I just got an Instant Pot as I thought my wife and I would really love using it. But I kept seeing safety concerns and started to wonder can an Instant Pot explode?
So I decided to find out for myself and investigate. Here’s what I learned.
Unlike pressure cookers from decades past, Instant Pots do not explode. They have 10 built-in safety features designed to prevent them from operating in an unsafe manner. So they will automatically stop working or reduce the internal pressure if the sensors indicate a problem.
But there’s a lot more to know about the Instant Pot, safety tips, and how to use them correctly, so let’s keep going!
Is an Instant Pot safe?
Yes, is the short answer.
But unlike your Crock-Pot, you don’t want to leave the house for extended periods of time while your Instant Pot is going.
After all, the way an Instant Pot works is by building up pressure inside the vessel which effectively cooks your food in a shorter amount of time.
It’s the pressure inside your Instant Pot that makes people fear it could explode.
But unlike your Grandma’s pressure cooker that was built in the 1950s today’s modern Instant Pots have a number of cool safety features built in to ensure they aren’t dangerous and don’t explode.
Let’s review these 10 safety features of your Instant Pot:
1. Lid Close Detection
Your Instant Pot is smart. It knows if you have put the lid on correctly or not. If you haven’t, it won’t allow the pressurization to start. So only the keep-warm and sauté buttons (in some models) work with the lid off or not on correctly.
2. Leaky Lid Protection
As I said, your Instant Pot is pretty smart.
If you forgot to put the silicone sealing ring back on, or if the steam release isn’t closed all the way, your Instant Pot won’t fully pressurize.
Since it knows that cooking while releasing pressure at the same time could end up burning your food (since the liquid would evaporate too quickly), it automatically switches to the Keep-warn setting when it senses a release of steam in the pressure cooking process.
3. Lid Lock under Pressure
The Instant Pot won’t allow you to open the lid if you forgot to release the pressure first with the steam release valve. So no explosions or lid flying in the face.
4. Anti-blockage Vent
While your Instant Pot is cooking, sometimes food gets stuck on the steam release vent on the underside of your lid.
Thankfully, Instant Pot has a shield which prevents that from not allowing you to release the steam using the release valve when you’re ready.
5. Automatic Temperature Control
When you select the mode of cooking, the Instant Pot’s thermostat automatically knows what range of temperature to go to, ensuring it never gets too high for the food you’re preparing.
6. High-Temperature Warning
As I said above, your Instant Pot is pretty smart. So if you didn’t put enough liquid into the pot and it’s now evaporated, it won’t allow the pressure to remain or to continue.
In fact, if anything causes your Instant Pot to start to overheat it will stop heating once the temp crosses over the safety limit. Aside from not enough cooking liquid, the other things that could trigger overheating are:
- If you forgot to place the inner pot inside the Instant Pot
- The inner pot not being in good contact with the heating element
- Burned or scorched food on the bottom of the inner pot
7. Extreme Temperature & Power Protection
If all else fails, your Instant Pot has a fuse which automatically disconnects the power once your Instant Pot reaches a temperature range between 336°F ~ 341.6°F or once a high level of electrical current is being used by the Instant Pot.
8. Automatic Pressure Control
Instant Pot has a patented pressure sensor mechanism. This automatically keeps the pressure at a safe level between 10.12psi and 11.6 psi (pounds per square inch).
9. Pressure Regulator Protection
If the pressure in your Instant Pot goes over 15.23 psi, the steam release will be automatically opened to allow some steam to be released to ensure the pressure inside your pot never gets too high.
So when you’re cooking, don’t be alarmed if it suddenly starts to hiss or release some steam.
10. Excess Pressure Protection
As an added safety feature just in case the pressure regulator isn’t working right, and the pressure is getting too high, your Instant Pot will automatically drop the inner pot just enough so that steam will be released around the rim of the lid.
Of course, there are a few different models of Instant Pot and while I compiled this from my product manual, it’s always a good idea to review your product manual in case some of the information differs.
Do regular pressure cookers explode?
They could, is the short answer. Old-school pressure cookers were designed to be heated on a stove top.
