Burn Notice: How to Avoid it and What to do When You Get it

One of the hardest recipes that I have converted to the Instant Pot has to be my family’s Arroz con Pollo. Not because it’s complicated or has extravagant ingredients, but because it was the frist time I ever came upon the dreaded and infamous “BURN”notice.

When it first happened to me, I remember getting so scared that I had just ruined dinner and all that work and money I put into ingredients was now trashed. I wish I could say that was the last time it happened, but the truth is my Arroz con Pollo recipe took 7 tries and 6 struggles with the “BURN” notice, to finally get it right.

However, all the frustration and redos was 100% worth it because it made me an expert when it comes to the “BURN” message. Every time I had to try again, I learned a new lesson and I decided to write a post to share them with you.

In this tutorial you will learn…

  • 5 main reasons why you’ll get the ‘BURN” message.
  • Tips to keep you from getting the “BURN” notice.
  • What to do if you get the “BURN” notice and how to fix it.

The following is a video tutorial taking you step by step through everything I will go through in this post.

link for video if it does not show below Youtube Video on Burn Notice

5 Main Reasons for the Burn Notice

Reason #1: Not Enough Liquid in the Pot

In order to create the pressure needed to cook your food in an electric pressure cooker, you need water. That water can be in the form of broth or stock or a mixture of water and other ingredients, but there has to be a true liquid present in order to create the steam. Not having enough liquid can happen for 2 reason, but there are ays to fix it.

Not enough liquid in the recipe.Make sure you have at least 3/4 to 1 cup of true liquid (water of broth). Look for recipes that are tried and vented. Pinterest can be a great place to find recipes, but many don;t work. When starting out, stick to recipes that have gotten good reviews.
Liquid evaporated out during cooking.Check that your vent is in the “SEALED” position.
Check your sealing ring. If it is not inserted correctly (or missing) the steam will escape all around the edge of the Instant Pot. (View video below)

Reason #2: Liquid is Too Thick

One of the questions I get a lot then is, “Do all the recipes you make in the Instant Pot have to be watery or braised dishes?” The answer is absolutely not! You can make dishes with thick sauces like Alfredo (Instant Pot Tortellini Alfredo recipe) or Chili (Instant Pot Turkey Chili recipe). You just need to follow a few tricks and tips to get a thick sauce.

Recipe has a thick sauce causing a Burn message.Add water or broth to thin the sauce out and then scrape the bottom of the pot and restart. Once it’s done, remove lid and press “SAUTE” to evaporate out the extra liquid and thicken the sauce.
Recipe calls for Heavy Cream.You can either add water or broth to the cream and then thicken with parmesan after it’s done cooking. You can also add the cream at the end of the cook cycle.
Thicken sauce after cooking.Press the “SAUTE” button to evaporate off liquid.
Make a slurry with 2 parts cold water and 1 part cornstarch, and whisk it in the finished liquid to thicken it.
For beans, take some beans out and smash them to create a paste and add back to the pot.

Reason #3: Using Ingredients that Absorb Water

What made my Arroz con Pollo recipe so hard to convert was because of the rice. What I didn’t know then, was that rice absorbs liquid, so it makes it a tricky ingredient to cook with in a pressure cooker because the liquid needed to create pressure is also being absorbed by the rice. And when that happens, the rice will burn on the bottom (this is actually something that you want in traditional Arroz con Pollo but you don’t want in the Instant Pot).

Rice dishes that produce “BURN” messages.Use the Rice Cup that comes with the Instant Pot to measure the rice, but use a standard measuring cup to measure the liquid. This will ensure you have a little more liquid than rice.
Pasta dishes that produce “BURN” messages.Layer the pasta on top, in a criss cross pattern, but don’t mix it in. Place other ingredients on top of pasta. Sauté off extra liquid.

Reason #4: Cooking with Ingredients that Burn Easily

Some ingredients just tend to burn easily. They either have a high sugar content or they are dense and stick to the bottom. Ingredients like diced tomatoes, tomato paste and sauce, etc. are notorious for causing you to get the “BURN” message, but there are tricks to keep that from happening and things you can do if it does happen, mid cook.

Recipe includes diced tomatoes.Add the diced tomatoes on top of the rest of the ingredients in the Instant Pot. Do not mix them in.
Recipes include tomato paste or sauce.Before adding any liquid to the Instant Pot, mix the paste or sauce into the liquid and whisk well. Then pour this mixture into the Instant Pot.
Get a “BURN” message while cooking a recipe with tomatoes.Press cancel and slowly release the pressure. Open the lid and use a spatula to scrape the burnt ingredients off of the bottom of the liner. Try and place the tomato on the top of the the rest of the ingredients, then continue cooking.

Reason #5: Food Burnt on the Bottom of the Liner

Even though this is the 5th Reason, it is probably the #1reason most people get a “BURN” notice. This usually happens after sautéing food and then using the pressure cooker function. Thankfully, this is the easiest problem to fix.

Food is stuck to the bottom of the liner during sautéing. This is common and actually can be a good thing. It creates a lot of flavor. Before pressure cooking, use a wooden spatula to scrape the browned bits off the bottom. If this is hard to do, add a 1/4 cup of water to help loosen the browned food and then scrape.
If you are sautéing onions and peppers along with the protein, sauté the protein first, remove the meat, and then sauté the veggies. The moisture from the onions and peppers will help to loosen the brown meat from the bottom of the liner.
Food is stuck to the bottom during pressure cooking. Press “CANCEL” and slowly release the steam. Open the lid and use a wooden spatula to scrape the food up from the bottom. Add a little extra liquid if needed, replace the lid, and continue pressure cooking for the time you left off at.

7 Comments Add yours

  1. Myrna says:

    I don’t see the link to watch the video.
    What an amazing wealth of information, I saved it to a document.
    Thank you so much.


    1. drlanaperez says:

      The video shows up on my computer, but I went ahead and added a link as well. Thank you so much for letting me know and I’m so glad you found it helpful.


  2. David Ecker says:

    I got a burn notice when I made a chili cheese Mac. I didn’t have diced tomatoes in water and had to use crushed tomatoes in purée instead. I should have reduced the purée and replaced with sufficient water. I was cooking ground turkey and a lot got stuck to the bottom. I lost my dish because the macaroni was mushy. It was very upsetting to me and I was using Duo Evo Plus. I gave up and removed all the food and cleaned up the burnt material on the bottom and made another dish that did fine. The next time I did the recipe I had the correct tomatoes diced in water and prepared the recipe as directed with success.


    1. drlanaperez says:

      Oh no! The only consolation is that we all have those stories. I’m glad you didn’t just scrap it and throw the IP out. I know a few people who have done that.


      1. David Ecker says:

        I knew that it wasn’t a done deal and that thick ingredients won’t get the machine up to pressure but by the time I added the additional water the macaroni wasn’t worth saving. I’m glad the IP has all this protection because I am assured that my food will be good with the right ingredients and balance!


  3. Jim says:

    Hey Lana! Great blog and videos! I found you searching out Vortex Plus answers… Anyhow…I was getting the burn notice when making spaghetti/pasta in my 3Qt. IP. What I surmised was the bottom of the pot was too flat and the pasta was making too much contact w/ the heated surface. So… What I do now is roughly cut a 7" circle of aluminum foil and lightly crumple it and then uncrumple it and drop it in the pot. Then I continue as normal. What this does is reduce the direct contact of the solids in your recipes w/ the bottom of the pot. Ever since doing this I have NEVER had a burn notice again. 🔥


    1. drlanaperez says:

      Wow what a great solution! I'll have to try that.


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