Ever wonder why your food burns in the Instant Pot? Tired of getting that BURN message? I will explain the five main reasons your food burns, and how to avoid getting that dreaded Burn Message.
Why You Should Trust How I Know Why Your Food Burns In The Instant Pot
- Cookbook Author: I've written 5 Instant Pot Cookbooks that have been authorized by Instant Pot.
- Efficient: That's the only way I know how to do things in the kitchen. Who has time to waste when you're trying to get food on the table? I'm known for my ruthless efficiency and use the pot in pot cooking method every chance I get.
- Gadget geek!: I'm a self-proclaimed food tech enthusiast and have been known to purchase (and review) just about any kitchen appliance I can get my hands on.
Why Did My Food Burn In The Instant Pot?
There are five different reasons your food burned or you received a burn notification in your Instant Pot. Those reasons are:
- A Bad Recipe
- Type of Ingredients
- A Sticky Fond
- A Non-Performing Seal
- Issues With Your Float Valve
1. A Bad Recipe
It's no secret that cooking with the Instant Pot has become insanely popular. With the increased popularity, a lot of new bloggers and home cooks have started creating recipes to share. Unfortunately a lot of these bloggers and cooks are inexperienced at using their Instant Pots. This has produced some recipes that haven't been tested as thoroughly as they should be.
There are a few ways to determine if a recipe is a bad recipe before you attempt to make it yourself for the first time. These indicators are:
- A lot of steps. One of the perks of cooking with your Instant Pot is the simplicity of the recipes and the ability to set your pot and let it cook for you.
- Multiple pots and pans being dirtied to make one dish. If you have a sink full of dishes after you're done making an Instant Pot recipe, did you really even cook it in your Instant Pot? An efficient Instant Pot recipe will ask you to do everything right inside of the liner and will utilize the Pot in Pot cooking method.
- Adding too much water. Most recipes do not require a lot of liquid to create enough steam to bring it to pressure. It is essential to add water for the pot to come to pressure, but a lot of it will come from the ingredients themselves.
- If you see a recipe that calls for you to saute off the extra water after the cooking time, it's a pretty good indicator that there was something wrong with that recipe.
- Nonuniform cooking times. If you have any experience at all using a pressure cooker, you probably have an idea of how long it takes to make some of your favorite foods in the Instant Pot. If the cooking times seem drastically off from anything you've ever seen mentioned in a trusted recipe it will likely burn.
Check Out One Of My Instant Pot Cookbooks
One guaranteed way to make sure you're going to get a recipe that turns out perfect every time is to use a recipe that has been thoroughly tested by a reputable blogger.
If you want to try one of my tested Instant Pot recipes, grab a copy of one of my five Instant Pot cookbooks.
2. Types Of Ingredients
If you tried to create some of your own recipes and are wondering "Why Did My Food Burn", take a look at what type of ingredients you were using. Some ingredients do not perform as well under pressure as others.
Here are a few ingredients you will want to use caution with when you add them to an Instant Pot recipe:
- Tomato Sauce
- Tomato Paste
- Cream of Anything Soups
This does not mean that you can't use these ingredients. It just means that you need to take a few extra measures when you include them to prevent your food from burning in the Instant Pot.
How To Use These Ingredients Correctly
If you're using tomato paste, tomato sauce, or a creamy canned soup you will need to ensure you're adding enough thin liquid (such as broth or water) to allow steam to form. Thick liquids like the ones I recommended using caution with are not able to produce enough steam to raise your float valve.
Another thing to remember when you're cooking with these thicker sauces is that you need to avoid putting them at the bottom of your Instant Pot. Try to layer as much as possible. Here's an example of what I mean by this:
If you wanted to make a spaghetti dish in your instant pot, you would:
- Brown hamburger or vegetables with the sauté function.
- Break the pasta into smaller pieces and criss cross it in a layer on top of the hamburger or vegetables.