They had a locking lid that kept the pressure in, but unlike today’s modern Instant Pots, since they were heated on a stove top, they had no protection against temperature, overheating, or shutting off under potentially dangerous situations.
Not sure what I mean? Imagine heating a can of carbonated soda and then shaking it up (don’t try this at home). That would pretty quickly become dangerous as the pull-top lid could easily weaken and start to shoot scalding hot soda in all directions.
Old stove-top style pressure cookers essentially work in the same way.
Of course, I’m sure there are tens of thousands of people who have used these older model pressure cookers who have never seen one explode or been injured, but they could and do happen occasionally.
Now having said that, chances are if there was an old pressure cooker that exploded, it was probably caused by user error such as:
- Filling it up too high
- Putting too much cooking liquid in it
- Leaving it on the burner too long
- Putting the burner temperature too high
There could also be issues with the safety valve being broken and unlike with Instant Pots, most older pressure cookers don’t have multiple other safety features to detect that and compensate for it.
The big takeaway for me, though, is with all the built-in safety features of an Instant Pot and the relatively low price, why buy or continue to use an old-school pressure cooker?
What’s the difference between an Instant Pot and a regular pressure cooker?
In many ways, they do the same thing and function in the same way. Instant Pot is basically a brand name for a certain type of pressure cooker.
But with regular pressure cookers, there are actually 2 different kinds.
The modern pressure cooker plugs into a wall socket and functions very similarly to an Instant Pot. The other kind of pressure cooker is the old-school kind your grandmother may have had which sits on a stovetop burner as it’s heat source.
Another key difference between the Instant Pot and other modern pressure cookers is the inner pot.
On the Instant Pot, this is made of stainless steel, whereas many other brands have an insert with a non-stick coating. Like virtually all pans with non-stick coating, this eventually scratches off and will have to be replaced.
The Instant Pot can also sauté and function like a Crock-Pot which most other pressure cookers cannot do. So it’s ultimately more versatile than other modern pressure cookers and much safer than old-school stovetop pressure cookers.
But if you’re going to consider an Instant Pot or any pressure cooker, I highly encourage you to check out another recent article of mine where I cover all the most important Advantages and Disadvantages of Pressure Cooking.
Just click the link to read it now on my site.
What happens if you overfill an Instant Pot?
Instant Pots work by maintaining a high pressure inside the unit.
This helps cook the food faster. Because there is a finite amount of space, it stands to reason that aside from your food and cooking liquid, you also have to allow room for the steam coming off the cooking liquid and the pressure in general.
So it’s very important to NOT overfill an Instant Pot (or any pressure cooker).
If you do overfill an Instant Pot, the following are some of the possibilities that could happen:
- The food could block the pressure release valve – with this blocked, it may delay your ability to release the steam (and the pressure) making it take longer to get the lid off. At best it could delay your meal, but if it was totally blocked, it could make it dangerous trying to get the lid off.
- It could force you to add too much water – Pressure cookers rely on cooking liquid (water, broth, cooking sauces, etc) to cook the food and keep it from sticking or burning. You shouldn’t use more than 1 1/2 cups of cooking liquid in your Instant Pot. But if you add too much food, you’ll have to add additional water to keep it from sticking or burning. Extra water means extra steam & pressure, which again could be dangerous or at least prevent you from cooking the food properly since the Instant Pots safety features would likely kick in.
As a general rule of thumb, make sure that all of your ingredients combined don’t go above the two-thirds line inside your Instant Pot inner pot.
And again, as I’ve mentioned elsewhere, when cooking things that get larger during the cooking process (rice, beans, grains, etc) then only fill the inner pot to half full.
The worst foods that can sputter and clog your Instant Pot release valve
Be especially aware of things that sputter when they cook as they can clog the release valve on the inside of the lid.
I’m not saying don’t use them, but definitely, don’t overfill the Instant Pot when using them. And ideally, make sure you’re using an Instant Pot recipe that calls for those ingredients (and that the recipe has good reviews.
Foods that tend to sputter a lot when cooking include:
- Split Peas
- Pearled Barley
I took a look at some well-rated recipes that call for some of those and I did see a few helpful tips to reduce foaming and sputtering which could clog your release valve.
