How to use a Steam Canner

I've been teaching home canning for a long time.  I'd love to share what I've learned with you.   Simply Canning School's online video based classes .

Steam Canning uses less water, takes less time, and has been proven to be safe when the directions are properly followed. Never heard of it? Learn about it at

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.

steam canner with pickled green beansThe green beans you see in the pictures on this page are pickled! Perfect for a waterbath or steam canning. If you are doing plain green beans remember that must be done with a pressure canner.

It is similar to a water-bath 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.

Is it recommended? I was notified of some great information on the Safety and Extension guidelines. I'm so tickled at this information!  Really...  Read more here... 

If you've heard that steam canning is not recommended, there is more information out there. Really click on that little red  Read more here... 

Steam Canner vs the Waterbath

This point is short and sweet.  and so true!  Unlike a water bath, a steam canner uses only approximately a quart and a half of water when processing jars of home canned food. Waterbaths may require up to four gallons of water to fill up and cover the jars. As a result home canning with steam is faster because heating a quart and a half of water obviously takes less time. 

The green beans you see in the pictures on this page are pickled!  Perfect for a waterbath or steam canning.  If you are doing plain green beans remember that must be done with a pressure canner.  

How to use a Steam Canner

The Utah State extension (and now the University of Wisconsin as well)  has a publication on proper use,  These directions come from that publication.  

1. Place appropriate amount of water in the base. Place the per-forated cover over the base and bring water to a low boil.

2. Pack and fill jars. Secure lids firmly, but not over-tight. Set each full jar on the base and allow it to warm up while pack- ing and filling enough jars for one batch.

3. When the last full jar has warmed up for 1-2 minutes, place the dome on the base and slowly (4-5 minutes) increase temperature setting of the stove until a column of steam 8-10 inches is evident from the small holes at the base of the dome.

4. Begin timing the process, maintaining the column of steam following the water bath canning recommendations adjusted for your altitude. Do not reduce temperature setting of the stove. The dome should not bounce from the base during processing.

5. When processing time is complete, turn off the stove and wait 2-3 minutes before removing the dome. Remove the dome by turning it away from your face and body to avoid burns.

6. Allow jars to cool and seal. Remove metal bands and store the jars in a cool dark place.

Utah State University PDF

Wisconsin State University PDF -

Two Styles

There are two types that I am aware of.  The traditional set up has the shallow pan as the bottom and a deep lid that fits over your jars.  See the image at the top of this page.  And for the second type see what I have below.  

Kathy made this comment on SimplyCannings Facebook page... and she has a great point. 

This stainless steel canner claims that it doubles for both water bath and steam.  Super cool to have one pot for both uses!

I have not used it with steam yet, but when I do I’ll update the page with my experience.  It comes with a book that explains the procedures.   Read more here….. stainless steel canner.  

Related pages

Reader Comments

Jacqueline Says:

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 is safer than the hot water canner. 

I leave the lid on the canner for one hour after turning off the burner, then I remove the jars and put them on a folded tea towel. Then I put in the next load. 

I find if I boil the water at a med-high heat (rather than high) and leave the jars in the canner for an hour, they do not lose the liquid when the heated jars hit the cooler air. 

        (Sharon adds:  As long as the water is still boiling a low boil is fine)

I also can my fruits with honey rather than sugar. 

I now use cloth gloves with a rubber coating on them (renovation and construction gloves by Horizon) to take jars out of the canner or to hold jars I am filling with hot jam. It works very well. No burning of the hands or slipping of the jars. These gloves are available at hardware stores.

Anonymous says:

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 canning so I bought one. I've had no problems with fruit and high acid foods canned in it, in fact it's made canning a pleasure for me.

No spoilage, no sealing failures, and when canning fruit it heats the jars up nicely (the liquid inside is still boiling when time's up)Steam can get hotter than boiling water, so I don't know what the gov. is about when saying the jars don't heat up enough. 

I would definitely recommend it. But make sure you follow directions. There are two little holes that steam escapes from and these need to be emitting about an 8 inch stream before starting the timer. 

When in doubt, follow directions!

I can only assume that the companies that make mason jars, also make water bath canners, so maybe there's a bit of self interest there?

It bears repeating: The Steam canner is for FRUIT and High Acid foods ONLY. When I can meat/veggies I use a Pressure Canner.

just bought a steam canner. You are right - I will never go back. 

What I love is now that my family is grown, I am putting up smaller jars that  always tilt on the rack in the old water bath canner. I was never sure if they would seal.

In the steam canner the rack is smooth and the jars don't tilt, plus you can put more jars in. I bought one with an altitude gauge on the top, so as soon as the arrow hits the zone for my altitude, I start my timer. Easy! Love it!

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