See my guide on how to use an Instant Pot.

The Instant Pot Burn Message – What it means, and how to prevent getting a burn warning when you use your Instant Pot. Plus what to do if your Instant Pot says “Burn.”

Instant Pot that says burn on the display.

If you get the dreaded “burn” message on your Instant Pot, it can be frustrating and possibly even frightening. First I want to reassure you that if your Instant Pot says burn, you should not panic or worry that your meal will be ruined.

What does the Instant Pot burn message mean?

The burn message, usually displayed as “burn,” “OvHt” or “Food Burn,” is part of the Instant Pot’s overheat protection system. If your pot displays a burn error, it means that the Instant Pot has detected that the inner pot has gotten too hot. This is an indicator that food may be starting to burn on the bottom of the pot.

The burn warning is a safety mechanism to prevent both the Instant Pot from getting too hot and to keep your food from burning. When it senses overheating, the Instant Pot stops heating and gives you a burn notice to let you know that the cooking process has stopped. Sometimes, if you just leave the pot alone, the Instant Pot will cool for a few minutes and then begin the cooking cycle again. So it is possible that the cook cycle will complete even after a burn error.

However, there are some simple steps that you can take to fix the problem and get your dinner cooking again. Not too worry, a burn message does not mean that your dinner is ruined!

The burn warning can be more common with the 8 quart Instant Pot and also with newer models.

Why does my Instant Pot say burn?

There are actually just a few straightforward reasons why you might get a burn error and preventing them is really simple.

  1. Did you remember to turn the steam release valve to the sealing position before pressure cooking? If you leave it on venting, steam will release through the vent as the Instant Pot continues to heat, too much liquid may evaporate, and the pot may get too hot. Steam release valve set to sealing position.
  2. Always use at least 1 cup of liquid for pressure cooking. If there isn’t enough liquid in the pot, or if the liquid is too thick, the pot won’t be able to reach pressure and/or you may get a burn warning.
  3. When a recipe calls for sautéing before pressure cooking, always deglaze the pot after you sauté. To do this, pour in a little bit of your cooking liquid and then scrape up any bits that may be stuck to the bottom of the pot. Read more about the Instant Pot saute function.Pouring broth into an instant pot to deglaze after sauteing.
  4. Add starchy foods last when you are putting ingredients in your pot, and do not stir them in unless the recipe instructs you to do so. Keeping the starchy foods away from the bottom of the pot can prevent sticking and scorching. Starchy foods include pasta, cooked beans and sometimes tomatoes. A ladle with chili held over an instant pot.
  5. Add foods that may scald, such as milk or cream, after pressure cooking. Similarly, add thickeners, such as cornstarch, after cooking. Otherwise the liquid in the pot may be too thick. You can also use the pot-in-pot method for sauces that may burn, such as cream sauces or other thick sauces.
  6. Check that the silicone sealing ring is fitted in place properly and is clean and undamaged. A broken or misfitted sealing ring can allow steam to escape and prevent the pot from sealing and pressurizing. Silicone sealing ring on instant pot lid.
  7. Make sure that both the heating element on the cooker base and the underside of the inner pot are clean before you pressure cook. Inside the instant pot cooker base.
  8. Make sure that the lid is properly closed.
  9. Make sure that the float valve is clean. Food debris can prevent it from moving up and down correctly.

What to do if your Instant Pot says burn

  1. Don’t panic. The burn message simply means that the Instant Pot has detected that the inner pot has gotten too hot, so it stops heating to prevent your food from burning.
  2. Press Cancel to turn the pot off.
  3. Quick release the steam and pressure from the pot by carefully turning the steam valve to the venting position. (Did you have the valve set to the sealing position? If not, too much liquid may have evaporated, preventing the pot from reaching pressure.)
  4. Check that the sealing ring is clean, fitted in place properly, and not damaged. Check that the float valve is clean.
  5. Stir to check if there is food stuck to the bottom of the inner pot. Scrape up and remove any burnt food from the pot. If a large area of the pot has burnt food, transfer the food that is not burnt to another container, clean the inner pot, and return the food to the pot. Add more liquid as needed, to make sure you have at least one cup of liquid in the pot.
  6. Check that the heating element in the cooker base is clean. Also check that the underside of the inner pot is clean.
  7. Return the inner pot to the Instant Pot base, close the lid, and turn the steam release valve to the sealing position. Restart the pressure cooking cycle. Your meal should now cook just fine!

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