After many years of canning, I’m often asked whether an Instant Pot can be used for canning. And even though I love the Instant Pot and use mine often for preparing many different foods, its uses are limited.
While the Instant Pot can be used to prepare some foods for canning and can even be used as a boiling water bath canner, it is not safe at this time to use the Instant Pot for pressure canning.
In the following paragraphs, we will discuss the canning process and why the Instant Pot cannot be safely used for canning.
Why Can’t The Instant Pot Be Used For Canning?
The bacteria that cause botulism, or food poisoning, are hard to kill at the temperatures achieved in a boiling water bath. For that reason, the following things must happen:
- Low-acid foods must be sterilized at temperatures between 240 degrees and 250 degrees Fahrenheit.
- The food must be subjected to those temperatures for a specific period of time to be considered safely canned or preserved.
- The exact time that the food must be kept within those temperature ranges depends on the food being canned, how it is packed into the jars (cold- or hot-packed), and the size of the jars (usually 8-oz jelly jars, pints, or quarts).
- During the time required for the food being canned, the temperature must be achieved and maintained throughout the entire jar and the food inside the jar for the entire time and not be allowed to fluctuate.
- The time required for safe canning is also affected by the elevation of the area in which the canning is taking place.
Numbers 4 and 5 above are the primary reasons that the Instant Pot cannot be safely used to can foods because there isn’t sufficient evidence to prove that the Instant Pot maintains a specific temperature throughout the entire canning process and because canning times are affected by elevation.
Even the company that manufactures the Instant Pot has this statement on its website:
“The Instant Pot product line is regulated by a pressure sensor instead of a thermometer, the altitude of your location may affect the actual cooking temperature. We recommend to not use Instant Pot for pressure canning.”
Also, the USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning advises that the Instant Pot should not be used for pressure canning because:
“…low acid food needs a regulated temperature for safe canning. Instant Pots are not guaranteed to maintain needed pressure, so they are incompetent for pressure canning.”
What Are The Basics Of The Canning Process?
As a little background on canning, and if you are already a canner, you know this stuff, but for beginning canners who are just learning their way around a pressure cooker, this is for you.
Canning is a method of preserving foods in a safe way for use at a later time. The primary reasons we want to preserve our food include the following:
- To avoid wasting foods that we have in excess;
- To preserve foods while they are still loaded with nutrients;
- To save money, because home canned foods are more cost effective than commercially produced foods;
- To have your favorite foods on hand that might not be available year round; and
- To have food on hand for a time when it is needed.
To preserve foods, they can be either frozen, dried, or canned. Some foods like field peas taste better and are more similar to fresh when cooked if they are frozen, while some foods like green beans are better canned. Apples, however, are especially good when dried, so different foods are preserved in different ways. But the method we are dealing with here is canning.
The process required for canning is not the same for all foods, and is determined by whether they are low-acid foods or high-acid foods. The amount of acidity in foods is indicated by its pH, which is the measure of acidity.
- A low-acid food such as red meat, seafood, poultry, milk, and all fresh vegetables except for most tomatoes, will have a pH of 4.6 or higher.
- A high-acid food such as tomatoes, pickles, and jelly will have a pH that is 4.6 or lower.
Basically, the entire process involved in canning foods does the following things that preserve the canned food for an extended period of time:
- Removes oxygen that causes the foods to age,
- Stops the “growing” enzymes that cause food to age,
- Prevents the growth of any bacteria and other microorganisms that would cause spoilage, and
- Creates a vacuum seal in the canning jars that keeps the liquid in and the oxygen and bacteria out.
There are two kinds of canning, boiling water bath canning and pressure canning.
- Boiling water bath canning is safe and recommended for high-acid foods which have a pH of 4.6 or lower and include fruits, jams, jellies, marmalades, fruit butters, tomatoes, figs, and pickled foods.
- Pressure canning is safe and recommended for low-acid foods which have a pH of 4.6 or higher and include meat (red meat, poultry, seafood). milk, and all fresh vegetables except for tomatoes.
The most important thing to remember when canning is that the safety of our families depends on our getting the process right and that the bacteria that cause food poisoning are killed during that process so that our home canned foods are as safe and nutritious as we can make them.
The best way to do that is to follow the guidelines set out in The USDA Guide to Home Canning. Even if you have been canning for years, studies that are ongoing occasionally require changes to canning methods.
Every time I prepare to can any type of food, I look back through the USDA publication to make sure I have the most up-to-date information on the canning process that I can possibly have and recommend that you make this a habit as well. We can’t be too safe where our families are concerned.
Thanks for stoppin’ by!
For more, don’t miss Can I Use A Pressure Cooker (Canner) For Making Jam or Jelly?
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