How to Use a Pressure Canner – Part 3

In Parts 1 and 2 of this series, we talked about types of pressure canners, parts of the pressure canner, and how to care for it properly.

So, that leaves us with the fun part– let’s get down to the actual canning!

First off, I won’t be covering the basic techniques of safely putting the food into the jars in this post. Check out my In-Depth Canning Tutorial for all that info.

Also, you may want to read my Six Tips for No-Stress Canning. I still follow these tips every single time I begin the canning process.

(This tutorial will cover how to use a weighted gauge All-American Pressure Canner. However, most other canners will follow a similiar technique.)

How to Can with a Pressure Canner

1. Make sure your canning jars are clean and hot. This can be accomplished by placing them in a pot of hot water, allowing them to sit in a sinkful of hot water, or by running them through a quick cycle in the dishwasher. One of the neat parts of pressure canning is that you don’t have to sterilize the jars like you do with a water bath canner. The high heat of the pressure canning process takes care of that. However, you do want to heat them up to prevent breaking and cracking when you place the hot food inside.

2. Fill the canner with 2-3 inches of water and set it on your burner. Use your ruler to measure the amount of water if you have to, but it is very important that you do NOT run out of water during the canning process, as it can seriously damage the canner. Unlike the water bath canning method, you do not have to completely cover the jars with water.

3. Place the rack that came with your canner rim side down in the bottom. Then, place your filled and sealed canning jars on top of that. If you are using pint jars, you can stack them in your canner with the second rack in between the two layers. Depending on what you are canning and the recipe, you’ll probably have hot jars with hot contents, so use your handy-dandy jar tongs if you have them.

4. Place the lid on the canner. As I mentioned in Part Two of this series, my All-American has six wing nuts that I must tighten in order to create a proper seal. Always tighten two opposite wing nuts at the same time.

5. Turn your burner on and allow the canner to start heating up. (I usually turn it on high to get started, then reduce the heat later.) Make sure that your weighted gauge is NOT on the lid of the canner at this point.

6. Once the pressure vent starts releasing steam, set your timer for 10 minutes. Allow it to “exhaust” for this length of time before you do anything else. You’ll know when the steam starts to escape, because it will begin to sputter and hiss and usually some water droplets will appear on the outside. This venting period is a good time to take a deep breath, clean up the kitchen a bit, or say a little prayer if you’re nervous…

7. Check your canning recipe for two numbers:

  • First, you need to look for how many pounds of pressure that the particular food needs to be processed at. Usually, the recipe will specify between 5, 10, and 15 pounds. (These are the three settings on your weighted gauge.) If you are at a high altitude like me, (over 6,000 feet…) you will need to adjust accordingly. My All-American manual recommends that, regardless of what the recipe says, always use 15 pounds of pressure when processing foods at 2,000+ feet above sea level.
  • Secondly, look for how long you need to process that particular food. My beets took 30 minutes, while things like meat or stew will usually require over an hour of processing time.

8. Once the exhausting/venting period is finished, place the weighted gauge at the proper setting over the top of the pressure vent. Use a oven mitt to do this– that steam is hot!

9. Now, wait for the pressure to build in the canner. This is where the dial gauge comes in handy– you can watch the pressure slowly build and know when you’re getting close.

10. Once the canner reaches the proper pressure (15 pounds in this case), the weighted gauge will begin to jiggle and rattle. This is when you set your timer for the actual food processing time.

11. Now comes the part of the process that takes a little practice, but it’s not difficult. You want to hear a jiggle from the weighted gauge around 1-4 times per minute. This tells you that the pressure is staying at the correct level. You DO NOT want the gauge to constantly jiggle through-out the timed period– this would indicate that the pressure in the canner is too high.

I usually end up standing by the stove for a while and counting. Too many jiggles? Reduce the heat. Not enough jiggles? Increase the heat.

I’ve found that if I keep my burner at low, it’s just about perfect. (I have a gas stove that burns pretty hot…)

Once you get your jiggles regulated, you don’t have to stand there and stare at the canner the entire time. Feel free to clean up the kitchen or check your email, or whatever. Just try not to leave the canner completely unattended. (i.e. don’t go outside to the barn and forget that you are canning!)

