How we tested
A canning pot is an essential tool for large-batch home canning. These pots are typically around 20 quarts—almost twice the size of standard 12-quart stockpots. They should be broad and deep enough to hold a rack (to elevate the jars from the pan floor), a range of jars, and enough water to cover the jars by at least 1 inch. A cheap, black, speckled pot from Granite Ware has been the go-to for decades: Is it still the best option?
To find out, we purchased three nationally available canning pot/rack sets priced from roughly $24 to $97, including two stainless-steel pots and the classic enameled steel pot from Granite Ware. We tested the pots’ capacity and the racks’ stability by loading and unloading them with different-size canning jars. We timed how long it took for full pots to come to a boil and evaluated the comfort and security of the handles as well as the functionality of the lids. Lastly, we looked at durability: We used the pots and their racks again and again, and we left them damp over several nights to check for rust.
The pots and racks all fit the appropriate mix of jars. All three racks were designed to hang on the pots’ lips for loading and then be lowered down with the jars in place. We found that this feature didn’t work very well (a jar or two always tipped over when we tried it), but the racks worked fine with every mix of jars when we simply left the racks on the bottom of the pots and used jar lifters to move the jars. But rust was a problem with two of the racks, with one leaving angry red marks across the bottom of its pricey stainless pot.
When we timed how long it took the filled pots to come to a boil, the thin pot from Granite Ware did heat the water 5 minutes faster than the thicker, heavier stainless-steel pots (heat moves faster through thin metal). This minimal time savings didn’t prove to be worth much in the grand scheme, especially considering this pot’s major flaw: Its thin enameled porcelain surface was extremely susceptible to chipping (ours did so the first time we used it). Any nick on this pot’s surface exposed the nonstainless steel below, which immediately rusted, creating spots that will eventually turn into holes. The Granite Ware pot may be inexpensive, but it isn’t built to last.
Only one pot/rack combination emerged from our testing rust-free and looking brand-new. It had two features we loved: a clear lid that let us peek inside without disturbing the contents (or getting a faceful of steam) and grippy silicone-coated handles that made moving a giant, hot pot feel a smidge more secure. At $75 the Victorio Stainless Steel Multi-Use Canner is more expensive than the classic Granite Ware, but it made canning easier and should last a lifetime.
We tested three canning pots with racks, priced from $23.99 to $96.95, all purchased online. The pots are listed in order of preference.
Capacity: Pots and racks received high marks for being able to accommodate full batches of canning jars: eight 1-pint jars or four 1-quart jars.
Rack Stability: We rated the racks on how stable they were in use.
Lid: Clear lids that allowed us to see into the pot scored higher than solid lids.
Handles: Handles with heatproof coatings scored higher than plain metal handles.
Durability: We deducted points from pots whose finish chipped or whose racks rusted with normal use.
Value: Pots scored higher if they were less expensive, worked well, and were durable.