the season is over…

I didn’t learn how to can until about 3 years ago, and until now I’ve just used a water bath canner. (One of my favorite garage sale finds ever– only $1!)

However, since I’ve become pretty comfortable with the concept of water bath canning, I felt ready to move on to the next step… Pressure canning!

To be honest, I had never even seen a pressure canner in person until mine arrived in the mail from Pantry Paratus. But, I have heard lots of people act nervous about them, since everyone seems to have heard a story about their great-aunt’s neighbor’s friend having one explode.

I been using mine ever since it arrived and I’ve been having a ball, with a grand total of zero explosions.

So, for those of you who are still a little squeamish over the idea of using a pressure canner, we’ll explore the whole process in a mini-series here on The Prairie Homestead over the next few weeks.

(If you are new to any sort of canning at all, then you’ll definitely want to check out the How to Can tutorial– complete with tons of pictures.)

Why Bother with a Pressure Canner?

Water bath canning or boiling-water processing works great for high-acid foods like most fruits, jams, tomatoes, or pickles. The theory is that the acid helps to preserve the foods and prevent spoilage at the lower temps produced by the boiling water.

However, for low-acid foods (think beets, green beans, meats, potatoes), it is recommended that you use a pressure canner, since it reaches much higher temperatures and therefore preserves the food safely without the added “insurance” of the acid.

The 2 Reasons Why I Wanted a Pressure Canner:

1. Freezer space.

I usually freeze a lot of my garden produce, as well as many make-ahead meal componets. Combine that with our home-raised beef, I’m always running out of freezer space– even with my extra chest freezer.

I also prefer have a food supply that isn’t dependent on the grid– in the case of an emergency power outage, most of my frozen food would be a loss.

2. The option of homemade “convenience” foods.

Since starting my journey into real food, I quit buying things like canned beans (BPA in the cans) and canned soups/broth (MSG and other preservatives).

The thought of being able to have ready-to-go, wholesome food at my disposal that doesn’t require defrosting or freezer space sounds heavenly to me.

With my pressure canner, I can preserve meats, beans, and broth to be stored at room temperature– not to mention pre-made suppers like stew and chili.

The Two Kinds of Pressure Canners

There are two main kinds of pressure canners that you will come across when you start shopping:

1. Dial Gauge Canners

(This Presto canner is a dial gauge canner. Notice the single gauge on top) 

These canners have a dial pressure gauge on top of the lid to tell you when the pressure has reached the appropriate level. This is the only means you have of determining pressure. The dial gauge must be checked every year to make sure it is accurate– otherwise, you risk processing your foods at too-low pressure (can cause spoilage) or too-high pressure (possible explosions…)

2. Weighted Gauge Canners

(An All-American weighted gauge canner) 

This canners not only have a dial gauge on top of the lid, they also have a removable, weighted regulator as well. This regulator weight usually has three settings: 5, 10, and 15 pounds. The weight is what you use to determine pressure– the dial is just a back-up in this case.

(Close up of the weighted gauge. Notice the 3 settings of pressure: 5, 10, and 15 pounds) 

The weighted gauge canner is generally more common and it is the style that I chose.

Why I Chose an All-American

After much deliberation (and asking all the brilliant people on The Prairie Homestead Facebook page), I went with the All-American 21 1/2 quart Canner (Model 921).

Here’s why:

  • After reading many user reviews of the All-American canner on Amazon, I found that there were very few unsatisfied customers. This trend stayed the same with my followers on Facebook, as well as anyone else I talked to.
  • The All-American canner has no rubber gasket– that means there is one less thing to maintain and replace.
  • All-American canners have weighted gauges– I definitely prefer that over the dial gauge, since I won’t have to take it to be checked every single year.
  • They are made in the USA.
  • They have 6 bolts to securely hold the lid.
  • Although this is not the cheapest pressure canner on the market, I don’t mind paying a little extra for something I know that will last for years and years. As some of my readers mentioned, this is something you could definitely pass down to your children and grandchildren. It’s a quality piece of equipment.
  • The 921 model will hold 19 pints or 7 quarts. This isn’t their biggest model, but 7 quarts is what my water bath canner holds, and I’m comfortable with that size.

(Please note- I am not affliated with All-American in any way. I just like ’em…)

Click HERE for Part 2.