12. When the processing time is complete, turn off the burner. Do not move the canner– just allow it to cool down on it’s own. (This will take a while.) Now it’s safe to run outside to do barn chores or whatever else you may need to do.

13. Once the dial gauge reads zero, it’s safe to slowly remove the weighted gauge. Use your oven mitt again, as it’s still usually pretty hot.

14. As long as the pressure in the canner is at zero and the weighted gauge is removed, you are safe to remove the lid. Just make sure to crack it away from your face so you don’t end up with a nasty steam burn.

15. Remove the jars of food and allow to cool completely. Just like water bath canning, you’ll usually hear the “pop!” of the sealing lids fairly quickly.

16. After the canner cools completely, give it a gentle wash and dry thoroughly. If you haven’t oiled it in a while, apply a thin film of olive oil to the metal-to-metal seal.

That’s it! Can you believe it? You just completed your first pressure canning adventure! It wasn’t as scary as you thought, huh?

Have questions? Leave them in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer them!

I am not affiliate with All-American pressure canners in any way.

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  1. says

    I just pressure canned stewed tomatoes yesterday. :) My pressure canner had been in the (somewhat moist) basement, improperly stored, for about a year. When we moved here it was past canning season and I just stowed it. The result is that my pressure guage broke, which I will have to replace. Luckily, with an AA canner, you can still use it even if the guage is defunct, and so I cleaned it all up and it worked just fine. One of my cans didn’t seal quite right – while the lid is on and it’s popped down, it has a “thunk” instead of a “tink” when you hit the top gently with the back of a spoon (which is a good way to check once they’re cold to the touch). That one is in the fridge – we’ll use it first. :)

    Question – why do you use olive oil isntead of petroleum jelly? My manual and the canning group I belong to are very pushy about the petroleum jelly. I’ve used it with good result, but I’m wondering about the olive oil now. :)

    • Shauna says

      My AA Canner guide says to use “olive oil as a first option, but if you don’t have any, use petroleum jelly as a secondary option.” So it seems olive oil is the manufactures preference, which is what I do.

    • says

      I have an AA, too. I’ve used both oil and PJ, and finally landed on using PJ as it doesn’t go “sticky” over the summer, or tend to rancidity (is that a word??). I use PJ for our corn grinder, and anything else metal that tends to rust. I have struggled a bit with pressure canning—no matter what I do the liquid in the jars is always significantly reduced by the canning process. The contents are fine, but everything above the liquid tends to go gray. Unappetizing, to say the least. I try to turn the jars on their heads regularly during storage to prevent some of the discoloration, but that’s a big job that often falls to the bottom of my food preservation to-do list. Any suggestions, anyone?

  2. Sandy says

    Hi there: was wandering if you or anyone else for that matter knew:::My mother-N-law gave me her AA, it is from the late 40’s and still going strong, however here is my question: she has alway’s filled the canner up over the tops of the jar’s to can, w/ water:::just like you do w/ a WBC ? I have serched and serched for a manual on line: and can not find one: I have been using this particular canner now for a few years: with great success, however it takes for ever to get to the water hot and to cool the canner down: I’m wandering do I really need to fill it up? or can I do the 3 to 4 inches like all the new canners call for ? I have been tempted to just experiment: but I’m afraid of a pending implosion of such:: any information you could give me ?? I would be very appreciative: I’m new to the page: by the way:: I find the Barnhop very very informative! LOVE IT!
    Thanks bunches,

    • Jill says

      Hi Sandy,
      Glad you are enjoying the blog and Barn Hop!

      Hmmm… I can’t say for absolute certain, but I would think that all pressure canners would be able to operate on the 3-4 inches, rather than filling all the way up. It’s the pressure from the steam that does the work in a pressure canner- not the hot water- so I *think* you’d be ok.

      • Sandy says

        Welp::: I’m going to give it a whirl this weekend:: going to can off some ground beef: I have a freezer full! kid you not!!! so wish me luck! lol:: I can only hope that I don’t ruin any of it::: I’m thinking 3 to 4 quarts of water should do the trick! I turned your sight on to a few of the girls I work with this week, they all love me now::: hee hee:::::A big big Thank You:::: for the response!!!

