I am super excited that my new electric water bath canner is here and I get to tell you all about it! You heard it here first people! If you haven’t seen this yet, Ball just came out with this new product, the FreshTech Electric Water Bath Canner. I got mine yesterday via preorder, and they are now in stock on amazon! Now, this is not to be confused with their other electric canner the Ball freshTECH Automatic Home Canning System, which in my opinion (although I actually haven’t used it), is not nearly as exciting of a product. It’s got half the capacity and is twice the price. And you’re restricted in many ways by their recipes. No thank you. But that’s not what we’re here for. So, let’s talk about this new electric water bath canner. Full disclosure, yes, if you buy it through the link above I will make a few bucks, but this is my honest to goodness review of the product.
Yes, it has some obvious pros, but I had a few other things in mind I also wanted to test, and I wanted to make some comparisons between it and a regular water bath canner, and also the Weck water bath canner (which I have not successfully been able to find for sale, but if you can it’s typically more expensive than the Ball one by nearly double).
OK so let’s start with the obvious pros:
– You free up a burner (definitely a huge pro in my books – I am a notoriously large batch canner)
– There is a spout for draining the hot water
– Good capacity of 8 pints/ 7 quarts (more on this is a minute)
– Pretty light
– Nice heat resistant handles (including the lid handle)
– Supposedly more energy efficient, but I can neither confirm nor deny that
– Can be used for other things than canning (but of course so can a pot)
So those things are all well and good, but there are a few other things I was curious about. For one, I wanted to know if it heats up as fast as the canner does on the burner. Sadly, the short answer is no. But I’m not terribly upset about it, because I’ll just get it going sooner than I would the normal water bath canner. If you’re interested though, this is what I did. I filled each canner with jars, 95 F water, and turned them to high. My canner on the burner was at a full rolling boil in 36 minutes and the Ball canner took a full 57 minutes. So I was a bit bummed by that. Then I reread the instructions and they said that you were supposed to put the “steaming rack” (pictured below) on top of the jars and that actually helped it boil faster. Hmm OK if you say so, let’s try that. So I decided to try from “raw pack” temperature (140 F) to boil, and see how long that took, since I wasn’t spending another hour on this test. Luckily, I had also recorded the temperatures at 5 minute increments in run one so could compare. This time it took the burner canner 22 minutes and the Ball canner 36 minutes to go from 140 F to a full rolling boil. In comparison 140 to boil took 39 minutes without the “steaming rack” in there. Not sure that’s significantly better but I guess in theory it could help a bit. If you are hot packing (which I usually am), your water is around 180 F to begin with. To compare there, the burner canner went from 180 F to boil in 12 minutes, and the Ball canner too 21 minutes. So, take it or leave it, at least compared to my burner, the Ball was slower. However, if you have gas or a flat top range, I can’t be sure how it will compare. One time I canned on my neighbours flat top range and it took FOREVER to boil.
My next question was: can I maintain a specific temperature? Most specifically I wanted to know whether I could maintain 180-185 F for low temperature pasteurization of pickles. More on that here. I was a bit bummed that they weren’t actual temperatures on there, but if it maintains something pretty constant that’s OK in my books too. So I tested what it maintains at low, medium, and high (the canning setting is for a full boil), and I tested if I could get it to maintain 180 F easily. This experiment I’m pretty pleased with. For my unit (of course yours could differ), it maintains temperatures of 120 – 125 F at low, 145 – 150 F at medium, and 190 – 195 F at high. I was able to maintain 180 F about one and a half “ticks” below high, as in the picture below. Of course, I’m at sea level and other things could affect where your 180 F is, but this is going to make low temp pickling AWESOME. Big win on this one I’d say. You certainly still need a thermometer to be sure of the temperature, but this was so much easier than finagling with the burner setting. It can be very easy to overshoot 185 on the burner, which kind of defeats the purpose of low temp processing. The beauty of this canner is the heat turns off and on to maintain the temperature. You can hear it come on too, so if you were trying to find 180 you could easily turn it to high, and then turn it down when you were getting close. You’d hear the burner turn on and off so you could find that sweet spot. So excited for pickling now!
Another thing I was happy with was capacity. Like I mentioned, the other Ball autocanner has quite a small capacity. They list this one as 8 pints or 7 quarts, and they do mention in the manual that you can fit more than 8 pints, but they call the capacity 8 to allow for adequate water circulation around the jars. Pictured below I have 10 pints in there, and they didn’t seem super snug, so take it or leave it. I think that I will can with 9 in there on occasion – if I can fit 10, I’d say 9 have adequate circulation. It’s partially the nub from the spigot that’s the issue. The Weck does fit more, but like I said, good luck finding it, and it’s more $$.
Overall, despite the slower heating time, I am happy with the purchase of this canner. I think that heating time may be the only real downside. The only other thing was that the rack on the bottom seemed like it could have been a tiny bit larger, but perhaps that would have made it harder to fit it past the nub for the spout. Not sure. But especially for me having a small kitchen, it’s going to be awesome to not have the canner on the stove. Or if I’m doing huge batches I can have one on the stove, rather than two. I may even use it on the kitchen table, and although that means I still have to lift it to the sink, I could drain some water into a pot or something, and I think it will be worth it. Thanks Ball, good invention, I’ve been waiting for something like this!
Think you’ll ditch your old canner for an electric one? Any burning questions about it before you invest? I am happy to answer.
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