This post is a part of Simple Lives Thursday, Fresh Bites Friday, Farm Gal Friday, Frugal Days Sustainable Ways, New Nostalgia, Monday Mania, The Better Mom, Real Food Wednesday



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  1. says

    Hey Jill,

    I just purchased and used my 921 All American Model last weekend. Boy, was I nervous last Sunday after putting my 16 pint jars in (it says it will hold 19 but if you are using wide mouth it didn’t seem to hold 19. I didn’t feel comfortable putting in more than 16. I don’t like my jars sitting too close to each other.) Regardless, it worked flawlessly, just as the directions promised. Love it. Now my leftover beef stew will be canned instead of frozen!

    Love your website, by-the-way.

  2. Tiffany A. says

    This is great! I’ve been water bath canning the past two years and I would love to try pressure canning next season :) I’m looking forward to the rest of the posts!

  3. says

    I am really looking foward to your series. I have canned pinto and kidney beans once with a friend but scared to fly solo. I made a huge batch of chicken tortilla soup tonight and would love to can the leftovers as well as future soups. Like you, we are tired of buying when we’d rather prepare and can our own.

  4. Kirstin says

    I am pretty excited to see this series! I just got a 41 1/2 qt all america pressure canner from good will for $5!!! It is an older model that doesn’t have the weighted gauge but I was able to order the parts for my canner to get it up and running (or at least it will be when the parts arrive). I have never pressured canned anything in my life (I just started water bath canning this year) and I ma excited to learn and hopefully free up some freezer space!

    • Jill says

      Holy cow Kirstin– I’m pretty sure that is the find of the century! Way to go! That awesome that you were able to find all the parts, too. Another bonus to buying quality products from American made companies. 😉

    • karin c says

      That is the deal if the century for sure,I received mine from a family member :) I am very lucky,getting more comfortable with it.

  5. says

    I love my pressure cooker/canner. I’ve been using mine for 13 years. It has the rubber gasket which I’ve never replaced, but I have had to replace the pressure relief valve. Old models didn’t have pressure relief valves, hence the sometimes explosions. All newer models do and are completely safe. They just make noise as your weighted regulator jiggles, letting you know the pressure is correct. I cook my fresh green beans in my pressure cooker as well. Only takes 3 minutes! Have fun.

    • Deborah Jennings says

      Melissa, some of the older models do and did have the pressure relief valve. My husband’s great-grandmother had one go off on her, and it stuck to the ceiling, along with the beans or whatever it was that she was canning. =) Besides out 3 canners, we also have 3 pressure cookers.

      To all out there who can or want to learn to can, you can cook dried beans in a pressure cooker, but please remember to soak them overnight or to bring them to a boil (with lid off), for 5 minutes, turn off fire and let sit for an hour. Place lid on cooker, bring up to pressure for however minutes your cooker calls for. Different sizes / different times.

  6. Deborah Jennings says

    Jill, I have several canners, one is weighted and the other two are a dial gauge ones. We have two that are antiques. One has the bolt closure, but top parts of the bolts are gone. We haven’t used it as of yet, but have used the other one. The one I bought is a 17 quart, but the others are much bigger. I love canning food. It tastes oh so much better than the junk you buy at the stores. And no preservatives! I also like freezing produce, but I prefer to keep the freezer for meats and things like that. I will say to anyone that is wanting to try canning, and is scared, to try it. Just be careful and follow the directions on your canner and/or in your canning book. I don’t think that there is anything that you can’t can, and this includes meats. I am wanting to do this soon. As in when they put roast (which I did can this past fall), and chicken, even ground beef can be canned. Haven’t tried the chicken or ground beef yet, but plan to soon. Love home canned everything. I didn’t learn to can until about 40 something years old. I am now 60, and have never had any type of accident. Not saying that I won’t. I just take precautions as needed. You won’t regret learning to can!

    • says

      Deborah, thanks for the tip on dried beans. I haven’t cooked them in the pressure cooker yet. My mom can’s beef, stewed beef mostly, and uses it in stews and casseroles throughout the year. I even pressure cook my salsa following the tomato canning guidelines. Yummy!

      • Missy says

        Melissa, I would be very interested in your mom’s “exact” recipe and “how-to” on canning her beef. I’ve just received my All-American Canner and just now reading on how to use it. I love “The Prairie Homesteading” and her instructions for what she does have online. They are step-by-step, which is exactly what someone like me needs. Hopefully, you can find a way to share your mom’s recipes with us. P-l-e-a-s-e-!

        • Missy says

          PS: The one thing I’m unsure about when pressure canning my cooked foods: Will it make my vegetables in cooked soups OVERCOOKED and mushy?

