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Safety Testing Pressure Cookers and Canners


Many  vintage aluminum pressure canners and cookers are passed down from generation to generation, and some 75 years later cooks are still using these old monstrosities with no regard for safety. People persist in buying ancient aluminum, used pressure cookers at online auctions, estate sales and yard sales., snatching up a cheap bargain cooker because it was in "mint condition", again without a thought about safety.

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Did you know that your pressure canner needs to be calibrated every year?  For food safety your gauge must be accurate, and this can be tested and calibrated by most university, state or county extension services.

Old aluminum pressure vessels were made differently than those  today using modern manufacturing methods.  Tiny, virtually invisible cracks weaken the pot cause a drop in pressure which is unacceptable in a canner, as  well as potentially dangerous in either a pressure canner or cooker. These old vessels do not have any of the safely features avalable in today's modern pressure cookers which may offer as many as 6 safety systems to prevent excessive heat and pressure from causing the pot the to explode.

There is no way to know if these second hand, used and vintage cookers are in proper working order without having them tested. Pressure testing can check the accuracy of the gauge as well as detecting any leaks that indicate the vessel is not capable of holding pressure. The weighted pressure regulators on the old style pressure cookers do not need to be checked. Keep the weights clean and rust free.

Most problems with pressure canners is  a gauge that is not working properly or needs to be calibrated. If the gauge is out of calibration, it will need to be replaced, or in some cases it may be sent back to the manufacturer for re-calibration.  Check with your manufacturer to see if they offer this service and the cost. Even newer canners should be tested to ensure the safety of the food being processed. Dial gauges should be tested annually or more often if used frequently.

Your local Cooperative Extension may perform this test for you or provide information on how to get this done. In some cases the manufacturer may be able to test their various models, or even cookers made be other manufacturers.  Contact manufacturers directly and inquire if testing services are available and be prepared to pay a modest fee for this service, as well as shipping costs both ways.  Often, especially in the case of large, old-fashioned canners, the costs of shipping out weigh the actual value of the vessel.

If you cannot get it tested nearby, write to see if the manufacturer can do it. The manufacturer's name and address will be pressed into the canner or on a plate attached to it. Also check here in the replacement parts page for up to date addresses. Ask for shipping instructions. Pack it like fine crystal and label the package "fragile." If you do not have an instruction book for your canner, write for one.


Some canners have a gasket. These gaskets are made of rubber or rubber-like compounds to keep steam from leaking out around the cover. You can remove and replace most gaskets as needed. Some only need to be turned to ensure a tight seal. Replace a worn, stretched or hardened gasket with a new one. Refer to the canner instructions for directions. Leakage makes it difficult to reach the right pressure and may cause the canner to boil dry.