Family and Consumer Sciences Education: Electric Multi-Cookers & Canning

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    A frequent question I hear is, “Can I use an electric multi-cooker, such as the Instant Pot®, for canning?” Well, the answer is simple. No. Why?  Below are some of the reasons:

   Pressure does not kill harmful microorganisms, temperature does. Even though these cookers use pressure, the USDA has not conducted research on the actual temperatures inside electric multi-cookers during the cooking process or the temperatures of the contents of the jars. This is a concern, since ultimately the temperature and heat distribution inside the jars is critical for the destruction of harmful bacteria in the food during the canning process. If the food does not reach a high enough temperature, it can result in botulism.

   How the jars are positioned in the cooker makes a difference. In some models, jars must be placed on their sides. Placing them on their sides to process means steam cannot circulate around the jars. As a result, the contents of the jars may not get hot enough.

   Electric multi-cookers cannot be vented adequately. Before pressure canning, it is critical that all air is released from the pot. Air mixed with steam may not allow food in jars to reach a safe temperature.

   You cannot tell if there is a steady, consistent pressure inside the cooker. Without a dial or weighted gauge, you cannot determine the amount of pressure inside and whether or not it fluctuates. What happens if there are power surges that cause the temperature to drop? If it does fluctuate, the food in jars may not reach a safe temperature.

   Processing times may not be long enough. Total process times established by the USDA include the time needed to bring the canner up to the right pressure, the actual processing time, and the time when the pressure comes down and the canner and jars are beginning to cool. If that time is shortened, bacteria can survive.

   Bottom line: Electric multi-cookers do a great job of pressure-cooking foods. They should not be used for canning until more is known about the temperatures inside cooker and whether or not it can destroy bacteria that can make you sick. Therefore, enjoy the benefits of these cookers for their speedy cooking, but not for canning.

   For more information, you may contact Linda Hyder, UT Extension – Sevier County at lhyder@utk.edu, or 865-453-3695, or visit https://nchfp.uga.edu/ for Home canning information.