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

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.  Who doesn’t love that? I know I do! 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!  #InstantPot #ElectricPressureCooker

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. And, I love cooking at least 2 different kinds of meat each 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 wonder when dinner is ever going to be done….aaarrrggghhh. This blog post addresses the 6 main causes that keep your pot from pressurizing. Once you get over the hump, I promised you’re golden! You’ll be a pressure cooking fool and you’ll never look back!

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What’s So Magical About The Instant Pot?

  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.

Which Instant Pot is the Best?

I’ve got 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.  This is something you don’t want to deal with when you are first learning how to use your Instant Pot, truly.  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 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!

For quick reference, click below to print my FREE Instant Pot Troubleshooting Guide now. Then read on for a more in-depth look at what might be ailing your Instant Pot!

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

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Instant Pot Steel Cut Oatmeal

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

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

1. Here’s Why It Can’t Pressurize: There’s Not Enough Liquid In Your Instant Pot.

Instant Pots (all electric pressure cookers, actually, 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 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 liquid by 1″.  Do not stir this liquid into the grains, beans or pasta! Refer to your recipe for more details when cooking grains, beans, or pasta; these are all delicious cooked in your Instant Pot. 

Sweet and Sticky Chicken Wings in the Electric Pressure Cooker

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

2. Here’s Why It Can’t Pressurize: There are Ingredients 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 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 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, add more liquid, if needed, then start the pressurizing process again.

Instant Pot 5-Minute Italian Pasta

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

3. Here’s Why It Can’t Pressurize: 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 (pre-cooked) meatballs 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….what the heck?? Oh no – hat luscious meatball sauce is just too thick keeping it from circulating to make the steam the Instant Pot needs to pressurize.

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


Easy Instant Pot Enchilada Casserole

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

4. Here’s Why It Can’t Pressurize: 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 lid or because your gasket has been used so much it can’t hold it’s shape any longer, leaving gaps where the steam can escape. (When you examine the gasket, you will probably see that the gasket has yellowed in color quite a lot and when you lift it up, it shapes into an oval instead of being a round circle. This means it’s time to replace the gasket. You can find these on Amazon or online at Instant Pot.)

The Solution: Unlock your Instant Pot and lift the lid, checking the 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. 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. Here’s Why it Can’t Pressurize: As the Instant Pot is Trying to Come up to Pressure, Steam is Escaping From the Valve When it Shouldn’t Be.

This is a signal that the valve may need to be adjusted a bit since steam should only be escaping from the valve when you are performing a quick release at the end of the cooking process when the timer sounds.

The Solution: Use a long-handled spoon to touch the valve from the side, gently adjusting it a bit. I call this “nestling” the valve into the area where it’s located on the lid, which will very often put a stop to random steam that’s escaping. Once you adjust the valve and steam is no longer spewing, you will notice that all of a sudden, your pot pressurizes!

If your valve is still letting steam escape and won’t pressurize, check the placement of the valve.  There should be an indicator on the valve (and sometimes on the Instant Pot lid in this area, too, depending on the model) that shows where the valve needs to line up to pressurize, and also where it needs to line up for pressure to release. Adjust this accordingly.

Hearty Ravioli Soup hits the spot! (And only takes minutes, no matter how you cook it!)

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

6. Here’s Why It Can’t Pressurize: The Instant Pot is Over-Filled.

Filling your Instant Pot past two-thirds full can cause one of two sad mishaps: it won’t come up to pressure, OR, the post somehow manages to pressurize even though it’s overfilled, and you wind up spewing the soup all over your kitchen when you perform the quick release when the timer sounds at the end of the cooking process.  EWWWW.  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:

For additional Instant Pot help, please feel free to email me at the email posted above. Together, I’m confident we can figure out the trouble you’re having and get you over the hump.  I want you to conquer your Instant Pot so that you’ll cook with it over and over again!

**Please Note: The troubleshooting tips posted in this article may not 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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