Country Living Series

Sunday, September 23, 2012

What type of pressure canner should you use?

A reader named Kris sent the following question which was so excellent I thought it should be highlighted.

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.
-- Kris


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.)

26 comments:

  1. Must be something in the air because I had written up a question to send to you regarding purchasing another canner. More specifically which one you had and if you did not have an All American 930, would it be one you would consider. I have an ancient Mirro that I use for very small loads (such as one days picking of beans that I canned in pints for my brother) and a 22 qt. Presto that I can do 7 quarts in. We (my brother who does the big gardening and myself, the putter-upper) are looking to maximize our efforts and reduce our time by getting another canner. I was thinking big (930) and he was thinking really big (too big for me to lift loaded).

    If you could get any canner, any size, what would you get? I want to be able to stack pints and even quarts, but I could get same results by getting another one in the same size I have and running both at the same time.

    Too many choices leads to indecision...so, what is your opinion?

    Thanks, sidetracksusie

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  2. I've a presto and LOVE it! But, like you it's the only one I've used

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  3. Great post. Thank you!
    Have a wonderful week!

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  4. I have an old Mirro that has a weight not a dial. I inherited my mothers unused All American. It has a dial that I have not had calibrated yet. I will try it once that is done. Too bad the company messed up the Mirros. They were a good product, mine still is.

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  5. I've had my 22-quart Presto for 10 years...and have never had to even change the gasket (I check it regularly). Just finished putting up 14 pints of pears, and, as always, it worked like a champ!

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  6. We like the All American canner, and purchased it based on your recommendation. We have not used it as much as we should, only canning a few times. The all metal-on-metal lid was the attribute we liked the most. However a question we have is why can’t you just boil jars in the pressure canner with the lid off and not have to buy two canners (pressure and water bath). A buddy of mine’s wife just got into canning and we recommended the All American to them also.
    Alex http://charlescarrollsociety.com/

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    1. I suppose there's no reason you CAN'T use a pressure canner to water-bath can, except it seems kinda overkill. I'm "big" on using things for their intended purpose. For water-bath canning, you'll need to have lids on the pots anyway, in order to bring water to a boil more efficiently; and it just seems easier to use large pots for water-bath canning.

      I have three large pots which I can nest as double-boilers in various configurations when necessary. They're so useful for a zillion projects that I'd never want to use my pressure canner for, that I can't imagine being without them. A worthwhile investment, IMHO.

      - Patrice

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  7. I am a real beginner at canning. I have been growing good things to eat for years but never canned anything. I received a Fagor Duo pressure cooker/canner for Christmas. I've used it a few times and it seems to be working well so far. Ever heard of them? Any opinions? Don

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    1. This is a European brand, so I'm not familiar with it. A fast search online indicated it's a respected name, so as long as you READ THE INSTRUCTIONS and learn how to use it properly, you should be fine.

      Make sure you can, indeed, use it as a CANNER. A pressure COOKER and a pressure CANNER are two different animals, but some of the larger cookers are meant to be used as a canner as well. To be used as a canner, it MUST HAVE A PRESSURE GAUGE.

      Have fun!

      - Patrice

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  8. My mom canned hundreds and hundreds (probably thousands) of jars in her Presto when I was a child. It was a trendy burnt orange color!

    I started canning with a Presto but upgraded to an All American, not because I was in any way displeased with the Presto, but simply because I wanted larger capacity. I own the largest All American and can process 19 quarts at a time. Not long after I purchased mine, a neighbor saw it and the next day brought me the same model...just a few years older...from his basement. He bought it and never used it. Score!! I thought it was a bit overkill to have TWO ginormous canners, but honestly, we use those babies ALL SUMMER LONG. I invested in a heavy duty, 3 burner, outdoor stove, which makes it all work. Now my house is canning central, where my friends adn family come to process the harvest. We frequently do 38 quart batches, and have processed thousands of jars through those big pots.

    I would be completely satisfied with the Presto design and performance if the pot had a larger capacity.

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    1. Shawna,
      How does the outdoor stove work for you? I just bought a 2 burner Camp Chief Explorer stove and when I got it home, I started reading the instructions, there were all these warnings about not using it in a covered area (I was going to have it on my covered porch) and that it had to be 10 feet away from combustables and only use it on concrete or pavers or bare dirt (my porch is wood). Are they just doing the typical CYB overkill (which scares a lot of people away from pressure canning or canning in general) or does it really need to be very inconveniently located way out in my yard to be used?
      Anyone else have any thoughts or have used one of these stoves?
      Thanks,
      Paintedmoose

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  9. Oh how I wish I had a pressure canner. But with a glass top electric stove it is not a possibility. Does anyone know of a good electric pressure canner? I am so envious of having one.

    I am only able to freeze or dry our fresh produce, and don't like water canning that much.

    Enjoy and have fun. Thanks

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    1. http://nchfp.uga.edu/publications/nchfp/factsheets/electric_cookers.html

      From the USDA and linked from Power Pressure Cooker XL website

      "Even if there are instructions for pressure canning in the manufacturer’s directions, we do not support the use of the USDA canning processes in the electric, multi-cooker appliances now containing "canning" or "steam canning" buttons on their front panels. "
      From the USDA, and linked from the Power Pressure Cooker XL owners manual website under canning.