Those tips include:
- Add a little oil or butter to the cooking liquid which reduces foaming
- Use the natural pressure release method rather than the quick method
- Spray a little oil on the inside of the lid including the valve
I will say, I saw a lot of recipes for these foods, so don’t shy away from them with your Instant Pot. Just use precautions and especially avoid overfilling the inner pot.
How do I keep my Instant Pot from exploding?
The best strategy is to just follow the manual that comes with your Instant Pot and don’t do anything it tells us not to do.
If you have misplaced the manual that came with your Instant Pot, you’re in luck! All of the product manuals are available online. Just CLICK HERE to go to their manual page and download the one for your model.
Don’t want to bury your head in the manual? No problem!
Here are the things you want to make sure you do (or don’t do):
1. Don’t overfill your Instant Pot
Your Instant Pot has a line on the inside showing you the max you can fill it.
Don’t go over that line. For basic pressure cooking, you can fill it up to about 2/3 maximum. However, for things that expand when you cook them (beans, rice, grains, etc) don’t fill it up more than halfway.
After all, since these things increase in size when you cook them, we have to give them space to do that.
2. When you move the steam valve to open, keep hands and face away from the lid
The Instant Pot has a steam release valve on the top of the lid on the backside.
It doesn’t lock in place and moves easily. In the 6 o’clock position, it’s locked and moving it to either side will release the pressure.
When the Instant Pot is done (or you have turned it off) just quickly tap the steam release valve to one side or the other. Steam will quickly escape from the valve straight up. So keep your face away from the top of the lid and move your hand quickly out of the way.
I tested mine, and while the steam was warm, it wasn’t scalding, nor was the pressure at a dangerous level, but those things could vary based on your settings, so to be safe, keep hands and face away while releasing the pressure.
3. Don’t try to open the lid before you have released the pressure
The lid and the contents inside are under pressure while the Instant Pot is cooking.
If you try and open the lid before you have released the pressure, that pressure will come out quickly and dangerously, like when you accidentally pop a balloon.
Never try and pry, force, or otherwise open the lid until the Instant Pot is done and you have released the pressure with the steam valve.
4. Don’t attempt to deep fry in your Instant Pot
Your Instant Pot can do a lot of things, including sauté but never fill it with oil and attempt to deep fry. KFC uses special pressure deep fryers, but that is NOT what the Instant Pot is designed to do.
5. Don’t use more than 1 1/2 cups of liquid in addition to the food you’re cooking
Cooking liquid creates steam. Steam expands.
So, you shouldn’t put more than 1 to 1 1/2 cups of liquid in your Instant Pot in addition to your food. That is all forms of liquid combined; stock, water, vinegar, etc.
6. Make sure to replace the silicone sealing ring about every 2 years
In your Instant Pot lid, you’ve no doubt seen the white silicone ring that loosely lines the lid.
It’s a gasket that helps completely seal the pressure in. Because that is the first line of defense in helping ensure your Instant Pot doesn’t explode it does wear out over time. So it’s a great idea to replace it about every 18-24 months just to ensure it seals the pressure in perfectly.
If you follow these basic safety tips, you’ll be a master of the Instant Pot, it will last for years, AND it will never pose a danger to you or explode.
Is it safe to leave the house with an Instant Pot on?
The short answer is no.
Instant Pots are incredibly safe and have a ton of built-in safety features. But, unlike a Crock-Pot, it is not advised to leave your house for an extended period of time with your Instant Pot on.
That being said, in terms of not leaving the house, I’m talking about using it as a pressure cooker.
As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, the Instant Pot can do a whole lot more than just pressure cook. So if you’re using it as a slow cooker or on the keep warm function, it’s just fine to leave the house with it on.
It’s also worth mentioning that the Instant Pot does have an auto-shut-off after 24 hours, so make sure you aren’t forgetting about it longer than that.
It (hopefully) goes without saying that food outside the temperature safety zone of below 40° or above 140° isn’t safe to consume once it’s been in the danger zone 2 or more hours.
