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Oklahoma Gardening

Choosing a Used Pressure Canner

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A pressure canner is required to can meat or vegetables, other than pickles, at home. To work safely it must be able to hold four quart jars, sitting upon a rack, and standing upright, and have either a dial or weighted gauge to monitor the pressure inside the canner during processing.

  • The canner should have an owner's manual or booklet or you should be able to find one on-line from the manufacturer. This will help you identify replacement parts when they are needed, now or in the future. Use the manual to learn to use your canner, not a source of recipes.
  • Look at the dial gauge or weighted gauge. If the canner has a dial gauge it should not be cracked, broken, rusty or have moisture inside. If so, it will need to be replaced. Before using the canner, the dial gauge needs to be checked for accuracy. Any gauge more than two pounds off will need to be replaced. Dial gauges need to checked for accuracy each year prior to the canning season. For canners with weighted gauges, make sure all parts are present, not bent and that the gauge fits the port well. Both types of canners work well but they work differently. You need to learn to can with the canner you choose.
  • The canner must be perfectly flat on the bottom. If it’s warped it won’t heat evenly and is not good for canning.
  • Both the canner and the lid must be perfectly round. If either is warped or dented the lid won’t fit properly and the canner should no longer be used for pressure canner.
  • Vents should all be clear of dirt or debris. You should be able to look through them when you hold them up to a light.
  • The metal should not be heavily pitted.
  • The handles should be tight or able to be tightened. If they cannot be tightened, even after replacement, the canner should not be used.
  • If the canner is supposed to have a gasket it should be checked. It should be smooth, rubbery and pliable. If it is brittle, cracked, slick and hard, it may not seal. If it is gummy or very soft, it won't hold a seal. If it's stretched out (it should be a little hard to put on and take off), it won't seal. Gaskets can be replaced fairly expensively, but that adds to the cost of the canner and they often need to ordered on-line which takes time. When the gasket is replaced, make sure it is the correct size for your canner.
  • Make sure the pressure release plug/safety plug is in good condition. This is a small hole in the lid that is filled with a material that will stand pressure up to a certain degree. When the pressure rises above that degree, it will pop free, releasing the pressure in the canner and preventing the canner from exploding. The plug should be smooth, firm, and elastic.
  • Look for the canner rack inside the canner. If it is rusted or absent, it will need to be replaced.