I can be a research fanatic when it comes to analyzing the pros and cons of an item before deciding on a purchase. I recently purchased a pressure canner as a birthday present for my wife (which inspired my last post on why they’re so SHTF awesome), so if you’re in the market for a cooker or canner, I’ll tell you where my thinking lead.
The first thing I had to learn was the difference between a cooker and a canner. A canner is essentially a large cooker, big enough to sanitize canning jars. A canner can also cook, but it’s too big for the average evening meal. A smaller cooker is more convenient for an evening meal, but too small to sanitize jars for canning. Dig?
My wife and I are getting more involved with doomsday gardening, so canning was the primary interest in the canner versus cooker debate. We needed a way to process large quantities of garden grub that comes all at once, something besides (or in addition to) the freezer. I also liked the idea that a large canner could also cook (if need be), but that a cooker couldn’t can. Because I believe in spending extra to buy something of quality once, rather than buy junk twice, and because it was a birthday present, I went high-end. I bought her a 21 1/2 quart All-American pressure cooker/canner from Amazon.com (they had the best price with free shipping). Here it is:
The online reviews of this unit were right – quality. This thing is heavy. The cover alone is strong enough to double as a SHTF shield.
The reasons I spent the extra money for this model is that it’s 1) Made in the U.S.A, 2) has a very long reputation of lasting generations, and 3) the manufacturer has spare parts readily available. All-American also makes a 30 quart and a 41 1/2 quart. I had a hard enough time justifying the 21 1/2 quart, so I wasn’t going bigger, but for the more experienced gardener, canner or small-scale food business, a larger model would make more sense. Presto makes a 23 quart cooker that costs about half as much.
I thought a high end canner would be stainless steel, not heavy cast aluminum, but through my SHTF research I soon learned they use aluminum because it distributes heat so much better, which is important when you get into larger canners. Stainless is more common on smaller pressure cookers.
If you’re more interested in a smaller pressure cooker than you are a canner, something for fast meals, I’d recommend the 6 quart stainless steel Presto cooker; in fact, we may get one at some point. All-American doesn’t make smaller pressure cooker, and the Presto in this instance seemed to offer the best cost/quality/practicality ratios.
– Ranger Man
BTW: If you’re going to buy a new cooker, you should also consider the book Canning and Preserving for Dummies …. you know, unless you’re already a canning and preserving smarty pants.