Are electric multi-cookers safe for canning? No

A simple search of advertising flyers these days reveals any number of electric multi-cookers for sale. And with the winter holidays around the corner, you may be wondering about gifting one of these units to a friend or family member. Are these electric multi-cookers safe for canning? Unfortunately, the answer is ‘No.’ These units have not been tested to ensure that they may produce safe canned food, they are only recommended for cooking.

How does an electric pressure cooker work? A pressure cooker locks in steam so that meat, vegetables, dry beans and soup cook at a high temperature in a moist environment. This type of cooking can be a great way to cook tougher cuts of meat, to soften and cook dry beans, and to prepare firm vegetables such as beets in a short amount of time. However, an electric multi-cooker does not maintain adequate pressure for canning and can not be used to safely can food.

What is a pressure canner? Pressure canners have either dial or weighted gauges. Pressure canners must be used when canning low-acid foods such as meats and vegetables. Pressure canners may hold up to 22 quarts and are able to process food at up to 20 pounds of pressure. In order to ‘qualify’ as a pressure canner, an appliance must be able to easily hold at least 4 quart jars (not 4 quarts of water). A unit that is too small will heat and cool too quickly to ensure product safety. Some popular brands of pressure canners are Mirro, Presto, and All American. Pressure canners are adjustable to pressures of 5, 10, or 15 pounds (psi) for weight-style canners, or over the range from 0-20 pounds (psi) for a dial-style canner. Generally, a pressure canner may be able to be used as a pressure cooker, just not the other way around.

Presto dial gauge pressure canner.

What if the manufacturer of my electric pressure cooker gives instructions for home canning? Even if there are instructions for pressure canning in the manufacturer’s directions, Extension does 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.  The USDA pressure process directions have not been developed to ensure the safety of the product canned in an electric pressure cooker/canner. The National Center for Home Food Preservation (NCHFP) has a nice summary of the issue.

Other useful information can be found here:

Be sure to follow a research-tested recipe and use the right equipment when home canning. Safe preserving, Barb