This Instant Pot can be used for canning—but is it safe?
You can use this Instant Pot Max for canning—but should you?
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It's safe to say the Instant Pot is the hottest kitchen gadget—at least in the United States—in the past seven years. The company is capitalizing on that success by rolling out newer and better models with helpful features, including this Instant Pot Max.
The Instant Pot Max promises a number of overdue upgrades (particularly to the user interface), but Instant Pot is also touting a feature that can help people preserve food: the ability to be used for pressure canning.
Canning is the process by which home cooks can seal their homemade sauces, jams, fruits, meats, and vegetables so that they can be preserved for significantly longer than usual. There are typically two type of devices for canning foods at home: boiling canners and pressure canners.
Boiling canners use boiling water to kill off most bacteria, but there's one nasty one they can't kill off: Clostridium botulinum, aka the cause of botulism. Acidic foods naturally prevent the growth of botulism, so highly acidic foods are usually fine with a boiling canner when processed correctly. For low-acid foods like vegetables, meat, and tomatoes, you need a pressure canner.
As the USDA states in its Complete Guide to Home Canning, pressure alone does not kill bacteria. But because pressure canners can get up to 15 PSI, the steam inside will reach over 240°F, the temperature required to kill the bacteria that causes botulism. (Boiling water canners top out at 212°F)
The Instant Pot Max claims it can reach 15 PSI consistently, but that isn't enough to guarantee your food is being heated to the point where it will be safe.
The main reason is that a pressure gauge doesn't tell you what the temperature is, and if there is air trapped inside or you're at altitude the 15 PSI setting may not reach the necessary temperatures to work. Because the Instant Pot doesn't have an internal thermometer (that we know of), it's just not possible to tell exactly how hot it is inside and when your food will be safe.
Instant Pot may have solved this issue by now, but it's still a good idea to just avoid using the Max's pressure canning feature until it has been thoroughly tested and proven safe by the manufacturer and outside groups.
In the meantime, you can still use your Instant Pot for nearly everything else, including water bath canning—just make sure you follow all the appropriate guidelines and use acidic foods to makes sure what you're serving is safe to eat.
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