So the Keep Warm setting works best when you’re just holding the food a few hours prior to serving. The slow cooker function, just like you would with a Crock-Pot, is designed for about 10 hours maximum cooking time.
How do you release an Instant Pot naturally?
When your Instant Pot is done cooking you have to release the pressure inside the pot before you can take the lid off.
After all, it’s the built-up pressure inside that could cause an Instant Pot to explode, so make sure you know how to release the pressure correctly.
There are 2 basic ways of doing that, the quick release and the natural release.
It goes without saying (again, hopefully) that you if you try to open the lid without releasing the pressure you could cause the Instant Pot to explode or damage it in the process; both of which could be hazardous.
Here is a breakdown of the 2 release methods and why you might want to do one or the other:
QUICK PRESSURE RELEASE
- Why you might want to do it – Ideal when you want to quickly stop the cooking process so you don’t overcook your food. For example, cooking brussels sprouts or chunks of potatoes both of which could get mushy quickly. Things like seafood also lose their delicate texture when overcooked. Avoid using this with foods that tend to sputter. Usually, the quick release is done inside of a couple of minutes
- How to do it – Simply turn the pressure release valve from center to the left or right
NATURAL PRESSURE RELEASE
- Why you might want to do it – It gradually releases the pressure and steam. This results in less possible spray of food from the release valve and also puts less wear on the food inside (great for delicate foods that might fall apart easily)
- How to do it – Basically you do nothing. The pressure just naturally reduces until it’s gone. You’ll know it’s done when the float valve drops down. Depending on the model of Instant Pot you have yours could be red or silver and it’s located right next to the steam release handle. When pressurized, it sticks up from the top. The natural release could take up to 30 minutes
Not sure if your pressure cooker’s noises are normal?
I wrote a recent article that breaks down exactly what noises are OK AND which ones aren’t. It’s normal for a pressure cooker or Instant Pot to make some noise or expell some steam and pressure.
But you make sure you know the difference!
Does Snopes say the Instant Pot explosion is true?
Of course, you already know you can’t believe everything you read on the internet.
Lots of rumors go around the internet and the Snopes website tends to fact check all the popular rumors, myths, and legends. In searching Snopes for Instant Pot explosion stories, only one story comes up and it’s NOT regarding explosions.
That story was about a rumor about Instant Pot meltdowns. In that case, it was the Gem 65 8-in-1 Multicooker, which is from the same manufacturer but is not a pressure cooker, which had a recall for overheating issues.
The recall was in March of 2018 and the company responded swiftly replacing any defective units.
Their official statement included “We believe the problem only affects batch-codes 1728, 1730, 1731, 1734, and 1746. To verify the 4-digit batch code, locate the silver label on the underside of the product. The batch code is the 4-digit number located at the bottom right of the label.”
Have any Instant Pots been recalled for safety reasons?
No is the short answer.
Aside from the above-mentioned Gem Multi-cooker, I found no records whatsoever of any Instant Pot being recalled for any reason.
In fact, you can check the company website under the support menu to where it says “Product Recall” and you’ll see the only product from Instant Pot to have ever been recalled is the Gem 65 8-in-1 Multicooker (which is not a pressure cooker).
So no Instant Pot pressure cooker has ever been recalled, had an official safety issue, nor are there any verifiable records I found of explosions.
So Instant Pots do NOT explode.
Did I answer all of your Instant Pot safety questions?
In this article, we took an in-depth look at the world of Instant Pots and safety.
We examined all the built-in safety features, explored all the do’s and don’ts about using Instant Pots safely and correctly. We even checked out Snopes and debunked the urban myths.
Ultimately, we answered the question of can an instant pot explode, with the answer being no.
What’s your favorite recipe for the Instant Pot?
Again, make sure and check out my Top 11 Recommended Small Kitchen Appliances Ultimate Guide.
I take all the guesswork and leg work out of it for you by only listing the best of the best, conveniently broken down by category, including pressure cookers.
These are items I either own, have used, or in some cases just researched thoroughly so I know they are the highest-rated and will get you exactly what you need.
Photo credits which require attribution:
pressure cookers on kitchen island with matching stainless steel appliances by Your Best Digs is licensed under CC2.0 and was modified by me