  7. Deborah Jennings says

    I love pressure canned everything. It tastes so close to fresh, that I can’t tell the difference except in the time it takes to cook. One thing that I do is to bring my canned items to a full boil and lower the heat and let them cook for at least 5 minutes. Um Um Good! I have been known to pressure can and/or water bath can leftover soups and stews. No waste! We rarely eat jams or jellies, but I love making them, too.

  8. says

    This is sooooo cool. I am what you would call an amateur. I need to start canning old school before I even think about pressure canning. Someday though…someday! Hopefully I’ll be up to par in a few years. :)

    By the way…my hubby’s gonna make be a honeybee compost bin thanks to your barnhop post two weeks ago. I can’t wait!!!! : )

    • Jill says

      That’s awesome Noel! Yes, I think water bath canning is a great way to start- although pressure canning isn’t too very different. Good luck!

  9. JessieMomma says

    Thank you! I am so excited to find this (via Pinterest) as I am currently considering purchasing a pressure canner. I look forward to the rest of your series!

  10. says

    I have a dial gauge and weighted canner. The dial gauge is about 30 to 40 years old, and I can still get parts for it from Amazon. The weighted one I found at Walmart, and it’s also a Presto. I just started using it this year, and so far, I’ve been happy with it. I use mine for the same reasons you outlined.

    • Jill says

      Yes, it seems that for the most part, replacement parts are pretty easy to find… That’s a good thing! :)

  11. Mickie says

    I have 2 pressure cookers, I love them both Mirro 6 qt & Mirro 12 qt. I have used them for the better part of 30 yrs. Both for cooking and canning. However the gaskets are now worn on both and the replacements DO NOT FIT. I am very disappointed. When I purchase another it will be gasket free.

    • Jill says

      Bummer about the replacements! :( That’s a shame that the company couldn’t provide better options.

  12. says

    Hi all
    I have been wanting to do more pressure canning for the same reason that Jill states…not wanting to be dependent on the grid! Here in earthquake country that could be anytime at all. I just finished canning some of my homemade minestrone, only to find out it couldn’t be made with any oil or I risked spoilage. I ended up having to freeze all of it according to another forum I joined. I have been researching and researching as to how to safely pressure can my homemade recipes and leftovers. Does anyone have any advice about this?

  13. mlantana says

    I have an electric, glass-top stove. The manufacturer states the max weight it can take is 50 pounds. What do you think the weight of one of these pressure canners is with water and filled jars?

    • Jill says

      Hmmm… Can’t say for sure, but it’s pretty darn heavy. I know that manufacturers say NOT to use glass-top stoves for any sort of canning– water bath or otherwise. However, I *cough* broke that rule when I had a glass-top myself. I used it for a lot of water bath canning, but never any pressure canning. So, I guess proceed at your own risk. 😉

      • karin c says

        I have a glass to stove and have used my pressure canner on it,as long as your vessel has a FLAT bottom you can yse it,that is what I found after much research on the internet.

  14. says

    I use my pressure canner all the time on my glass top stove. We canned on our glass top when I was growing up on the farm many years ago. We never have had any problems. I would like to find some recipes to put up meats and ready made stuff that don’t have to be put in the freezer (in case power goes out). Love the web site. Just subscribed would like to learn more about this grain soaking.

    • Jill says

      Yes, I used to can on my glass-top all the time too when I had it… Even though it was a “no-no”… 😉

  15. Angelica says

    Hello, I’m new to canning and had a question. Do you still need to use lemon or lime juice in a fruit preserve canning recipe if you are using a pressure canner?

    • Jill says

      Hi Angelica– I would say no, unless it’s for flavor or maintaining the color of the fruit item. It won’t be needed to help with the acidity part.

  16. Lynn says

    I’m a newbie at canning and just finished my first batch of canned chicken. My question is that 2 of the jars came out a much lighter color than the other 6. Does this have to do with the fat content? Or did I do something wrong??? I used some thin sliced chicken breasts and the small chicken tenderloins.

    • says

      Hmmm.. good question Lynn. I’m not sure why it would do that. (I have yet to can meat– although it’s on my list) As long as the food smells ok after you open it (and make sure the jars have sealed), I think you’d be ok.

  17. christine check says

    Hi I am new to the prairie homestead. I was wondering if anyone has an older model sears pressure cooker model 620.46281. I just purchased it locally and it did not come with an owners manual. I thought I would be able to get it on line and it is nowhere to be found. I even tried Sears and Kenmore. It has a jiggler on top and a rubber plug with a stainless piece in the center. I can not get an instruction manual online anywhere. If anyone has one or knows of one please let me know.
    Christine Check

  18. Amy Pinsk says

    I love your bean canning post. I had been pre-cooking and freezing, but I still resort to store-bought canned occasionally because of the convenience. I have never canned with a pressure cooker before. I didn’t get all the way through your instructional posts yet, but can I use an electric pressure cooker for canning?