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  10. @ Sheryl,

    I have a glass top electric stove and have used my Presto Canner for the last 4 years. So far this year, we have canned 400lbs of peaches, 300lbs of tuna, 100lbs of pears, 14 pints of salsa, 14 pints of corn, 50lbs of pinto beans, about 40 pints of venison, pork, beef. I have never had any problems with it.

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    1. I may just have to give that a try. Thanks Tricia.

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  11. I have 2, 23 qt Presto pressure canners that I bought from Amazon. I do like them and they work very efficiently. I bought them because of the price and I got 2 for less than one All American. That being said, someday, I would like to have an All American as well as I do like the idea of no gaskets. I also have a Presto pressure cooker that was a wedding gift 25 years ago and is still going strong for cooking. My Mom's Presto pressure cooker, which she still uses, was also a wedding gift 51 years ago.
    It all boils down (pun intended) to what you can afford. I am not a yard sale person, but I know of several people who have found great deals on pressure canners at yard and estate sales.
    Paintedmoose

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  12. I use a Presto because the budget didn't let me have an All American...but then I scored a SECOND Presto, brand new at 75% off! I also got 9 boxes of jars for 75% off too! It was like winning the lottery.

    Can't wait to pressure can two at once...that will help everything go alot faster.

    BTW, that was my biggest disappointment with pressure canning...finding out it wasn't really faster than water bath with getting it up to pressure, canning, then let the pressure go down.

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  13. I use a Presto because the budget didn't let me have an All American...but then I scored a SECOND Presto, brand new at 75% off! I also got 9 boxes of jars for 75% off too! It was like winning the lottery.

    Can't wait to pressure can two at once...that will help everything go alot faster.

    BTW, that was my biggest disappointment with pressure canning...finding out it wasn't really faster than water bath with getting it up to pressure, canning, then let the pressure go down.

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  14. One thing the author never mentioned was that although it's obvious the ALL American unit is all American made, the Presto unit is made in China. If you're looking for a great canner that you can hand down to your grand children then get the All America. If you like cheap made in China garbage and don't care about keeping Americans working, buy the Presto.

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  15. As I understand it, the bottom of the canner needs to be flat not ridged to work on flat top stoves. There are some flat top stoves that have one burner that burns hotter and is quite large. I have one of those flat top stoves and have successfully waterbath canned with a pot with a ridged bottom. I do not have a pressure canner but my stoves manual says the large hotter burner can be used with pressure canners.

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  16. We have the model 930 All American canner and love it. One big reason is the capacity. It holds a more jars and we can alot.

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  17. I grew up canning with my mom and she had several pressure canners, but the main one she used was an early 1970s Presto which she gave to me when I got a place of my own. I used it exclusively for several years and loved it. I recently found an All American 930 at a thrift store for $40. It is an older model that didn't have the weighted gauge but it was brand new and had never been used. I went online and purchased the stem and weighted gauge for it as well as purchasing several overpressure valves. I have used that for the last few months and love it. I much prefer it over my presto and I used a presto for 20+ years. I will continue to use both, but overall I prefer the All American. But for those that can't afford to buy a new one, keep your eyes open at thrift stores or yard sales, never know when one might pop up.

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  18. Hi Patrice,

    I have a pressure canner question for you. I have a 23 quart Presto canner, and when I can, the dial gauge gets condensation or moisture inside. The canner was purchased new by my husband, and has always done this, although I have been very careful not to submerge it in water. I haven't been able to find a local extension office to get it tested, and my Presto manual doesn't address this.

    Thank you!

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    1. I honesty don't know -- I don't have a Presto and have only used one once (helping a friend get her brand-new Presto up and running) so I don't have a lot of familiarity with the brand. As long as the gauge is readable it's probably okay, but you may want to contact the manufacturer to see if they can help you.

      - Patrice

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    2. Thank you, Patrice. I will call Presto. I visit your blog every day and really enjoy your wisdom on many topics, but canning especially. I am a 28-year-old mother of two and started canning about three years ago. Hubby bought the pressure canner as a birthday gift - aren't practical gifts the best!?

      Keep up the good work - I was devastated when Granny Miller's blog ended (glad she is back!) and I would be hard pressed to find your wisdom and experience in another blog.

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  19. This is an older post, I know, but today I received my very first NEW pressure canner, an All American 915. Why an All American, because my well used Mirro needed new rubber, and it was too big for me to handle any more. Why the 915, because I'm a way over the hill single and a very short one, those reasons plus the weight of the unit empty came into play making my decision easier. I have a very small garden, belong to a CSA (joined this spring), and I think this will comfortably take care of all my needs. At this stage of life, I'm the tortoise - not the hare. Am I dancing a jig over this investment, you bet I AM. I had to tell someone, so this is my shout out. You're never too old to enjoy home canned food, even if it takes us two days to do another persons afternoon endeavor.

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