Stop the Scorch: How to Stop Pressure Cooker Burning on Bottom

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Seeing ‘burn’ on your pressure cooker display can put a damper on mealtime. Our guide cuts straight to the chase on “How to Stop Pressure Cooker Burning on Bottom”, equipping you with simple, actionable steps to prevent this common issue and keep your cooking on track.

Key Takeaways

  • Pressure cookers, like Instant Pots, need enough liquid to convert to steam and build pressure, and uneven heating or hot spots can cause food to burn at the bottom.

  • Prevent burns by adding ingredients in layers, checking sealing rings and valve positions, and using the Pot-in-Pot method for tricky recipes.

  • If a burn notice appears, stop the program, release pressure, inspect and clean if needed, then add more liquid and continue cooking.

Understanding Pressure Cooker Burn Issues

instant pot ultra

Pressure cooking, while a time-saving marvel, comes with its own set of challenges. One of the most common hurdles is the dreaded Instant Pot burn message. So, what’s happening inside your cooking pot when the Instant Pot says burn? The root of the problem lies in the pressure cooking process itself. A pressure cooker needs sufficient liquid to generate steam and build pressure. However, if there isn’t enough liquid, it can quickly boil off, leading to food scorching at the bottom of your pot.

But it’s not just about the quantity of liquid; the distribution of heat within the pot also plays a crucial role. Uneven heat distribution can create ‘hot spots’ in certain areas prone to burning food. When your Instant Pot’s sensors detect excessive heat, signaling potential food burn, they trigger a burn notice. This generally means there’s not enough liquid, the heat is too high, or food may be starting to burn at the bottom of the inner pot.

The Science Behind Burning

So, why does food burn in a pressure cooker? Scorching can occur due to uneven heating and the creation of ‘hot spots’ on the bottom of the inner pot. Hot spots are areas that heat up more than the surrounding areas, leading to food scorching directly above them. If your pressure cooker is set at a high heat level without sufficient liquid to distribute it evenly, ‘hot spots’ are far more likely to develop, causing scorching.

Recognizing the signs of scorching as it occurs is also important. Be on the lookout for areas where food is sticking or burning at the bottom of the pot, which typically presents as uneven cooking or a burnt taste. In effect, understanding the science behind burning will help you to prevent it from happening in the first place, saving your meals from being marred by the dreaded burn notification.

Recognizing Burn Notifications

Now that we’ve delved into the science of burning, it’s crucial to know how to recognize when your Instant Pot is trying to tell you something’s amiss. Burn problems in pressure cookers, including Instant Pots, are indicated by various terms such as ‘OvHt,’ ‘BURN,’ or ‘FOOD BURN’. A burn notice on your pressure cooker usually signifies an underlying issue such as improper pot positioning, high interior temperature, inadequate liquid, or impeded heat dissipation.

In essence, if your Instant Pot says burn, it’s telling you it needs your attention. Recognizing these burn notifications and understanding their implications is a crucial first step towards troubleshooting this common problem. Just like a good detective, you’ll need to look for these clues to solve the mystery of the Instant Pot’s burn notice.

Preventing Burns Before Cooking Begins

Layered ingredients in a pressure cooker pot

Now that we’ve unlocked the mystery behind the burn notice, let’s focus on some proactive measures to prevent food burn before the cooking process even begins. Applying the right techniques before you start cooking can make all the difference in preventing those pesky burn notifications.

Proper ingredient layering and checking the sealing ring and valve position are key preventative measures when using a pressure cook method. Additionally, the Pot-in-Pot (PIP) cooking method can be exceptionally useful for dishes with thick sauces, starchy foods, or minimal liquid. This method involves cooking your meal in a separate container placed on a rack surrounded by water inside the pressure cooker.

Adhering to your pressure cooker’s maximum fill lines can also help prevent overflow and burning. Remember, prevention is always better than cure, especially when it comes to pressure cooking!

Proper Ingredient Layering

So, how exactly should we layer our ingredients to avoid burning? First and foremost, add liquid ingredients to your pressure cooker to prevent food from sticking and burning at the bottom. When layering ingredients, place those with higher heat tolerance at the bottom of the pressure cooker, as they are less likely to burn.

