Canning 101: Should You Use a Steam Canner?

January 12, 2011(updated on May 13, 2021)

Updated May 2021. This post was originally written ten years ago, to warn people away from choosing a steam canner for their heat processing. However, new research shows that steam canners are safe and effective. Read for more!

What is a Steam Canner?

A steam canner is a piece of cookware that most often looks like an old fashioned cake carrier. It consists of a shallow pan, a fitted rack and a high domed cover and is designed to trap steam and release it in a very controlled fashion. You’ll sometimes see steam canners labeled as atmospheric steam canner, to differentiate them from pressure canners, which also use steam.

Occasionally, you also find boiling water bath canners that can also be used as steam canners. This only works with pots that have enough height to accommodate a high rack so that there’s enough water to create enough steam to keep the jars hot for the entire processing time.

Canning high acid foods is a process in which jars of food are exposed to heat for a prescribed amount of time. This does two things. It kills off any living microorganisms. And it forces the oxygen present in the jar to vent out, creating a situation in which a vacuum seal can form as the jars cool.

Traditionally, this heat processing is done in a boiling water bath canner, in which the jars are fully submerged in boiling water for 10 to 85 minutes (the processing time depends on the kind of food you are preserving). Boiling water is a highly effective method for transferring heat, and so this method of food preservation has long been considered the gold standard for home use.

How Does a Steam Canner Work?

Steam canners have long been a popular alternative to boiling water bath canners. Instead of requiring a full pot of boiling water, they use just a quart of two. That water is brought to a boil and the pot is allowed to fill with piping hot steam (a pure steam environment reaches the same temperature as boiling water, which is why it’s equally effective). The steam transmits the heat into the jars. This has the same effect as boiling water bath canning, as the heat from the steam also kills the microorganisms and forces the oxygen to vent.

However, until very recently, most canning safety experts advised home canners to skip steam canners. This is because there hadn’t been enough research done to prove its efficacy. However, in 2015, the University of Wisconsin released the results of a study, which found that steam canning can be used interchangeably with boiling water bath canning, provided the proper steps are taken.

How to Use a Steam Canner

Preparing jars for steam canning works just the same as boiling water bath canning (click here to read my instructions on how to process jars in a boiling water bath canner). You can even use your steam canner to heat the jars prior to filling.

  1. Fill the tray of the steam canner with the amount of water required by the manufacturer.
  2. Fit it with a rack and place your jars on top.
  3. Turn the burner on and start warming the jars.
  4. Remove one jar, fill it with your product, wipe the rim, fit it with a new lid and clean ring, and set it upright on the rack inside the canner.
  5. When all jars are filled, place the lid on the canner and bring it to a boil. Once the steam has reached the appropriate temperature (consult the manufacturer instructions to learn how to judge this for your particular pot).
  6. Once the pot is at temperature, set your timer for the amount of time required for your recipe (if you are above 1,000 feet in elevation, make the same processing adjustments that you would for boiling water bath canning).
  7. You may need to reduce the heat during the processing time. Too much steam can sometimes interfere with the jars’ ability to seal, so you want a controlled amount of steam, not wild bellows.
  8. When the time is up, turn off the heat and remove the lid. Let the jars cool in the pot for an additional five minutes to help prevent siphoning and to allow the seals additional time to set.
  9. Set the jars on a wooden board or folded kitchen towel to cool. When jars are fully cooled, remove the rings and test the seals. Wipe jars down if any sticky liquid leaked out during cooling. Sealed jars are shelf stable for the length of time recommended by the recipe. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used promptly.

How to Choose a Steam Canner

If you’re shopping for a steam canner, I recommend getting one that can double as a boiling water bath canner. Steam canners are not recommended for products that need more than 45 minutes of processing, because they risk boiling dry at that point. If you plan on preserving tomato products (which have a longer processing period), getting a pot that can serve double duty will mean that your single pot can perform all tasks (and it will also triple as a stock pot).

I like the pots that have temperature gauges in the handle, so that you can easily monitor the temperature in the interior of the pot. This ensure that you will always have properly processed food.

Do you use a steam canner? Share your experience in the comments below!

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182 thoughts on "Canning 101: Should You Use a Steam Canner?"

  • I’ve never used one despite the temptation. So much less water and fuel! But I’m not a very confident canner anyway and like you said, it just isn’t worth it. So I let the water cool completely and use it to water pot plants and the fuel… well, I just try to be as quick about it as I can and not let it boil forever on the stove while I’m getting stuff ready.

  • I’ve always been interested in these because, as Amy comments, less fuel and water. But, I’ve always stalled at mild curiosity. However, I’d like to see some of those electric water bath contraptions that they have in Germany. What’s up with those?

  • We have a canner like that in our extended family and we have often canned together on production work days over the years. Just like you, nobody had recipes and proceedures. Instead we used it to sterilize jars and rings, it works great for that! and avoids the diswasher cycle, keeps the jars hot. We also sometimes take 9×13 cake pans and put the sterilized jars in the oven at 215 degrees to keep them hot. That works really well for production canning because, well you always have clean hot jars and we frequently run several water bath canners (or pressure canners) at a time. We have propane camp stove burners we set up outside in the summer or fall, under a covered porch, and can away! Many hands (many burners) make light work!

  • Thanks, Marisa, for posting this. I’ve also been getting questions and have no idea what to say. Now I’ll just refer them to this post.

  • I used a steam canner for years and years. It seemed to work just as well as a water bath canner. I never had any problems with it. It saved tons of water and time (heating all that water). I loved that canner. Unfortunately, I left my canner in Arizona when I moved to Hawaii, so I’m back to water bath canning again.

  • I don’t trust them, don’t trust them, don’t trust them. I’ll stick with my water & pressure canners. If the NCHFP won’t recommend it, I won’t use it. Period.

    Thanks for posting this & doing the research.

    1. hey jen have you ever read into the things our government approves in our food? Its scary! So why would you only go by government regulations for your safety? They care about money making more then the safety of your family. People for generations have been canning using different methods other then ” approved” ones and all is well. Use your common sense and you won’t get food poisoning.

  • I live in a small condo with limited storage and a very small kitchen. When I started to can after I retired, I ordered a steam canner and have used it for several years. I have used it to process jams and jellies, marmalade, pickles and applesauce and so far have had no problems. I usually increase the processing time by 5 or 10 minutes over the time used in a water bath. I think cleanliness during the preparing and processing period is most important. Will certainly continue to use my steam canner.

