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Electric canners, also known as smart canners or digital canners are a fairly recent invention. Some of the popular models that do both water bath and pressure canning include the Nesco and Carey Canners, The Presto Digital Pressure Canner, and the Instant Pot Max. When it comes to electric water bath canners, Ball FreshTECH electric water bath canner is the most popular option. (All of the links in this paragraph link to the products on Amazon.)

Pro Tip: The Nesco and Carey electric canners are identical. The only difference between them is the logo on the canner, but everything else is the same. Because of that, I’ll use both of those names interchangeably. The prices on both of them fluctuate and so at times one may be cheaper than the other. Buy whichever one you can get at the best price!

I’ll get into the particulars of each of these canners in a bit, but for now I just want to deal with the elephant in the room. Electric canners are controversial. Some people claim that electric canners aren’t safe and are in fact quite passionate in their opinion.

I personally use a Nesco canner (Amazon) and have actually had people tell me that by creating content about this canner, I’m going to “kill people.”

Much of the attitude toward electric canners came about as a result of a study done by the University of Utah State Extension Office. I feel that the study was conducted in a biased manner, and because of that, the results are faulty.

People have questions about whether the Nesco electric canner is safe.

I wrote about the study, in my article, Is the Nesco Smart Canner Safe? so be sure to check that out for more information.

FDA Approved Electric Pressure Canner?

If you’re looking for an FDA approved electric pressure canner, you’re out of luck. The reason is not that the canners are unsafe, but rather that the FDA doesn’t approve specific canners. For instance, the FDA will never approve the Presto Digital Pressure Canner – but it also will never approve any of the Presto (or other) stovetop canners.

The bottom line is that you need to make your own decision regarding which type of canner to use. If you feel that electric canners aren’t safe, then don’t use them! When you have doubts about canning safety, you’ll have a hard time enjoying the food you canned, and using a stovetop canner is perfectly fine if that’s what you’re most comfortable with.

Benefits of Electric Canners

Having said that, I personally feel that there are some benefits to using digital canners that in some ways make them safer than stovetop canners. The main benefit when it comes to safety is that electric canners take the guesswork out of canning.

For instance, with stovetop canning, you have to make a lot of judgment calls on things such as maintaining the right amount of pressure. You may have to fiddle with the heat level, and cranking it up and down isn’t good, since you should maintain consistent pressure throughout the canning process.

Electric Canners are Easy to Use

pressure canning chicken  in my nesco electric canner
With the push of just a few buttons, my Nesco canner is ready to go, and does all of the thinking for me.

Electric canners automate the process of maintaining the right amount of heat and pressure. By default, if anything goes wrong, they’ll turn off and display an error message.

The biggest benefit to digital canners over stovetop canners is that they are just plain easier to use. While I don’t recommend leaving your home when you have an electric canner going, you don’t need to watch it nearly as closely as a stovetop canner. You also don’t have to worry about keeping track of processing time, since the canner does that for you.

No Worries with Glass Top Stoves

Electric canners are also very helpful for those who have glass top stoves, since stovetop canners don’t always work well on glass top stoves. Even if they work, you run the risk of damaging the stove top if you drag the canner across the cooktop, or accidentally set it down too forcefully, which is easy to do with a heavy stove top canner.

Electric Canners Can Be Used Many Places

I also like being able to use my electric canner places other than the kitchen. My husband and I currently live with my 91-year-old mother, and I never seem to have enough room in her kitchen. Because of that, I typically do my canning on her dining room table. This type of flexibility is a huge plus for anyone with a small kitchen, or for when you have your stove tied up with other cooking projects.

Electric Canners are Often Multi-Cookers

Electric canners also often fit into the “multi-cooker” category, which means you can use them for much more than canning. The most notable example of this is the Instant Pot Max (Amazon), which has all of the great features we’ve come to know and love in Instant Pots, on top of a complete canning feature.

Electric Canners are Smaller and Easier to Handle

Finally, electric canners tend to be smaller than stove top canners, which is a real plus for those who are older or have disabilities, or for any other reason have problems lifting and carrying a large pot full of water. The smaller size is also helpful for those who prefer to do small batch canning.

However, the size is one of the cons, so let’s get into that now.

Disadvantages of Electric Canners

how to can chicken in the nesco smart canner
The capacity of the Nesco electric canner is smaller than stove top canners.

The biggest disadvantage to electric canners is the size. Most electric canners are much smaller than stove top canners, and as such, process lower amounts of food.

As an example, the Nesco canner (Amazon) I use handles up to 5 pints or 4 quarts at a time. Compare that to my 16-quart Presto (Amazon), which handles 10 pints or 7 quarts at a time – and as far as stove top canners go, it’s not a large canner.

While the smaller capacity may seem like a disadvantage, it’s perfect for singles, couples, and others who don’t need to can massive amounts of food. Having said that, the larger stovetop canners are great for those with large gardens, or who have larger family, and who have a lot of room to store their home canned food.

Electric Canners are Less Likely to Last for Generations

Another disadvantage of electric canners is that they may be more likely to break than stovetop canners. Like all electric devices, there is more that can go wrong with an electric canner compared to stovetop canners that are often made like tanks. While it’s possible, it’s unlikely that you’ll pass down your electric canner to your grandkids!

