Here are the top reasons for your Instant Pot not sealing. This guide helps you troubleshoot a common problem most Instant Pot users encounter i.e. the Instant Pot not pressurizing. Learn how to prevent the issue and seal your Instant Pot correctly the first time.
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Instant Pot Terminology
Here are some of the parts that I refer to throughout this article:
- Float Valve: a metal pin that pops up once the Instant Pot has pressurized.
- Steam Release Handle (select models): Steam is released through the vents in the steam release handle. To seal the Instant Pot, turn this pressure knob to the Sealing position and to release pressure, move it to the Venting position. The steam release handle is sometimes referred to as the Instant Pot venting knob or pressure valve.
- Steam Release Valve (select models): Steam is released through the vents in the steam release valve. It’s also referred to as the Instant Pot pressure valve or venting knob. Please note that in this guide, I use the terms steam release handle and steam release valve interchangeably.
- Steam Release Button (select models): this button is used to seal the Instant Pot and to release pressure. Make sure it’s in the Up or Sealing position by clicking it counterclockwise to spring it into the Sealing position. To release pressure, push down on the button until it clicks into place in the Down or Venting position.
- Sealing Ring: a silicone ring that creates a seal between the base unit of the Instant Pot and the lid, allowing pressure to build up and the Instant Pot to be pressurized.
- Float Valve: a metal pin covered with a silicone ring on the inside of the lid which keeps it in place. It can be removed and cleaned.
- Anti-block Shield: metal cover that prevents food particles from entering the steam release pipe and blocking it. The anti-block shield covers the exhaust valve and it can be removed and cleaned.
One of the most common problems Instant Pot users encounter is that their Instant Pot won’t pressurize (or seal). This happens to me and I’m pretty sure it happens to most Instant Pot and pressure cooker users.
So what I’m trying to say is that you’re not alone! New Instant Pot users, in particular, have a hard time troubleshooting what’s wrong when their Instant Pot is not pressurizing. (By the way, although some people call it an Instapot, the correct name is Instant Pot.)
Should steam come out of the Instant Pot when pressurizing? Yes, there will be steam escaping from the steam release valve and float valve.
When you program the Instant Pot to pressure cook, initially the display says On. After a few minutes (anywhere from 5 minutes to 30 minutes, depending on the quantity and temperature of the food), you’ll see and hear steam coming out of the pressure release (steam release) handle and/or float valve. Perfectly normal.
After some hissing and steaming and hesitation, the float valve usually rises all the way to the Up position and the Instant Pot is sealed. After a few minutes, the display should start counting down the number of minutes you programmed the Instant Pot to pressure cook.
Should steam come out of the Instant Pot once it’s sealed? In general, no, there should not be any steam coming out once the float valve is in the sealing position (Up position).
However, I have on occasion, seen very slight steaming when it’s sealed and this is not a cause for concern. This usually happens when I’m cooking something with a lot of liquid, such as soup.
If you’ve waited for longer than usual and the float valve is not rising, there’s a possibility that your Instant Pot is not going to pressurize. And if the countdown timer begins and the Instant Pot float valve is not rising, it’s definitely not going to seal.
I’ve put together a list of possible reasons why your Instant Pot is not pressurizing. You’ll most likely be able to pinpoint your issue in one of the following cases. Also make sure you check out my article on the Burn or Food Burn Message.
There are various reasons for sealing problems, ranging from the Instant Pot sealing ring not being in place to the pressure release handle being in the Venting position.
Once you diagnose the reason for your Instant Pot not coming to pressure, and before you continue with pressure cooking, make sure you have enough liquid in the Instant Pot.
Oftentimes, the liquid has evaporated over a period of time while the steam was leaking. If you restart the pressure cooking process without adding back the lost liquid, you’re likely to have more sealing issues.