What about starchy ingredients? Well, high-starch foods should be added to the pressure cooker last, without stirring, unless the recipe instructions say otherwise, to prevent scorching. Ingredients less likely to burn should be placed at the bottom, forming a barrier that prevents burning. Proper ingredient layering is like building a fortress that protects your food from the fiery depths of burn issues.

Checking Sealing Ring and Valve Position

A misplaced silicone ring or an improperly sealed pressure gauge can cause a burn notification in pressure cookers. The sealing ring plays a crucial role in building proper pressure and preventing burning by maintaining the appropriate cooking environment inside the pressure cooker. An improperly fitted sealing ring can prevent your pressure cooker from reaching the correct pressure, increasing the risk of food scorching and triggering a burn notice.

Before you start cooking, it’s essential to verify that the steam-release switch is correctly set to the sealing position. If the steam valve is accidentally in the venting position, it may cause a burn notice; it needs to be reset to the sealing position before cooking continues. A small check like this can save your meal from going up in smoke!

Immediate Actions to Mitigate Burn Notices

Despite our best efforts, sometimes the burn notice will still appear. But don’t panic! There are immediate actions you can take to mitigate burn notices. The moment a burn warning flashes, press the cancel button to stop the cooking process. Then, quickly release built-up steam and pressure by turning the steam valve to the venting position.

After releasing the pressure, follow these steps:

  1. Inspect the seal and float valve for functionality and cleanliness.

  2. Check the contents of the pot for food that may have scorched during sautéing or whether there is insufficient liquid in the pot.

  3. Stir the contents to dislodge any food stuck to the bottom and scrape up any browned bits.

  4. Add at least half a cup of water to the pot.

  5. Ensure there’s a minimum of one cup of liquid.

After that, reseal the pot and resume cooking. If there’s a substantial area that’s burnt, carefully transfer the unburnt food to another container to prevent further damage to the meal.

Adding More Liquid and Stirring

Getting a burn notice is like your pressure cooker crying out for hydration! When a burn notice appears, adding liquid to the pot can help prevent further burning. Adding at least one cup of water is deemed sufficient to address the burn notice and continue cooking.

After adding more liquid, give the contents a good stir to loosen and dislodge any food that may have stuck to the bottom of the pot. Once the liquid is added and the food is dislodged, resume the cooking process, adjusting cook time if necessary, to ensure the meal is perfectly cooked.

Think of it as giving your Instant Pot a refreshing drink to quench its thirst and soothe its burn.

Quick Release and Inspect

A quick pressure release can be a crucial step in managing a burn notice. To quickly release the steam and pressure from a pressure cooker after a burn notice, turn the steam valve to the venting position with caution. Once the pressure has been released, inspect the inner pot for any food that may have scorched on the bottom.

Remove any burnt food from the inner pot and clean it thoroughly before proceeding with the cooking process. Think of it as giving your pressure cooker a mini spa treatment to recover from its stressful episode.

Adjusting Cooking Settings to Avoid Burns

ingredients for yogurt on countertop

Now, let’s talk about adjusting cooking settings, a crucial strategy for preventing burns. This is especially important when using specific pressure cooker models that cook hotter, such as the Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus. When using this model, which has a higher wattage, it’s recommended to add more liquid to the recipe to avoid receiving a burn notice.

To properly adjust the remaining cooking time after resolving a burn notice, reseal the pot and set it to cook for the remaining duration, subtracting a minute or two for the heat-up period that already occurred. Think of it as customizing your pressure cooker’s settings to cater to your recipe’s unique needs.

Lowering Heat Intensity

A pressure cooker left on a high heat source for an extended period or if the heat intensity is too great can cause the contents to overheat and burn. It’s like leaving your car in the hot sun for too long - the results aren’t pleasant.

By wisely managing the heat intensity, you can prevent your meals from overheating and ending up burnt. It’s all about finding that sweet spot where your food cooks perfectly without scorching.

Modifying Cook Time for Sensitive Ingredients

Adjusting cook time for sensitive ingredients is a bit like handling a delicate piece of art - it requires care and precision. When increasing the quantity of starchy ingredients in a recipe, it’s essential to adjust the liquid proportionally to ensure proper cooking and prevent burning.