  • I have one that I use for jams and jellies. I’d love to see more research done on these by the USDA (fat chance, I know …).

  • I have always used a boiling water bath or pressure canner. It’s easy and I just don’t trust a steam canner. My favorite canning book, Putting Foods By, nixed steam so I think that is why I have the same opinion.

  • I have never used a steam canner, but I noticed some new canning cookbooks don’t advocate using a water bath canner anymore and instead put jars in a hot oven for 10 minutes. For jam, that is. Anything like whole fruit or tomato sauce I would still water bath.

  • I learned to can from someone who used a steam canner. It wasn’t until I started looking into getting my own that I became aware of the warnings about them. She seems to use them with great success and is a master preserver, but I am super cautious and constantly have nightmares of poisoning my family so I just use my water bath canner.

  • when I was started canning 35 years ago – I started with the water bath method. Then the steam canners became ‘popular’ so I bought one. It definitely saved time and consequently energy. And when I was really doing big batches – I’d have the water bath and steam canners both going. I haven’t done much canning for about 15 years and started hearing cautions about the steam canner. Now that I AM canning again – my steam canner sits on my garage shelf and I’m just using the water bath method. If someday – someone comes out with some good research that makes me feel good about the steam canner – I’d definitely be interested in using it again. Until then – I’ll stay cautious and use methods that I know will be safe for my family. Isn’t one of the reasons we are canning because we like knowing what is in our foods and that it’s the highest quality possible? Then I certainly can’t justify using a method that might jeopardize my family….too bad…I really did like that steam canner!

  • In Germany, when making jams, you never process in a water bath afterwards. You use sterilised jars and lids, and after finishing the jam, you fill it, close it, turn it over on the lid for five minutes, then back and pop it goes and is vacuum sealed.

    I have kept jam like that for two years and it was as good as the first day.

    Even our jam books, etc. do not advocate processing it in a water bath or a canner afterwards.

    1. Wow thanks for this tip! I wondered if you could do this since you boil the jam anyway. I will just be sure to sterilize any utensils I use too like the ladle and the funnel. I guess you turn it upside down to make sure any bacteria that came in while pouring get killed too? You would have to make sure you didn’t let the jam cool before you closed it too I think so keep it on the burner on low and work fast!

      1. That’s the way we used to do jams/jellies back in the dark ages 😉 I don’t know anyone who ever got sick from them, so not sure why it’s no longer an approved method in the U.S.

        You did need to be scrupulous with sterilizing everything.

        1. yes, everybody and their grandmother did it that way — we don’t anymore, because it has been proven unsafe 🙂
          kinda like making sausage, everybody used to make it without nitrates, but then in 1793 the germans discovered botulism in Wildbad
          People die from tainted food every year, they’re not using unproven technology like “steam canners”, why risk it over a few pennies of electricity

  • I held off on getting a steam canner until last summer and used it for almost all my processing without any issues. I added about 10-15 minutes processing time and still sterilized all the jars and lids as usual. So far so good. I do quarts of tomato sauce each year and the water, energy and time involved in bringing my biggest stockpot up to a boil made it an unpleasant experience. I steam canned all my sauce last year and check on all the remaining jars each month without any seal failure.
    I think using common sense combined with being more vigilant over cleanliness can make them safer for most canning.

  • I’ve used a steam canner for over 20 years. I love it. It’s light weight and you don’t have to mess with all the water in a water bath canner. As with any canning, you must be careful. Before my steam canner, I used to “open kettle” can. I have used a water bath before. You always need to check your seals and if you read in any canning information, they suggest, strongly, that you heat any canned items 15 minutes before eating. I feel that yo have the same chance of having problems with water bath canning as you do with a steam canner. It’s all about being precise in what you do and following the instructions exactly.

  • Having a steam canner is a great convenience. It saves energy, plus physical energy and time. After the work of preparation for canning, it’s great to use the pressure canner for 45 min., or less instead of three hours in a water bath canner. I keep my steam canner where I can use it all year, as it’s used the same as a small pressure cooker for food preparing a meal. Please don’t take my steam canner away.

  • I am so glad to have stumbled upon your site courtesy of msbetterhomes. I have a question that I can’t seem to get answered. I want to get my master food perservers certificate. I live in Massachusetts and we no longer have the class available. I tried to contact the University of Georgia but they have had big funding cuts and no one is there to even respond to emails. Do you have a certificate and do you know if there is an on-line or mail order course available? I teach food perserving several times a year and the certificate would be most welcome.

  • I love my steam canner for jams, jellies and other high acid foods. I think the trouble comes in when people think they can substitute a steam canner for a pressure canner, two totally different beasties. The steam canner is a valid substitute for waterbath processing, in my opinion.

  • Like those above, I use a steamer canner and love it because of the conveniences and speed of it. I’ve never “woken up dead” as my sister calls it, from eating what I’ve canned. (She cans too, and uses a combination of traditional canners and steam canners). I also did a couple pint batches of apricots in my solar oven last year–that worked out really well and required no water or steam!

  • I love your jar collection, by the way! It’s nice to see blue ball jars among clear white ones. Keep up the great work!

  • I use oil to can meats and things that need to beheated to higher temperatures than just water boiling. I get the oil up to 300 degrees and cut the heat down to maintain this. I have a big square pan measuring 3′ by 5′. I had the amount of oil to cover the jars and I put 135 jars into the oil. After they are finished I put the jars in a a rack and hose them down with hot water and wipe them dry. This is a good safe method. You can avoid using a pressure steamer. Plus I can do so many jars. This method requires some more work, but if you set up right it’s the safest way to can things that require more heat than just boiling in water.

    1. I’d like to make a correction. I meant to say the oil should be 250 to degrees. Once the oil was too hot because the thermostat I had wasn’t working so I don’t know how hot the oil got. We tested some jars and it was too hot, but once we knew the temperature was 250 degrees we never had any problems.

  • I have a steam canner also, and I love it. With serious back problems, it’s much easier for me to manage than a huge pot of water. I usually add 5 to 10 minutes to the processing time, too. I always have very tight seals and have never had a problem with anything I’ve canned in it. I intend to continue using it.