If you’re new to the Instant Pot and aren’t familiar with how to use it, here are my guides on how to use some popular Instant Pot models:
- Instant Pot DUO Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot ULTRA Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot DUO EVO PLUS Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot DUO NOVA Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot DUO GOURMET Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot PRO Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot DUO CRISP Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot PRO CRISP Beginner’s Manual
- Instant Pot PRO CRISP vs DUO CRISP
1. Pressure Release (Steam Release) Handle is in the Venting Position
This is one of the most common Instant Pot problems encountered by new owners.
- The steam release handle (available on some models) can be moved from Instant Potg Sealing position to Venting position.
- In addition to the handle on some models (e.g. Instant Pot Duo), there are other steam release mechanisms used on the various models of the Instant Pot. The steam release button (e.g. Instant Pot Ultra) is pushed down for Venting position and turned counter-clockwise for Sealing position. The steam release switch (e.g. Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus) slides from Sealing to Venting.
The pressure release needs to be in the Sealing position when cooking on any mode other than Slow Cook or Yogurt or Sous Vide.
SOLUTION: Open the Instant Pot and make sure there’s enough liquid. If too much liquid has evaporated, the Instant Pot won’t pressurize, so add more liquid if necessary. Close the Instant Pot and resume pressure cooking.
If you have trouble closing the lid, move the steam release handle to the VENTING position. Since the contents are warm, this will allow you to close the pot properly. Once it’s closed, move the steam release handle to the SEALING position.
[Read More: The different pressure release methods.]
2. Sealing Ring (Sealing Gasket) is not Properly Seated
If the ring cannot be rotated around the sealing ring rack, it’s not properly seated. You should be able to turn it in place, with a bit of effort. If the sealing ring hasn’t been installed correctly, you may find that steam is leaking out of the sides of the lid.
SOLUTION: Open the Instant Pot and push down the sealing ring all around the ring rack to make sure it’s properly seated. Try and turn it in the ring rack. It should move/rotate around the ring rack, albeit with some effort.
3. Sealing Ring is Missing/Misplaced
It’s possible that the sealing ring has been removed for cleaning and wasn’t placed back in the Instant Pot lid’s ring rack. If your sealing ring is missing, you will see the Instant Pot leaking steam from the sides of the lid.
SOLUTION: Replace the Instant Pot sealing ring.
4. Not Enough Liquid in Instant Pot
According to the Instant Pot manual, the Instant Pot requires at least 1 cup of liquid. I’ve used as little as ½ cup and done fine with many recipes. Some liquids like canned tomato sauce are too dense and require thinning out with broth or water.
SOLUTION: Add more water or broth. If the final result is a dish that’s too thin/liquidy, you can use the Saute function and let the liquid reduce and thicken, or you can use a thickener like cornstarch, flour, potato flakes, etc.
5. Food is Scorched at the Bottom of the Inner Pot
If food is scorched on the bottom of the Instant Pot, the liquid won’t make contact with the bottom of the inner pot and the Instant Pot won’t build steam. Here are a few of the reasons food gets scorched on the bottom of the Instant Pot:
- After browning or sauteing, if there are browned bits sticking to the bottom of the pot, you need to deglaze the pot. Deglazing involves adding liquid (e.g. water, broth) to the heated pot and stirring, to allow the browned bits to come free.
- The liquid is too thick. This can happen with thick sauces such as tomato sauce, mole sauce, or pasta sauce. Thick sauces should be placed at the top without stirring them in AND you can also thin them out with some water or broth.
- Starchy foods are making contact with the bottom of the inner pot. Starchy foods such as pasta, rice, etc. should be layered on top of other ingredients, without stirring them in.
- The Instant Pot is overfilled with food and there isn’t enough room for the liquid to circulate.
SOLUTION: Open the Instant Pot, remove contents to a large bowl, clean the inner pot by scraping it with a plastic or wooden scraper (You might even need to soak it with warm water and dish detergent for a bit.)
I have several of these pan scrapers that work really well. Once the inner pot is clean, resume cooking, but be sure to add more liquid.
[Read More about layering problem ingredients such as sauces, pasta, rice, etc.]
