Why is my pressure cooker not building up pressure?

Pressure cookers are one of the most versatile cooking gadgets you can have in your kitchen. However, if a pressure cooker cannot build up enough pressure to properly cook the meals inside it, you’re going to have undercooked food and hungry family members. If your pressure cooker is not building up pressure, it will generally have an issue with steam production or retention, a critical element needed for adequately cooking the food inside.

Keep reading to explore how things like inadequate liquid, overfilling and mechanical issues can cause your pressure cooker not to build up enough pressure.

Continue reading to find out the 12 top reasons why your pressure cooker is not building up pressure.

How A Pressure Cooker Works

Firstly, to better understand why your pressure cooker is not building up pressure, it’s good to know the basics of how it works. A pressure cooker works by using water or water-based liquids, such as stock, wine, etc., to create steam and high pressure inside the pot to cook food. Because steam is trapped inside the pot, the temperature inside can get much higher than other methods. This is why pressure cookers can get food cooked in a much quicker time than traditional cooking methods.

There Isn't Enough Liquid In The Pot

Some form of water-based liquid is needed to cook food in a pressure cooker, water, broth, beer, wines, etc. If there is not enough liquid in the pressure cooker, the water or other liquid can boil off, and the pot will not be able to create enough steam, and therefore it will be unable to build up enough pressure.

Solution:

The problem might be that your pot doesn’t have enough liquid! When you cook with a pressure cooker, there needs to be at least one inch of liquid above the ingredients inside (when cooking beans, grains, or pasta) – otherwise, no steam will form.

If you have less than an inch of liquid in your pot, then try adding more water or broth, at least one inch, making sure there is no more than two-thirds inside the pot.

When cooking all other foods, make sure there is at least enough liquid to cover the pressure cooker’s bottom.

Food Is Stuck On The Bottom Of The Pot

If there is food stuck at the bottom of your pressure cooker, this will affect how the liquid and steam circulate and, therefore, on whether the pressure builds up correctly.

One of the reasons food gets stuck on the bottom of a pressure cooker is because there has not been enough liquid added for the amount of food cooking.

Solution:

A quick fix for this would be to remove the cooker’s lid and carefully scrape the bottom of the pressure cooker with a wooden spoon or spatular. You may then be required to add more liquid to continue cooking.

The Ingredients Are Too Thick

Another reason for the pressure cooker not building up enough pressure is the food you are cooking is too thick. Thick sauces, stews, etc., reduce the steam’s ability to circulate throughout the pot.

Another cause of this would be cooking a stew, and the meat in your recipe had become tough during the browning process before you started pressure-cooking it.

Solution:

The way you resolve this issue is to reduce the thickness of your food. You could do this by adding more liquid such as water or broth to help break down any thick sauces. Just be sure not to add too much water as this may dilute what you are cooking too much and affect how your dish tastes.

The Pressure Cooker Isn't Sealing Properly

Another reason your pressure cooker may not be producing enough pressure is that the lid might not seal properly. In most cookers, there’s a silicon or rubber gasket to help create and lock in moisture and air so you can get proper steam and pressure levels going on the inside of it. Sometimes food debris will get stuck to this part.

The rubber gasket in your pressure cooker will also expand when heated, which can prevent a proper seal.

Solution:

Rubber gaskets are pretty cheap and are intended to be easily replaced. You can purchase one from your pressure cooker manufacturer or somewhere like Amazon. However, before you go out and buy a new gasket, first try cleaning your current one with baking soda and boiling water.

This will help remove any debris that may be stuck or built upon it. Cleaning the rubber seal is easy and can help to fix the problem. Make sure to wash your gasket after each use.

The Pressure Valve Is Leaking

The pressure valve should always be set to sealing when using the pressure cooker and venting only for slow cookers. Venting will cause steam to escape through the valve, so if you are cooking using the pressure cooker, the appliance will never build up enough pressure as it is escaping through the open valve.

Setting the valve to the wrong setting may sound like a mistake you think you will never make but remember, the valve is easily forgotten, and it can be easy to forget that you are cooking with pressure.

Solution:

Check that the valve is set to sealing if using the pressure cooker. If it is not, then switch it over. If you have checked that the valve is set in the correct position, but the valve is still leaking, try opening the lid and using a small object to push the valve a bit further over to sealing. It may be that it hasn’t entirely switched over and is a little stuck.

You could also try jiggling it from sealed to venting a few times to see if that helps.

Related Post: Oil In A Pressure Cooker

There's Too Much Food Inside

When using a pressure cooker, it’s essential to use the correct amount of food. If you overfill your pressure cooker with too much food and water, then there won’t be enough space for steam to develop to cook your meal properly.

Also, if there is too much food in the pressure cooker, there will not be enough steam to circulate, leading to a pressure cooker not building up the necessary pressure.

If you suspect that your food is taking too long and the correct pressure is not building up, this could be the reason why.

Solution:

When using a pressure cooker, be sure to keep the water level below two-thirds full for the maximum steam build-up and avoid any surprises on release. If cooking rice, pasta, or other grains, aim to remain well beneath halfway as these items expand considerably during cooking.

The Lid Isn't Closed Properly

If the pressure isn’t building up in your pressure cooker, it might just be because of a lid that hasn’t been closed properly. If you don’t have an airtight seal, steam may escape through the side vents and not build enough to create high-pressure cooking!

Solution:

Even though closing the lid of a pressure cooker is pretty simple, there can be times when you don’t close it correctly. The most common reason is that the lid and the pot have not aligned correctly. This is a simple fix.

To fix this issue, you can either press down on the lid or remove it and then replace it. When putting the lid on, you should hear a click sound or see a sealing ring pop in.

