The Top 6 Reasons Your Instant Pot Won’t Pressurize…..and What To Do About It 

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6 Reasons Why Your Electric Pressure Cooker Isn't Pressurizing!
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Electric pressure cooking is all the rage. Everyone has an Instant Pot, it seems. This small appliance work-horse can really crank out meals in a hurry, fully maximizing the time we spend in our kitchen.  This list of The Top 6 Reasons Your Instant Pot Won’t Pressurize can be a real life-saver. Post it in a handy spot in your kitchen for easy reference when your Instant Pot is misbehaving!  

An open face beef sub sandwich with sauce.

The Top 6 Reasons Your Instant Pot Won’t Pressurize and What to do About It

PLEASE NOTE: WE DO USE REFERRAL AND AFFILIATE LINKS FOR ITEMS CHEF ALLI LOVES AND RECOMMENDS.

Howdy! Chef Alli Here. Let’s Get You Cookin’…..Shall We? 🙂

Yes, the Instant Pot is the best small appliance in the land, if you ask me. I didn’t expect to like this method of cooking as much as I do, either.  But guess what?? It’s been a total-game changer at my house when it comes to my family and gettin’ dinner on the table!

I didn’t have a good system set up for using a slow cooker like some Moms definitely do, but the Instant Pot fully enabled me to make several different 30 minute (or less!) meals just as soon as I got home.

Plus, I love being able to quickly cook a couple good hunks of  meat on the  weekend in my Instant Pot so I can start the work week out armed and ready for dinnertime.

I will admit that there definitely IS a learning curve to cooking in the Instant Pot and one of the biggest problems can be when the darn thing won’t pressurize – it’s totally frustrating, especially when  the family is wondering when dinner is ever going to be done….aaarrrggghhh.

This blog post covers the 6 main causes that keep your Instant Pot from pressurizing. Once you get over the hump, I promised you’re golden! You’ll be a pressure cooking fool and never look back. 

**Click on any of the photos below to find those specific Instant Pot recipes!

7 Reasons the Instant Pot is Pretty Darn Magical: 

  1. Because foods cook more quickly, they retain more of their nutrients.

  2. Because nearly all of the foods that can be cooked in an Instant Pot are WHOLE foods, we eat better.

  3. It’s energy efficient.

  4. The kitchen stays cool when cooking during the hot summer months.

  5. It saves time when it comes to preparing meals and getting dinner on the table. (Consequently, this keeps the family happy, too.)

  6. Because the cooking is done all in one pot, there’s much less dinner clean up involved.

Top 6 reasons why your Instant Pot/Electric Pressure Cooker won't pressurize!

Which Instant Pot is the Best?

I’ve use both the 6-quart Instant Pot and the 8-quart Instant Pot. Because most Instant Pot recipes have been created for the 6-quart Instant Pot (this is because the 6-quart Instant Pot was first one on the market) I recommend that you start there.

Many of the recipes for the 6-quart Instant Pot don’t cook the same in the 8-quart Instant Pot – you have to figure out adjustments to make some of the recipes work. 

Making adjustments to cook in an 8-qt Instant Pot is something you don’t want to deal with when you are first learning how to use your Instant Pot. Once you’ve mastered the 6-quart Instant Pot, THEN jump out there and get an 8-quart if you decide you need one that’s bigger.

A 3-quart Instant Pot is also now available for those who are cooking for 1-2 people and therefore want to cook smaller batches of food.  I don’t have the 3-quart Instant Pot, so I can’t really speak to how well it works.  Again, I still recommend you begin with the 6-quart Instant Pot when you are first learning!

So. Why Won’t My Instant Pot Pressurize????

Below, I’m sharing the top 6 reasons that can keep your Instant Pot from pressurizing. I’ve experienced all of these instances at one time or another, and you will likely experience some of the same issues at some point in time – it’s just par for the course and part of the learning curve for using an Instant Pot.  So before you toss your Instant Pot out in frustration, consider which reason is likely the culprit and you’ll be  armed and ready.  Read on!


Click the button below to print my FREE Instant Pot Troubleshooting Guide now. Keep this handy quick reference taped to the inside of a cupboard for quick when you need help with your Instant Pot…right now!

Instant Pot Won't Pressurize? Print a FREE troubleshooting guide now and get dinner done!


