What Does 'Burn' Mean on My Instant Pot?

Don't panic!

Cooking with an Instant Pot is, at best, pretty easy. Pressure cooking barely requires any technique and generally yields perfect results as long as you follow the directions. However, accidents happen, and your Instant Pot is smart enough to let you know that things may go south ahead of time. The prime example of this is the message nobody wants to get: burn.

And to be fair, your Instant Pot's burn notice can appear pretty scary. What's not to fear about a sophisticated cooking machine with the power to create tons of pressure and steam relaying a message that something's gone wrong?

Don't get us wrong — pressure cookers have a fearsome amount of power that can turn disastrous and even cause bodily injuries, which is why they need to be handled properly and with respect. But your Instant Pot's burn notice is less of an indication of upcoming terror and more of a message indicating a slight detour.

burn notice on instant pot
Smith Collection/Gado / Contributor via Getty Images

Why Does My Instant Pot Say "Burn?"

The Instant Pot's burn message simply means that your Instant Pot has detected that its inner pot has gotten too hot. There may be a slight amount of burned food at the bottom of your pot, but not enough to ruin whatever you're cooking. Instead of continuing on with this warning, your Instant Pot will actually stop the cooking process to prevent further burning.

There are a number of reasons your Instant Pot will display its burn message. Most of these involve mishaps that may occur during the cooking process, like not adding enough liquid or forgetting to adjust the steam valve to the sealing position. Once you figure out what you've done wrong, correcting the error is easy. Here's what may be triggering the burn notice and the precautions you can take to prevent it.

1. Your steam valve isn't sealed

A pressure cooker can't pressure cook without steam. And while there are plenty of recipes that require the valve set at vent, your pressure cooking process is at risk if there isn't enough, well, pressure. Additionally, the steam valve can help prevent the liquid inside from evaporating and drying whatever you're cooking out. Always be sure to adjust the pressure valve to the appropriate setting before you start cooking.

2. There isn't enough liquid

A closed valve isn't the only thing you need for pressure cooking. You'll also need an adequate amount of liquid (at least one cup) for the pot to actually reach the required pressure, creating the perfect environment for a burn warning. This can also happen if the liquid inside your pot is too thick.

3. You added ingredients at the wrong time or in the wrong order

Have you ever wondered why Instant Pot recipes start with liquid ingredients first? The less starchy an ingredient is, the less likely it is to stick to the pot and burn. Don't add starchy ingredients until the recipe tells you to, and don't stir them unless it's instructed. Additionally, ingredients like dairy and cornstarch will thicken up your food (and make it vulnerable to burning), so it's best not to add them until after the pressure cooking is finished.

4. Something's up with your Instant Pot

Pressure cookers can be picky, and if one thing is off, your food is at risk. Some of the most common culprits include using a damaged or dirty sealing ring, not closing the lid all the way, and a dirty Instant Pot. If there is food debris in your Instant Pot, it can compromise the pressure by blocking a part, such as the float valve, or simply burn up along the inner pot's underside.

What Do I Do if My Instant Pot Says "Burn?"

Your Instant Pot automatically turns off once it detects a burn in the inner pot, immediately taking care of the most pressing issue. Sometimes, your Instant Pot will cool down quickly and resume cooking on its own. But in most cases, it's good to have a plan with damage control. And remember, there's no reason to panic.

What to do if your Instant Pot gives a burn warning:

  1. Power down
    The first step is also the simplest: press the cancel button to turn your Instant Pot off.
  2. Check the steam valve
    If your steam valve was set to sealing position, carefully turn it to the venting position to release the steam. If your steam valve was supposed to be in the sealing position but ended up in the venting position, this is probably what activated the burn notice.
  3. Check the ring
    Once enough steam has been released, open the Instant Pot's lid and check if the ring is dirty, damaged, or just inserted improperly. Next, check the float valve and make sure it's clean.
  4. Check for burned food
    Stir the food to see if anything has burnt and stuck to the pot. Smaller burned areas can simply be taken out, but large burned areas require more damage control. If a large amount of food in your Instant Pot is burned, remove whatever isn't burnt and put it in a clean container. Once the inner pot has cooled down enough, remove it and thoroughly clean it.
  5. Keep inspecting
    Check the bottom of your inner pot and the heating element for burnt food or residue, and clean if necessary.
  6. Rehydrate
    The rest of the food will need some liquid before you resume cooking. Make sure there's at least one cup of liquid in your inner pot.
  7. Double-check and restart
    Return the inner pot to its base. Tightly close the lid and adjust your steam valve to the correct position. Restart the pressure cooking process.


Was this page helpful?
You’ll Also Love