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

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This list of The Top 6 Reasons Your Instant Pot Won’t Pressurize can be a real lifesaver.

Post it in a handy spot in your kitchen for easy reference when your Instant Pot is misbehaving!  

Instant Pot Rump Roast with potatoes, gravy and asparagus on the side.
Instant Pot Rump Roast

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

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. 

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Yes, the Instant Pot is the best small appliance in the land. I didn’t expect to like this cooking method as much as I do, either. 

But guess what?? It’s been a total game changer at my house regarding my family and getting dinner on the table!

A few of my favorite recipes in the instant pot are Lazy Butt Beef Subs, Rump Roast, Drunken Chicken Nachos, Homemade Yogurt, and Pork Tenderloin with Cranberry Apple Sauce.

I didn’t have a good system for using a slow cooker like some Moms do. So 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 quickly cooking 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 IS a learning curve to cooking in the Instant Pot, and one of the biggest problems can be when the darn thing doesn’t pressurize.

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

A sheet pan full of Drunken Chicken Nachos, hot and ready to eat.
Instant Pot Drunken Chicken Nachos

Getting Your Instant Pot to Pressurize

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, which 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 DO NOT STIR any ingredients in the Instant Pot when you add more liquid.

Warning:  This is one of the most difficult things NOT to do – it just LOOKS WRONG.

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.

Most 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, which is about 1- 1 1/2 cups.

This rule only changes (for the most part) if you are cooking one of these three foods: grains, beans, or pasta.

The liquid (broth, water, beer, etc.) must fully cover these three foods by one inch above where they fill the pot.

Ensure your Instant Pot is never filled with more than two-thirds of the 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!) 

Warm chicken and dumplings in a white bowl, ready to be enjoyed.
Instant Pot Chicken and Dumplings

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 partially manages to adhere to the bottom of the pot. 

Guess what happens? When you try to pressurize the Instant Pot, those ingredients stuck to the bottom of the pot restrict liquid circulation.

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 rearrange everything inside the pot gently.

Check to see if the ingredients are stuck to the bottom of the pot. If so, loosen their grip with the spatula. 

If there is no liquid in the bottom of the pot, add just enough liquid to cover the bottom (approx. 1/2 – 1 cup of liquid is needed.) 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.  You are delighted because it looks and smells so good.

So you decide it’s time to add the meatballs (already pre-cooked if you’re adding them to the sauce) to meld the flavors together as they pressurize for a few minutes.

Suddenly, 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 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 is much thinner and probably still hot, your pot will pressurize almost immediately. 

After you’ve cooked the meatballs, release the pressure and carefully unlock and remove the Instant Pot lid, giving the meatballs and the sauce a gentle stir.

To thicken the meatball sauce back to its 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 and the meatballs until everything is nicely thickened again.  Voila!

Sliced eye of round roast cooked in an instant pot.
Instant Pot Beef Eye of Round Roast (Deli Style Roast Beef)

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.

Make sure it fits snugly around the lid’s edge, and that there are no gaps. Now, lock the Instant Pot lid back into place, beginning the pressurizing process again.

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 signals that the pressure release knob may not be set to the SEALING position. 

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 needs to be adjusted a bit. 

The Solution: Check the valve to ensure it is set to the indicator position that says SEALING, not VENTING.

If it’s set to the proper position and your Instant Pot is old, use a spoon to touch the pressure-release knob from the side. This will gently adjust 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.

This will provide one of the causes listed above in this post isn’t the actual culprit. 

Bowl of Pepperoni Pizza Pasta made in the instant pot.
Instant Pot Pepperoni Pizza Pasta

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.

2. Or, the Instant Pot somehow manages to pressurize, even though it’s overfilled. Then you are eventually going to wind up with a mess.

If your Instant Pot is overfilled and manages to pressurize any way, you will likely spew food all over your kitchen if you do a quick release. 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. Take care never to fill it more than two-thirds full.

This is especially important when you’re cooking soups or stews.

Instant pot orzo chicken soup in a bowl.
Instant Pot Orzo Chicken Soup

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


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 cooking for 1-2 people who want to cook smaller batches of food. 

I don’t have the 3-quart Instant Pot, so I can’t see how well it works.  Again, I still recommend you begin with the 6-quart Instant Pot when first learning!

Reasons the Instant Pot is Pretty Darn Magical: 

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

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

It’s energy efficient.

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

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

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

Other Instant Pot Articles You May Find Helpful:

Here are a few other Instant Pot recipes to enjoy:

Instant Pot Lazy Butt Beef Subs are hearty and satisfying.

Instant Pot Tuscan Bean Soup with Bacon is a comforting warm meal.

Pressure Cooker Valve

Instant Pot 5-Minute Pepperoni Pizza Pasta is a hearty pasta meal for your family.

Creamy Italian Pasta can be made in an Instant Pot is just 5 minutes.

Delicious Fiesta Beef and Spaghetti Pasta made in the Instant Pot in just 3 minutes.

Instant Pot Homemade Yogurt is creamy and delicious.

This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.

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7 Comments

  1. 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?

  2. 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.

    1. 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

  3. Thank you thank you so much for this! My Instant Pot valve had slipped to the Venting setting. I used a pair of bamboo tongs to twist it back to Sealing where it should be. And viola! It’s working. This is not in the user manual.

    1. Hi Robin –
      Thanks for letting me know that this article helped you. I’ve been pressure cooking in my Instant Pot for about 7 years now so I’ve had pretty much everything that can go wrong happen to me. Since I’ve had to figure out how to conquer each of these problems that come up, I like to let others know how they can win, too. Love me some Instant Pot cooking!!!
      Sincerely,
      Chef Alli

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