5 Mistakes Everyone Makes With Their Instant Pot

This fast-cooking device can save you time if you avoid these common Instant Pot mistakes. And our Test Kitchen experts share how to fix any slip-ups fast.

A delicious bowl of your favorite beef stew or soup can be a nice midweek treat after a long day. But the idea of waiting around for it to cook can steal your ambition—so you might just to decide to have a grilled cheese sandwich instead. This is where an Instant Pot can make cooking a bowl of chili on Tuesday night a welcome change. In just 30-40 minutes, you can whip up a bowl of chowder or Coq au Vin Blanc like a pro if you bypass these common errors.

Problem #1: It’s Losing Steam

Since the silicone rubber ring inside of the inner pot has to be washed and cleaned after each use, you might forget to replace it or it might become a little off track. This can cause you to lose steam, which can interfere with your cooking time as well as the end result of your meal.

The Fix: Use your fingers press the ring so that it is sitting inside of the lid’s track. It doesn’t matter which way the side of the ring is facing, it’s just important that it is in there securely. Consider ordering an extra set of rings—along with these other smart Instant Pot accessories.

Problem #2: It Overflows

When filling your pot with food and liquid, you should keep in mind that your ingredients will expand and can cause the venting knob to clog, leading to liquid spilling over.

The Fix: Pay close attention to the “max” line and make sure to remain below it. If you notice that there is an issue, use the Natural Pressure release to remedy the situation. The best instant pot recipes have ingredients measured out for you, so you can avoid this issue. When it comes to frozen foods, learn if you can cook frozen meat in an Instant Pot.

Problem #3: It Doesn’t Start

This all-too-common issue often occurs when home cooks mistake the Timer button as a way to select their cooking times. They are not one in the same. The Timer button should only be used for delayed cooking.

The Fix: Before panicking and worrying that your Instant Pot is broken, do a quick check to see if the green light for the Timer button is on. If so, just press the keep Warm/Cancel button. Then start all over again, this time choosing the Cooking Time feature. (Psst: Here’s what all the buttons on your Instant Pot mean.)

Problem #4: Rice Is Over- or Undercooked

As with cooking on a stovetop, there are different cook times and water requirements for different for varieties of rice. For example, when you cook brown rice conventionally it takes about 30 minutes and white rice about 20 minutes. You can run into the same issue with your Instant Pot.

The Fix: Instead of pressing the Rice button, use the manual setting for maximum control to get the most out of your Instant Pot.

Problem #5: You’re Seeing Rainbows

No, you’re not hallucinating. Streaks can occur in the inner pot, giving it a prism effect. This can happen after cooking starchy foods such as pasta, rice or potatoes.

The Fix: The inner pot—which is stainless steel—and the sealing ring can be washed in your dishwasher. The exterior should never be submerged in water, but can be cleaned with a damp cloth. Always make sure to unplug your Instant Pot before cleaning.

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Cheryl S. Grant
Cheryl S. Grant has reported & written for Reader's Digest, Cosmo, Glamour, Latina, Yoga Journal, MSN, USA Today, Family Circle, Brides, HGTV, Examiner, Details, Beach Body, Spa Weekly, You Beauty, Scoop Post, FitBit, Spice Island, and Health Daily. She investigates trends and targets profiles subjects using a combination of deep background research (database, periodicals, preliminary interviews, social media), write and edit compelling stories in a variety of beats including beauty, health, travel, nutrition, diet, law, medicine, advocacy, entertainment, the military and various social issues.