A Comparison of 4 Top Electric Canners

In the table below, I’ll hit the high points of 4 different electric canners to give you a birds-eye view of the specs on each of the canners.

CannerCapacityTypes of Canning and Other Functions
Nesco/Carey (Amazon)Up to 5 pints or 4 quartsWater bath canning, pressure canning, and some multi-cooker functions such as browning, pressure cooking, slow cooking, and steaming.
Instant Pot Max (Amazon)Up to 4 pints. Cannot use for canning quartsWater bath canning, pressure canning, and many functions typically available in Instant Pots such as pressure cook, sauté, slow cook, rice, sous vide, and more
Presto 12 Quart Electric Pressure Canner (Amazon)Up to 8 pints and 5 quartsWater bath canning and pressure canning. No multi-cook features.
Ball® freshTECH™ Electric Water Bath Canner & Multi-Cooker (Amazon)

Pro tip: If the above canner is out of stock this is a great alternative on Amazon.
Up to 8 pints or 7 quartsWater bath canning. NO pressure canning. Can also be used for cooking but has fewer features than other multi-cookers. For instance, no pressure cooking.  

The Electric Canner I Personally Use and Recommend

When I did my research before buying my electric canner, I looked very closely at the Nesco/Carey canners, The Presto electric canner, and the Instant Pot Max.

I ended up choosing the Nesco/Carey canner for the following reasons:

Cost

The cost of both the Nesco and Carey canners fluctuates quite a bit, so these canners may not always be cheaper than the other options. But at the time that I purchased it, the Nesco/Carey cost $129, the Instant Pot Max was $149, and the Presto Electric Pressure Canner was $329.99. (To see the current cost of each of the options on Amazon, click on the links in this paragraph.)

Capacity

The capacity of the Nesco/Carey canners fits into the “just right” category. They don’t have the largest capacity (you’ll want the Presto digital canner for that). However, the capacity of the Nesco is greater than the capacity of the Instant Pot Max. What it comes to pints, the Instant Pot Max has a maximum capacity of four pints compared to the five-pint capacity of the Nesco.

Quarts

Another advantage that the Nesco pressure canner has over the Instant Pot Max is that the Nesco is large enough to pressure can quarts. You can also use the low-pressure setting on the Nesco to process water-bath recipes in quarts.

Water Bath, Pressure Canning, and Other Cooking Functions

pressure valves for the Nesco smart canner
The Nesco Smart Canner has two pressure valves. The green one is for 15 pounds of pressure, which make it useful for pressure canning in high altitudes.

Since I have space limitations, I prefer appliances that I can use in more than one way. Both the Nesco digital pressure canner (Amazon) and the Instant Pot Max (Amazon) can do pressure canning, water bath canning, and have various cooking functions such as browning, steaming, and pressure cooking.

Now it is true that the Instant Pot Max has WAY more features than the Nesco Canner. I actually still have and use an Instant Pot as my multi-cooker of choice, and use my Nesco just for canning. But in a pinch I could use my Nesco as my only smart cooking device.

The Electric Canner I Personally Won’t Buy

Although I live by the mantra, “Never say never,” it’s highly unlikely that I’ll buy the Ball FreshTECH canner. It’s not a bad canner. It actually has rave reviews, and if you’re looking for a solid electric water bath canner, it’s the way to go. But if you’re looking for a Ball electric pressure canner, you’re out of luck. At the present time, Ball doesn’t make any electric pressure canners. So, if you want to be able to do both water bath canning and pressure canning, and you only want one smart canner, you need to pass on by the Ball electric canner.

You can, however, also use the Ball FreshTECH canner as a stock pot for making soups and sauces, but it doesn’t have any of the other functions available in the Nesco and Carey electric pressure canners, nor the Instant Pot Max, all available on Amazon.

The bottom line is if you want to do just water bath canning, as well as having an extra stockpot on hand, the Ball FreshTECH canner (Amazon) is a great option.

Pro tip: Sometimes the Ball FreshTECH Canner is out of stock. This canner, also by the Ball Company and also available on Amazon is a great alternative.

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2 Comments

  1. Trying to submit this again…got kicked out when I tried to confirm. I just bought a Nesco digital canner. I live in Lincoln Nebraska and the elevation is 1226 ft. If I use the pressure valve for 15 will my contents overcook? Thank you, Mary
    Can you email me the response? I am afraid I won’t be able to track back to this thread.

    1. Hi Mary, I’m so sorry to hear that you got kicked out when you tried to confirm! Congratulations on your new Nesco canner! 15 pounds of pressure is the recommended pressure for anyone over 1,000 foot elevation, so you definitely need to use it. If you use the black valve instead of the green one, you’ll run the risk of botulism. I live at 1650 feet elevation, and don’t have any problem with food being over process. Having said that, food such as vegetables, will be soft. That’s an unfortunate result with canning. If you find that unsatisfactory, then you may want to try dehydrating some things.

      Rebecca
      P.S. I removed your email address for privacy reasons, but am emailing you this response as well.

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