  3. Bob says

    Excellent! I mentally followed MY procedures while reading. You didn’t miss a thing. I have a Presto 23 Quart canner and use the 3 piece weight (5-10-15 psi) and, like you, watch the dial only to see when I get close so I can adjust the heat.
    Good job!

    • Jill says

      Whew- it makes me happy to hear that Bob! I read and re-read the post about 100 times, but was still nervous that I had left out some vital step, ha! Thanks for double checking. :)

  4. erica says

    Thank you for posting these tutorials. I just got an AA canner and your tutorials will really give me the confidence to use it. I think I willl try canning beans today.

  5. Dani says

    I love your humility, and I love the step by step pictures. Like you, the first time I touched a pressure canner was when I opened the box, and I got the same model you did. Somehow, in all my manuals and tutorials, I missed the bit about the weight. In fact, I just realized that it’s still wrapped in the original manilla padding. I just realized why I had an epic fail when pressure canning some chicken stock. The pot never reached and held pressure, and when I took the lid off, almost half of the stock had boiled out of the jars. I’m lucky I didn’t have an explosion! For the record, I knew something was amiss, so froze the remaining stock.
    I had been afraid to try again, but not now! I will bless you when i don’t burn my hand when putting the weight on. I love the practical tips! THANK YOU!!

    • Jill says

      Oh yes, I’m definitely thinking that not having the weight in place could cause you some big problems! But hooray for troubleshooting and trying again, eh? :) Thank you so much for your kind words!

  6. Lynn Chung says

    Hi! I loved this post, it was so helpful for a first time canner ^_^ I just had one question. I have the All-American 910 and I did everything up to step 11 and after adjusting the heat my weight only fizzes. The dial tells me that the right pressure is reached, so my questions are: 1. Does the weight have to jiggle or can it just fizzle? 2. Can I go by the dial? :) Thank you so much! 😀

  7. says

    When you stack pint jars with the inbetween rack do you still just put 3-4 inches of water in the bottom or does it need to be more full? Thanks!! I may finally get my pressure cooker out of the box after 6-9 months after reading this. :) I did wonder about meat flavor and texture… I have heard that they change with home canned foods and I want to be careful not to ruin anything. :)

    • joe says

      You don’t need more water, just stack them up they’ll cook together. The water is there to help build the pressure and to protect the canner.

  8. Tracy says

    To remove the black discoloration from any aluminum canner use 1 tablespoon of Cream of Tartar per quart of water (use enough water to cover the discolored area ) put the lid on the canner without the weight and bring it to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes then turn it off and let sit for 2 or 3 hours. When you open your canner it will be sparkly clean. Rinse it out and dry. Repeat as needed to keep your canner nice looking.
    P.S. Don’t forget to put the rack in the canner so it can be cleaned.

    • Shoshana says

      You can also add 2 tbsp white vinegar to the water to prevent the discoloration of the canner/rack. As a bonus, for those with hard water, the vinegar also prevents calcium from depositing in the canner or on the jars (the white stuff).

  9. Belinda says

    Hi Jill,

    I am from Australia and have just discovered your site, thank you for posting about canning and the different ways you can use them. Have you heard about making your christmas puddings in them? Years ago an old catholic nun in my town use to make her puddings in them, and while I have tried it once the preserver I used was really old and didn’t work well enough.
    I have heard though from a chef that your puddings will last longer this way than in the cloth.

  10. jane says

    You say “finger tighten ” the jars. Do you mean that air can escape while processing ? Do you further tighten them when you pull them out ? Thank you

  11. Tina Collinsworth says

    Can you use a pressure canner on a smooth top electric stove?? I was told you cannot and now I don”t know what to do.

    • Jill says

      Hi Tina,
      According to manufacturer’s instructions, you aren’t supposed to. However *cough cough*, I have heard of people doing it… Another option is maybe using a propane-powered burner outside? Not as convenient, but an option.

      • Tracy says

        I love my AA, just recently bought it, but the new place I’m moving into only has a smooth top electric stove. I plan to purchase a single plug in electric burner to continue to pressure cook and can in the new house, without worrying about damaging the landlord’s stove! They run about $20-$30 on Amazon!

