Instant pots are very popular for good reason. They are a modern, digitized iteration of the pressure cooker that can save a cook lots of time and can prepare anything from rice to roast to hard boiled eggs to chicken chow mein and everything in between. But can you use them for canning? It’s a question I get a lot and I wanted to address it.
Water bath canning and steam canning works in part because the inside of the jar reaches over 212 degrees fahrenheit. The USDA tests recipes to ensure that the inside of your applesauce, salsa, or strawberry jam gets to this temperature, which is hot enough to kill spoilers in a high acid environment.
Instant pots are not tested for canning. We have no idea how hot, for how long it is inside your jar of tomato sauce if you tried to can it in an instant pot. Therefore, we’d have no idea for how long to process any particular recipe to kill spoilers. We cannot rely on the rather amateurish test of if the jar is sealed or not to determine a safe canning process. A jar can be sealed by simply sitting in a hot grocery store shelf, completely empty, and we know that’s not a safe canning process, right? The seal is only ONE part of the very important trifecta of elements that works to ensure water bath canning is safe.
An instant pot is designed to do a very different job than a water bath canning pot or steam canner. It doesn’t create steady heat- it builds pressure very, very quickly, and it is designed to cook foods with pressure, as fast as possible. That’s a very different job than what a steam canner or water bath canner does.
Canning works by putting a high acid recipe (raspberry jam, tomato sauce, pickled pearl onions) in a jar and submerging the jar in heat. The heat kills the spoilers present in the jar and forces the oxygen OUT of the jar, creating a vacuum which causes the lid to suck inward and seal. A sealed lid alone is NOT enough to create a safe canning situation.
You can read more about acid and canning in this post– there’s even a free pH chart of all the foods you may can that you can download for free!
My recommendation, which mirrors that of the USDA, is that you should not use an instant pot for canning.
The motivation to use an instant pot to can is surely to save time. The FASTEST way to can is to use a steam canner- they save 25 minutes per batch, every batch. If you’re ready to dive in, grab the Steam Canning for Beginners Ebook that will have you canning 25 minutes faster per batch, every batch. You’ll never wonder if you’re doing it right; get started on the right foot today!