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. New Instant Pot users especially have a hard time troubleshooting what’s wrong.
When you first turn on the Instant Pot, the display reads ‘On’ and 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 steam release handle and/or float valve. After some hissing and steaming and hesitation, the float valve usually comes all the way up and the Instant Pot is sealed.
If you’ve waited for longer than usual and the float valve isn’t popping up, there’s a possibility that your Instant Pot is not going to pressurize. And if the timer begins and the float valve is still down, it’s definitely not going to seal. I’ve put together a list of possible reasons why your Instant Pot is not sealing and won’t pressurize.
Note: Once you diagnose the reason your Instant Pot isn’t coming to pressure and before you continue with your pressure cooking, make sure you have enough liquid in the Instant Pot. Often times, the liquid has evaporated over a period of time, because either the sealing ring wasn’t in place or the pressure release handle was in the venting position.
1. Pressure release handle is in the venting position.
The pressure release handle needs to be in the sealing position when cooking on any mode other than slow cook or yogurt.
Solution: Open the Instant Pot and make sure there’s enough liquid. If too much liquid has evaporated, the Instant Pot won’t pressurize. Close the Instant Pot with the steam release handle in 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.
2. Sealing ring (also referred to as the gasket) is not properly seated.
If your 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.
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.
3. Sealing ring is missing/misplaced.
Often times, the sealing ring has been removed for cleaning and isn’t placed back in the Instant Pot lid’s ring rack.
Solution: Replace the 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 1/2 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 on the bottom of the Instant 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 tomato sauce, thick sauces like mole sauce, or thick marinades. Thick sauces should be placed at the top AND you should thin them out with water or broth.
- 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 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.
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 and your instant pot will not seal.
Solution: Try placing the sealing ring in the freezer or run it under cold water to contract it.
7. Sealing ring has debris/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 and you corrected the problem, you may have allowed liquid to evaporate and so there isn’t enough liquid to create the required pressure. This can cause the Instant Pot to not pressurize.
Solution: Open the Instant Pot, and check the quantity of liquid. You need 1/2 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 one of the other cooking options.
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.
Solution: Press ‘Keep Warm/Cancel’ to cancel timer. Press ‘Manual’ (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’, ‘Poultry’) first, then press ‘Timer’.
11. The Instant Pot lid area is dirty.
The Instant Pot lid and the area it fits onto need to be clean and clear of food debris.
Solution: Open the Instant Pot lid and use a cloth to wipe around the rim of the Instant Pot lid and the where the lid would sit.
12. The float valve or the 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 both and clean the lid with soapy water. 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.
Solution: Wait a bit longer to see if the Instant Pot will seal.
15. Float valve is up but the display shows ‘On’ and countdown timer hasn’t begun.
There can be a delay between the float valve coming up and the timer starting.
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.
16. Power Cord is loose.
The power cord needs to be pushed in all the way. It can come loose if you move the Instant Pot or accidentally bump it.
Solution: Push the power cord in all the way.
I hope this troubleshooting guide has helped you find out why your Instant Pot is not sealing. Over time and with experience, you should encounter this problem less frequently. Feel free to comment below if you have anything to add to this list that I may have missed!