The Top 6 Reasons Your Instant Pot Won’t Pressurize….and What to Do About it.

1. There’s Not Enough Liquid Inside the Instant Pot.

Instant Pots (all electric pressure cookers, no matter which brand) use steam to create pressure. This steam is created from the liquid that’s inside your pot; as the liquid circulates, it creates steam and that’s what creates the pressure needed for your Instant Pot. No liquid, no pressurization, it’s THAT simple!

The Solution: Open the Instant Pot and add 1/2 cup – 1 cup more liquid. And absolutely DO NOT STIR any ingredients in the Instant Pot at the time that you add more liquid. Warning:  This is one of the most difficult things NOT to do – it just LOOKS WRONG in there. You must resist the urge to stir! Once you’ve added more liquid to the Instant Pot, securely lock the lid into place and begin the pressurization process once again.

**Please note:  The majority of foods and ingredients cooked in the Instant Pot (or any electric pressure cooker) will require only enough liquid to cover the bottom of the pot.

This rule only changes (for the most part) if you are cooking one of these three foods: grains, beans, or pasta. These three foods need to be fully covered by liquid (broth, water, beer, etc) by one-inch above where they fill up the pot. **Make sure your Instant Pot is never filled more then two-thirds full of ingredients. 

Once you’ve added the liquid that covers the grains, beans or pasta in the Instant Pot, DO NOT STIR!   If you stir this liquid into the ingredients, it moves to the center of the ingredients in the pot, right where it cannot circulate to create pressure. (See Reason #1 in this post!) 

a bowl of pepperoni pizza pastaTop 6 reasons why your Instant Pot/Electric Pressure Cooker won't pressurize!

2. There are Ingredients Stuck to The Bottom of the Pot.

Let’s say you’re using the saute setting available on your Instant Pot to brown pork chops in a bit of oil. Unbeknownst to you, one of those chops somehow manages to partially adhere itself to the bottom of the pot. 

Guess what happens? When you try to pressurize the Instant Pot, those ingredients that are stuck to the bottom of the pot restrict the circulation of liquid. Without the circulation of the liquids in the pot, no steam is created, so your Instant Pot cannot pressurize. No pressure, no dinner – bad news, right??

The Solution: Carefully unlock the Instant Pot lid. Using a silicone or wooden spatula, give a stir to gently rearrange everything inside the pot, checking to see if ingredients are stuck to the bottom of the pot. If so, loosen their grip with the spatula.  If there is now no liquid in the bottom of the pot, add just enough more liquid to cover the bottom of the pot (approx. 1/2 – 1 cup of liquid is need.) Now begin the pressurizing process again.

3. The Sauce is Too Thick.

So you’ve got a luscious meatball sauce simmering in your Instant Pot.  Delighted because it looks and smells so good, you decide it’s time to add the meatballs (already pre-cooked if you’re adding them to the sauce) to the sauce so you can meld the flavors together as they pressurize for a few minutes. All of a sudden, you get the dreaded “BURN” signal on the Instant Pot’s display and it shuts down…the darn thing won’t pressurize! Here’s why: that luscious meatball sauce is simply too thick keeping it from circulating to make the steam the Instant Pot needs to pressurize.

The Solution: To address this problem, carefully unlock and remove the lid, adding some broth to thin down the sauce inside. Now, lock the Instant Pot lid back into place and begin the process of pressurizing once again.  Now that the sauce much thinner and probably still hot, your pot will pressurize almost at once.  After you’ve cooked the meatballs, release the pressure and carefully unlock and remove Instant Pot lid, giving the meatballs and the sauce a gentle stir. To thicken the meatball sauce back to it’s yummy state, add some cornstarch slurry (made from equal parts cornstarch and warm water) to the pot, whisking it in a little at a time. Using the saute setting on your Instant Pot, simmer the sauce along with the meatballs until everything is nicely thickened once again.  Voila!

A scoop of ground beef and spaghettiTop 6 reasons why your Instant Pot/Electric Pressure Cooker won't pressurize!

4. The Gasket Isn’t Fitting Properly.

As your Instant Pot is trying to pressurize, you notice that steam seems to be escaping from the SIDES of the pot, around the lid.  This is likely because your gasket isn’t securely fitted around the edge of the inside lid, leaving gaps where the steam can escape. 

