I have an unrelated question for you. I know you are an expert food preserver. What is your opinion on pressure canners? I have a 23qt Presto that I have been using for years with no problems. But I have read that a lot of serious canners do not like them. I agree that All American is probably better but they are double the price. Thanks for any input you can give.
I have an All American which I purchased new about 22 years ago. I have used it massively and can absolutely testify to its quality, durability, and general ease of use. In fact, everyone who's owned an All American waxes eloquent about the brand.
However those who own Presto's are just as passionately attached to their brand. There's no doubt Presto's reputation is excellent.
I think the debate between the two brands can be summed up in an excerpt from my ebooklet Canning FAQs: 100 Basic Questions About Canning (available here).
Commercially there are two types of home pressure canners available: Presto and All American.
The advantage of a Presto canner is its cost. Prices range from about $70 to $85. The disadvantage is the gasket on the lid – it must be checked and replaced every so often to ensure a proper seal.
The advantage of an All American canner is its heavy-duty quality and the lack of a gasket (it has a metal-to-metal seal). The disadvantage is cost – depending on size, prices range from about $180 to $450 (the best-selling model #921 is $210).
I own an All American (model #921) and adore it. However, every canner becomes passionately attached to his or her particular brand and model, so go with whatever brand you prefer. In a nutshell, Presto canners give you the best bang for your buck, and All American canners are of higher quality. Both brands have a long history of home-canning excellence.
Some people may ask about Mirro canners. My understanding is older Mirro canners are of high quality, but the company was sold a few years ago and the quality of new canners has declined to the point where new Mirro pressure canners are no longer recommended. According to one forum: “Newer [Mirro canners] are cheap imitations of the original. The lock spring is prone to breakage and so are the gauges. Parts for them are now in limited supply and difficult to find and per the company, only limited parts production is the future.”
Whatever type of canner you use, you must familiarize yourself with the manufacturer’s instructions. Remember how I keep harping about not taking shortcuts? This is one of them. Manufacturer’s instructions are there for a reason: they tell you how to properly use the product. Pressure canners can be tricky, and you need to learn their correct usage per the manufacturer.
Bottom line: If you own a Presto and you're satisfied with it, there is absolutely no reason to switch. You'll get years and years of excellent usage out of your Presto. However if you're of a prepping mindset, I recommend you purchase several spare gaskets and keep them put away just in case. (I've purchased a number of spare overpressure valve gaskets for my All American as well.)