Choosing a Pressure Canner

Posted by Bonnie

I think pressure canning came up when we were discussing our 1-5 year plans for our property and trying to decide how large our garden should be. I know I was worried that if we had a huge garden, or planted many fruit trees, that vegetables and fruit would spoil before we could ever hope to eat it. So when I saw Kyle’s sketched yard plan and said I was concerned, he launched into a speech about canning food.

hand drawn sketch of a 2 acre yard site with house, garden, orchard and pond.
That’s a 2 acre yard right there so even though the garden doesn’t look huge, it will be almost 1/4 acre which is a lot for a family of our size!

Not only as a means of preservation, to reduce waste while maximizing garden and orchard size, but as a way of being prepared. Prepared for what? Don’t worry, not a zombie apocalypse or anything like that. But being prepared with a few days minimum of food in the event a snowstorm stops us from getting into town. Or even, being prepared with healthy, homemade meals on a super busy night. He convinced me. Being able to crack open a can of something not only nutritious, but that tastes good and you made yourself did it. Anything to make dinner time less of a struggle!

Once we decided to order a canner, we had to decide between the two big brands: All American and Presto. I’m not going to lie, I immediately wanted the All American. It looks like what I expected a pressure canner to look like. It looks heavy duty, like it would actually withstand the pressure generated during the processing time. Two problems with the All American though…

  1. The PRICE!!! Have you seen the price difference? It was literally over a $200 difference between the two. The Presto was around $130 for a 23 quart, the All American about $350 for a 21 quart. That doesn’t work in All American’s favor!
  2. The type of cook top we have. Apparently, the All American is heavier than the Presto which can be an issue if you have an electric glass top range as we do. The extra weight of the canner, once loaded down with cans and water, can actually crack the glass top of the range. I’m glad I checked out a few reviews because I never even considered that could be an issue. Presto actually says on their website that is is safe for glass cook tops.

    presto 23 quart canner next to the all american 21.5 canner
    See what I mean? The All American looks like it belongs on a submarine or something. Very attractive, and looks commercial. But the Presto is economical and effective.

So we got the Presto and saved $200.

One difference between the All American and the Presto was how the pounds of pressure is measured. The All American was a weighted gauge canner, meaning that the pounds of pressure needed for your elevation is maintained by a weight that ‘jiggles’ on the lid to release enough steam to keep the correct pressure. The Presto has a dial gauge, meaning you have to control the pressure with the heat of your stove to make sure it stays where you want it – It’s not automatic. You are also supposed to have your dial gauge tested ANNUALLY by the manufacturer or other authority to ensure it is reading accurately. That sounded like a massive inconvenience, and I recommend purchasing the available extra weighted gauge from Presto to avoid this step like we did – It works great. We also picked up the 7 piece accessory kit – comes with a bunch of handy tools to make the process much easier – and an extra rack so that we can stack smaller jars to increase our processing volume.

presto canner and presto canning kit in their boxes on a black glass top stove.
That little brown bag contains the weighted pressure regulator. It comes in 3 pieces for 5, 10, or 15 pounds of pressure.

The only other major difference I could find between the All American and the Presto was the type of seal they use. The All American is a metal-metal seal (it requires lubrication with cooking oil or something similar to contact properly) but the Presto seals with a rubber gasket. This gasket does need to be replaced if it shows wear or becomes brittle and some reviews made a BIG deal about this (‘it’s going to cost you ssooo much extra money!’). Well I’ll tell you with replacement about every two years, even at about $15 each, I can buy a LOT of rubber gaskets and the whole setup would still cost less than the All American!

Man holds the lid of a 23 quart pressure canner
Kyle unboxing the Presto 23 qt pressure canner… The first and LAST time he touched it I think! Just kidding, but he usually watches the kids while I do my thing in the kitchen.

So far we have used ours as both a water bath and a pressure canner. We’ve had great results and a lot of fun every time. Watch out – You will become addicted to canning!


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