Looking for the right canning equipment to get you started? Here are my favorite tools to prep, cook, and process my preserves.
When I started canning, I didn’t have any gear that was designed for the job at hand. Instead, I made it work with what I had already in my kitchen. These days, I do have quite a lot of dedicated canning equipment, but I will always be the first to tell you to shop what you have before you buy a purpose built tool. Here are the general categories of gear you need!
A Canning Pot
Stop! Don’t run out and buy a speckled enamel canner. The are flimsy and won’t last more than a couple seasons of use. All you need to process your jars is a pot that is tall enough to hold a rack, your jars, an inch of water above the jars and an additional inch or so of space where the water can boil.
Most often, I use this 12 quart stock pot made by Cuisinart (in the picture above, it’s the one on the left). For batches that only make three or four jars, I use the yellow stock pot in the middle of the photo (made by Dansk, that one was an eBay find). And for when I only have two or three half pints to process, I use a 4th burner pot.
Any time you turn a stock pot into a canning pot, you need to find a small rack to drop into the bottom. I’ve used round cake cooling racks, kitchen towels, a layer of old canning jar rings, dedicated racks like this one from Progressive International (it’s quite good). These days, my very favorite rack is the silicone one that Ball includes in their starter kit. It fits most stock pots perfectly.
Obviously, you don’t need to have all three of these pots when you’re starting out. The idea is simply to show that nearly any tall pot can serve as a canner and that if you’re only canning a few jars, you can use a smaller pot, should you have one in your kitchen arsenal.
Once you have your canning pot figured out, you need a pot in which to cook your product. For jams, jellies, tomato products, chutneys, and other products that need to be cooked down, I typically opt for a roomy Dutch oven. I really like the my nine quart Le Creuset that’s pictured above because it is low, wide and nonreactive to acidic ingredients.
I also regularly use an 8 quart stainless steel All-Clad Dutch oven, particularly when I’m cooking something that I know has a tendency to burn (my tomato jam springs to mind). You can always scrub a burnt spot off stainless steel. It’s harder to do without ruining the finish on an enameled pan. Another good option is the Sur La Table 8 quart pan to the set of cookware I take to canning classes and I like it. It’s not quite as low and wide as the All-Clad model (a plus when trying to encourage evaporation), but it goes on sale a couple times a year and when it does, the price is excellent.
A maslin pan is a good option if you do want to invest in a dedicated preserving pan. It has yield measurements up the side, which helps you judge how many jars you’ll need for the finished product.
I also use a stainless steel skillet for a lot of my very small batches. Because these small batches quickly over very high heat, you want something that will perform well under those conditions and I’ve found that any heavy, low, wide stainless skillet will do.
For heating pickle brines, I always turn to the 4th burner pot pictured above. Because it’s got both the spout and the handle, it makes it a breeze to pour the brine into the jars.
Other Canning Equipment
Finally, we come to the small tools. You’ll need a knife and a cutting board, but I figure most of you have those, so they’re not pictured here. A heatproof tool for stirring and scraping is necessary and I prefer silicone. I like the spoonulas made by Mastrad and by GIR.
A wide mouth funnel is always useful for getting your products into jars without a huge mess. I like the stainless steel ones just a little bit better than the plastic, but use both regularly. A jar lifter is a handy tool to have and I’ve found that the one made by Progressive International is my favorite (it’s got a stronger magnet than most, which makes retrieving lids a bit easier).
Jar lifters are designed to give you a secure grip on the jars as you move them in and out of the water. Though the jar lifter has been redesigned repeatedly over the last few years, I find that I still like the classic model the best (even if the rubber on the grips does have a tendency to peel away over time).
Finally, you want a good tool to move your product from the pot and into the jars. For years, I used an 8-ounce measuring cup to do this job (since it’s the same size as a half pint, you knew that with each scoop, you were getting enough to fill a jar). But these days, I’m totally loyal to the silicone ladle made by GIR. It is sturdy, flexible and also holds 1 cup, allowing you to get a perfect portion for standard sized jars.
Other tools that I like.
- Potato mashers! They help break down large chunks without pureeing like an immersion blender does. I like this one and this one (that second one is actually a pastry blender, but they don’t make the potato masher version any more. The pastry blender version is great for small batches of jam, though).
- Skinny silicone spatulas! They are the perfect tool for easing air bubbles out of pickles and whole canned fruit because they can slip in without doing a lot of damage.
- Paper towels or washable kitchen cloths. I use these for wiping jar rims, cleaning up spills, and generally controlling the mess of canning.
As you’ve read through this post, you’ve probably noticed that a number of the things I call for are items that already exist in your kitchen. And if you don’t have exactly what I’m recommending, chances are you have something similar. Truly, it’s a kitchen task that many are already equipped to do.
Finally, remember that this post details just my opinions. You may have or discover favorites that aren’t mentioned here anywhere. Such is the way of life.