Steam Canning: Extension Approved?

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The Utah State University Extension has tested steam canning for preserving fruits, jam and jelly and found it safe and efficient. (edit to add, Wisconsin has now published findings as well, I’ve added their information below as well)

Each state has it’s own extension office and website. Some have more canning information than others, and despite searches I could never find any testing done on these canners.

Jars filled with peaches sitting in the bottom of the steam canner.

Even with all the the anecdotal stories of success and the seeming benefits, I never plunged into steam canning. I’m so persnickety with my concern over canning safety. (I know it drives some old timers crazy. That’s ok we can agree to disagree on some things.) I decided to wait. I had heard that they were maybe being tested so I waited…. and waited… and waited.

A reader kindly pointed out that the Utah state Extension service did indeed test and approve steam canning certain foods.

Steam Canning screenshot from the Utah Extension.
image from the Utah State Extension. 1-10-2014

Apparently they are firmly in the middle of the debate because they do still say that the USDA doesn’t endorse it… but the Utah Extension has tested it and approved it. You decipher that one. I can not make your decision for you regarding this issue. 🙂

Update- I finally tried it and….. I’m sold! It has been tested and I plan on using steam canning whenever and where ever I can.


If you choose to use a steam canner for jams, jellies, or fruits, only USDA approved and tested recipes and canning times should be used. Processing times for boiling-water bath canners may be used for steam canners.

It is very important to follow instructions and be sure that an 8 to 10-inch plume of steam is present during the entire processing time. The water must not run out before the end of processing.

Source – Utah State Extension as always don’t take my word for it, check it out yourself.

Yay! I’m editing this page to add another resource I found.

Well when I first posted this page I had some people really upset with me. Since it was only the Utah extension that was approving of this method some felt I was stepping out on a limb. I felt I was just reporting what I found so you could make your own educated decision.

Well I can now say there is another source that is approving of steam canning. The University of Wisconsin. Go Wisconsin!

Winnebago County University of Wisconsin Extension Steam Canning as a Safe Alternative to Traditional Water Bath Canning.

Like the Utah state extension Wisconsin has also published material with safety recommendations. The publication can be found at this link…..

One thing I noticed When I read this information sheet is this statement….

The booklet accompanying the Atmospheric Steam Canner can’t be relied on to provide safe canning instructions!

So as weird as it may seem, don’t use the booklet for your processing times, use tested waterbath canning directions.

And this is even better….

The University of Wisconsin has published research which indicates that an Atmospheric Steam Canner may be safely used for canning naturally acid foods such as peaches, pears, and apples, or acidified-foods such as salsa or pickles, as long as all of the following criteria are met:

The pamphlet then goes on to list some criteria. But did you notice it? They include acidified foods such as salsa and pickles. This is good news. The Utah extension did not list the acidified foods.

But remember…. ONLY tested recipes! I’m not kidding about this. Especially with things like pickles and salsa. It is the acid level that makes it safe. Tested recipes have a known acid level.

I’m tickled pink with this information. Can’t wait to try it.

Please take note of these points…

  • Utah states – Steam canners should only be used with jam, jelly and fruit.
  • Wisconsin states – Steam canners should be used with high acid foods including pickled items and salsas.
  • AND….Both say….. do NOT use this type of canner with any low acid foods (Meats or Vegetables)

Check out both steam canning informational sheets and make your decision from there.

Utah State University PDF

Wisconsin State University PDF –

Then please come back and visit me here!

If you are still in the dark about what exactly a steam canner is and how it works check out this page where I talk more about how to use a steam canner and the two types of steam canners. These are extension provided instructions.

Steam Canning Experience

With a personal lack of steam canning experience, I asked Simply Canning Facebook Group if they would share some comments. Here are some snapshots of a few. Plus some e-mail comments I’ve received.

I've been using a steam canner for about twelve years. The beauty of it is how quick it goes. The processing time is the same as for boiling water baths, but you only have to get a few cups of water instead of a few gallons up to temperature. This not only saves water and energy, it makes it a small, casual activity instead of a production. I wouldn't bother to put up a couple of pints of this or that if I had to boil a great big pot. With a steam canner I can have the whole process done and cleaned up in an hour or so. It really lowers the barriers to small batch canning (pickles, jams, applesauce, and like). Also, as I don't have air conditioning, it is a blessing to not have that big steamy caldron on the stove. Steam can get hot and be dangerous, but I feel much more leery about handling a regular canner full of boiling water. It's not a pressure canner, but it's great for almost anything you'd use a regular canner for. Sorry for the long answer, but I just love it.

