If you’ve used your Instant Pot long enough, chances are you might have received the dreaded Instant Pot burn message. In fact, it’s one of the most common comments we receive for troubleshooting on Instant Pot Eats.
Most people simply don’t know why they get the burn message, and it stops the pot from cooking for good reason: nobody wants burnt food. While this function is ultimately very handy and makes cooking quality food easier, it can be pretty annoying if you have no idea why you’re getting it.
In this post, we will discuss what the Instant Pot burn message means, how to prevent it and why it happens – sometimes unexpectedly.
First, we see this problem most with recipes that use quite a bit of liquid like pasta, chili, rice and salsa/sauce-based dishes. We know that the reason the burn sensor switches to ON is due to overall temperature. The pot is ‘smart,’ so it will detect a high-end temperature on the bottom of the pot and send the message automatically.
It varies from model to model, but older versions will often send an ‘overheat’ message while newer ones will send a ‘burn’ message. It’s also worth noting that many bloggers have noticed readers with newer versions of the Instant Pot experience the error more often, despite making changes or using tips to prevent it.
COMMON INSTANT POT BURN MESSAGE REASONS
1. Sugary foods
You might notice that sugar-based sauces like barbecue or tomato sauce will increase the likelihood of burns. This is likely due to the fact that sugar will caramelise and increase the temperature, especially on the bottom of the pot as crystallisation happens. If you notice that this is a consistent issue for you, I recommend using a bit of water to cut sugary sauces with. It’s also helpful to use non-sugary liquid on the bottom, and use a tomato-based sauce to layer on top so it doesn’t come in contact with the bottom of the pot.
2. Sauté function
Some users report only seeing the burn message if they first used the saute function then try to cook with high pressure. It’s also more likely to occur while cooking recipes using fewer amounts of liquid. This may be because the pot holds more heat prior to sealing, so the bottom reaches that higher end of the temperature threshold sooner, preventing the ability to cook food once the lid is sealed. You should let the Instant Pot cool off a bit between switching functions to prevent this from happening.
3. The lid is loose
You’ll likely notice that your lid isn’t sealed properly prior to the burn message showing up, but if not, it can increase the chances of receiving the error. This will essentially mean you’re losing steam (and liquid) through the lid and the bottom is more likely to burn in short order. Make sure your lid is sealed tight and no steam or liquid is sputtering from the top. If you have sealing issues time after time, I recommend purchasing a new seal ring that will fit on nice and tight.
4. Not enough liquid
Perhaps one of the most common issues is not adding enough liquid. Even if the recipe only specifies a certain amount, you can almost always bypass the burn message by adding more liquid. Try simply adding ½ cup at a time to mitigate the issue until it stops coming up, and make note of that in your own recipe collection. Again, this may be more common with newer Instant Pots, and you don’t know if the blogger or cookbook author has an older version that their recipe works perfectly fine in. While recipes are meant to make things easier, sometimes, it takes a little trial and error on your end.
5. The liquid is too thick
Like with sugary sauces, a thicker liquid will stick to the bottom and cook faster than water boils. You can cut thick sauces with sugar or layer them on top of the rest of the food you’re cooking.
6. Cooking with dairy
Dairy is very easy to burn, so you should almost always add it after the fact. Don’t cook with thickeners like milk, cream, cream cheese or sour cream. Otherwise, you can use the pot-in-pot method to cook those tricky components separately without having them directly touch the bottom of the pot.
7. The bottom is dirty
While those brown, burnt bits on the bottom can be absolutely delicious, it’s important to wash the pot thoroughly or deglaze the pot prior to cooking with it. Otherwise, it will detect that leftover food burning once the pot reaches peak temperatures. Make sure that if you need to scrape the bottom, you do so with a wooden utensil so as not to damage the pot.
8. Starches are touching the bottom
Rice and pasta will easily burn to the bottom of the pot, so ensuring that there is enough liquid is a good start. If you’re cooking a one-pot meal that also contains other ingredients, try layering starchy components on top while still ensuring they are submerged in liquid.
9. The vent is letting out steam
It’s an easy mistake to make! Leaving the vent open will release liquid during quick evaporation while the pot is cooking on high pressure, so always make sure the vent is closed when cooking.
10. Food in all the wrong places
Make sure there isn’t anything stuck in between the heating element and the pot prior to cooking every time. Give it a quick cleaning every so often to make sure even the crumbs and burnt material isn’t giving you a hard time and causing the burn message to appear.
11. Size matters
Try to double-check which size Instant Pot model the recipe author used to develop their recipe. A 3-quart recipe will differ from a 6-quart or 8-quart recipe in terms of liquid needed. Double up on water for each size increase different from the recipe. Otherwise, reduce the liquid used if you’re using a smaller model.
12. Do a quick reset
If all else fails, start over. Sometimes, you just need to turn it off and turn it on again to prevent the burn message from appearing. Before you do so, make sure you release all pressure from the pot prior to opening the lid.
