What Does It Mean When Your Instant Pot Says 'Burn'?

Being an all-purpose cooker, Instant Pots are supposed to make cooking a whole lot easier. For the most part, they are a dump and wait cooker that if used correctly can make food preparation faster. So, panic sure can set in when your beloved cooker suddenly displays a message reading, "burn." Even if you have become an Instant Pot pro, a machine is a machine and errors can occur.

The immediate reaction to this display is usually, "Uh-oh, what did I do wrong?" But it might not always be that you did something wrong. Instead, there could be a slight malfunction with the cooker. Thankfully, this error usually pops up before things have gone really wrong and should typically be looked at as more of a warning.

So, what exactly does it mean if an Instant Pot shows a "burn" message, and perhaps more importantly, what should you do to fix it?

There are a few actions you should take

According to the Instant Pot manual, if "burn" is displayed on the machine, it means that the Instant Pot is overheating. On different models, "OvHt" or "food burn" may instead be displayed (via Pressure Cooker Today). When this happens, the cooker will reduce its temperature and may not reach its selected pressure. And, as explained in the manual, this can occur due to starch deposits clogging the heat dissipation at the bottom of the pot.

If your Instant Pot displays this error, there are a few actions to take. Pressure Cooker Today notes that the first thing to do is to cancel the cooking function, release the pressure, and carefully open the pot after cooling. America's Test Kitchen then says that if the issue was caused by the food itself, be sure to clean up any brown bits that have gotten stuck on the bottom of the pot and add some water. Then seal the pot and begin cooking again.

If the problem is an actual issue with the cooker, be sure to check between the food insert and the Instant Pot itself as something may have gotten in the way. Should there be significant burning, you may be unable to save the food, but this error is generally displayed before that happens.