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

Electric pressure cooking is all the rage. Everyone either has an Instant Pot or wants one, and for good reason. Not only does an Instant Pot maximize the time we spend in the kitchen creating great meals, it also intensifies flavor profiles in a big way. (I don’t know about you, but I love it when my fam HOGS DOWN on something I’ve made because it’s EXTRA delish and flavorful.)  Within mere minutes an Instant Pot can have a healthy, delicious meal on the table for our family, using fewer resources and more whole foods to do so. Hallelujah!

So what happens when your “magic machine” isn’t so magical? Your family is starving, demanding dinner, and for some idiotic reason, your Instant Pot is refusing to cooperate. What the What??!

Below, I’m sharing the top 6 reasons I’ve discovered that can keep your Instant Pot from pressurizing. I’ve experienced all of these at one time or another, and you likely will too at some point. So before you toss your Instant Pot out in frustration, consider which reason is likely your culprit and you’ll be ready. 

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

1. There’s Not Enough Liquid on the Top or the Bottom of  the Pot.

**Open the electric pressure cooker (EPC), add a bit more liquid; lock lid into place and begin again.  Remember! Pressure is made from steam; if there’s not enough liquid on the very bottom or the very top (like on top of your ingredients) of the pot to circulate and create steam, your Instant Pot absolutely cannot pressurize. Always be sure there’s a minimum of 1 cup of liquid inside the pot before you lock the lid into place to begin pressurizing. (**Please note:  This rule of thumb changes if you are cooking grains, beans, or pasta.  When cooking these ingredients in the Instant Pot, you will need to be sure they are fully covered by about 1″ with liquid.  Refer to your recipe for more details when cooking grains, beans, or pasta; these are all delicious cooked in your Instant Pot, by the way.)

2. Food is Stuck to The Bottom of the Pot.

**Let’s say you’re browning off  pork chops in a bit of oil and one of them has somehow managed to partially adhere itself to the bottom of the pot somehow.  When you try to pressurize, the particles that are stuck to the bottom of the pot very often restrict the circulation of liquid, and if you’ll remember from reason #1, without the circulation of liquids, no steam is created, so your Instant Pot cannot pressurize! Here’s what to do in this case: Carefully unlock the lid. Using a spatula, give a stir to gently rearrange everything inside the pot, checking to see if something is stuck to the bottom. If so, loosen its grip, add more liquid, if needed, then start the pressurizing process again.

Easy Instant Pot Enchilada Casserole

3. The Sauce is Too Thick.

**So you’ve got a luscious marinara sauce simmering in your Instant Pot.  Delighted because it looks and small so good, you decide it’s time to add the meatballs to the sauce. After locking the lid into place, you soon discover that your Instant Pot won’t pressurize…what the heck?! Odds are, that beautiful  sauce is just too thick and therefore can’t circulate properly to generate the steam needed to create the pressure to pressurize.  To address this problem, carefully unlock the lid; thin the marinara sauce by adding some broth. Now, lock the lid into place and begin to pressurize once again.  Chances are, with that sauce now much thinner, your pot can pressurize perfectly.  After you’ve cooked the meatballs, release the pressure,  and carefully unlock the lid.  You can now thicken the marinara sauce by whisking in a little cornstarch slurry, simmering it just a minute or two until the sauce thickens right back up again. Voila!

4. The Gasket Isn’t Fitting Properly.

**Open your Instant Pot to check inside the lid; adjust the gasket as needed, making sure it fits snugly against the lid and fits tightly around the insert. Lock the lid back into place, and start the pressurizing process again. If there’s a gap in the gasket anywhere inside the lid, this allows steam to escape and the Instant Pot cannot pressurize properly. FYI – once your gasket becomes yellowed and/or limp from use, you will want to purchase a replacement gasket for your Instant Pot to keep it in tip-top shape and fitting snugly.

5. Steam is Escaping From the Valve When it Shouldn’t Be.

**Use a long-handled spoon to touch the valve from the side, gently adjusting it a bit. By “nestling” the valve into the area where it’s located on the lid, you can often put a stop to random steam that’s escaping, allowing your Instant Pot to pressurize. You will notice that there are indicators on or around the valve that tell where the valve placement should be for CREATING pressure, as well as for RELEASING pressure. Lining up these indicators should help the valve to seal off, keeping steam from escaping from your Instant Pot. Just know that sometimes the indicators appear to be lined up just perfectly, but for whatever reason, the valve just needs to be “nestled” a bit so it can settle down.

6. The Pot is Over-Filled.

**Filling your Instant Pot past 2/3 full can cause one of two sad mishaps:
1. It can’t fully pressurize.
2. Or, it does pressurize (somehow) and when you release the pressure, you wind up with a huge, spewing mess of soup all over your kitchen! An overfilled Instant Pot is an accident waiting to happen, so take care to never go past the 2/3 line, especially if you’re cooking soups or stews – it’s a horrible mess to clean up.

For additional help, please feel free to email me here:  Together we can figure it out and help you conquer that Instant Pot!

Let’s Get You PRESSURE Cookin’,
Chef Alli 

Click on the photos for links to more delicious Electric Pressure Cooker recipes.
You can also find all of my pressure cooker recipes here: Electric Pressure Cooker Recipes

Or try some of my Top Ten EPC recipes:

Electric Pressure Cooker Breakfast Monkey Bread
Big Bold Beef Carnitas
Electric Pressure Cooker Beef and Cider Stew

Note: Although electric pressure cooking works technically the same way (using steam) for every pressure cooker, these guidelines may not apply to all pressure cooker models. Please refer to the user manual of your particular brand/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

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