Avoid stirring in starchy ingredients unless specifically directed by the recipe, and refrain from adding dairy products and cornstarch until after the pressure cooking process is complete. For recipes containing starchy ingredients, such as flour or cornstarch, add these components at the end of cooking in Sauté mode to heat through without causing burning during pressure cooking.

Extra cooking time may be required for recipes using the pot-in-pot method, as food is elevated on a trivet inside the pot and pressure is achieved faster; experimentation is key to determine the ideal cook time for different recipes. Remember, every ingredient is unique and requires individual attention to prevent burning.

Maintenance Tips: Keeping Your Pressure Cooker in Top Shape

instant pot Spanish rice recipe ingredients in Instant Pot

Just like any other kitchen appliance, your pressure cooker needs regular maintenance to stay in top shape and perform its best. Here are some tips for maintaining your pressure cooker:

  • Regularly inspect and clean all pressure cooker parts, including the silicone sealing ring.

  • Ensure the inner pot is correctly positioned and both inner and outer pots are clean on the bottom.

  • Check the pressure release valve and make sure it is clean and functioning properly.

  • Clean the exterior of the pressure cooker regularly to remove any food residue or stains.

  • Store your pressure cooker in a cool, dry place when not in use.

Following these maintenance tips can help maintain proper function and prevent burn issues with your pressure cooker.

Keeping your pressure cooker in top shape is like taking care of your car – regular inspections and maintenance can prevent bigger issues down the line. Let’s delve into some specific maintenance tips.

Cleaning the Inner Pot

The inner pot is like the heart of your pressure cooker, and it needs regular cleaning to function optimally. Inspect the bottom of the inner pot and the heating element for burnt food or residue, cleaning it if necessary. The inner stainless steel pot and steam rack can be washed by hand in warm, soapy water or placed in the dishwasher on either rack.

To remove water stains or discoloration from the inner pot, use white vinegar: pour 1 cup into the pot, let sit for 5 minutes, then rinse with water. Avoid using steel wool or abrasive cleaners on the inner pot to prevent damage to the stainless steel.

It is important to keep the heating element of the pressure cooker clean to ensure even heating and prevent burn messages. A clean pot is a happy pot!

Inspecting and Replacing Worn Parts

The pressure cooker’s sealing ring and float valve should be regularly inspected for cleanliness, proper fitting, and any signs of damage, as they are critical components for the safe and proper function of the appliance. To inspect the sealing ring, release the steam and open the lid to check for any dirt, damage, or misplacement; similarly, check the float valve to ensure it is clean and moves freely without obstruction.

The silicone sealing ring should be replaced if there are signs of cracking, warping, or other damage to ensure the pressure cooker seals correctly and functions safely. Also, inspect the pressure release valve to ensure it is functioning correctly, as a faulty valve can fail to release pressure, leading to the potential for hot spots and increased risk of burning food. Just like you’d replace a worn-out tire on your car, replacing worn parts of your pressure cooker can help keep it running smoothly.

Ensuring Even Heating

Ensuring even heating in your pressure cooker is like making sure all the cylinders in your car’s engine are firing properly - it’s crucial for optimal performance. Regular cleaning of the pressure cooker’s heating element is essential to prevent malfunction and ensure even heating.

To clean your pressure cooker, follow these steps:

  1. Unplug the pressure cooker and let it cool down.

  2. Wipe the exterior with a damp cloth and the interior with a clean damp cloth. Immediately dry the base to avoid damage to the heating element.

  3. Use a small brush or an old soft toothbrush to gently clean around the recessed area and the groove where the lid sits. This will remove any food particles or residue and ensure that the heating element heats evenly.

When faced with a burn notice, immediately ensure nothing is caught between the pot and the heating element as obstructions can cause uneven heating and burning. Regular maintenance ensures your pressure cooker heats evenly, cooking your food perfectly every time.

Recipe Adjustments for Better Results

Sometimes, the key to avoiding pressure cooker burns lies in adjusting your recipes. By tweaking the liquid content and using alternative cooking methods, you can achieve better results and prevent burning. This is especially important when you’re working with recipes that have thick sauces or minimal liquid, or when you’re cooking multiple dishes at once.