    1. Why would you have to manage a huge pot of water?
      You put empty pot on the stove, you pour a cup of water into it, repeat until you have enough water in the pot
      when you’re finished, you take cup, and dunk it in the pot, then pour out into the sink

      you’re never lifting gallons of water, at most you’re lifting a cup, or a pint (whatever your measure)

  • I was almost seduced by a steam canner at a local store. When I took it up to the counter to purchase it, the cashier said, “Oh you don’t want to buy that! I tried to talk my manager out of stocking it, but he wouldn’t listen!”

    1. I would have said you know what mind your own buisness and boughten it anyway. I don’t see why people are so fearful of them.

  • I have used a steam canner for the last 30 years and have never had any problems. I have canned all types of fruits in it and tomatoes, pickles, and relishes. It is not meant to be used with low-acid foods, such as green beans, or used for any kinds of meat. A pressure canner is the only safe way to can those. But for any type of fruit like peaches, pears, cherries,and apricots, I have canned these in a steam canner without any problems – ever. As for time tables, I have always used the times as listed for the water bath canner, but adding 5-10 minutes to it certainly wouldn’t hurt anything, especially if it makes you feel safer.

  • I’m one of those odd men who actually enjoy doing the canning at our home! My wife is fully capable, but is glad to let me do it. I’ve used a steam canner for several years and, at first, by following the same time processing recommendations as for the typical water bath method, I was “losing” seals after a few days. We live at about 4500 feet above sea level. I can peaches and grape juice. Then, I decided to extend the processing time in the steam canner by quite a bit. Now, once a full stream of steam is blowing out the holes in the dome of the canner, I set the timer for a full hour. Since then, I haven’t “lost” any seals with either peaches or grape juice and the peaches are still nice and firm when opened to eat. They aren’t overcooked. A full hour of processing, as noted above, might be overdoing it but it seems to work for me. at least so far!

  • I have used my grandmother’s steam canner to process pears and peaches for the last 9 years and have never had a problem. I am sticking with it despite the lack of research.

  • I too am one of thsoe strange guys who like to can along with my wife. We’ve used a steam canner for almost 20 years for fruit, grape juice, tomatoes and other hi acid foods. We usually use the same times as a water bath making sure to start the time once there’s a good head of steam. We always are very careful keeping jars, lids, pans and utensils sterile. In all this time we have never had a problem with jars not sealing or coming loose even after 2 years. We’re very happy with the canner and reccommend them to everyone

  • I am master Food Preserver, and agree that the steam canners are not officially recommended. However, I use mine frequently, as the University of California Extension Nutritionist, who taught the MFP class I took, did extensive tests on foods in steam canners, and found that they got just as hot in the interior of the jar as did water bath foods. If you make sure that the food is processed long enough and you follow other best practices, it is fine to use a steam canner. And saves SO much energy and water, not to mention keeping the kitchen cooler on those hot summer canning days.

  • We have a family run pomegranate business that specializes in pure pomegranate products; jelly, vinegar, juice, not from concentrate. W use steam canners exclusively for doing our jelly. We have been using them for more than 20 years and do between 900 and 1700 jars of jelly each year. We have had 3 seal failures, that we know of, in all those years. The instructions that come with the “Back to Basics” steam canner, that can be found at Wal-Mart, gives a list of times for different types of canning. We always wait until a heavy stream of steam before setting the timer. The outsides of the jars have to be at boiling temperature for the steam to become steady and strong. Hence the jars then take the same time for the heat to penetrate to the middle as a regular bath canner. We will continue to can with our steam canners.

  • I have used a steam canner for many, many years without any problems. It takes so much less water and energy. I do steam a bit longer than water bath simply because there are few good instructions around. Canning methods fall in and out of favor and much of it has to do with liability. There are never any sure bets no matter what you do, and the only canned food I’ve ever had go bad was pressure canned by all the rules.

  • I purchased a steam canner last summer and used it to can almost everything. I LOVE it and will probably not go back to a water bath canner. I have a glass top stove and always worried about breaking it with the heavy water bath canner. My steam canner is much quicker and works great. I haven’t had any trouble with it!

  • I too have used a steam canner for years. I have back problems, as well as fatigue and other issues. But I love to make jams, applesauce, etc. . I came across thistype of canneryears ago and jumped on it because of my physical limitatiions and how much work canning is. I also liked that it used so much less energy and water. Safer, cheaper, better on the environment. I have never had any problems. I learned how to use it on the Iowa university home economics web site and have been perfectly happy. I followed their canning guidelines, which seem to be about 5-15 min longer than boiling water bath, depending on jar size. though I have recommended it to many, there are many
    skeptics and I leave it up to them to decide. But I’m happy and so are my family and gifted friends! Enjoy!

  • Steam canners work very well for acidic and sugary products, as previously posted.
    Same as a water bath and about the same timing. I have used the steam canner for 20 years with no ill effects.
    I defy anyone to state a death or sickness that has come from a product properly canned in a steam canner.
    The folks in government agencies and universities are to over-educated and under-experienced to know what works in the real world.
    Regards, and happy canning,

  • I have used a steam canner for years and years and years… Never ever had a problem. I am a clean and careful canner, and I follow the instructions for high altitude. Please read the newest comments, especially by Mary #30. Yeah, pressure canners are the latest craze… and I may get one for veggies and no-acid foods. But for now… my 2 steam canners are keepers!

  • I am an experienced canner, both water bath and pressure. I am interested in using a steamer. I live at 7200 feet. Adding 5-10 minutes to water bath time seems logical. Any pearls of wisdom for me? Also, has any one used the Tattler “seals” which are supposed to replace the metal seals? I like the idea of having re-usable rubber rings and the ceramic “seals”. Thanks for any/all opinions.

  • I am new to canning and trying to decide about equipment. You all represent such a lot of canning know how! Have to say all you in the steam canner camp make a good case, the electricity, glass top stove use, and amount of water and heat generated seems to all point to steam canning. So for the simpler canning I plan to do, like peaches, tomatoes, pickles, sauerkraut, are okay to do with the steam canner? Also like Bonnie would love to hear any experience with the tattler reuseable lids. Last, do you always need to have hot jars? Thanks

  • For high acid foods, I have always used a steam canner, following the same time allowances as for a water bath, and have never experienced any spoilage or failure to seal. All my fruit and pickles are canned this way. But for tomatoes (I don’t like adding lemon juice to my purees or sauces), low acid foods like vegetables and meat/fish/poultry, I will only use a pressure canner. In the years I’ve been canning I have had good luck, few or no failed seals, and never got sick or found a bad jar on my storage shelves.