The Pressure Cooker Wasn't Cooking on High Enough Heat

The worst thing to happen when cooking with a stovetop pressure cooker is that if you don’t provide enough heat, the water inside will not create steam efficiently. If this happens, there will not be enough pressure to cook the food, and therefore it will burn. Whether using an electric or stovetop – you need to make sure they are heated at a high enough heat.

The reverse is also true; if you set the temperature too low, it might take longer for the cooker to heat up, and therefore, the food will not cook quickly enough.

Solution:

It is a bit of a balancing act, but you will learn to judge the correct temperature over time. In the meantime, it would be best to follow a recipe. The more recipes you follow, the more you will get used to using the correct temperature, as these have already been tried and tested by someone else.

There's Too Much Liquid Inside the Pressure Cooker

Just as pressure is not built when there is too little liquid in a pressure cooker, the same rings true if there is too much liquid. If too much liquid is used, the pressure cannot build inside the chamber because there is no place for it to go.

Solution:

This can be solved by removing some of the liquid from the inner pot, allowing enough space for the pressure to build.

The Float Valve May Be Blocked

A float valve is a piece of silicon that is found in electric pressure cookers. The float should not be confused with the pressure valve as they are two completely different things. Once the pressure cooker reaches the correct pressure, the float valve will rise and create a vacuum seal.

If the pressure cooker reaches the proper pressure and the float valve cannot close off the steam, there may be an obstruction.

Solution:

Make sure to clean and wash your float valve after every use for this problem not to occur again! You can remove the valve from the pressure cooker, clean it, and then return it to its original position.

If you still have the same issue once you have cleaned it, check to see if the float valve is bent or out of shape. If the float valve is bent, it will not close off the steam and will more than likely need replacing. Float valves can be purchased on Amazon or via the manufacturer.

The Wrong Inner Pot Is Being Used or Is Misaligned

This is a very rare reason for a pressure cooker not building up steam, but it has been known that the wrong-sized inner pot is being used. If this is the case, the pressure cooker may not build up steam due to the pot sitting incorrectly in the pot, which could break the seal.

Solution:

If your inner pot is mismatched or misaligned, then you may be able to get away with just correcting the pot position and making sure the pressure cooker is sealed correctly.

The cooker will try its best, but it may not be able to build up steam. If this is the case, then the only remedy would be to ensure you use the correct sized pot in the pressure cooker.

Ideally, you would always try and use the correct sized pot for the pressure cooker it was intended.

The Food You're Trying to Cook Is Frozen

Using frozen vegetables and small cuts of frozen meat in a pressure cooker is OK but using large chunks of frozen meat is not advisable. There are three main reasons for this.

  1. The pressure cooker will have difficulty building up steam. Therefore, the longer it takes to build up pressure, the more the liquid inside will evaporate, and thus, the cycle continues.
  2. Large frozen chunks of meat tend not to taste as nice once they are cooked. The taste is noticeably diminished, and the meat is less tender.
  3. There is also a danger that the meat is unsafe to eat.

Solution:

An easy solution to this is to ensure that the meat is thawed before putting it in the pressure cooker. Do not cut any corners when it comes to thawing meat.

Thawing meat should be done correctly, and the best way to do that is in the refrigerator and never at room temperature. Depending on the size of meat you are thawing, it could take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours. Cut the meat into smaller pieces that will take less time to help speed up the process.

Frequently Asked Questions

The time it takes for a cooker to reach pressure depends on the type of cooking device you are using and what ingredients and liquid you have added. For most recipes, an electric pressure cooker will take 10-15 minutes to reach full pressure.

Also, Weighted valves, full cookers, cold liquid or frozen ingredients, and a low wattage heating element will result in a longer wait time.

To be safe, always make sure to read the instructions before you use your Instant Pot cooker. To reset it back to factory default settings, just press and hold down on the Adjust button for 3 seconds when in off mode!

When the float valve on your pressure cooker is in the Up position, there is pressure in the appliance, and the lid cannot be opened. If the float valve is in the Down position, there is no pressure inside the pressure cooker, and it is safe to open it.

A general rule of thumb would be 12 - 18 months. The gasket is placed around the lid to seal it and is subject to wear and tear, but it usually lasts approx. 12 months. If you're using your pressure cooker on an almost daily basis, then we recommend checking for any signs of damage or pressure issues before that time has passed!

Soaking the gasket in hot water will help soften it.

The good news is that there are two ways to release pressure from a pressure cooker.

1) Switching over the valve on top of the lid from "sealing" to "venting."
2) Waiting for it to depressurize independently, which can take anywhere between five and 25 minutes.

Knowing how to cook with altitude can be a little tricky, but it's essential to know. The rule of thumb for high-altitude cooking is that you need 5% more time than at sea level per 1,000 feet above 2,000 ft elevation or 300 meters above 600 meters.

Your cooker should have an output rating on its steam release valve that tells you what PSI your particular model is operating at. A properly manufactured and certified appliance should always include this information, so consumers know what to expect from their current machine.

Pressure cookers come with different outputs depending on whether they are designed for low, medium, or high pressures and other factors like age, manufacturing country, etc.

Stovetop pressure cookers typically reach around 15 psi, while most electric models range from 9 to 12.

10 psi in a pressure cooker is 240°F.
A 10 psi pressure cooker will bring the boiling point to 240°F, but a 15 psi pressure cooker will top at 250°F.

6 Great Pressure Cookers

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Instant Pot Duo

4.8/5
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Yedi 9-in-1 Cooker

5/5
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Ninja Foodi 8-Quart

5/5
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All American 921

5/5
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Instant Pot Duo Evo Plus

5/5
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Breville Fast Slow Pro

5/5