Review: Electric Canner

Electric cannerWow. I think I’m turning into a gear hog. *chagrin* I keep buying things that are not, strictly speaking, necessary for home food preservation – but which I hope will help scale up home food processing to something above “one woman and a kettle” but not quite “$10,000 of commercial equipment on a small assembly line.”

I buy it and review it so you don’t have to. How’s that for a justification? :)

So! The electric canner.  It’s essentially a giant 8 gallon stainless steel pot with an electrical element in the base, a rack, and – key point – a thermostat.  Because it turns out what this baby does best is not canning, but pasteurizing just below boiling.  You can get them with or without a spigot; I’ve found the spigot to be very helpful.

How it works

Just fill it with water, turn the thermostat to the desired temp, and wait. I filled it deep enough to can quart jars and I think it took 45 minutes to boil – comparable to an electric stovetop.  Do be sure to turn the dial all the way as far as it will go – don’t stop at “simmer.” It also appears that wrapping it in a towel to contain the heat doesn’t work so well – though I might try that again once I’ve got it boiling.

What it does pretty well

  • Canning.  Since all you need to can is a deep pot of boiling water, it would be hard to screw this up.  And it does a fine job. It holds 14 pints or 11 quarts at a time, and probably a couple dozen half-pints, if you stack jars.  Keeps the kitchen cooler than doing canning stovetop, too, especially if you have a gas stove. (I bet gas boils faster, though.)
  • Extending your available “stove” space. What convinced me to buy this was not home use, but use at the Grange, where we are very limited by having only 2 stoves to use on canning days.  This puppy allows us to run three canners at a time instead of two – a big time savings, especially for tomatoes, which boil for 45 minutes.
  • Cooking stuff.  Take out the rack, and you can use this to stew four or five chickens at a time.  We used it to cook down the salsa at our salsafest, and it was ok, but not great.  Burned a little bit of the salsa on the bottom of the pot, and since we were doing so much at once, it took forever to cook down – but I think that’s just physics.

What it does really well

Having a thermostat is da bomb for anything that needs to be kept below a boil for a long period of time.  This thing was made for pasteurization. For example:

  • Home brewing. Pasteurize your cider before pitching yeast.  Keep your wort warm.  Halt secondary fermentation by pasteurizing your bottles after capping.  This thing is brilliant – just set the dial, wait for the light to go out (indicating it’s up to temp, and yes, we checked the accuracy with a thermometer), and start the timer.
  • Low-temp pasteurizing of pickles. If you think boiling your pickles for storage makes them too mushy, try low-temp pasteurization: ~170 for 30 minutes (see the Joy of Pickling for details). Again – it’s so nice not to have to watch the stove and thermometer!
  • Demos. I could do a canning demo or workshop anywhere with a counter and an outlet with this – no lugging propane tanks, cast-iron burners, and finding a place to work outdoors.
  • Cheesemaking. You can actually buy these (sans spigot) from Cheesemaking.com – does a great job keeping large batches of milk at temp for as long as you like.

The verdict

I don’t think I’d buy one of these just to put up a few dozen jars of tomatoes – it’s just too expensive and not enough of an improvement over a kettle on the stove to warrant it.  However, if you need portable canning, extra canning space, or to hold liquids at a set temp for long periods of time (hot cider for 100?), it might be worth it.  This would be a great community resource, available to loan out when needed.  (If you’re local and need one, e-mail me and we’ll talk.)

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11 Comments

  1. Cynthia said,

    November 4, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    I’m starting to think that maybe a crock pot on high might do the same thing…..stay tuned for data! But I’d love to borrow yours for pickles next summer.

  2. EdgeWiseInAnnArbor said,

    November 7, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Wow! I wonder if this would be good for making mash breads. You need to keep them between 155 and 165 degrees F for one to three hours, which is tricky on a stove or in an oven. Thanks for the review!

  3. Sarah Lenz said,

    November 17, 2011 at 10:15 pm

    How much did this set you back?

  4. Nelda Lee said,

    January 1, 2013 at 4:15 pm

    What is it called and where do you get it? Do you know of a electric pressure canner?

  5. April 5, 2013 at 7:38 am

    I think you’d be better off getting the type of electric pressurised steam “sterilizer” / autoclave they use in a dentists or tattooists back room, as these DO get up to full sterilization temperatures and pressures.
    I’ve seen them on Ebay for about the same price (do a search for Electric-Steam-Sterilizer-Autoclave).
    Most of the cheaper ones are from other countries which have a different voltage to US voltages, but even with a transformer to convert the voltage, it still works out a lot cheaper than the All-American electric autoclaves (basically, another word for canners).

    • Emily said,

      April 22, 2013 at 2:51 pm

      Sadly, that model is listed by the manufacturer as specifically NOT to be used for canning.

  6. Joan said,

    June 20, 2013 at 9:10 am

    I have one of these and it constantly trips the breaker. Do you have any idea of why this would happen? I use it for canning. Thanks.

    • Emily said,

      June 25, 2013 at 4:06 pm

      It (and the other things on this circuit) are drawing too much current at once. Plug it in in a different place, or at least make sure no other high-use devices like hotpots, microwaves, halogen lights, etc. are on the same circuit.


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