Do I Really Need a Pressure Canner?

If you’re just delving into preserving food, you might be trying to decide what kind of canner you need.  You may be asking yourself, “Do I really need a pressure canner?” or “Maybe I can just get a pressure canner and preserve everything in there?”

Today, I’m going to unpack some of those questions and hopefully help you make an informed decision on whether a pressure canner is what you need or not.

Before we get into that, let me explain the three different canner options you have…

3 Different Methods of Canning

  • Water Bath Canning – (high-acid foods) canner is filled up with water to cover food-filled jars, the temperature reaches 212 degrees F.  When water is boiling, the processing time begins.
  • Steam Canning – (high-acid foods) canner is filled with a few inches of water and through steam, the temperature reaches 212 degrees F. Processing time is the same as water bath canning.
  • Pressure Canning – (low-acid foods) canner builds pressure to the appropriate pounds necessary for your elevation and the temperature is at least 240 degrees F.

I’m sure you noticed the big difference between water bath, steam, and pressure canning…the acidity of the food.  This brings me to…

The One Reason Why You May Need a Pressure Canner

You Plan to Can Low-Acid Food – You can ONLY preserve pickled vegetables or high-acid food with a water bath or steam canner.  The reason for this is that low-acid foods are prime for bacterial growth.  Pressure canning heats the jar’s contents to a higher temperature (240 degrees F versus 212 degrees F) and destroys the bacteria spores (botulism) that grow in these types of foods in long-term storage.

What types of foods need to be pressure canned, you may ask?  Low-acid foods include:

  • raw vegetables (non-pickled)
  • meat
  • poultry
  • seafood
  • broth
  • sauces
  • soups
  • stews

Many canners get by just fine with a water bath or steam bath canner because they solely focus on high-acid foods. But if you plan to can any of these low-acid foods, you absolutely need a pressure canner.

I know your grandma may have water bath canned green beans, but it really is not the safe way to can.  For context, you need to know that I don’t make my kids wear helmets when they ride their bikes – I just want to understand my level of comfort with risk.

Can’t You Pressure Can Everything?

You may be tempted to get one canner, a pressure canner, and just pressure can everything. Easy peasy right?!

One look at the processing time on water bath canning guidelines and you might think you can reduce processing time from 20 minutes down to…say….5 minutes in a pressure canner.

Well, I hate to be Debbie Downer here, but you should not pressure can everything.

I’m sorry, but you just can’t.

Pressure canning applies a large amount of force (aka pressure) to food and the consistency is destroyed.

Look y’all, to be blunt…you’ll get gross canned goods.

When you process/preserve any food, there is some deterioration of nutrients, regardless of the preservation method.  If you pressure can jam, you will be applying a very strong preservation method that strips more nutrition from a food item than necessary.

And the output is gross.

I’ve seen jars of pressure canned tomato sauce, google it…you don’t want to save that kind of tomato sauce on your pantry shelf.

Pressure Canner = Pressure Cooker?


If you have an Instant Pot Max, then maybe.

(ugh…you may be frustrated that I’m not answering this question directly but the jury is still out on this one)

There are die-hards out there that say you are absolutely able to pressure can food with an Instant Pot Max (max only).

I guess I’m a bit of a purist and I think it’s not really worth the risk. Look…

  • You’ve grown your food
  • You took the time to prepare it for canning
  • You took the time to preserve it.

Do you really want to get sick or see your goods spoil?

I don’t think so.

To each your own.  If you try pressure canning with the Instant Pot Max (again…max only) do so at your own risk (coming from the lady that doesn’t insist on bike helmets).


In summary, if you plan to can low-acid food, you need a pressure canner.

Hopefully, this answers some of the most common questions I get surrounding pressure canners.

If you’re new to pressure canning, I highly recommend you check out my easy guides to can potatoes and can squash/pumpkin (coming soon).

I’d love to hear your thoughts on this and what kind of canner you use regularly.  This will really depend on what kind of food you preserve but if you are a high-acid food kinda guy or gal, do you prefer a steam canner or water bath canner?  Let me know in the comments below.

Until next time!

do you need a pressure canner

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