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:

Keep in mind: 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?

It’s 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 (“keep warm”).

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

It may take up to 30 minutes.

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 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.

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