  • I have always used a steam canner for fruit and tomatoes. Never had a problem–the tomatoes are acidic enough on their own and I’ve never used lemon juice. I would not use a steam canner for veggies like beans, beets, corn, etc. For that I would stick with a pressure canner or hot water bath.

  • Well, I am so glad I stumbled upon this thread tonight. Thank you for all the helpful comments. I used a boiling water bath years ago, but hadn’t canned in almost 20 years. Last year I wanted to get back to it and when I saw the steam canners I jumped at the chance to try one as I have a very bad back and health problems.
    I only made strawberry jam last year & had no problems- all sealed ebautifully and the jam was fine.
    But I did get a little panicky when I started to read on several sites about steam canning not being safe. Then I read a detailed study- I think from Iowa University where they insisted the steam canning was safe and produced the same internal temperatures.

    Getting ready to make blueberry jam & once again I searched because I got that worry about using the steamer, but I feel better after reading all the comments from experienced steam canners here. I do make sure that steam is really rolling and I let it go a good 5- 10 min longer than suggested for boiling.
    so thnak you- I can make my blueberry jam now without so much anxiety.
    I am very careful about the jars & utensils being sterilized and the jam being boiled & piping hot.
    I am in fact going to try sterilizing my jars in the oven- it makes sense that it should work ok, otherwise we would all be getting pretty sick from cooking our meat in the oven.
    Thanks again & happy jamming ; )

  • I use a steam canner and this will be our third year using it. We do pickles, jams and jellies, applesauce and peaches. I haven’t had any problems with it not sealing anything and I always add extra time to my processing. Last night was my first time making pasta sauce from Mrs.Wages mix. I added some citric acid as an extra boost and added peace of mind. I would love to have a pressure canner so I could do low-acid foods.

  • I have used my steam canner for 2 years, with only high acid foods, and they came out great! Good seal, and I can do it outside on my camping propane stove. I have a glass tooped range so it’s the only option for now. Just becuase the USDA hasn’t researched it doesn’t mean it’s not safe. The USAD used to say supplements weren’t safe 20 years ago 🙂 Just use common sense and do a lot of research before you can. My jars are BOILING when they come out (I do only hot pack) and that’s hot enough for me. Read the directions for canning times that comes with the steam canner. Everyone I know who uses one loves them! And they’re still healthy and happy.

  • I have used a steam canner for years. It is convenient and efficient. I always get a good seal. I can peaches, salsa, tomatoes, stewed tomatoes every year and have never had any problems with taste, color, or spoilage. And we haven’t died yet. I feel confident they are a safe method of canning and will continue to can using this method.

  • I have used a steam canner for 20 years and have never had a problem. Steam canners get extremely hot and can break bottles if you don’t watch your temperture, I have done it, so I would say that they get hot enough and do the job. The extension service has not done enough research, an therefore puts them at risk for a lawsuit if they indorse them. It is to bad they don’t do more research because the steam canner is a great time saving tool. I agree with the one comment that they get used instead of a pressure cooker for veges etc. Steam Canner is replacement for Water Bath only.

  • So glad to find this thread. I’ve been using my sister’s hand me down steam canner for almost 20 years, believing it was a sub for water bath canning. I only recently read that it isn’t recommended. It is so simple to use and really does reduce the heat factor on hot summer days canning. I have used it for jams, fruits, pickles and tomatoes with never a problem. I just started acidifying my tomatoes this year with powdered citric acid. These posts have reassured me to continue without fear. Thanks.

  • I have done steam canning for about 15 years now. I only use it for grape and blackberry jam. I have never had any problems and highly recommend it. I can get the boiling jam into the jars and sealed to begin the steaming in less than one minute once it is ready. Try to get that speed with your water bath canner. You do not have to remove the jars from the canner when filling. Leave them there and pour the jam straight into the jars. Clean the top of the jars if needed and add the caps and rings.

  • I work at the University of Georgia and the National Center for Home Food Preservation. The following statement you have posted is not a correct representation of our position: “Currently, steam canners are not recommended for home use by either the USDA or the National Center for Home Food Preservation. Their reasoning is that steam isn’t as effective at transmitting heat through to the center of the jars as boiling water is.”

    Pure steam (without oxygen mixed in it) is at least as effective at transferring heat as boiling water. That is why people use them with success for canning many acid foods. The reason we cannot endorse the use of USDA canning processes that were developed for boiling water being used in a steam canner is that, to date, the research has not been done which shows what the venting of a steam canner should be (to insure that the process is done in pure steam and not a mixture of steam and air) nor to show just what the process times in this apparatus should be. We do not have process times to offer people in the steam canner. The USDA position, from the Complete Guide to Home Canning, is simply: “because processing times for use with current models have not been adequately researched.” The statement goes on to add: “Because steam canners do not heat foods in the same manner as boiling-water canners, their use with boiling-water process times may result in spoilage.” This latter statement is related to not knowing what the processing temperature is because of venting issues, not that steam is a less efficient heat transfer mechanism than boiling water.

    Thank you.

  • After reading all the pro-steam canners vs water bathers, I am sold on the energy efficient method. Can anyone recommend a good steam canner? Victorio perhaps with the temperature gauge?
    Is a temperature gauge necessary?

  • We have been using a steam canner exclusively for almost 20 years. Easily 100 jars a year. Everything from tomato sauce, salsa, chutneys, pickles, peaches, sauerkraut, jams and jellies. Pints, quarts, pint and a half and 4 and 8 ounce jelly jars. The time and water savings are well worth the purchase.

  • I have been using a steam canner for about 5 years and would not go back to water bath. Too hot and steamy in the kitchen. I have had no problems but only can jam, jellies, pickles and kraut.

    1. please let me know how long you process jams/jellies. i am dying to try this out, as i just feel it would use less energy and of course not make the house so hot? i think i will stick to water bath for my peaches, however. do you also know anything about steaming for applesauce?