The Solution: Unlock your Instant Pot and lift the lid, checking the inside edge of the lid where the gasket is located. Adjust the gasket as needed, making sure it fits snugly around the edge of the lid and there are no gaps. Now, lock the Instant Pot lid back into place, beginning the pressurizing process again.

Pressure Cooker ValveTop 6 reasons why your Instant Pot/Electric Pressure Cooker won't pressurize!

5. As the Instant Pot is Trying to Come up to Pressure, Steam is Escaping From the Pressure Release Knob When it Shouldn’t Be.

This is a signal that the pressure release knob may not be set to the SEALING position, where it needs to be.  Also, as your Instant Pot gets older, it will tend to let some steam escape via the pressure release knob when your pot is trying to come up to pressure. If this is the case, the valve just needs adjusted a bit. 

The Solution: First, check the valve to make sure it is set to the indicator position that says SEALING, not VENTING. If it’s set to the proper position and your Instant Pot has some age on it, use a spoon to touch the pressure release knob from the side, gently adjusting it a bit. This sometimes helps the knob to slip down into the area where it’s located on the back of the lid. Performing either one (or both!) of these steps will nearly always make your Instant Pot pressurize almost immediately, providing one of the causes listed above in this post isn’t the actual culprit. 

A tan bowl full of Instant Pot Tuscan Bean Soup with Bacon, garnished with two crostini on top and a spoon on the side.Top 6 reasons why your Instant Pot/Electric Pressure Cooker won't pressurize!

6. The Instant Pot is Over-Filled.

Filling your Instant Pot past two-thirds full can cause one of two sad mishaps: 1. It won’t come up to pressure. Or, the Instant Pot does somehow manage to pressurize (even though it’s overfilled) and you then wind up with a mess. How does that happen? Well, if the Instant Pot is overfilled and manages to pressurize any way, you will likely spew soup all over your kitchen when you perform the quick release….yuck. This has happened in my kitchen before and it’s a total train wreck. 

The Solution: An overfilled Instant Pot is an accident waiting to happen, so take care to never fill it more than two-thirds full, especially when you’re cooking soups or stews.

 

Top 6 reasons why your Instant Pot/Electric Pressure Cooker won't pressurize!

Is your mouth watering? Click on any of the photos for links to those specific Instant Pot recipes!

You can also browse all of my fast and kitchen-friendly Instant Pot recipes here.

Here are a few other Instant Pot recipes to enjoy:

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Let’s Get You Pressure Cookin’,
Chef Alli 

We love hearing from our readers and followers, so leave us a comment if you’d like.  And, if you don’t hear back from us shortly, know that we may not have seen your comment.  Feel free to reach out to us by email:  ChefAlli@ChefAlli.com

**Please Note: The troubleshooting tips posted in this article may not perfectly apply to all electric pressure cooker models. Please refer to the user manual of your particular brand and model for the most accurate troubleshooting tips.

Chef Alli

Chef Alli is a home-grown Kansas girl on a mission to strengthen families through enabling kitchen confidence, educating the family cook, and encouraging better food relationships. She believes with her whole heart that time spent with our loved ones and our overall quality of life is greatly enhanced by nutritious food made at home with simple, wholesome ingredients. She loves being able to connect and share this passion with others through her website, her social media presence, and her coveted speaking engagements.

Blog Comments

My valve you turn to lock the pressure and have it cook right just spins. It doesn’t lock. What am I doing wrong? And it goes all the way around not just from lock and unlock. What do I do?

Thanks for saving my sanity! I wish they included this in the owner manual!

I agree! So glad it was helpful! Chef Alli

valve on pressure cooker does not pop up when cooking for a few minutes I open the lid put it back on and same problem this happens now and than. usually i have on medium heat the valve pops up than i lower the cooking and it is ok . I make a stew had trouble with the valve and my food stuck to bottom of pot glad i did not burn my stew.

Hi Judith – First of all, let me ask if you are using a stove top or an electric pressure cooker? I’m guessing since you mention medium heat, you are using a stove top Pressure cooker? My next question is this: was your stew really thick? This can sometimes keep the liquid from circulating as it needs to to create the steam that creates the pressure. Let me know so I can see if I can help you discover what’s wrong! Chef Alli

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