  12. Tracy says

    I tried canning chicken stock for the first time today. About half of my jars didn’t seal. The first two I didn’t use the ring (I was all turned around in my head and thought they were for storage, not for the actual canning process) so they didn’t seal. In the second batch, I used the rings, but 2 jars still didn’t seal. Is this broth still suitable for consumption? My plan was to put them in the fridge and use them this week, but I’m not sure if it’s safe to eat after faulty canning! Please share if you have any information!

    • Jill says

      Hi Tracy– yes, you can definitely still eat them, as well as you do it right away. Or, you could freeze them.

  13. Meloni Cutberth says

    Thank you so much!! I still have one more question.
    My canner doesn’t have a gauge. Just the bobble thing.
    Mom says at some point I should put the sealed canner in
    The sink and run water over it to cool it down before opening
    It. How do I know when to do that?

    • says

      Hmmm– I don’t run water over mine– I just wait until it’s cooled down (and my pressure gauge reads zero). It takes a while, but I’m too scared to try anything else– I don’t want to get a face-full of hot steam. 😉 Oh, and my manual says not to move the canner during the cool-down process.

  14. Linda says

    I understand the part about using “olive oil” on the rim/seal of the canner, I did my first canning today and I tried some chicken broth. I had 4 pints, 3 sealed and 1 did not so I will use it soon. My question is….
    do I have to put olive oil on the lid every time I pressure can something or was it just for the very first time the canner is used? I have a All American 921. I was a little bit afraid of it this first time, but hopefully that fear will go away after I use it a time or two.
    Love your blog and all the comments, extremely helpful to a newbee

    • says

      I think that my owner’s manual recommends re-oiling the lid every 3-4 uses or so– or whenever it starts sticking. Good job on your first canning venture– you’ll be a pro in no time!

  15. Christy says

    I need to get a new canner. Right now I only have a water bath canner, but it is quite old and all rusted inside. I was looking at getting this pressure canner, but I don’t really have room for two canners. Would this work as a water bath canner as well? Thanks!

    • ash says

      Probably! Most pressure scanners can double as water bath. I know the AA site says it can. I would guess you’d use it with a one size fits most pot lid though. My water bath is just a giant stock pot with a vented lid and it works fine and looks almost identical to my AA scanners base. The water bath pot is very handy to boil down the leftover bones of a turkey after thanksgiving and make big batches of sauce to can. I would keep both if you can find room. My AA PC fits inside my huge stock pot (water bath).

  16. Duane Thien says

    I can remember my mom and dad using their water bath canner when I was growing up, and all of the Mason jars in boxes or on the shelves full of “stuff”. I was intrigued by your article and want to try my hand at canning. Now I wish I had all of those jars that mom and dad had, Oh well! Jane asked how tight to have the seals and bands, and I was wondering about that myself. Do you tighten down the band after the seal has popped? I also have a glass top stove, so I have thought that my side burner on the BBQ grill (gas fired) may be just the ticket. I do like gas as it is easy to regulate. Will let you know how that works. I really enjoyed your tutorial. Thanks for all of your great advice. As many people are learning how to be less dependent on commercial foods, your articles are timely and well thought out, thanks again, Duane

    • says

      Yes– mason jars are a hot commodity at my house! :) Just tighten the lids/bands finger-tight before placing in the canner– don’t overtighten. And there is no need to re-tighten after they come out of the canner– if the lid has sealed properly, you are good to go. Good luck on your upcoming canning adventures!

  17. Karyn says

    I just used my new canner for the first time – chicken stock. Thank you so much for this tutorial. I read the instructions but I found your posts were much more helpful and are what I ended up following in the kitchen. Thanks for your work!

  18. says

    I want to try pressure canning this year, I have my first garden in many years in and the farmers market is an excellent supplement for food to put up for the winter, what is the comparison for how much the room is heated up? In their infinite wisdom, whoever built my house did not put an exterior exhaust for the stove vent, it merely vents back into the room. I have a window adjacent that works well enough for the water bath canner but if the room is going to heat considerably I may need to get someone out here to install the exterior vent before I try this

    • says

      Yes- it definitely heats up the kitchen– probably a bit more so than a water bath canner. I always have my windows open when i’m doing it in the summer. :)

  19. Linda says

    Call me a ding-a-ling or just having a senior moment, but I have done this twice in the past two days. I would forget to set my timer whenever my canner got up to the pressure. I kind of knew whenever I started so whenever I realized I had forgotten….stupid me…I would not put the entire 90 minutes but maybe 75 or 80 minutes. Each time I forgot I knew it was approximately 10 or 15 minutes….I have been kicking myself in the butt each time I did this…….so actually I was CLOSE to the correct time….I was doing sweet potatoes….Do you think I will be OK?????
    Looks like I need TWO timers instead on one. At least I managed to kind of look at the clock on the wall prior to the pressure reaching its temp.
    Hopefully they will be OK, what do you think and does anyone else FORGET to set their timer or has it been just me????