Add extra 1/2 to 1 cup of liquid or double the recipe when using an 8-quart Instant Pot instead of a 6-quart one to ensure enough liquid is present for pressure building and avoid scorching. For soups or very liquidy dishes, use enough liquid to almost cover the ingredients without exceeding the maximum fill line, while for stews or braises, adding the minimum liquid requirement is usually sufficient as the ingredients will release additional liquids. Avoid adding dairy or cornstarch until after the pressure cooking cycle is finished, as these ingredients can thicken the liquid prematurely and contribute to the potential for burn notices. These instant pot tips will help you achieve better results in your pressure cooking endeavors.

Balancing Liquid Content

Balancing the liquid content in your recipes is a bit like balancing on a tightrope - it requires precision and care. Following the recipe’s recommended liquid levels meticulously can ensure the correct balance between moisture and flavor. Use flavorful broths in recipes as they provide both taste and a protective layer against burning.

Be mindful of the amount of liquid used with tomato-based sauces, ensuring there’s enough to prevent sticking and burning on the bottom. Just like a well-balanced diet is good for your health, a well-balanced recipe can be good for your pressure cooker!

Alternative Cooking Methods

When traditional cooking methods lead to burn notices, it’s time to think outside the box. The Pot-in-Pot (PIP) method can come to your rescue, especially for recipes with thick sauces, minimal liquid, or when cooking multiple dishes at once. Discovering new instant pot recipes and using the PIP method involves placing food in an oven-safe dish that is then put on a trivet inside the Instant Pot liner, with water beneath the trivet to create steam and pressure.

To implement the PIP method, you must:

  1. Add 1 1/2 cups of water to the Instant Pot liner’s bottom.

  2. Position a trivet over the water.

  3. Set an oven-safe dish with food on the trivet, which doesn’t require additional liquid inside the dish.

The PIP method prevents food like rice, steel cut oats, or quinoa from sticking or burning to the bottom, offering the added convenience of using the same Pyrex dish for cooking and storing leftovers.

The PIP method is like a superhero, swooping in to save your meals from the menace of burn notices!


In conclusion, preventing and managing burn notices in your pressure cooker doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With a little understanding of the underlying causes and a few adjustments to your cooking process, you can easily avert this common problem. Remember, the key lies in proper ingredient layering, regular maintenance, and of course, keeping calm under pressure. So, the next time you’re faced with a burn notice, don’t panic. You have all the tips and tricks you need to tackle it head-on and continue cooking up delicious, perfectly cooked meals every time!

Frequently Asked Questions

Why does the bottom of my pressure cooker burn?

The bottom of your pressure cooker burns due to the uneven distribution of heat, causing ingredients to stick and scorch. To prevent this, it's important to manage heat strategically. Additionally, not adding enough liquid or properly deglazing the pot after sautéing can also lead to burning.

How do you stop food from burning on the bottom?

To prevent food from burning on the bottom, place a sheet of aluminum foil under the pan or double up a sheet pan to even out the heat distribution in the oven. Happy cooking!

How do you get burnt food off the bottom of a pressure cooker?

To get burnt food off the bottom of a pressure cooker, simply boil water in the cooker on low heat for 10-15 minutes to loosen the food particles, making them easier to scrub off. Happy cleaning!

What to do for pressure cooker burns?

Make sure to cover the burn injury with a sterile, dry dressing and change the bandage daily for at least 10 days. You can also take an over-the-counter pain medication like acetaminophen (Tylenol) to help with the pain.

Why does my Instant Pot burn oatmeal?

Make sure to move the steam release valve to Sealing, as forgetting to do so can prevent the Instant Pot from sealing and cause the oats to burn. Additionally, check the sealing ring in your lid to ensure it's not stuck or damaged before using your Instant Pot.


  • Jessica McCoy

    Jessica McCoy is a seasoned food blogger with 14+ years of experience in the industry. As a self-taught home cook, she enjoys creating and finetuning easy recipes that are fool proof and simple for anyone to make. Her expertise is in all things kitchen: cooking tips, air fryer recipes, Instant Pot and other pressure cooking recipes, and slow cooker recipes. Jessica was the previous owner of AllSheCooks, where she focused on easy every day recipes including budget friendly dinner recipes and desserts.

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