What It Means When Your Instant Pot Says “Burn” on the Front

updated Apr 30, 2019
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(Image credit: Joe Lingeman)

Seeing a “burn” warning on any electronic device is probably cause for concern. You might think Fire! and throw it out the window in panic. If you see the “burn” message pop up on your Instant Pot, though, don’t worry — it’s actually a common problem and there’s a simple solution.

What Does the “Burn” Sign Mean?

First of all, you should know that when your Instant Pot reads “burn” it means that your dish is, well, burning. According to Anna — the food blogger behind Creamy Crunchy Sweet — thick, tomato-based sauces used in pasta and chili often cause the bottom of the Instant Pot to overheat. Once the “burn” message switches on, that means the heated stainless steel insert at the bottom of the pot turned off, preventing further damage to your food, and the appliance itself.

What to Do When the “Burn” Sign Comes On

Once the “burn” sign is on, you need to press the “cancel” button, then switch the Instant Pot to venting mode so that it releases the pressure. You should first check that there is no burned food stuck to the inner pot which caused the pot to overheat. Simply scrape the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to remove any burnt pieces, but make sure it’s completely free of debris before using the pot again. If there are none, it means the sauce for your dish is too thick. As Anna points out, the Instant Pot needs a thin sauce to “come up to pressure.”

The solution is easy: Just add more water to your dish (you’ll want at least a half a cup of thin liquid), and stir so that it reaches the bottom of the pot. Once the Instant Pot has fully cooled down, you can continue cooking. In fact, Anna recommends avoiding making any thick cream sauces in the Instant Pot, and writes that you should add ingredients like heavy cream and cream cheese after your food is done cooking in the Instant Pot. You can use the sauté mode to thicken your sauce beforehand.

In addition, you should layer the recipe’s ingredients in the Instant Pot, with the thicker ingredients like tomato sauce going in last, and you should not stir everything together before cooking.

You should also make sure that the Instant Pot itself is working correctly: Neena at Paint the Kitchen Red advises her readers to double check that the steam release valve is in the “sealed” position. To ensure that your Instant Pot isn’t leaking steam, you should also check that the sealing ring is pushed all the way into the sealing ring rack. Lastly, if your recipe doesn’t call for very much liquid, Neena recommends using a trivet to elevate the meat, so that the liquid covers the bottom of the pot and your food doesn’t burn.