What To Do When Your Instant Pot Says Burn

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So you got that dreadful burn sign and now chills are creeping down your spine. If you’re wondering what to do when your Instant Pot says burn, read on. It can be a bit scary at first, but there’s no need to panic. We’ve got all the answers to why you might be getting a burn notice, what you should do to resolve it, and how to avoid getting the burn notice in the future.

» Read more on how to use an Instant Pot and see our top tips for beginners.

instant pot reads "burn"

Instant Pots can surely be intimidating for new users, but the burn sign can worry seasoned users as well. I’ve been using my pressure cooker for years now and I still get a little anxiety when the burn notice goes off.

After all, pressure cookers do hold a tremendous amount of power that can be devastating and possibly cause serious harm. They must be handled with caution.

The good news it that burn alert on your Instant Pot is meant to be a safety precaution and when dealt with quickly, it is nothing to be frightened of.

 

Why Your Instant Pot Says Burn

First of all, know that the pot is actually programmed to stop cooking when the inner pot gets really hot or when it senses there is burning going on inside the pot. It will stop cooking right away and the burn warning will sound on the machine to let you know.

There are multiple scenarios in which an Instant Pot displays the burn warning. Here are the most common causes:

1. Your steam release valve is on venting

When pressure cooking in the Instant Pot, make sure your steam release valve is sealed. This ensures the steam is not escaping the pot. If the steam is not retaining inside, the Pot will continue trying to pressurize. This will cause your Instant Pot to detect an issue of over-heating and it will display the burn sign. 

releasing pressure from an Instant Pot

2. There is not enough liquid

Just like an open steam release valve can stop the pot from pressurizing, not enough liquid can also prevent pressure from building up. The Instant Pot requires at least 1 cup of water to create the steam necessary for pressurizing. Less than a cup of liquid or thick liquids such as spaghetti sauces or thick soups can cause the burning sign. 

3. The sealing ring is not placed correctly

When the sealing ring isn’t on correctly, the Instant Pot can’t pressurize. This is another common reason for the burn alert.

4. Food may be stuck to the bottom

Have you noticed almost all instant pot recipes start with liquids first? The reason for that is when you add starchy foods in first they tend to stick to the bottom. If a layer of food is stuck on the bottom, the Instant Pot will detect this and display the burn alert. For this reason, you need to deglaze the pot after sauteing food, and if you’re cooking something like spaghetti and meat sauce, you should pour the liquid in first, then add the noodles and sauce on top.

5. Food might have spilled onto the heating element

Sometimes, especially while cooking soups and broths, stuff can spill out of the inner pot and drip down on the heating element underneath. In this case, too, the Instant Pot will display the burning sign. You will need to remove the pot and clean the element and the bottom of the pot before starting it again.

6. Browned bits were not scraped off properly

I make a lot of meats that require searing the meat first. When you do this, browned bits will adhere to the bottom of the pot. If you don’t deglaze the pot properly before moving on to the pressure cooking phase, the pot will give the burn notice. To prevent this, make sure you scrap up all the browned bits before turning on the pressure cook.

instant pot burn

What To Do When You Get the Burn Notice?

The Instant Pot will automatically stop cooking. Sometimes it might cool down and then restart cooking once it’s cooled, but it’s always a good idea to heed the warning right away and make sure there aren’t any issues with your pressure cooker, before you continue cooking. After all, a little bit of caution will prevent any issues.

Follow these steps to ensure safety when your Instant Pot shows the burn alert:

1. Cancel Cooking and Unplug

First and foremost, cancel cooking and turn your instant pot off. Unplug your device. 

Be cautious while doing this. Your pot may be hot to touch on the outside as well. We suggest using mittens while handling the Pot. 

2. Allow the pot to cool

Usually the burn notice happens because the pot has gotten too hot or some bits of food are burning on the bottom of the pot. It’s not a great idea to start poking and prodding at the machine while it’s that hot, so give it 5 minutes to cool down before proceeding.

3. Check the steam release valve

If it is in the venting position this might be what caused the burn notice. However, we recommend following the rest of the steps as well. 

4. Check the lid

If the pot is pressurized, let out the steam. After all the steam has been released, take the lid off. You should look for two things now. Use caution when touching the parts of the pot, as they can still be quite hot. Always use insulated mits to touch anything.

a. Check whether the sealing ring is placed properly and evenly. A damaged ring can also cause the pressure to release.

b. Check if there is food lodged in the steam release valve. Sometimes food can get stuck from the inside, so it is always a good idea to ensure it’s clean.

4. Check the bottom of the pot

One of the most common issues that activates the burn notice is burned or stuck food on the bottom of the pot. This can happen because of a lack of water, or a thick sauce, or if you used the saute mode and didn’t deglaze the pan. To fix this issue, you may have to remove the food from the pot and deglaze the pot to get the browned food off the bottom.

scorched food on instant pot
Food is burned on the bottom of the inner pot

5. Check the heating element

The heating element should remain clean at all times. Make sure no food has spilled on it. I’ve had the burn notice go off because there was some oil on the bottom of the pot that transferred to the heating element. It can be easy to clean it off and continue cooking, however.

6. Add more liquid

If you suspect lack of liquid caused the burn signal, add more water to the pot. If the sauces you have added were thick you should add more thin liquid, like water or broth.

However, if you think the liquid content was enough when you started cooking and some other issue triggered the burn mode, like the vent was not set to sealing, you should still add more water. Chances are your pot contents dehydrated when the steam escaped. 

After following these steps, return to pressure cooking. 

>> You might be interested in How to Clean a Burnt Instant Pot Liner.

How to Avoid Getting the Burn Notice

instant pot pork roast

The burn notice can really be off-putting at times, especially when you are on a tight schedule. To prevent losing precious time, make sure you follow the following tips.

  • Always double-check your sealing ring, float, and steam release valve. Make sure there isn’t any food or oil on the bottom of the pot or on the heating element.
  • If you ooked vegetables or meats on sauté mode, be sure to adequately deglaze the pot before pressure cooking. Add water or any other thin liquid and scrape the bottom of your pot thoroughly before setting it to pressure cook.
  • When cooking thick sauces, make sure you also add a thin liquid, which is necessary for the Instant Pot to pressurize easily.
  • Ingredients such as cornstarch and diary can thicken and curdle during pressure cooking. Always add them after you have done pressure cooking. 

Conclusion

Getting the burn notice can be terrifying, however, if you follow these guidelines you will never have to see a burn sign again. Taking a little more care while handling your Instant Pot will ensure perfect cooking each time. It might look time-consuming at first, but trust us, you will develop muscle memory of these precautions in no time.

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instant pot burn notice

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