    • says

      Hmmmm… I don’t have an electric pressure cooker, so I can’t say for sure. I’m guessing there might not be enough room for all the jars, though?

  19. Catherine Dunster says

    Hello! I’ve got an older-style All American 921 and it does not have the weight gauge, just a vent valve and I’m not sure how to assure the correct pounds/pressure. I purchase at a garage sale without the manual. Can you please direct me to a source to understand how to use it? Thanks a million! Catherine

  20. Missy says


    I’ve just discovered your wonderful website and I absolutely LOVE it! Thanks for all of your real-life tips and real recipes that everyday people can really use…every day. This week I will be trying out your Bierock and Refried Beans recipes. Also, I will be canning some beans in my new All American Canner using your step-by-step instructions. Excited to get busy cooking.

  21. Darlene says

    I put 7 pints of chicken (raw chicken) in the pressure cooker, waited the 10 minutes for the venting and put the vent weight on and got it to the 10 I needed to cook at and it cooked about 15 minutes – and then without thinking I took the weight off thinking I had done it wrong and waited for the pressure to go to zero (even took it off the stove). When it got to zero I began the whole process over again with the venting for 10 minutes and then the weight on and cooked for the desired length of time. I don’t know if the jars have exploded or whatever, but I remember now that taking the weight off to soon does something to the pressure in the jars you are cooking. Is there any chance (if the jars and lids have not blown off when I open the cooker) that the chicken is useful or safe for anything? I have now finished the cooking and all my lids popped but still don’t know if it is safe because of my mistake in cooking.

  22. says

    I wanted to leave a short note saying Thank You. I am a 61 year old lady living in Orange County, Ca. suburbia. I get many happy thoughts and ideas from reading your blog. Even if I do small things, I am making progress. The gardening WILL happen. canning is something else. Also live with 2 younger sisters in the family home, the house is theirs and I rent from them. IF I can talk a sister into saving produce, If I have enough produce to can, I’m going to try. But I also want to give produce to the local food bank. Might not be any left for canning, we’ll see.

    Thanks for reading this , lol, I get chatty.


  23. Maralyn Dotson says

    I havve canned eveything for years; venison, beef, turkey, trout, hamburger, corn, beans (dry and green), wheat, soups (split pea, turkey vegetable with noodles, potato (creams soups aren’t very good), tomatoes, salsa, pickles (dilled cukes and beans) beets, eggs), relishes, all kinds of fruit, jams and jellies, zucchini bread (done in large mouth pints in oven). I love to do it and try to find direction from professional sources, but if I can’t find help that way, I get on the internet or talk to lots of canners, I store lots of wheat but realized that if our power source went out for very long, we would be very happy to be able to open a jar of cooked wheat for breakfast with a little honey and cinnamon added. When I called our local extension office, they didn’t advise me canning wheat and suggested that I not do it. My sister had a recipe which was quite old, so I went ahead and tried it. It is wonderful! I gota 20 lb. case of boneless, skinless chicken yesterday for $.99/lb. and got 20 pints from that that I pressured in my canner. Be aware, however, that pressure canning can be very addictive.

  24. Stephen says

    I just bought a Mirro Pressure Canner and I am trying to be thrifty and make and store my own soups and stuff. What I have not found in the manual is how much water do I use? I remember the ex used to water bathe hers so am I to cover the whole jar in water or do I need less. I also am using 12-250ml jars so how long do I can them for?

    Thanks for your help.


  25. Ed says

    I have an all american too, but mine has a release valve, not the do you use this type.i have had this for a long time, and have never used it .

    • says

      My mom has the weighted kind. I’ve not canned using a pressure canner without her, but have used in to can venison etc. because it makes it so much more tender and easier to manage.

      Anyway, Ed, my mom says: “You place the weight on according to what you’re canning. The weight has 3 settings, 5, 10 & 15lbs, and you generally will end up using the 10-pound setting for most items being canned.”

      In my experience, the weight allows some of the pressure to be released and will hiss and steam to sustain the pressure you desire…


  1. […] How to Use a Pressure Canner – Part 1 – The Prairie Homestead I don’t know if it’s the pregnancy or what, but I am in a canning mood this year… As of the time this post was written, I’ve put up 2 batches of chokecherry jelly, 14 quarts of pickles, 8 pints of pin… […]