How Do I Know My Instant Pot Is Working?

You have everything ready in the Instant Pot.

You close the lid and make sure it is secured (you heard the confirmation chime).

You press the buttons on the control panel to set the time and temperature or select the pre-set program. 10 seconds go by and the display chimes and shows the ON message.

Now what? How do you know everything is in order and the pot is actually building pressure?

This is a question that pops up a lot when you first start using an Instant Pot. It’s also normal since there are a few situations when the pot won’t start the cooking process if something is wrong.

As such, today I’ll describe what happens inside the pot once you selected your settings and gave cooking a green light.

What Happens Inside the Instant Pot?

Once you’ve selected the settings, the microprocessor (the brain of the pot) will send the specifications to the heating element, which will start to produce heat.

As the heat rises, the water \ other liquid in the inner pot will start producing steam. If the steam release valve is in the Sealing position and the liquid is in the right quantity, the float valve will rise, blocking the steam release, and trapping the steam inside. This is the moment when you can say the pot is pressurized.

If you want to know more, check out how does the Instant Pot work.

How long does it take Instant Pot to pressurize?

It should take 5 to 15 minutes, depending on the type of food, amount of liquid and the pressure settings.

Until this action happens, the display will show the ON message, without additional messages.

If the lid is not closed correctly or if there is a problem with the liquid, the pot won’t reach the point where it is pressurized. As such, it may throw a burn error message or it may stay in the ON state forever and ever.

How Do I Know it works?

When the Instant Pot creates enough pressure, the Instant Pot will beep once, and the cooking time will begin to count down from your setting.

For instance, if you set the cooking time to 6 minutes, the countdown timer will start from 00:06. If you introduced 70 minutes, the timer will start from 01:10.

In the image bellow, my Instant Pot is going to cook my chicken for 6 more minutes:

My instant pot making a hissing noise before getting into pressure. Is it ok?

It is normal to hear some hissing sounds or notice some steam escaping from the steam release valve or float valve hole while the pressure builds.

Still, once the float valve pops up, there shouldn’t be any steam release.

Once the set cooking is done, the pot will beep a few times and, if the setting is available (in 99% of the cases), will automatically switch to Keep Warm.

Also, if you don’t do a Quick Release, the pot will release steam naturally (as the Keep Warm stage starts),

During this time, the display will again show a counter, but this time it will be going up, starting from 00:00.

How do I know if the Instant Pot is cooking or just on "keep warm" mode?

You should also see an “L” in front of the numbers, indicating that the pressure cooking has ended and that now the food is warming.

Also, you can pay attention if the counter is going up or down.

For example, in the image bellow my Instant pot is on "keep warm" mode (natural pressure release) for 10 minutes:

What does the "L" mean?

L Stands for Lapsed Time.

Why do I need the "keep warm" mode?

Keep warm mode is useful for some recipes, where you need a natural pressure release. When you make Basmati rice you need to cook for 5 minutes and than wait for 10 minutes for natural pressure release. During that time, you want that the pot stays warm so the cooking process can continue so you can get a perfect rice.

Keep warm mode is also useful when you make slow cooker recipes, which may take 3-4 hours.

Let's say you are making this Instant Pot Venison Roast. You put the beef, close the lid and set the timer to 140 minutes. Then you go to work and come back 6 hours later, after the cooking time ends and after the natural pressure release ends.

The "keep warm" mode makes sure the beef stays warm and good to eat. So the taste and texture stays the same and you can enjoy the recipe without the need to be near the Instant Pot exactly when the cooking time ends.

How long does it take Instant Pot to natural release pressure?

It may take up to 30 minutes. Depending on the amount of water and food inside.

How do I know when natural release is done?

The natural pressure release is done when the float valve drops down.

How long the Instant Pot can stays on "keep warm"?

Basically? Forever. But you should stop it eventually by pressing "cancel".

How long should my the Instant Pot should stays on "keep warm"?

Depending on the recipe you cook. Chicken for example, can be kept on "keep warm" for up to 5 hours.

How do I know the Saute function is working?

If you’re not using the pressure cooking mode (you only use the saute mode to saute onion or steak), you can tell that the pot is working when the food starts to sizzle. This means the heating element is working and you can continue cooking.

In Summary

An Instant Pot has two main ways to communicate with its users:

  • Visual, via the display
  • Audio, via beeps and chimes

It will use both means of communication to let you know what’s happening and inform you of the current cooking stage. It will also tell you about errors or problems.

The best way to tell your Instant Pot is working is to read its display and listen for its audio signals. You don’t have to stand by it while it does its job, which is why it’s helpful to know how to interpret the visual messages.

12 thoughts on “How Do I Know My Instant Pot Is Working?

  1. New to the Insta pot. It’s hasn’t beeped to indicate that it is not pressuring but cooking. Timed for 10 minutes - been cooking 30 min no beeps no change in visuals. Does it countdown the minutes cooked?
    Thanks for the help .

  2. I’ve had an Instant Pot for almost three years —and haven’t used it but a handful of times. And it’s been over a year since using it those handful of times. I decided it’s time to relearn and start using again. Quickly, after setting it up and pressing start, I went straight Google to ask the question you’ve given a clear and concise answer for. THANK YOU!! Now, time to read and watch more of your Instant Pot content. 🙂

    1. That makes me so happy to hear, you're very welcome!! I hope that you enjoy more Instant Pot recipes ◡̈

  3. I have tried making yogurt 2 times with mine and either time it didn’t come out. So I’m trying to figure out if my pot is working or not. Please help

  4. Ooops. What happens if you don't notice a burn warning, and therefore don't make any adjustments? Could that be what happened? There seem to be burned bits on the bottom although I don't know why - I've made the dish before with no problem.

  5. Thanks for the great explanation. I had heard my pot's little jingle and it started counting down, and I walked away. I didn't look at the float valve. When the timer went, I was to do a natural release for 10 minutes. Knowing I'd be out of the room, I set a timer. When the timer went, I tried to do the quick release, but nothing happened. The float was down. Did it work properly and just completely released naturally in that 10 minutes? Or did it never fully pressurize?

    1. Fully releasing in 10 minutes seems a little fast but it is possible, especially if you didn't have much in there. If it started counting down, I would say it probably did work properly. Only way to know for sure is another test and make sure you check the float valve first.

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