What Is The Difference With a Pressure Canner And a Pressure Cooker?

If you’re new to home preserving, you need to know the difference between a standard pressure cooker and a specialised pressure canner

They are definitely not the same and cannot be used as such!

Actually, it is important to know that you can use a pressure canner as a pressure cooker, but not the other way around! 

Pressure cookers lack the specific control and capacity needed for safe and thorough food processing.

What Is A Pressure Cooker? 

Let’s start with the pressure cookers!  Pressure cooking has gained popularity due to its quick cook time, one pot meals and nutritious value.  In fact, every household is likely to have a pressure cooker.

A pressure cooker is a wonderful kitchen appliance that speeds up cooking time for many meals. 

It is a sealed pot or vessel that builds up very high pressure and generates lots of steam inside. In fact, it is this combination of high pressure and steam that allows your food to be cooked quickly

This is also what sets it apart from a pressure canner which is required for safely preserving certain foods.

As the pot heats, water turns into steam and increases inside temperature (up to 250°F ).  The super-hot moist cooking environment inside transfers heat to food and cooks it faster. 

Furthermore, this high-pressure steam cooking forces moisture into the food.  Thus, a pressure cooker allows usually tough cuts of meat to be cooked fast and come out tender and moist.

pressure cooker vs pressure canner

Pressure Cooker Design and Features

  • A thick base that helps to evenly distribute heat along the bottom of the pot. 
  • The metal body is usually made of stainless steel or aluminum. 
  • Rubber side handles allow you to carry the pot for quick cooling. 
  • The lid will lock onto the body of the pot.  It includes a silicone or rubber gasket that creates an air-tight seal to avoid the escape of steam. 
  • A special steam vent, pressure regulator or valve controls the volume of steam inside the pan.  We widely use pressure cookers in our kitchens to cook meat, beans, pulses, chickpeas, rice, pasta, and vegetables quickly. 

They are available in a variety of sizes but the most commonly seen is four quarts

What Is A Pressure Canner?

Unlike a pressure cooker that we use for cooking food, a pressure canner is a heavy-duty, specialised piece of home preserving equipment.  It is specifically used for pressure canning procedures

Basically, pressure canning is a technique to preserve low-acid foods in jars so they are shelf-stable for months. 

Best Electric Pressure Canner

You require a pressure canner for all low-acid or alkaline foods. These include meat, fish, poultry, seafood and some vegetables that have a pH higher than 4.6.

A pressure canner is a large-capacity pressure vessel that is made of thick aluminum.  It is specifically designed for canning foods that are low-acidic. 

Just like a pressure cooker, it uses internal pressure to achieve higher temperatures.  This allows for safer food processing of some foods than just a water bath canner.

Steam and high temperature is created to do all the heat processing. 

Features Of A Pressure Canner

  • Large capacity – usually 20 – 25 Quarts
  • A sieve plate or rack inside the canner to place the canning jars. This keeps your jars off the bottom of the pot and allows steam to circulate inside the pressure canner. 
  • Fully locking lid usually with cool-touch handles
  • On the lid there will be pressure regulators, release valves and a pressure gauge to keep track of the PSI (pressure level).  These allow you to easily calculate and adjust the food processing time. 
The main purpose of using a pressure canner

is to destroy any germs or bacteria within the food.  You can adjust the pressure regulators (weight and dial-gauge) to 5, 10 or 15 pounds.

Thus, temperature inside the canner can easily reach up to 250 ̊F.  This will ensure that it kills all dangerous microorganisms like Clostridium Botulism in low-acid foods.

You can easily kill the microbiological contaminants present in high-acid foods with just the application of heat i.e. boiling water temperature.

Botulism spores do not die at lower temperatures of 200-212°F so food does not preserve safely.  That said, microorganisms in low-acid foods require a higher level of heat that can only be reached by a pressure canner

Can Pressure Cookers be Used For Canning?

As both pressure cooker and pressure canner sound alike, many people assume they can use either.  Well, this is not the case! 

A pressure cooker doesn’t process food to kill off bacteria for preserving.  Indeed, it is designed to cook food faster using higher steam and pressure than normal cooking methods.  Many foods such as tough meat cuts, rice and beans can be cooked in half the time.


Risk of Botulism

Pressure cookers are much smaller in size than a pressure canner. 

When it comes to the canning process, one of the most important steps is the heating and cool-down time. 

A pressure cooker is  ½ or ¾ the size of a regular pressure canner pot so it has a shorter heat and cool-down time. 

Using this type of machine will result in under-processed food that leads to the survival of botulism spores. 

Furthermore, all your hard work will be wasted as the result is unfit for safe consumption


No Pressure Gauge

Most standard pressure cookers have no pressure gauge to measure the inside pressure. This is essential in canning for food preservation. 

You need to have an accurate measure of the inside pressure and temperature for safe canning. 

Each recipe for proper canning will need specific time, temperature and pressure. 

Remember, you are using this method to preserve low-acid produce and kill dangerous micro-organisms and their spores. 

A specialised pressure canner is the only unit that can safely ensure your canning jars are heated and sealed correctly.

do i use a pressure canner or pressure cooker


A pressure canner is a large capacity and highly specialised piece of home preserving equipment.  If you are looking to process low-acid foods it is essential to have this specific machine.

A pressure cooker however, is a much smaller appliance which allows you to cook foods quicker.  It does NOT reach the temperatures and pressures required to safely preserve food in jars!

Both machines are wonderful additions to any kitchen.  That said, if you are looking to preserve low-acid foods safely you will require a specialised home pressure canner.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends that a pressure canner is the only safe equipment for preserving low-acid foods

The fact is, you can use a pressure canner as a pressure cooker but not the other way around!

We hope this has helped you understand the difference between these 2 iconic appliances.  Read more from our site here.