      1. Lori, our steam canner came with a booklet with recommended processing times depending on what you are trying to process. You have to add 1 minute more to the recommended processing time per 1,000 feet of elevation above sea level if the processing time is 20 minutes or less and add 2 minutes extra per 1,000 feet above sea level for processing for more than 20 minutes. That said, for applesauce, hot packed, they recommend 20 minutes whether a pint or a quart size.

        We canned a lot of peach jam this year and for hot packed peach jam it’s 20 minutes for pints (or anything less than a pint) and 25 minutes for quarts. I am doing concord grapes now and these only need to be processed for 15 minutes (pints or quarts). For pure fruit juice, it’s only 10 minutes (pints or quarts). For my elevation (~1100 feet above sea level), I add 2 minutes extra to these processing times. If you don’t know your elevation, type into a Google search “elevation above sea level, your hometown and state”.

        Two years ago I forgot to sterilize the jars before I canned my blueberry jam. I was paranoid about it going bad, but I still have one jar of it left in our basement cool room and I’ve checked the lid and it’s still good! We had a poor blueberry crop this year because of damage from the spotted wing drosophila fruit fly, so we will savor that last jar of jam from 2 years ago! (Total crop failure in 2012 from multiple late frosts that killed the blossoms.) This is to drive home the point that we have been very pleased with steam canning. The main thing is to make sure the steam jet emanating from the pot reaches the required flow length (8″-10″ for ours) before you start to time the processing, and the flow of steam must remain steadily in this range for the duration of the processing. Too much flow will rock the top of the steam canner – if this happens, you have to reduce the heat a little until the flow is in the optimal range and start timing all over again because if the top rocks off and steam escapes from other than the two flow holes, you’ve just lost a lot of heat.

        It’s not rocket science. Once you get the hang of it – and you’ve got the right kind of stove burners that can handle the weight and span of the steam canner – it is quite straightforward. We sterilize our jars in the oven for 15-20 minutes at 200 F before filling them and bring the lids to near-boil in a separate pot on the stove. So far we’ve had very few losses over decades of canning – and you will get some losses even with water bath canning. Just don’t eat it if the lid is not sealed!

      2. I did 50 quarts of applesauce this week. I process for 20 minutes. Love my steam canner. Would never go back to boiling water bath.

        1. Help – I am using my steam canner for applesauce and can’t get the jars to seal – I am not new to canning although this is the first time I have used the steam canner for applesauce. Any tips?

          1. RJ Baldwin,
            Do you have a booklet with the proper times? My first thought was you rims might have a bit of sauce on them. You should always wipe each rim with a clean damp cloth before putting the lid on. But that wouldn’t account for an entire canner load not sealing. You’re using new lids and putting them into hot water to soften before putting them on the jars, right?

            I hope you figured out your problem. I just noticed I”m replying to an old question. Du-uh.

          2. Start at the beginning: Did you “soften” the lids in simmering water long enough? Did you wipe the tops of the jars? Was your applesauce hot? If not, you need to add extra time. Did you get the time correct? Are you using an off-brand lid? I bout some a few years back and was amazed at how many did not seal. Any thing I missed? Good luck, try again.

        2. I totally agree, will never go back to a water bath. The only things you can in a water bath are jams, jellies, pickles and the like. The sugar or acidity is a main factor in preserving those foods. The water bath kills off molds, yeasts and the like. The sugar or high acid content means botulism is not the issue–not the case with the low acid foods which require pressure canning.

          I’ve been using a steam canner from Back to Basics for years now. I used to scald myself rather often with my water bath, never with my steam canner–well, once I learned to have the steam holes facing away from me. The booklet that came with the steam canner provides proper times.

      3. I have been steam canning for 40 years . Peaches with honey are wonderful and I have never had any problem with bad food from my canning. It is a great way to can and takes far less water to process the jars.

    2. I use a steam canner for my Salsa, Grape juice, and have done pickles, and Sauer kraut. I would not give it up.

    3. I also can with a steam canner and have had great results. I’ve canned everything from potatoes to pie filling. I consider it one of my best investments.

      1. You SHOULD NOT can potatoes in a steam canner! They are low acid foods and the steam canner cannot achieve the temperature required to kill botulism. It is ONLY safe for high acid foods.

        1. Thank you for telling her! I am amazed with how many people just wing it as far as when and where to can. Steam Canners are wonderful but I really get tired of reading about people who claim it’s wonderful to cook low acid foods with it. It’s a wonder their entire family and other friends haven’t died yet.

      2. i want to can potato leak soup. I have the jars and new lids and I want to water bath them. Why was it ok years ago to water bath to preserve this soup when I was growing up and now I am afraid to even think about it now?

        1. It has never, ever been safe to process this soup in a water bath canner. You may have done it in the past, but it’s never been scientifically safe. If you didn’t get sick from the soup canned in the past, you were simply incredibly lucky.

      1. No. You cannot can any low acid foods in a steam canner. That means NO Green Beans, NO potatoes, NO meats, NO seafoods and NO soups. Spaghetti sauce cannot be canned in a steam canner either, but tomato sauce can if you add lemon juice to it. Chutneys are considered an acid food because vinegar is added, so they would be safe to can in a steam canner. All low acid foods MUST be processed in a Pressure Canner only.

        1. Hey now, yes you can do green beans if they are acidified ie. pickled. There are a number of traditional low acid foods rendered safe to water bath can as long as they are acidified beforehand.
          I’ve been pressure canning for 10 years now and although I do worry about folks who are confused about WB canning and it’s limitations we should strive to find out how the item is being prepared before jumping to wrong conclusions. We don’t know if this lady acidifies her green beans. I hope she does if she is going to WB can them.

  • I’ve been using my steam canner for 30+ years…every summer, for all kinds of fruit and tomatoes. No problem. It’s much quicker, cooler and more economical than water bath. I would never go back. Love it.

      1. Did you find your answer yet? I know its been awhile but just ran into this. I AM KNOWN AS THE SALSA QUEEN lol let me know

        1. With tomato and salsa time coming I will tell you what I did for canning with my steam canner. For pints I can for 40 minutes and for quarts 45 minutes. Make sure you have steam coming out your vents before you start to time. I do all jams and jellies also and today did pickles. I too would never go back. Have never had any spoilage. My applebutter is always in demand.

