9 times out of 10 the Instant Pot’s burn message means you should’ve added more water.
Look inside the pot and you’ll see, no, your food hasn’t burned at all.
There’ll be a little bit of charring on the bottom of your pot that’s easily scraped off the bottom (and still delicious, so don’t scoop it out) but nothing crazy.
If you were pressure cooking when it said this, you’ll have to release the pressure first so you can open it to add more water.
Then you’ll have to start over. Of course, bearing in mind your food’s already been cooking in there for a bit already.
It needs more time to cook, not complete and total annihilation.
But I Did Have Liquid in There When My Instant Pot Said Burn!
If that’s the case, then there’s something you’ve got to know about the instant pot. Well, all multicookers really.
When I say liquid, I mean thin liquid. They actually talk about this in the manufacturer’s manual.
You know when you try to heat thick gravy in a pan and leave it too long, the bottom tends to get this thicker layer that gets too hot and begins to burn just a little?
Well, that’s what’s happening here. There’s liquid, but the bottom of it is too thick. And whatever thickener you’re using is the culprit
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Thin stew sucks.” And you’d be right, but all is not lost.
What I do personally is make a slurry. I’m talking nothing more than a cornstarch and cold water, or flour and cold water liquidy mix that you pour in there at the end of cooking, and not before that point.
Still cook it through though, but swap to sauté mode and give it a big stir or two whenever those bubbles deep down start to look suspicious.
Burn Messages on an Instant Pot While Sautéing
This can happen too, and it’s just like what I said above about the bottom of the pot getting a little charred.
What’s actually happening is that charring on the bottom is a little too good at blocking the heat coming from below, so the heat sensors are having a mild panic attack.
It’s nothing to worry about. If there’s a sauce you’re working with and you’re not just frying in oil. I repeat: if you’re NOT frying in oil, a neat trick is to splash just a touch of cold water in there to help cool things down and bring the moisture level back up. That can save your dinner pretty quickly.
Safety tip though: Don’t even try it if you’re frying with oil. You know how a frying pan where oil’s past the smoky point can get insanely hot and you can barely tell because you’re not Superman so you can’t see heat?
That’s the last thing you’d want to introduce cold water too. It’s practically the number one most dangerous thing you can do in a kitchen.
Is it as dangerous in an instant pot? Not even close, because the thing is practically walled off on all sides, but it’s still an essential kitchen safety thing you need to know that definitely relates to those times you’ll encounter the ill-fated burn message.
Burn Messages on a Brand New Instant Pot
If this happens, do the water test. Just use your instant pot as a kettle, with, say, 500ml (17 fl oz) of water in it.
Does your now-bubbling Instant Pot cauldron say burn and there’s literally just water in there? Sorry, you’ve got a defective unit.
It’ll be under warranty or under the store return policy, so be sure to let them know you did the water test and it still says burn. It sucks, but it happens.
Don’t let it disappoint you into not trying out a replacement though. Despite what you might now think, these machines are insanely well made. Either that, or try out a Ninja Foodi, which is my own preferred multicooker / kitchen device from a utopian far future.
That’s all for now. I’ve covered everything.
Thanks for reading and enjoy your now slightly more crispy food. You’ve earned it.