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Instant Pot Troubleshooting Instant Pot Troubleshooting
September 28, 2021
by Olena

Instant Pot Troubleshooting

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by Olena

Whether your Instant Pot is not coming to pressure, leaking steam, flashing “burn message” or making “weird” sounds, we have compiled 16 most common issues and troubleshooting tips for beginners and experienced electric pressure cooker users.

instant pot troubleshooting

Instant Pot Terminology

First, if you are new to Instant Pot cooking, I highly recommend to check out this Instant Pot guide on how to use it with 15 tips and tricks mentioned. So good! Also please know that Instant Pot is not a slow cooker.

Let’s go over basic parts that your Instant Pot consists of, to which I will be referring throughout this troubleshooting article:

  • The cooker base unit with heating element.
  • Inner stainless steel pot.
  • The lid.
  • Steam collector cup – Duo models.
  • Trivet.
instant pot parts
steam collector cup at the back of instant pot

1. Instant Pot Is Not Sealing or Coming to Pressure

Why is your Instant Pot not pressuring up? Here are 5 most common reasons:

  1. Problem: Too much liquid. Solution: This problem happens mostly with Instant Pot soups, so scooping out the liquid to make it drop below 2/3 PC Max line will help.
  2. Problem: Not enough liquid. Solution: Open the lid, add 1/2 cup more water or broth, close the lid and wait for a few more minutes. Note, tomato sauces and dairy products do not count as liquid and more likely you will get a warning Burn message.
  3. Problem: Not enough room for pressure to build up. Solution: Remove some food – there always should be enough empty space volume for pressure to build up. For example, with Instant Pot pot roast recipe – too many baby potatoes and pressure cooker will have a hard time to pressurize.
  4. Problem: Missing/misplaced sealing ring. Solution: Most likely if you decided to deep clean the Instant Pot lid, you might have removed the silicone ring and forgot to place it back or it’s not fitting in snuggly.
  5. Problem: Steam release valve is in Venting position. Solution: Move it to Sealing position.

New to Instant Pot cooking? Check out these 32 Instant Pot Recipes perfect for beginners.

float valve on sealing and venting

2. Display Says On but Timer Doesn’t Start

The cook time indicated in the recipe is the actual pressure cooking time which is indicated by the countdown. If display says On but timer doesn’t start, it means Instant Pot is heating up/boiling food but not sealing for one of the above five mentioned reasons and cook cycle has not started yet. You will be able to solve this problem by following one of the five solutions in point #1 of this Instant Pot troubleshooting post.

instant pot display says on

3. Steam Is Leaking from Float Valve

Know that some of the steam coming out from the float valve while Instant Pot is pressurizing is OK. Also with certain recipes even for first 2 minutes of pressure cooking. However, if steam is leaking for longer than 2 minutes, it means one of two things:

  • Food debris on the float valve silicone seal – just clean the small silicone plug on inside of the lid.
  • Silicone ring on the inside of the lid need to be replaced – the more you use it, the more it wears out. You can always buy a replacement on Amazon.
instant pot lid inside

4. Steam Leaks from the Side of the Lid

If you see steam leaking from the side of the lid during pressure cooking, most likely the issue has to do with the sealing ring itself. With time and use, silicone loses its tightness and has to be replaced. I make Instant Pot recipes a few times a week and replace silicone ring every 12-18 months. Please note discoloration and smell is normal and have nothing to do with its performance.

Also if the ring is missing, the steam will leak during pressurizing stage and Instant Pot won’t be able to come to pressure.

5. Instant Pot Float Valve Unable to Rise

Instant Pot float valve is red or silver colour pin that goes up indicating pressure inside the pot is up. Please note that after the float valve is up, it takes a few minutes for the sensor to sense it and timer kick in. If float valve is not rising, it mostly means there is not enough liquid inside for pressure to build up. Solution is to add 1/2 cup water, close the lid and wait a little bit.

6. Occasional Ticking or Light Cracking Sound

It is normal to hear occasional cracking and ticking sound while your pressure cooker is heating up. It is simply the sound of power switching and expanding pressure board when changing temperature.

7. Instant Pot Burn Message Flashes on Display

Generally, “Burn” message is an indication of overheating at the bottom of the inner pot and not always necessarily a sign your food is burning. Do not rush to order take out just yet. We have an extensive article covering 10 most common reasons why your Instant Pot says Burn and how to fix them. Even without removing the food.

instant pot display says burn

8. Instant Pot Display Flashes “Lid”

“Lid” message simply means the lid on Instant Pot is not in its place and correct position. You can see arrows on the Instant Pot lid and cooking base to line up to help close lid easily. Or as I always say to line up chubby parts of the lid and base at the back and then try to close.

9. What Are All These Extra Buttons and Modes for?

Just like many of you I was excited for all modes and presets electric pressure cooker has to offer. So many buttons! Unfortunately, when it came down to following recipes in the booklet, me and many other home cooks, found out while testing the recipes that custom times yield better final results.