          1. Would love your salsa recipe. I also have used the steamer canner for years and haven’t died from anything yet and keep on intending to use it.

      2. I steam mine the same length of time as the water bath from the start of the steam coming out of the vents in the lid.

    1. I was taught by my mother with only a steam canner. She passed this last year so this is my first year without her. I am having a hard time remembering how long we processed everything. We did, pickles, jams, salsa, you name it. I think my times are ok, I just miss the popping sound of the jars. Please share your times. Thank you

      1. Why? I use the standard Mason closures, bands and flats, they still pop when the seal. I have done some pickles open kettle method, same again, they still pop.

  • I have used a steam canner for a few years and LOVE it! So much faster and cooler. I have used a steam canner for anything you would use a water bath for!

  • I have just purchased a steam canner, I like the idea but it did not come with any recipes for anything really. I am interested in a pickled bean and dill pickle recipe. My main concern is time frames needed for steaming versus hot water bath. I appreciate any information that can be given, thank you

      1. Thank you and thank you again. That is the answer I’ve been searching for. Have dill pickles in the steam canner right now and set it for 20 minutes so I should be fine. I’ve used mine for many years. We were stationed in Utah about 30 years ago when I was taught using the steam canner. It seemed everyone in our housing area was canning fruits, jams and pickles with the steam canner. When we left Utah I only used the water bath but my pickles were always too soft. So, the last few years I went back to the steam canner and the pickles are great. Just wasn’t sure if the time would be the same as the water bath. I’ve never had a bad pickle or jam or fruit. I do tomatoes in the water bath including salsa just because of the lack of vinegar.

        1. Tomatoes are high acid. There should be no problem using your steam canner.. I have three of them. They were my mother’s. Maybe steam canners are a Utah thing. I don’t know.

          1. If you are growing older types of tomatoes, the acid might be high enough, but many commercially grown tomatoes aren’t acid enough. I add a tbsp of vinegar to my jars to make sure they have more acid.

  • I just bought a steam canner and I can’t get the water to boil in it. I only have a smooth top stove could that be the problem or doesn’t the water boil. Need help. Thanks

    1. Sue, I don’t actually recommend steam canners. However, the water should be boiling for it to be used safely. Is your burner significantly smaller than the size of the steam canner base?

      1. Sue, I learned about the glass stove tops the hard way too. I had everything all ready for canning and couldn’t get it hot enough!! If you don’t have another burner option, I figured out that straddling my steamer over two of the hot plates and turning them both on will get it to boil. Probably not recommended but its what I do.

        1. I have a glass top range & it works great with my steam canner & pressure canners – I sell preserves for a living and swear by my steam canner!

    2. I have a smooth top stove as well and yes, it seems to take a while longer to boil but yes it will and needs to boil. Once the steam comes out of the vent holes, you start timing.

  • Hello there I would like to know when using a hot water bath to seal either jams, jell”s or chutney should the jars be completely emerged in water, also should the jars go into the bath at the beginning of the hot water bath or when the water is hot .
    With thanks
    Dawn cox

  • I have been canning for about 8 years now and have canned everything from salsa to crab-apple jelly. I love my steam canner and can’t imagine switching. I have never once had anything go bad or any jars explode. Easier and much cooler. They are the best.

  • I love my steam canner as a matter of fact I have 2. As a “shorter” person wb was difficult to retrieve from pot. Steam canning is much easier and just follow instructions and time correctly and it’s all good!

    1. I just burned out my second steamer canner, (the metal developed a hole) when that happens obviously it won’t boil. I have never had any problems canning anything that you can do in a water bath canner. Remember you cannot can meat or most vegetables in a water bath canner, they must be done in a pressure canner however the USDA is now saying that steam canners are approved if you process them the same times as water bath canners. If you think about it steam is hotter than Boiling water so it should be as effective if not better. Just my opinion but I am off in the AM to try and find a replacement!

  • I love my steam bath canner!!! It is so much faster than water bath because you don’t have to wait for a huge pot of water to boil. People have been safely using steam bath canners. If the extensions would look at the science behind it, then they would realize their error. They haven’t tried it, so they don’t know. A steam bath canner will get the atoms moving inside the jar just the same as a water bath canner if the same amount of heat is adminstered internally. My parents generation was raised on them. Don’t be scared to use them.

  • I bought my steam canner in the 1970’s and have used it ever since. I use it for all my fruit both hot and raw pack. Never had a problem or spoiled jar of fruit. Works well on my smooth top electric stove. I follow the times for water bath canning but make sure that I a full head of steam before timing.

  • When canning high-acid fruits and pickling, steam canning saves a LOT of water. When processing the jars, all you’re really concerned about is a good seal and steam will provide that. My jares are already sterilized and kept in the over at 250′ until filling. If cold packing – like pickles, I pull them out and let them cool down a bit. But the jars are sterile, the food going in is usually boiling hot so all I really want is a GOOD SEAL. Steam provides it just fine for me. Less water, same processing time and they’re “clicking” as you’re pulling them out of the canner.

    I wouldn’t go back to HWB for fruit if you paid me! Jams and jellies for the last 5 years – Haven’t had a single problem.

    Think if it this way – it’s a mini- pressure canner! Then again,you don’t need the pressure for high acid.

    2 inches of water compared with 5 gallons? Guess what I’m gonna choose.
    Works GREAT for me, but I would NEVER RECOMMEND IT TO ANYONE ELSE! 😉 hehe

  • Been using one for 5 years now. Processing time is the same (I always go 5-10 minutes longer – just cuz) The jars are popping as they’re coming out! Good seals – just like HWB. But there’s no lime buildup on the jars or in the canner. Best $90 I ever spent.

  • I have been using the hot steam canner for over twenty years. I think it is the best thing since sliced bread. I have never lost a jar and I can see the contents are boiling and popping as I remove them. I use standard time and add ten minutes just to be sure. It is also important to have a good head of steam before starting your count. The steam should be a jet about 8″ to 10″(inches). When canning salsa or tomatoes I add powered Vitamin C to ensure the acidic level is high. Wipe the Jars clean before storing and enjoy. You can get powdered vitamin C at most groceries during canning season and any time at a health food store. The C is not noticeable to the taste and adds a little healthy goodness to my products. a bit of extra vit.C is a blessing.
    I live with disabilities and lifting a water bath canner was very hard to do and also dangerous….all that hot water to spill or drop. As I age ,I find the steam canner has become a necessity, it is so light in comparasion to the water bath. For me it is the only way I can still preserve food.I live in CA so water is also a major issue here and the steam canner is quicker to heat(energy) and uses very little water(conservation).