If you do end up with some burnt food, the easiest way to remove it is to deglaze the pot with water. If you have a lot of burnt food on the bottom, you’ll likely need to soak it in hot, soapy water for a bit before using the pot again.
If you need to use more liquid than desired for the burn message to not appear, we recommend draining some at the end and thickening the remainder of the liquid with cornstarch or tapioca starch, then reducing the liquid on saute mode to achieve a less viscous final result. Of course, if you’re simply using water, you can drain off the entirety of the excess instead.
Finally, many of these problems can be avoided by using the pot-in-pot method or using a trivet to cook. The only caveat is that this doesn’t work for all foods. However, for many recipes, these accessories can make things a lot easier by steaming through ingredients rather than cooking them on the hot surface that detects overheating.
MORE INSTANT POT CONTENT
- Learn how to clean your Instant Pot
- How to do Instant Pot water test & why do it?
- Best Instant Pot Accessories
- We test Instant Pot air fryer & here are the results
- Everything you can do with Instant Pot blender
I hope this article helps you troubleshoot if you’re receiving the burn message. Please leave a comment if you have any additional questions. Happy cooking!
You can find more information on the Instant Pot official website here and here.
My brand new 8-quart Instant Pot never reaches the “cooking” cycle when using the slow cooker function. I tried to cook a plain, simple pot roast with a 9-hour low setting. It got to the third “pre-heating” stage but after 6-hours never reached cooking level. I reset it to use the manufacturer’s default setting of “high” with the same results.
Am I doing something wrong or did I just buy a faulty unit?
Hey Glenda, not sure about this issue to be honest, best to contact the Instant Pot official customer support team.
Getting “burn” message when making chili verde (diced pork, onions, green enchilada sauce, puréed tomatillos). This has happened with 2 different pots: 6 quart and 8 quart. Trying it now in the 6 quart pot at low pressure and temperature. Any correlation with temperature and pressure settings?
Hey Dough, it could be that the sauce is quite thick and gets over-caramelised (happens to tomatoes/enchiladas) and it gets burnt slightly. Or, if you Saute the onions and pork first, the pot isn’t deglazed and there are some little overcooked or burnt pieces of onion or pork, which then continue to cook under pressure and burn further. My suggestion is to Saute onions and pork first, then add a little stock or water to deglaze the pot, stir through and scrape all the bits from the bottom. Then add your sauce and tomatillo puree on top and spread it but don’t stir all the way through (they will sink down during cooking). That often prevents the Burn error.
to stop food burn message put in the food first put on lid and then set the cooking process
I cooked rice in my instant pot ultra for the first time.used the suggested 1 cup rice one cup water with 4 mins timing on high pressure and got the burnt message.Salvaged it by quickly releasing the pressure.tRice got stuck to the bottom of the inner pot .Quite disappointed. Used white long grain rice.Any suggestions
I have a 4 quart Instapot and I’ve cooked two different receipts. Both have came out very soupy as if the liquid does not absorb. Any idea on what I could be doing wrong? I’m really excited about cooking many meals in this.
Thank you for your help.
The Food Burn message came up so I took some of the Chili out and put in water instead, over a cup. Not the Chili I want. Even that did not work. I got the food burn message again. I did cook the beans first then I added the raw veggies. Do I need to clean the pan out after cooking the beans before I cook the chili with spices? On the next attempt, I just did the pressure cook for 14 minutes more ( I forgot to stir the food but no problem) since it had cooked some already and it made it through the 14 minutes without getting the food burn message. If you just push pressure cook does the food burn message not come up or was I just lucky? On my old generic electric pressure cooker like Instapot, I never had this problem.
If the Instapot were truly smart it would just turn down the heat a little and not interrupt the cooking with the food burn message.
So I have to be present to monitor the cooking. That does not seem like a timesaver to me. I’ll try the coffee filter in the bottom next time though that seems like a strange ingredient for chili.
Fantastic suggestion. Your explanation that, ” coffee paper filter seems to absorb water and transfer it nicely to the metal for boiling.” makes great sense. Some of my favorite Italian recipes get burned so often. Thank you so much.
Ugh! It took me 1 1/2 hours to cook a 5 minute curry! I kept getting the burn message. I looked forward to the Instant Pot saving me time. I sauteed the vegetables then added tomatoes, chicken and spices. Adding water or more liquid would end up making the meal soupy.
I bought a mini, and one of the main things was to cook Jasmine rice, but since day one, I have gotten a BURN message as soon as the pot pressurized.
After dozens of failed workarounds, I found a solution.
Today, I used a coffee paper filter at the bottom, then I added the rice and then I added the water, and stirred the water and rice a little bit.
First time, I got a full normal rice cycle with no issues..
The coffee paper filter seems to absorb water and transfer it nicely to the metal for boiling.