Pressure cookers have been around for a while now, but the first designs didn’t have any safety mechanisms or special features. In fact, a basic stove-top pressure cooker is quite difficult to use, since you must make sure the lid is installed correctly and the pressure release valve is usually operated manually.
In addition, a stove-top pressure cooker must be watched closely, to make sure it doesn’t run out of water or that the valve is working as it’s supposed to. Most of us know a few horror stories with this kind of pots, which is why it’s natural to wonder if electric designs have the same flaws.
Luckily, all the devices in the Instant Pot series come with ten basic security mechanisms designed to prevent any accidents that may occur. In addition, some of the most recent designs come with extra safety features (such as sensors, lid locks, and more), to ensure nothing bad happens to your pot while you’re away.
In fact, one of the most important reasons why I decided on such a device is the fact that I can let it do its thing while I work on other tasks around the house. But, since I keep getting all sorts of questions and safety concerns from other Instant Pot users, I decided to gather them all together and put your mind at ease once and for all.
So, if you’re wondering about leaving your IP on and leaving the house, have a look at my answers below.
Can I Leave My Instant Pot On Keep Warm?
Keep Warm is an automatic function that kicks in right after the pot finished cooking the food. It can also be activated separately, by the user, by pressing a button on the control panel.
As the name says, this is a feature designed to keep the food warm until you’re ready to serve it. So, for instance, if you finished cooking the stew but your guests are late, you can still serve them a hot and delicious meal, since the food is kept at the optimum temperature.
If you’ve read the instructions on your Instant Pot, you probably know that the Keep Warm can be set for up to 99h and 50 minutes (manually) or maximum 10h (if it starts automatically). This means that you can leave the pot on and go shopping or even go to work and find the food warm. Moreover, some of the most advanced models have integrated WiFi, so you can start warming the food long before you head home from work.
The feature is safe to use, as it will keep the food at around 145 to 172 degrees Fahrenheit, which hinders most bacterial growth in food left out of the fridge. However, depending on the type of food, long exposure to this temperature may overcook the ingredients and ruin the overall texture (especially with soft foods like vegetables).
In conclusion, the Keep Warm function is safe to use when you’re not at home, as long as the pot is placed in a well-ventilated area, away from any clutter.
How Long Can You Leave Food In An Instant Pot?
Given that the inner dish of all IP devices is made from stainless steel, there is no danger of unsafe materials leaking into your food if you leave in the pot after it’s done cooking. However, if the ambient temperature is not safe for preserving the cooked food, you will notice bacterial growth after a while, which is not safe.
Also, if you read the instructions manual, you’ll see that the producers warn users with regards to perishable foods such as meat, fish or rice being kept at room temperature, in the pot. These go bad rather easily if not kept at proper storage temperature, so you shouldn’t leave them unattended.
Still, if the cooker is on the Keep Warm setting, most of the food will stay safe to eat for at least 10 hours. It may lose some taste and texture, but you can still eat it without worrying about your health.
Can You Leave Instant Pot On Overnight?
The short answer is yes.
However, the producer recommends users to not leave the pot unattended during the preheat cycle if they cook oatmeal or porridge (or other sticky foods). Because these develop some sort of foam, this could block the float valve, which in turn may affect the sealing process. So, if the pot is not properly sealed, the content may overflow, which can do some damages to the device.
Otherwise, if you’re sure the seal is intact, you can leave the pot on and go to bed. In the event of a malfunction or a power outage, the pot is equipped with the right safety mechanisms to prevent any accidents.
Safety Features in the Instant Pot
Since I kept referring the Instant Pot safety mechanisms, I think it’s only fair to have a quick look at the ten basic ones that are available in each one of their cookers:
- Steam Release valve/handle – Some IP pots have a manually operated valve, while others have a button that, (when pressed) releases the steam. Regardless, the valve’s purpose is to liberate excess pressure.
- Anti-Block Shield – The valve is covered with a stainless steel shield that reduces the risk of blockages with food particles.
- Safety Lid Lock – A lock that keeps the lid from opening while the cooker is pressurized. Once the pressure is lowered, the lock will reduce its grip on the lid and you’ll be able to open it.
- Lid Position Detection – The lid must be in a safe position, with all the locks and seals in place before the pot will start the cooking process.
- Automatic Temperature Control – Each IP device is equipped with an internal microprocessor that regulates heat and intensity so the pot stays in a safe temperature range.
- Overheat (Burn) Protection – Even though you’re operating a smart device, some overheat may occur during various cooking cycles. When this happen, you will get a burn message (as you can see above) and the program will lower the heat output to avoid burning the food.
- Automatic Pressure Control – If there is a malfunction and the pressure exceeds upper limits, the program will automatically stop the cooking process.
- Electrical Fuse – cuts off the power if it detects any issues with the power supply.
- Thermal Fuse – cuts off the power if the internal temperature exceeds safety limits.
- Leaky Lid Detection – if there is any steam leaking from the lid, the cooker will not build up pressure.
In conclusion, a well-functioning Instant Pot can be left unattended while cooking if it is placed in a safe location (on a flat surface, away from clutter). Moreover, you can keep food in it (without worrying about your health) for a few hours, until everyone is ready for dinner.