6. Sealing Ring has Expanded Too Much and Won’t Seal Properly
The sealing ring naturally expands when it’s heated. Once cool, it should return to its natural state. If you’ve just completed cooking something, the sealing ring may still be in its expanded state preventing the Instant Pot from sealing.
SOLUTION: Try placing the Instant Pot sealing ring in the freezer or run it under cold water to contract it. You can also try and turn the sealing ring over and replace it.
7. Instant Pot Sealing Ring has Debris or Food
The Instant Pot sealing ring needs to be clean in order to create a proper seal.
SOLUTION: Make sure there’s no food stuck to the sealing ring. Clean the sealing ring with soap and water.
8. Too Much Water has Evaporated Before Problem was Fixed
If the pot was not initially sealed properly and you corrected the problem, it’s possible that too much liquid evaporated and so there isn’t enough liquid to create the required steam. This can cause the Instant Pot to not pressurize.
SOLUTION: Open the Instant Pot, and check the quantity of liquid. You need ½ cup to 1 cup of liquid. Add more liquid if necessary.
9. Sealing Ring is Damaged or Torn
If your Instant Pot sealing ring is heavily used or pulled on too hard it can get worn out or tear.
SOLUTION: Purchase a new sealing ring.
10. Timer Function was Used Instead of Manual or Pressure Cook
Some older models of the Instant Pot have a Timer button. The Timer button allows you to set a delayed time to start cooking. When you press the timer button, the time that shows up is the number of hours till cooking starts. So if your Instant Pot timer is not starting, this could be the reason.
SOLUTION: Press Cancel to cancel the timer. Press Manual or Pressure Cook (or other cooking option e.g. Poultry, Meat) and wait a few seconds for the Instant Pot display to change to On. If you wish to use the timer functionality, select the cooking function (e.g. Manual, Pressure Cook, Poultry) first, then press Timer or Delay Start (on newer models).
11. The Instant Pot Lid Area is Dirty
The Instant Pot lid and the area it fits onto on the base unit need to be clean and clear of food debris.
SOLUTION: Open the Instant Pot lid and use a cloth or clean toothbrush to wipe around the rim of the Instant Pot lid and the base unit.
12. The Instant Pot Float Valve or Anti-Block Shield Has Debris
When you cook foods like pasta or other messy foods, the anti block shield and the float valve can get dirty and be obstructed.
SOLUTION: Remove the anti-block shield and float valve and clean with a clean toothbrush and soapy water. Clean the hole that the float valve goes into with a brush or pipe cleaner. Clean all parts of the lid. Dry well and replace the parts.
See my Instant Pot Beginner’s Guide to find out how to remove these.
13. Food is Frozen
Frozen food takes longer to cook and it also takes longer for the Instant Pot to pressurize.
SOLUTION: Wait a bit longer to see if the Instant Pot will seal.
14. Large Quantity of Liquid in Instant Pot
If you’re making a soup or cooking a larger quantity of food in the Instant Pot, you may have a lot of liquid. The more liquid you have, the longer it takes for the Instant Pot to seal.
You also need to make sure your ingredients are not going above the Max Fill mark (⅔ full). For foods that expand (e.g. rice, beans, and pasta) you should not go above the ½ full mark.
SOLUTION: Wait a bit longer to see if the Instant Pot will seal. If you’re above the above recommended fill lines, split the recipe up and cook it in two batches.
15. Float Valve is Up but Instant Pot Just Says On and Countdown Timer Hasn’t Begun
If the Instant Pot just says ‘On’, it’s could be because there can be a delay between the float valve rising up and the timer starting to countdown.
I’ve had this happen when I’ve used less liquid than is recommended. The Instant Pot comes to pressure and the float valve comes up, but the display just says ‘On‘ and never counts down. In my case, it was just a one-time thing.
SOLUTION: Wait a bit to let the timer begin. The float valve coming up locks the lid but the Instant Pot may need more time to pressurize in order for the timer to begin. If the ‘On‘ never changes to counting down, you’ll need to set an external timer and press Cancel when the time’s up. Try doing a water test to make sure the problem doesn’t recur. If the problem persists, you’ll need to open a support ticket.