  20. Jennifer says

    Okay… my pressure canner has been sitting (still in its box) on the counter since Christmas. I’m finally breaking that bad boy out and breaking it in. I’m completely nervous and have read your mini-series a gozillion times. My mom’s coming over to “play,” also, and we’re going to start with something easy: duck broth/stock. I’d rather practice and possibly mess-up on something like that than, say, something from the gardens that we’ll be relying on. *chuckle* Oooooh, I’m nervous, nervous, nervous… o.O

      • Jennifer says

        Thanks! It went well and I have four jars of duck stock, all successfully pinged and stored. :) We took our time, read each step a couple times each before moving on, and it all went smoothly! The jiggles and spittles were a little scary — it certainly is different from water bath canning — but now I feel much more comfortable about pressure canning and am looking forward to storing items from the garden. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge!! <3

        • says

          Way to go Jennifer! That first time is a little stressful, huh? But after that, you’ve feel like you’ve accomplished something huge. :) Your duck stock sounds delish!

  21. Katie says

    I tried my first batch of pressure canning yesterday and I had a question. I just have the weighted gauge, no dial, and I canned a batch of green beans. I couldn’t get the weight to jiggle for the life of me! I just kept squirting steam non-stop the whole time. Are the beans still safe? I’m thinking of tossing them, because I feel like there was too much pressure instead of the right amount. Thoughts? I really don’t want to give my family botulism!

    • says

      Hmmm…. I would be really nervous about sticking them on the shelf, since you just don’t know what pressure they were canned at… However, even if the canner didn’t work correctly, the beans will still be ok for eating right now- you just don’t want to store them.

  22. Kathleen McCoy says

    Thank you so much for the detailed directions, tips and hints. I have always been scared to death of a pressure canner. Just purchased the All American and I have my first batch of Green Chile Enchilada sauce processing right now. Crossing fingers and waiting. I am a little surprised how long it is taking to reach 15 lbs (I too live at 6100 feet). So far it has taken 17 minutes to reach 5 lbs. Patience has never been my strong suit — maybe canning will teach me that!

    Thanks again for your help. The tutorials and step by step with pictures not only educated me — but gave me confidence!

    • Kathleen McCoy says

      Ok — after it taking sooooo long (nearly 45 minutes), and when it finally did reach 15 lbs, the jiggling of the weight was nearly constant — but the gauge showed a consistent 15 lbs. If I lowered it to the 1-4 jiggles per minute, the pressure dropped. So, I kept it at 15 lbs (per the gauge) and allowed it to jiggle constantly. Is that ok?

      I started with 3 inches of water in the bottom, and then added 7 hot filled quart jars. The water came up to within 2 inches from the top of the jar — which seemed high to me. But I reread everything and it specifically said to start with 2-3 inches of water in the bottom BEFORE putting in jars… Then at the end of processing — 45 minutes — I still had 2.5 inches of water in the canner. A friend that pressure cans alot — said I should have had more water loss. She doesn’t use a weighted pressure canner — could that be the difference?

      The enchilada sauce continued to bubble inside the jars for about 5 minutes after I removed them from the water, and all the little tops popped very quickly. It is a satisfying sound!

      Any thoughts/suggestions/warnings? :-)


      • says

        Sounds like you did everything just right Kathleen! It does usually take a loooong time to get to 15 pounds. I wouldn’t worry too much about the amount of water you had left– the bigger concern would be having the canner boil dry– as that can severely damage it. Congrats on your first pressure canning adventure!!