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 been easy, reliable, effective and totally safe – we’ve raised 3 adult children on all my canning over the years. They still clamor for anything i can spare.

I’d NEVER go back to a boiling water bath canner- although that is what i started out with back in the mid 70’s when the kids were babes. I was given a steam canner in 1978 and have never looked back!

Of course only pressure canning is safe for meat, fish or vegetables- everyone should know that.

My mother was using the steam canning method back in the 1970s. I now have the same canner and have used it for many yaers. For me it is safer as you don't have to deal with a lot of boiling water. Love it!

Liz W says: 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 on a propane burner, and carrying jars back and forth can be a problem.

So I was looking for something light enough to use on the hot plate inside, and the steam canner seemed to be perfect for that. But after reading the concerns of people who had tested it and found significant variations in temperature from one point to another inside it, I decided to use it only for high-acid or high-sugar items like pickles or jams.

So far, I’ve made multiple batches of marmalade and other jams, and it has worked very well.

I started canning two years ago. Did my research and decided to steam can rather than water bath. I love it and have not had one failed jar. Keeps the kitchen much cooler!

Oma, Wilma says; 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 flat surface to set jars on.

The main reason I purchased the steam canner is for steaming Brown Bread. You won’t believe how great it works. Have used coffee cans and jars, which have worked perfect. Cans steam 3 hours, wide mouth pint jars 2 hours. Both are filled 3/4 full.

Will never go back to water bath steamed breads or jams.

Nancy says, I have been steam canning for about eighteen years. I love it. It is so much faster since you only have to boil two inches of water rather than a few gallons. During the late summer months it is going almost every day. I have never had problems with it. I use it for anything acidic, that is all fruits and tomatoes (anything you can do in a water bath), all my jams, applesauce, peaches, pears, tomatoes, and even spaghetti sauce. Once it gets up to temperature, I just go by the processing time listed for water bathing if it happens to be a recipe not included in the booklet that comes with the steam canner. One tip - Make sure you put a little bit of lemon juice (about a tablespoon) in the water once in a while to prevent the aluminum from darkening, and check the water level, adding as necessary between loads. After about sixteen years of constant use, I started to wear my first one out, tiny pin-sized holes started to form in the bottom section in the aluminum, allowing a little bit of water to drip out during the processing time. While still functional, this seemed a good enough excuse for me to buy a new one a couple of years ago. The new one looks and functions the same as the old one, but now includes a gauge on the top that is based on your altitude, it is very nice to not have to measure the steam length from the front hole anymore, and I find I can start the processing time even sooner than I might have before. (It is the Victorio Aluminum Steam Canner.) After using the steam canner, pressure cooker canning or water bath canning feels way too slow and I find I avoid them if I can. I might have been spoiled with the steam canner, which is the only kind of spoiling I have had with it!

The type of canner Nancy is mentioning here is I believe just like mine. It is a stainless steel water bath canner that doubles as a steam canner. One pot for two uses. Both Waterbath and Steam Canning. I’m going to do a bit of calling and see if I can confirm that these pots will work just the same as the type of steam canner with the shallow base. Read more here….

It sure would be great if a water bath canner could be converted to the steam method. Kind of ridiculous to have three different types of bulky canners.

Ken says: 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 use.

Remember the steam canner is only for fruits, jam and jelly. Honestly jam and jelly are easy to water bath. I would not go out and buy a steam canner but nice to have info from an extension service that it's okay.

Hobby Farmer says: 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 times as it can be tricky to decide when to start the timer.

It can be hard to tell if enough steam is coming out the holes. I also set my water kettle on top of the dome- this stops the rattling and keeps the steam in better. If I remember correctly, the first time I used the steam canner the jars did not seal, as I started my timer too soon.

Sometimes steam will come out one side but not the other- wait until steam is coming out BOTH sides (the kettle helps with this).

Websites from other countries like Sweden have lots of info on steam canning. (Apparently steam canning works fine in Europe but not in the US. 😉

Laurie says good news! I've not gone this route as I called the Extension office six years ago and they told me not to. About time they finally test it and the news is great! Now to find a steam canner!

Related Pages

Stainless Steel Water bath/Steam Canner

How to Uses a Steam Canner

Expand Your Pantry

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Cheri Possin
Cheri Possin
2 years ago

I am picking green beans and would like to usemy streamer ca ner. Is this safe to do? And if so how long do I stream the greenbeans.