Most commonly used buttons are Saute, Pressure Cook (Manual), Yogurt, Cancel and Keep Warm. I believe presets can work with stews and soups where food can be overcooked, however majority of other presets are a nice marketing trick just like with microwave and air fryer presets. We all know how that goes – using same button all over again.

instant pot displays duo and lux

10. I Have Electric Pressure Cooker but Not an Instant Pot Brand

You can use any brand electric pressure cooker as long as it is an appliance (not the stovetop pressure cooker) and has an option for High pressure (most cook on high pressure) to make any recipe with Instant Pot in its title. The pressure psi is very similar for most appliances across the board. All you have to know is what to press to select high pressure and to pressure cook, an info that can be easily located in the user manual.

instant pot and cosori pressure cooker

Above I use both Instant Pot Duo and Cosori electric pressure cookers to cook different types of beans. Same process, same results, just different buttons to push.

11. Difficulty with Closing the Lid

Difficulty with closing the lid usually happens when you decide to add other ingredients while Instant Pot is heating up or opened the lid when display says On but Instant Pot hasn’t come to pressure yet. Hot steam will push float valve to rise making it difficult to close the lid. What I do then is slightly press on the float valve downward wearing an oven mitt (or using the end of a wooden spoon) at same time as I am trying to close the lid – it helps to release excess pressure.

instant pot under pressure and after it is released

12. Difficulty with Opening the Lid

Instant Pot is equipped with about 10 safety mechanisms and one of them is not allowing the lid to open while there is still pressure inside the cooker. If lid doesn’t open and cooking cycle has finished, make sure to turn steam release handle to Venting to release pressure and open the lid. It should work!

On rare occasions, Instant Pot float valve can stuck at the popped up position. All you have to do is just press on it lightly with a pen or long utensil.

13. Food Is Undercooked

One of common Instant Pot problems is undercooked food like rice, beans and sometimes chicken and other foods. That could be due to altitude, different pressure cooker size, age and brand of certain ingredients, doing quick release too early, and not following the recipe precisely. Unlike with cooking on the stovetop when you can open the pot, check on food, stir and add, cooking with Instant Pot is more precise and might take a few tries with some recipes. Don’t give up and please always ask a question.

For instance, if rice comes out too crunchy/half cooked, it means there was not enough water or lid was opened too early. Next time add 1/4 cup more water or leave lid on for extra 5 minutes.

14. Food Is Overcooked

Just like with undercooked food, overcooked food like beans and rice is usually due to extra water content and not releasing pressure on time.

15. Pressure Cooker Lid Smells Like Food

Instant Pot’s sealing ring is made of porous material, silicone. It absorbs odours easily that cannot be removed with dish or dishwasher soap. However, good news is it usually does not affect the taste of food.

On a regular basis, it is enough to wash the ring in soapy water. To deep clean once in a while, soak it in a solution of cold water and vinegar overnight. Place ring in the inner pot of Instant Pot or large bowl, cover will cold water until it is fully submerged, and add 1 cup white vinegar. Leave on the counter overnight, then rinse and make sure to place back in the lid correctly and most importantly tight.

Storage tip: Storing lid upside down allows air to flow through and helps to eliminate cooking smell from the Instant Pot’s inner pot and the lid.

instant pot and lid on top

16. Upper Kitchen Cabinets Are Being Damaged

To avoid damaged upper kitchen cabinets by steam coming out from pressure release valve, you have 2 options:

  • Move Instant Pot from under cabinets before cooking and releasing pressure. I know the cord can be not long enough. Also placing on the island (if you have one) with an outlet is an option.
  • Get a steam diverter (pictured). Make sure to remember to position steam diverter before cooking. Then when it’s time for pressure to release, steam will come out from the sides instead of shooting straight up. It also makes the process less messy and keeps kitchen counters clean.
instant pot with steam diverter on top

More Instant Pot Troubleshooting FAQs

Why My Instant Pot is not working?

Inspect the cord and make sure it’s pushed in all the way in the outlet. Also check if your power outlet is active. Try plugging Instant Pot into another outlet. Also it is possible the cooker’s electrical fuse has blown, possibly faulty due to a power surge or other electrical issue. Please contact customer support then.

How do I reset my Instant Pot?

To reset to factory default settings, press and hold the “Adjust” button for 3 seconds, when the Instant Pot cooker is in the Off mode.

Can you cook back to back in Instant Pot?

Yes. I recommend to wash the inner stainless steel pot with cold water to let it cool off, so when you start cooking next Instant Pot recipe it will not come to pressure faster and mess up the cook time.

What happens if I don’t vent my Instant Pot?

Eventually pressure will subside and float valve will drop. It is basically a Natural Release. Depending on what you are cooking, food may or may not come out overcooked. For example, Instant Pot steamed vegetables like broccoli will be overcooked. But with Instant Pot chicken tortilla soup recipe it doesn’t matter.

I hope you enjoyed these 16 Instant Pot troubleshooting tips. If you have any of your own, please share with all of us in the comments below.

2 comments on “Instant Pot Troubleshooting

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  1. I may have ruined my Instant pot Duo Nova. I just dropped white beans into it without the liner before I caught myself! Some of the beans have gone below the heating element and I can’t get them to shake back out. Help!

    1. I am sorry to hear that! I would scoop out as much you can with your hands and spoon. Gently wipe with damp cloth. Flip and let it dry for a few days. After gently go under the heating element with dry cloth to loosen up any beans that dried up and shake out after. All should be done unplugged. Hope this will help!

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