Are you attracted to the convenience of using an Instant Pot? I am. They’re super useful for preparing nourishing meals — in an ‘instant’. But, there are some downsides regarding safety when using these fast cookers. I’ve identified at least 14 essential safety tips to follow when cooking with an Instant Pot.
What is an Instant Pot? The Instant Pot is a pressure cooker, slow cooker, rice-maker, and yogurt maker all in one. It was first introduced to the US market in 2010 and has since become one of the most popular kitchen gadget among home cooks.
- Not only does it replace multiple appliances on your countertop, but Instant Pot safety features are also far more advanced than those you would find with other cooking devices. (I list these below also)
In an Instant Pot, food is done quicker, as I explained in comparing it to a standard pressure cooker.
The thing, though, is that these cookers can reach extremely high temperatures of 250ºF, 40º hotter than the boiling water.
This extreme heat and operation under pressure makes a potential mishap with an Instant Pot far more dangerous than most kitchen accidents.
So, as with any new device or appliance that uses electricity and high heat, there are safety precautions to heed to avoid an Instant Pot explosion or other mishap when using it.
I did some research and put the following together based on safety precautions put out by the manufacturer and by professionals addressing injury claims.
How to safely use Instant Pot: Most of all, follow the manufacturers instructions. If the unit is defective, return it to the manufacturer (don’t mess with it yourself). Then, there are these…
Ensure lid is closed tight
Secure the Instant Pot lid — Make sure its locked into place before proceeding with cooking/programming.
Check the sealing ring is in order
Every time you use your Instant Pot, check the sealing ring to make sure it is not cracked or damaged. If there are any signs of wear and tear on the sealing ring, replace it with a new compatible one before using again.
Check for clogging of the valve
Before cooking, always double-check that the steam release handle (valve) on top of the Instant Pot is not clogged or otherwise obstructed. Clean with warm water and dish soap on a regular basis.
Don’t cover the steam release handle
Never cover the handle with a cloth or other obstruction. The Instant Pot needs a free space on top of its lid in order for proper pressure control during cooking. This area can’t have any obstructions such as cloths which could block the vent’s opening resulting in possible safety hazards.
Don’t open the unit too early or while cooking
Wait until it has cooled and pressure has reduced before opening the Instant Pot’s lid, as you would any pressure cooker.
Do not open during cooking, until it has completed its cycle and cooled down. Opening during any stage of operation can cause a dangerous malfunction and may lead to personal injury.
Keep clear of the Instant Pot safety release valve
Don’t place hands or face over the exhaust valve (steam release handle) while the Instant Pot is in operation or cooling down.
Exhaust from a pressurized cooking vessel can release hot air, steam and liquid under high pressure that may cause injury if you are too close to it.
Don’t move the Instant Pot while in operation
Don’t move the Instant Pot while it is in operation. Wait until the cooking cycle has finished and pressure has been released before moving or taking the lid off of your pot.
Moving a pressurized appliance can lead to dangerous malfunctions and may cause injury.
Never force open the lid of an Instant Pot
If you have to force it, it means the pressure is high enough to create a quick blast that could cause injury or damage.
Wait until the Instant Pot has cooled down and pressure has reduced.
Supervise your children when they are around an Instant Pot or any other pressurized appliance to prevent injury from possible malfunctions caused by accidental operation, including burns and scalds.
Leaving the Instant Pot unattended
Can you leave an Instant Pot unattended? You can leave Instant Pots unattended. But while its doing its job under intense heat and pressure, it’s a good idea not to, even when using a timer. Instant Pots are pressurized units that can cause serious damage when things go wrong.
With cookers that release steam or build pressure, accidents can happen quickly without warning in cases of malfunction or inappropriate use.
Avoid foods that clog the exhaust valve
Foods of the type likely to clog the exhaust valve are those that foam, froth, and sputter. These include applesauce, cranberries, pearl barley, oatmeal or other cereals, split peas, noodles, macaroni, rhubarb, and spaghetti.
Don’t overfill the pot. You should not fill up your Instant Pot to more than two-thirds full, maximum. For foods that expand—such as rice—only fill it to half of its capacity.
Moreover, leave some room at the top of your Instant Pot for steam during cooking time–don’t fill it entirely with ingredients. Watch out for foods that expand and increase in size when cooked, like rice or pasta.
Over-filling the instant pot may lead to a clogged vent pipe and excessive pressure build-up.
Don’t underfill the pot, either. Use at least a cup of liquid when cooking. Remember that a pressure cooker is designed to build up pressure in order to cook food quickly, so if you do not use enough liquid water or broth the pot will rise dangerously high and could lead to an explosion.
Never use Instant Pot for deep frying or pressure frying
Instant Pot should never be used for deep frying or pressure frying with oil. It’s not designed to handle frying of foods this way. It may cause a fire or severe damage.
Choose a skillet for shallow frying.
Deep frying or pressure frying should be done on a stovetop, in a deep fryer, electric skillet, and other appliances designed for this.
Instant Pot safety features
Instant Pots have a number of safety features installed (up to 13) for your confident use of the device.
The safety features will vary with model. But, below are some standard features that you should know about to make you feel confident when using an Instant Pot.
Pressure control: Instant Pots have an automatic pressure controller to keep the pressure within a safe range. The steam release handle involved the Instant Pot safety valve releasing excess pressure.
Anti-blockage vent: Instant Pots are fitted with an anti-blockage vent to prevent food debris blocking the release of steam, which would cause pressure to get too high.
Safety lock lid: The Instant Pot comes with a lid that is safety measure to keep you from accidentally opening it while the contents are pressurized. The device also has a sensor on the lid that can warn us when there is an issue with the sealing of the dome, or if it’s in an unsafe position for cooking.
Temperature control: In all Instant Pots, a feature called “cooking programs” adjusts temperature according to the dish being cooked. The instant pot also has a high temperature sensor that prevents food from burning. If the inside reaches unsafe temperatures, there is a fuse cut-off that turns off the power.
- The Instant Pot has a UL (Underwriters Laboratory) safety certification. This means it is safe to use in your home kitchen with its automatic pressure controller and anti-blockage vent, which reduce the risk of excess pressure or blockages from food.
Can the Instant Pot explode?
Yes. On rare occasions, Instant Pots have been known to explode. This might happen where the inbuilt safety features fail or the unit is not used as designed. Inappropriate use examples include forcing open the lid too soon or using the unit for deep frying.
Always follow safety instructions when using any appliance involving electricity, high heat, or pressure cooking.
Finally, on Instant Pot safety tips, don’t forget to
- Never put your face over the pot’s steam release valve, as this could cause serious burns.
- Turn off and unplug the device after use or if it malfunctions in any way. Always wait for pressure to return to zero before opening a lid that has been under pressure.
- Check sealing ring on the lid has no gaps or tears
- Read all instructions for safety before using your pressure cooker.
- Avoid cooking foods that can release a lot of foam and sputter while under high heat.
- Don’t overfill or underfill your Instant Pot.
- Don’t use the Instant Pot to deep fry foods, which should be done in an appliance made for that purpose.
Follow these to prevent any Instant Pot explosions or other mishaps.