- Cover the pasta with a layer of tomato sauce.
- Add additional water to help the Instant Pot come to pressure.
- DO NOT STIR. The layers keep the thick liquid away from the bottom of the pot so they do not burn.
3. A Sticky Fond
This is the layer that might be created on the bottom of your Instant Pot liner after you brown or saute something. It's a small layer of caramelization that is created from the natural sugars in your food being exposed to high heat.
If you're curious to learn more about the science of cooking in the Instant Pot, check out my article on the Maillard reaction.
You may be asking yourself: why is a sticky fond bad?
Well, because the Instant Pot is smart and comes with several built in safety functions. It is able to determine if the pot is able to come to pressure by the environment on the inside. If there is any debris stuck to the bottom of your Instant Pot before you attempt to pressure cook something, it will give the Burn notification and stop cooking.
What To Do If You Have A Sticky Fond
It's really a simple fix if you have a sticky fond on the bottom of your Instant Pot liner. Add a small bit of water and rub the bottom of your spoon or spatula against the liner until all of the food particles have dissolved.
Once the food is free from the bottom, you're good to continue the recipe as written.
4. A Non-Performing Seal
The seal is the part of the Instant Pot lid that keeps the steam from escaping the pot. This allows pressure to build for cooking.
However, there are a few things that might cause your sealing ring from performing correctly:
- It is too loose. Your sealing ring should not be able to spin when it is secured in your Instant Pot lid. If it does, it is likely too loose. If your sealing ring is too loose, it will allow pressure to escape and may cause your Instant Pot to give the Burn notification.
- It is cracked or broken. If there is a crack or a tear in your sealing ring, it will allow pressure to escape.
- Missing seal. We've all been there. You take your sealing ring out to clean it, toss it in the dishwasher and forget to put it back in. Without the sealing ring in place pressure will not be able to form inside of your Instant Pot.
Where Should I See Steam Coming From?
It is common for steam to escape from around the floating valve until the Instant Pot fully comes to pressure. It is not normal to have steam escape from the sides of the lid. If that is happening there is an issue with the seal.
5. Issues With Your Float Valve
The float valve is the little button that raises and lowers to indicate whether your Instant Pot is currently under pressure. If it is not raising, the Instant Pot will give the Burn notification. This is a safety measure. This keeps steam from building inside of the pot. Here are a few things that could cause your float valve from raising as it should:
- Not enough water. If there's not enough water inside of your pot to produce steam, the float valve will not raise. Steam is what forces the button up from the resting position.
- You forgot to turn the pressure valve from Venting to Sealing. Even the most experienced Instant Pot users have been guilty of this. So, if you do not set your pressure valve from venting to sealing, steam will escape and not enough pressure will form inside of the pot to cause the float valve to rise.
- I enjoy the feature on the Instant Pot Ultra that automatically seals the Instant Pot lid when you close it. It's good if you can be forgetful like me.
- Debris stuck under the float valve. There is a small mechanism on the inside of the Instant Pot lid that needs to be cleaned. If you are having issues with the float valve operating properly, you may need to clean this mechanism. Food particles can be lodged inside of this while your Instant Pot is under pressure.
More On The Science Of Cooking
- Maillard Reaction
- What Is Sous Vide?
- Pot In Pot Cooking
- Why Did I Get The Instant Pot Burn Message?
- 6 Most Important Buttons On Your Instant Pot
All of the factors I listed above can be a reason for why your got the Burn notification in your Instant Pot. However, the easy explanation for every time it happens is that you didn't use enough water or thin liquids.
Just remember that:
You need water to create steam. You need steam to create pressure. If your pot is not coming to pressure, your Instant Pot will give the burn message.
If you've been asking yourself "Why did my food burn in the Instant Pot" I hope this article was helpful. And if you have friends that have had the same issues as you, please share this on Facebook and Pinterest so they can keep their food from burning in the Instant Pot too.
Originally Published August 21, 2020