Have you ever gotten the Instant Pot burn message? Confused on why? I’ll explain why it happens and what to do about it.
The Instant Pot burn message: why it happens and what to do about it
What is the burn message?
If your Instant Pot is trying to come to pressure and you see the word BURN on the display you might be wondering what the heck is going on. Don’t worry. I’ll talk you through it.
According to the makers of the Instant Pot, “Under pressure, the inner pot can reach temperatures well above the boiling point of water, and it’s important that things don’t get too hot. The purpose of the Overheat Protection feature is not only to help salvage your dinner, but also to protect the cooker itself.”
Basically the Overheat Protection feature is one of many safety features that the Instant Pot has been designed with. So though it may not seem like it at the time you see the word BURN light up, it’s actually a good feature of this popular electric pressure cooker.
Why does it happen and how do I prevent the burn warning message?
The best way I’ve heard this question explained was from an administrator on the Instant Pot community FB page. Instead of trying to explain it in my own words I’m just going to quote her.
“To avoid getting a burn warning on your pot or a countdown without pressure, or if you get one and need to fix it, you just need to understand the basics of how pressure cooking works. The liquid inside the pot boils, which creates the steam and ultimately the pressure because it’s in a sealed pot where the steam can’t escape. So to successfully cook in it, you need liquid that can boil without scorching….it needs to be on the bottom and water consistency. Burn problems come in when you start adding things that thicken and stir them into your liquid (examples would be tomato sauce or other tomato products, cream soups, thick sauces, etc). When you do that, now that liquid is too thick to boil without burning on the bottom of the pot. Once that happens, the pot will never come to pressure until you scrape off anything burned on the bottom and add more liquid to thin it out.
One helpful way to think of it is this: could I put this on the stove in a pot and bring it to a boil and never stir, and not have it burn? If the answer is no (lasagna, chili, spaghetti sauce, gravy, etc) then it won’t work in the Instant Pot either without some work-arounds.
One of the best work-arounds (besides pot-in-pot or PIP) is layering. So for something like spaghetti, you put your meat in the bottom, then your pasta, then your water, then pour the sauce on top and don’t stir. This lets you cook with a thick sauce without it thickening your thin liquid and keeps it off the bottom of the pot.
Keep in mind that casserole-type dishes (thick, layered dishes like lasagna, taco pies, egg bakes, etc.) do not work directly in the pot because they just absorb your liquid, leaving nothing to pressurize the pot. You need to do them pot-in-pot, which means in another dish inside the pot on the trivet, with water in the bottom.”
What accessories do I need to use the Pot-in-Pot method?
You can use anything oven-safe. Many people use 7″ cake pans*, Corningware, stainless steel pans*, etc. And did you know that the 3 quart Instant Pot liner fits inside the 6 and 8 quart Instant Pots? And there is a ceramic non-stick version for about $15*. It is fantastic for pot-in-pot cooking!
I love using the OXO sling/trivet* to lower my pans into the pot and easily retrieve them. This is probably my favorite Instant Pot accessory!
My Instant Pot says BURN on the display. What do I do now?
First off don’t panic. Most likely your dinner can be salvaged.
What are you cooking and how long does it take? If it’s something that cooks quickly, like oatmeal, you can ignore the message and let the Instant Pot finish cooking.
If you’re cooking something that takes longer like chili or roast then you’ll need to fix the problem on why you got the burn message in the first place.
- Turn off the Instant Pot and move the valve to venting. When you can, open the lid.
- Use hot pads to remove the inner pot from the base. Check to see if anything is stuck to the heating element or on the bottom of the inner pot.
- Inspect the sealing ring. It should be firmly in place. Look to see if the steam release and float valve are working properly. (You might also want to read —>> How to deep clean your Instant Pot
- Check your food to see if there is scorching. Stir carefully and remove anything that is overcooked. Scrape any scorched ingredients off the bottom of the pot and discard.
- Add more cooking liquid. You don’t need to add a lot, just add enough to thin things out (1 cup of liquid for 3 quart, 1½ cups for 6 Quart and 2 cups for 8 Quart).
- Place the inner pot into the base and cover the pot. Secure the lid and make sure the valve is set to sealing. Then start the program again. Your food is already hot, so it won’t take very long to come back up to pressure. After stirring and adding water it should be able to finish cooking without overheating again. If it does, repeat these steps.
The water was all gone
A woman asked, “I made a pot roast, chicken pot pie and tried to do hard boiled eggs and the water ran out and I got the burn notice!”
If this happens to you the water shouldn’t be gone. It shouldn’t be able to all evaporate before the pot comes to pressure. Sure you’ll have some steam release from the valve before the pot reaches pressure but not all of it. Are you using at least 1-2 cups of water? The pot probably wasn’t sealed properly, or the vent was open.
I hope this article helped you! Let me know what other Instant Pot questions you have and I’ll do my best to answer them.
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What Pressure Cooker Do You Use?
I use a 6 quart Instant Pot Duo 60 7 in 1*. I love this Instant Pot because it has the yogurt making function which I use almost weekly. It has two pressure settings (high and low), and there are also little slots in the handles so that you can rest the lid there instead of putting it down on your counter-top.
*Karen Petersen is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.