The Instant Pot is amazing for cooking meals. It helps busy people get food on the table quickly and it shines and tenderizing tough cuts of meat. But canning in an electric pressure cooker? That raises questions. Let’s talk more about the idea of Instant Pot canning.
One unexpected thing you can do in your Instant Pot? Germinate seeds!
Originally published September 2021; this post has been updated.
Is Instant Pot canning safe?
First, let’s cover a couple important basics of canning at home. As a certified Master Food Preserver, I need you to understand the basic tenets of safe preserving if are if you’re delving into home canning. This is really important!
What is a Low Acid Food?
According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation:
Low-acid foods have pH values higher than 4.6. They include red meats, seafood, poultry, milk, and all fresh vegetables except for most tomatoes. Most mixtures of low-acid and acid foods also have pH values above 4.6 unless their recipes include enough lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar to make them acid foods. Acid foods have a pH of 4.6 or lower. They include fruits, pickles, sauerkraut, jams, jellies, marmalades, and fruit butters.
Pressure canning is the only safe method for preserving low acid foods as it’s the only way to achieve the higher temperature necessary for safely canning these foods.
The required minimum temperature for this process is 240ºF. That temperature must be maintained throughout the processing time in order to prevent botulism.
If the temp drops below 240ºF? You must return the pressure canner to the necessary temperature and pressure and begin the timing again.
You absolutely cannot safely preserve low acid foods in an electric pressure cooker.
What is a Pressure Canner?
A pressure canner is a specialized pot specifically for preserving low acid foods safely.
A pressure canner operated at 10.5 pounds per square inch of pressure will reach an internal temperature of 240ºF at sea level. Higher elevations will require more pressure to reach that minimum temperature.
Processing jars at 240ºF is the only way to assure that the internal temperature of the food in each jar reaches a sufficient temperature to kill off any botulism spores that might be present.
Whether you have a smaller pressure cooker that operates on the stove top or an electric pressure cooker, these tools are not considered safe for canning. Reserve them for pressure cooking your favorite meal.
What is an Instant Pot?
Instant Pot is the brand name of an electric pressure cooker. Instant Pot Max is a model from the same company.
There are other brands available, but all operate in a similar fashion. Check out this Instant Pot study for everything you’d want to know about this clever little appliance.
These electric appliances are meant for making meals in a hurry. There is a nice collection of Instant Pot recipes here.
Is Instant Pot Pressure Canning Safe?
This graphic from Instant Pot shows the heat pattern inside the device while it’s on.
You can see that during the pressurized cooking time, the temperature inside the Instant Pot fluctuates between 239ºF and 242F.
The pressure canning process requires that the internal temperature of the canner stay at or above that 240ºF the entire time.
239ºF does not meet the USDA safe canning recommendations for preserving low-acid foods.
And that doesn’t take into consideration the potential for error. What if it’s not heating properly? There’s no way to assure that the temperature inside the cooker even maintains that 239ºF minimum. Which, again, is not hot enough for safely canning low acid foods.
But There’s a Canning Setting on my Pot!
Right. That’s probably because the manufacturer assumes that the recommended pressure of 15psi is sufficient for safe canning. But the important factor in this process is the high temperature, not how many pounds of pressure.
Clostridium botulinum bacteria is a foodborne illness that can make a person gravely ill. Low acid foods must reach and maintain a temperature of 240ºF for an extended period of time in order to kill the bacteria. It’s a simple matter of safety.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation does not recommend canning low acid foods in an electric pressure cooker, nor do I. As technology improves and testing is done, this may change of course. But for now, for the safety of your loved ones, please do not use this canning method.
Safely Canning Low Acid Foods
The only safe way to preserve meats, seafood, and un-pickled vegetables so that they are shelf-stable at room temperature is to process them properly in a dial gauge canner or weighted gauge canner.
These tools can achieve the high heat required for safely processing both pint jars and quart jars of low acid foods. You can read more about how pressure canning works here.
What is Water Bath Canning?
Water bath canning is safe for jams, jellies, and acidic foods like most tomato products and pickles. The required minimum temperature for this process is 212ºF.
Instant Pot canning may be possible in an electric pressure cooker IF you can provide certain conditions.
- You must use a rack to keep the jars from sitting directly on the bottom of the pan.
- The jars must be submerged under 1″-2″ of water. I have a large 10-quart Instant Pot and the largest jars I could process in it would be 1/2 pint canning jars (or mason jars).
- The water must be maintained at a rolling boil. The setting for this may vary from model to model. You do not want to do this under pressure. Essentially, you’re just using this as a canning pot.
For me, it’s just as easy to heat my canning pot on the stove when I’m processing high acid foods so that I’m not limited to certain jar sizes.
🍅 Safety First!
Canning is an excellent way to preserve food for the pantry, but there are some important safety considerations to keep in mind. The recipes on this site have been made following safe canning procedures by a certified Master Food Preserver.
- Know the difference between water bath canning and pressure canning. Low acid items must be pressure canned for safety.
- Altering ingredients may change the recipe’s pH, posing a safety issue. I highly recommend investing in pH paper to test your products for acidity level when canning. Note: For safe water bath canning, the Hawaii Master Food Preservers suggest a pH of 4.2 or lower in the tropics. In other regions, the recommended pH is 4.6 or lower.
- Use the proper jars and lids. Never reuse lids, with the exception of the Tattler or Harvest Right hard plastic lids that are intended for such a purpose.
- For more on canning equipment, please go here.