  • hi everyone I got this all american electrical steamer 25 x model and I like to know if I can use it for canning I also have a regular all american canner 30 court but I read somewhere that the electrical steamers are only meant for medical,dental sterilization things of that nature so can I use it for canning. Thank you


  • Steam actually transfers heat more efficiently than water, the reason being that latent heat is released the moment steam condenses, which results in much faster heating than with sensible heat (hot water). However the USDA still advises against the use of steam canners, not because of ineffectiveness of steam heat transfer but for lack of research on safe processing times.

  • What is the physical difference between the steam canner and the old pressure canner? (I have never seen one) In other words, couldn’t you just put two inches of water in your pressure canner and put the lid on to generate steam? Thank you.

    1. Jan, Have you gotten a response to your question?. I agree with your thinking about using a old pressure canner and let the steam come out the top. If this would work I wouldn’t have to invest in a steam canner. Please let me know if you have learned any information to the contrary.
      thanks, Scott

      1. I’m looking to buy a canner for my glass cooktop… I’ve been using a friend’s steam canner and I love it. I want to buy one for myself but was thinking some day I might want to get a pressure canner too (for non-acidic foods). I thought the same thing about the pressure canner. There are some multi-use canners available that do water bath or steam canning (just turn over the rack so it sits taller). The reviews say that water sputters out of the lid on the Victorio model I was looking at on Amazon. I figured if I splurged and got a pressure canner I could just steam cook the contents in the pressure cooker. I would think the water wouldn’t sputter as much that way too.

      2. Scott, I am also interested in this part of the subject,using my pressure canner to steam can.This morning I used it for pickled beats, 15 min for qts. after the steam was exausting out. we will see. I also sent an e-mail to the Presto company, who doesn’t seem to sell steam canners. If I get a reply, I will post it.

  • I have used a steam canner for 30 years. It is SO much quicker, easier (and more energy efficient) than heating up all that water and lifting heavy jars in and out of a deep water bath. Just follow the instructions included with the steam canner — generally the timing matches that of a water bath. It’s important to start timing only after there’s a steady flow of steam coming out of the canner. In most cases, as soon as I lift off the lid of the steam canner, the jar lids start to pop, indicating they have sealed. I use also sterilize the jars inside the steam canner.

  • HAHAHA! The USDA! Do you really trust that source? GMO’s and chemicals are safe but canning with another form of hot water is not?

  • Does anyone can green beans in their stream canners? My mother-in-law swears by it but everything I read says only to pressure cook green beans..?? Any thoughts?

    1. Green beans are low acid and must reach 240 degrees to kill potential botulism and be safe for storage. I don’t think the contents of jars in a steam canner will reach 240 degrees and stay there for the proper amount of time. Please, be safe, use a pressure canner for green beans. Botulism is nothing to play with.

    2. I’ve known people who water-bath canned their green beans. I don’t go to dinner at their houses. It’s one of those “my grandmother always did it that way” things. But it takes two hours so, botulism aside (as if one can actually put it aside…), how much nutrition is left in those poor beans?

      But you can’t put botulism aside. Grandmother and MIL may have been lucky. I’m sure lots of people were. But some weren’t. It’s just not worth it to chance your beans actually getting to 240 degrees for long enough to kill those spores and toxins.

      A pressure canner is expensive. But so is botulism. Your sources are correct, you need to pressure can green beans.

      I’ve had my canner for nearly 40 years. I saved up for it and am still using it. It’s been so long I can’t even remember what I paid for it. It’s a valuable piece of equipment.

      1. I own three steam canners that my mother bought. I do not know when she bought them, but one still bears a price tag from Z.C.M.I., A large department store of years gone by. It’s a handwritten price, $4.99 a bargain, I’d say. I just wish she would have bought at least one more steam juicer while she was at it.

      2. My mother canned 400-500 jars of assorted fruits and tomatoes each year. ,(big family, orchard) She refused to can green beans, or any veg. as a young girl ,her best friend died from botulism.

      3. I don’t know how my dad’s cousin canned her green beans, but the sight of them scared me off the night my grandparents made them for supper with us there. I refused to even put one on my plate (I was maybe 11?). Both grandparents and both my parents got HORRIBLY ill from food poisoning that night, so I was a busy young “nurse” (and not at all happy about it). Scared me away from home-canned veggies period for a long number of years!! Still won’t touch canned green beans due to the memories, but have recently gotten over some of my fears by eating (and surviving) home-canned veggie soup base and tomato juice from a lady in our church. Still VERY VERY nervous to can anything myself though, and am terrified to give anything I’ve made away out of fear someone else will get sick off something I did 🙁

    3. Yes, this is my second year, and wouldn’t do it any other way..

      After I wash my green beans, I put them into a boiling pot of osmosis water.
      I boil them for 12 to 15 minutes and pack them with their water adding 1/2 tsp salt + 1/4 tsp of Fresh Fruit to each pint.
      At the same time I have a second 2 quart pan of osmosis water where I put my flats in….water boiling, I put my clean pint jars in for 2 min each & use tongs to retrieve them out….Fill jars, put on flats & screw lids and put into my $20 Walmart steamer canner; for 20 min. They pop seal as soon as I take them out.

      Oh,the boiling water I used for the jars I put into steamer. Walla,…Quick boiling water!!

  • I got my steam canner 4 years ago. I have not used the hot water bath or pressure canner since. I absolutely love it ! Saves time, water, electricity, AND not so heavy to move. I have done peaches, pickles, tomatoes, beets, pumpkin , squash, and many other things. I don’t believe everything the USDA or any other government agency says. I have recommended them to anyone I know who cans.

    1. Canning low acid foods this way is VERY risky. The temperature required to kill botulism spores is 240F – The processing temperature in a boiling water bath cannot get hotter than 212F/100C, the temperature of boiling water at sea level. So the bacteria are destroyed, but not the spores that can grow into more bacteria. High acid foods should be ok per steam canning methods but you should not do low acid foods this way ever.

