Steam Canner

steam canner

The steam canner I am referring to on this page should not be mixed up with a steam pressure canner. What I am referring to here is a shallow pot with a tall cover that will fit over quart sized canning jars.

It is similar to a water-bath canner in that it is used to process high acid home-canned food. However, there are some definite differences not only in how it works, but in time and ease of use.

Steam Canner vs the Waterbath Canner

Unlike water bath canners, a steam canner uses only a quart and a half of water when processing jars of home canned food. Water bath canners may require up to four gallons of water to safely process jars of food. As a result home canning with steam is faster because heating a quart and a half of water obviously takes less time.

When canning high acid foods using steam-type canners there is no need to wait for the water to cool down allowing jars of ready-to-process jars to be placed in the canner unit as soon as it is emptied.

How to Use

Using a steam type canner is very easy and can speed up the processing of large amounts of food. The lower part of the canner is placed on the stove with six to eight cups of water. Adding one or two tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice to prevent the canner from darkening.

The jar rack is placed inside the bottom section and the stove is turned on to bring the water to a gentle boil while jars of hot packed food are placed on the rack. Food must be hot packed in a steam canner. You want the jars to be hot when they are added to the canner.

The top section is placed over the food and once steam can be seen escaping the unit in columns processing timing can begin. Once the food has been processed for the required amount of time the stove is turned off, the lid removed and the jars are allowed to cool slightly before they are removed.

The canner can be refilled with the next load of jars once the processed jars of food have been removed.

Clean Up

Canners that use steam to process foods are light and easy to clean, and since there is less water involved, spillage and dripping of water is eliminated. Most canners that use steam are made of aluminum, which eliminates the potential for cracking and chipping common with many water bath canners. Steam units do not rust and can be stored easily after use while enamel water bath canners may require special storage to prevent chipping and or rusting.


Steam canning is able to process up to seven quarts of food at one time plus the unit can be used for cooking when it is not canning food. The bottom and jar rack of these canners can be used for roasting while the top section can be used as a soup or stew pot with the bottom section used as a lid. While some water bath and pressure canners can also be used for cooking, their size and weight make them more difficult to clean after use.

USDA vs. Experience

I must add this disclaimer. The USDA provides detailed information on the safety of home canned foods and does not recommend the use of steam-type canners.

However, when used to process high acid foods, many people report no problems with jars sealing or spoilage. High acid foods include tomatoes, condiments that are created with vinegar like pickles and sauerkraut, of high-sugar foods like fruit juices, jellies and jams.

The USDA feels that steam-based canners do not heat foods high enough to prevent spoilage, but those who use these canners state that filling hot jars with hot foods eliminates this concern.

Since Botulism is a concern with low acid foods like vegetables and meats I would ONLY recommend trying one of these with high acid foods. Fruits, salsa, pickles.

Reader Reviews

I have not personally used a steam canner. So I'd love to hear your experiences. Have you used a steam canner with success? Any problems? Tips to techniques to consider?

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What Other Visitors Have Said

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Have been using a steam Canner and never looked back 
I have been canning for about 3 years now, so I'm relatively new to the art. Started with a water bath Canner, but a friend told me about the ease of steam …

Giving the steam canner a try 
I bought a steam canner from Lehman's and am just now using it for the first time for bread & butter pickles. All the sites say it is not safe however, …

I have had a steam canner for at least 35 years and would use no other. Mine is almost worn out from yearly use! It is very easy to use and, I feel it …

I use it, with reservations 
I bought a steam canner with the intention of using it in place of my boiling water canner. I don't have an actual kitchen--my canning is done outside …

Steam Canning  Not rated yet
Have only had my steam canner for 6 months. And I love it for steaming jars before putting into pressure cooker or before filling with hot jam. Love the …

hobby farmer Not rated yet
I have been using my steam canner for years to make jams and jellies, and just recently marmalade. I usually add about 5 minutes or so to the recommended …

Have used a steam canner for many years Not rated yet
Have used a steam canner for 8 years. Got it from my grandmother who used it many years previous. I can peaches, pears and salsa and have never had a …

Sold on Steam Canning Not rated yet
I've used a steam canner for 3 years now. Mostly with pickles but the past 2 years I canned whole tomatoes with it. It saves time and is much easier to …

Steam Canning canning-gal Not rated yet
I've had an enamel steam canner for almost 35 years - and I've used it every single year since then for jams, tomatoes, salsa, pickles, etc etc. It's …

Steam Canning Not rated yet
My mom bought me one 2 years ago and I loved it so much I went out and bought another. I steam anything that you would normally do a hot water bath such …

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I have attempted to share safe preserving methods. However, I make no promises. You alone are responsible for your health. Be aware of current safety recommendations.
See my Full Disclaimer here.