  23. laila says

    I hope this isn’t a really stupid question. I have recently acquired an All American pressure canner from a friend moved away who hasn’t used it in eons (YAY me!) and am lining up everything so I can can a beautiful batch of chicken broth. I’m not sure of the model number, it is rather large no gasket lid that screws on. However, there are three openings in the lid, one of which has the gauge on it, the other is the vent the weight sits upon and the third? I have no other parts in the box, I am wondering if there should be a pressure release emergency valve there? I looked on the parts on line and there is such a part available, but I don’t see one in a lid on any schematics. Looking at your pictures above, I do see a corresponding hole just beyond the handle on your canner, but I can’t tell if it’s blocked or just left open. but, pressure just can’t build if the hole is left open, right? So, is this a part I need to order? Just the valve, does it screw in? the photos are show such a large part and I can not see this valve in any images I pull up, nor can I find instructions on installing it — Jill — HELP, please

    • laila says

      Naturally, as soon as I ask the question I finally find a site with the instructions I am looking for. I’m ordering the part and putting my beautiful broth in the freezer. Hopefully I’ll get this under control and be successful with this new project. cheers

  24. Lisa says

    I have pressure canner evy…. hopefully soon. Moving to the family homestead in 2 months, can’t believe it’s happening. So excited!

  25. Monica says

    I have he same model that you do. I did some green beans for the first time and they all sealed. I had a hard time knowing when to consider the pressure valve was fully venting and when to put on the weight. It fizzed for a while and then really started spitting and steaming, so that’s when I added the weight. Also, the gauge was at 10 pounds the whole time but my weight never did jiggle…which do I go by?

  26. Marilyn says

    You were VERY specific about the closing procedure and tightening opposite wing nuthatch the same time.
    When the process is complete and the canner has cooled completely, should the opening procedure be reversed?
    Opening opposing wing nuts at the same time?

    • says

      Yes, you can do opposing wingnuts if you like to open it, but it’s not as important. The reason you need to be so specific when you close it is so it seals completely. The most important part about opening a completed batch of jars is to make sure the pressure is at zero and crack the lid away from your face so you don’t get blasted with hot steam.

  27. Lynn Dodds says

    Thank you so much for all of the great information you share, Jill. I received my new All American pressure canner a few days ago and just processed a batch each of garbonzo beans and black beans. If not for your step-by-step tutorial, complete with what sounds to expect, the “first time” would have been much more daunting than it was! I am so excited about the possibilities! Next weekend I’ll be canning bone broth!

  28. David says

    I’ve had the same AA pressure canner for a few years, and I think it’s paid itself off in chicken and turkey broth. We don’t have a large freezer, so being able to put mason jars on a shelf is a life saver, and high quality stock is not cheap – about $4 per liter (4 cups) where I live.

    I’ve been curious about two things – how much air-space to leave at the top, and how tight to screw on the lids.

    I’ve found that tightening the lids to “finger tight” still has some stock leak out of the jars. They always seal perfectly (and I even reuse my lids if they are clean and not bent), but I think I need to put less in each jar.I noticed in the picture at the top, the liquid level was only two-thirds the way up the jar.

    Anyway, great post. I came looking for cooking in my pressure canner, but came away learning something about canning.

  29. Julie says

    I’ve SO thoroughly enjoyed this mini-series!!!! I got a new AA pressure cooker (the same one you have, I believe) for my birthday, and I’ve been too scared to even open the box. :) This has given me the background info I needed to gain some confidence. Thanks for posting!!!

  30. Jeanette Platt says

    I just bought an AA canner Model 921 for $5 at a yard sale. It has the gauge, but no pressure weight. Where the weight would go is just a metal steam release valve that toggles up and over. Do I have to rely on the gauge only after the steam has vented for 10 minutes for the proper pressure?

    • Gail says

      Janette, you need the weight to make it come up to pressure. You will have to buy one or it won’t work. Safest from the company of the canner.Just look it up on line.

  31. Gail says

    I do not have time right now to read all the comments, the ones I have read are so interesting as is this web site! I have canned for many years and have had difference of opinions on how much water to use. I like what you said to do, but a warning would be to make sure you add water as you can because some will be lost if you are doing a lot of canning. I also add a little vinegar as I have a lot of minerals in my water and it helps keep the jars clean on the outside. I just pour a little in.
    Even after all the years of canning, I enjoyed reading, And learning more from all of you on here. Thanks!