    2. Why do you risk your family’s life with you rebellious determination to do what is wrong? Pressure can veggies!

  • I just ordered a fresh tech wondering if I can use it for canning green beans carrots ect.or just fruit and things you use the boiling water bath method for.i believe it uses pressure to cook.

    1. The Fresh Tech canner can only be used for things that go in a boiling water bath canner. It does not generate enough pressure to do low acid foods.

  • I have used mine for over 30 plus years. I process the same as a water bath canner. I do everything. I have never had a problem. I purchased a second so I can process more at a time. The only way to go. Salsa is our favorite

  • I saw steam canners at ace hardware. I had never heard of this form of canning. I like the concept. And it sounds promising. I have fybro and water bath is not possible with my health restrictions. I have cookware that has lids with a hole on top. Could these not be used instead of purchasing special equipment?

  • I’ve been using a steam canner for 2 years and love it. Mine (Victorio multi use canner) is not the “dome-covered” one, which I’ve never seen. It can be used as either water bath canning or steam and comes with a pamphlet with processing times. It has a great gauge on the top that let’s you see if you are in the right temp. So far, I haven’t seen any spoilage. I wonder if any of the USDA testers have tried this one?

  • I have used what I call a French Canner for years. And, every year I processed 60 pints plus 12 quarts of tomatoes. I never had one that did not seal. I love the method. It is a lot safer then the hot water bath. I have seen them at Ace Hardware stores in the past. I left mine behind when we moved because I was told I would not grow tomatoes in the North woods. However, when I have enough to do I make my own canner from my kitchen utensils to represent the process and IT WORKS.

  • I bought my steam canner last year and this year processed my dilly beans in it. My assumption was anything you could process in a water bath you could process in a steam canner. I used the same times I have always used. Does anyone else can dilly beans this way?

  • Hello I would like to use one a steam canner to preserve mincemeat which is made of raisins, golden raisins, currants, butter and brandy. I presuming this would be considered highly acidic, would it be a good method?

  • Hi all, I’m wondering if anyone has experience with canning chilli peppers in oil. I know these two ingredients are low acid, and botulism is a risk, but does anyone know if oil jars is even possible with pressure canning? Thanks!

    1. I don’t know if it’s possible with a pressure canner. I don’t imagine the texture of the peppers would be particularly good after pressure canning.

  • On May 20, 2015, I was in attendence of a refresher canning course put on the University of Wisconsin- Extension and steam canning has just been approved by the Extension, looks fairly easy and I am going to try it as I teach canning. We’ll see!!

  • I’ve never canned before, so I am researching/pricing equipment. I like the idea of using a stainless steel stock pot for water bath canning because I can use it for making other big batch foods, like soups, sauces and tofu. That said, is there a particular pot you would recommend buying?

  • Article needs an update since ational Center for Home Food Preservation has modified their stance with given reservations.

  • We have been using a steam canner, instead of a hot water bath, for about thirty years. It came with a very good booklet, telling how long to can various acid fruits. We have been eating our canned results, with absolutely no broken seals, all this time. Tomatoes are perfect, as are other acid fruits. We also can our pickles (that need canning) in the steam canner. The best thing about the steam canner, is that your broth never gets diluted, as it often does in a hot water bath.

    1. I have been using a steam canner for at least 30 or more years and have never had a problem. I LOVE it and will not go back to water bath canning.

  • I want to use a steam canner for my tomatoes I livein Salt Lake City Utah 5000 feet above sea level so how many minutes should I steam them so that they don’t kill me LOL

  • New to canning! Can I put my cherry chutney that does not require heat in a steam canner without being heated first? is this considered cold pack canning? Thanks for any help on this.

    1. If your chutney isn’t designed to be cooked, canning it is going to alter its texture a great deal. Additionally, since the recipe wasn’t designed for canning, it may not be safe for canning. I wouldn’t do it.

  • I have been canning several hundred jars a year of in a steam canner I bought in 1981…works amazingly well. Never had any issues with seals, quality of the food, etc., Now I am METICULOUS with following recipes and procedures, cleanliness, etc.,
    It saves a lot of fuel and water. I have water bathed stuff as well and also pressure can low acid foods and meats.
    My latest project is resurrecting my old GEM, CROWN glass top jars with rubber seals. The ultimate in low environmental impact! Just did a batch of pickles and 10 jars sealed 100% clearly will keep a close eye on them to ensure the seal stays. We used these jars many years ago and had very few seal failures, but again super particular about cleanliness and ensuring all seal surfaces are perfect, etc.,
    Great site by the way!

  • This article should be updated with the newest tests (2015, so not new at this point in 2021), showing that steam canners are in fact safe to use for any water bath recipe that requires less than 45 minute processing. I just had someone quote this article as proof that steam canners aren’t safe. Please update it, or delete it altogether.

  • Do you have a recommendation for a steam canner? I am looking for a new one and would love your thoughts on which one is recommended.

    1. I really like steam canners that have a temperature gauge in the lid handle and can double as boiling water bath canners. This is one such example, but there are a handful of brands making this style out there. Any of them should be fine.

    1. You can if they’re pickled green beans. But if you want to can green beans in water, the only way to do that safely is in a pressure canner.

  • I’ve seen no articles or sites that answers my question. Does the canner need to be completely filled with jars? I’d like to can a few half pint jars of jelly that wouldn’t fill the entire canner. Can this be done safely?

    1. The canner does not have to be completely full to be safe. However, with some racks, the jars will fall over if you don’t have jars in every position. In that case, just fill the canner with empty jars to keep the full ones upright. The other option is using a smaller canning pot.

  • I used mine last year for tomatoes and it worked great! I was wondering if you can do pickles in it though. I reminds me of the Conservo that I have. The family canned with it since the 1930’s.

  • I have used a steam canner this season as I moved and have a glass top stove. The jars seemed to seal but most of them did not pop. I’m wondering if I did something wrong or if steam canning somehow results in the lids not popping down?

    1. The popping sound isn’t necessary. As long as the lids are concave and are well adhered to the jars, they are fine. Some lids are thicker and so don’t make the same sound.

    1. Typically, the rack in a steam canner is a bit higher off the bottom of the pot so that it can accommodate the volume of water necessary to produce ample steam.

  • Does anyone know if I can use a steam canner on a ceramic hob? It seems these are more popular in the UK but I can’t find any advice on it