16. Power Cord is Loose
Some Instant Pots have detachable power cords. The power cord needs to be pushed into the base unit all the way. It can come loose if you move the Instant Pot or accidentally bump it.
SOLUTION: Push the power cord all the way into the base unit. Also, make sure the power cord is securely attached to the wall outlet. Make sure the outlet is working by testing it out with another appliance or an electrical outlet tester.
17. Food is Stuck on the Rim of the Inner Pot or Liner
If you have food stuck to the rim of the Instant Pot inner pot, the seal will not be tight when you close the Instant Pot lid and steam can escape.
SOLUTION: Thoroughly clean the Instant Pot inner pot, particularly the rim, inside and out.
18. The Wrong Size Inner Pot was Used
If you have multiple Instant Pots of different sizes, you may have used the wrong stainless steel inner pot/liner. The 6-quart inner pot fits into the 8-quart Instant Pot. It’s an easy mistake and is a common problem!
SOLUTION: Make sure you use the correct inner pot.
19. The Float Valve is Missing
If you take the float valve out while cleaning the Instant Pot lid, you may forget to replace it.
SOLUTION: Put the float valve back in and replace the silicone cover.
20. The Steam Release Handle is Missing
If you take the steam release handle out while cleaning the Instant Pot lid, you may forget to replace it.
SOLUTION: Put the steam release handle back onto the lid and push down to make sure it’s properly seated on the steam release pipe.
21. The Lid Locking Pin is Stuck
The spring-loaded pin (lid locking pin) on the rim at the back of the lid could be stuck in the retracted position.
SOLUTION: Push on it from the inside and outside of the lid or gently jiggle it to get the spring mechanism to reset the pin.
22. The Exhaust Valve is Loose
In rare cases, the exhaust valve inside the anti-block shield can become loose; e.g. this can happen during shipping.
SOLUTION: Carefully tighten the valve so it’s not loose anymore. Don’t overly tighten it.
23. The Steam Release Handle is Not Properly Seated
If you take the Instant Pot steam release valve or steam release handle out while cleaning the Instant Pot lid, it may not be put back correctly. It needs to be pushed in all the way. If it isn’t securely seated, steam will leak from the steam release handle or valve.
SOLUTION: Push in the Steam Release Handle and move it from Sealing to Venting and back again a few times so it sits properly.
24. Instant Pot Display Says noPr
If the Instant Pot is showing the noPr error message, it could be that the Instant Pot couldn’t reach a high enough temperature during the pre-heating stage. This could be due to the quantity of food or liquid, the presence of frozen ingredients, or any of the reasons in this article.
SOLUTION: If you’re not making any of the above mistakes but you get the noPr error, press Cancel and try restarting the pressure cooking program again.
25. Instant Pot Leaking Steam Even Though the Float Valve is Up
There’s a metal safety clip inside some older models of the steam release handle and steam release valve. It appears to be there to prevent the Instant Pot from over-pressurizing.
Unfortunately, this metal ring can get bent over time or through shipping. This causes the steam release handle to tilt in the sealing position as if it was set to the venting, allowing steam to escape.
Newer models of the steam release handle and the steam release valve do not have this problem since they now have a silicone retaining ring and cannot get in the way of it sitting level on the steam pipe creating a good seal.
SOLUTION: Purchase a new steam release handle or remove the metal ring, straighten it with a pair of pliers, and put it back in. Here’s a Youtuber who’s posted a video on how to fix the Instant Pot not building pressure due to this issue:
I would like to thank Donald Task and the Reddit Instant Pot community for bringing this problem and solution to my attention!
I hope this Instant Pot troubleshooting guide has helped you find out the reason for your Instant Pot not sealing. Over time and with experience, you should encounter this problem less frequently.
If you continue to have issues with the Instant Pot not pressurizing, try and do a water test to see if it’s an issue with your unit. If the water test fails, you should either return the Instant Pot to the place of purchase or contact the company to file a support ticket.
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