The Top 6 Reasons Your Electric Pressure Cooker Won’t Pressurize…..and What To Do About It 

Electric pressure cooking is all the rage. Everyone wants one, and for good reason. Not only does an Electric Pressure Cooker maximize the time we spend in the kitchen creating great meals, it also intensifies flavor profiles.  Within mere minutes we can have a healthy, delicious meal on the table for our family, using fewer resources and more whole foods to do so. Hallelujah!

So what happens when your “magic machine” isn’t so magical? Your family is starving, demanding dinner, and for some idiotic reason, your electric pressure cooker is refusing to cooperate. Now what??

I’m sharing the top 6 reasons I’ve discovered that can keep an electric pressure cooker from pressurizing. I’ve experienced all of these at one time or another, and you likely will too at some point.  So before you toss your pressure cooker out in frustration, consider which one is likely your culprit and set things right.

The Top 6 Reasons Your Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker Won’t Pressurize….and what to do about it.

1. There’s Not Enough Liquid in The Bottom of The Electric Pressure Cooker Pot.

**Open the electric pressure cooker (EPC), add a bit more liquid; lock lid into place and begin again.  Remember! Pressure is made from steam; if there’s not enough liquid in the bottom of the EPC pot to circulate and create steam, it absolutely cannot pressurize. Always be sure there’s a minimum of 1 cup of liquid in the EPC pot before you lock the lid into place to begin pressurizing. (**Please note:  This rule of thumb changes if you are cooking grains, beans, or pasta in the EPC.  When cooking these ingredients in an EPC, you will need to be sure they are fully covered by about 1″ with liquid.  Refer to your EPC recipe for more details when cooking grains, beans, or pasta; these are all delicious cooked in your EPC, by the way.)

2. Food is Stuck to The Bottom of The Electric Pressure Cooker Pot.

**Let’s say you’re browning off  pork chops in a bit of oil and one of them has somehow managed to partially adhered itself to the bottom of the EPC pot somehow.  This often restricts the circulation of liquid, and if you’ll remember from reason #1, without the circulation of liquids, no steam is created, so the EPC cannot pressurize! Perform a quick release to remove any partial pressure that may be in the EPC, then carefully remove the lid. Using a spatula, give a stir to gently rearrange everything inside the pot, checking to see if something is stuck to the bottom. If so, loosen its grip, add more liquid (only if needed), then start the pressurizing process again.  If the EPC still won’t pressurize, check one of the other reasons listed here to see if you can learn what the culprit is.

3. The Sauce is Too Thick.

**So you’ve got a nice marinara sauce simmering in your electric pressure cooker pot and you’ve just added meatballs to the sauce. After locking the lid into place, you soon discover that your electric pressure cooker won’t pressurize…what the heck?! Odds are, that beautiful  sauce is just too thick and therefore can’t circulate properly to generate the steam needed to create the pressure to pressurize.  To address this problem, perform a quick release to remove any pressure that’s tried to build, then carefully remove the EPC lid; thin the marinara sauce by some broth. Now, lock EPC lid into place and begin to pressurize once again.  Chances are, with that sauce now much thinner, your EPC can pressurize perfectly.  After you’ve cooked the meatballs, released the pressure,  and carefully removed the EPC lid, you can now thicken the marinara sauce by whisking in a little cornstarch slurry, simmering until the sauce thickens right back up again. Voila!

4. The Electric Pressure Cooker Gasket Isn’t Adjusted to Fit Properly.

**Open the electric pressure cooker (EPC) to check inside the lid; adjust the gasket as needed, making sure it fits snugly against the lid and fits tightly around the insert. Lock EPC lid back into place, and start the pressurizing process again. If there’s a gap in the gasket anywhere inside the lid, this allows steam to escape and the EPC cannot pressurize properly. FYI – once the EPC gasket becomes yellowed and/or limp from use, you will want to purchase a replacement gasket for your EPC to keep it in tip top shape and fitting tightly around the insert.

5. Steam is Somehow Escaping From the Valve When it Shouldn’t Be.

**If your EPC is fully pressurized yet still letting some steam escape from the valve, use a long-handled spoon to touch the valve from the side, gently adjusting it a bit. By “nestling” the valve into the area where it’s located on the EPC’s lid, you can often put a stop to the steam that’s escaping. You will notice that there are indicators on or around the valve that tell where the valve placement should be for CREATING pressure, and for RELEASING pressure. Lining up these indicators should help the valve to seal off, keeping it from letting any steam escape from your EPC.

6. The Pressure Cooker is Over-Filled.

**Most manufacturers recommend that their pressure cookers only be filled two-thirds full when pressurizing. Filling past 2/3 full can cause two sad mishaps:

1. An EPC that can’t/won’t pressurize. 2. A huge kitchen mess. If an overfilled pressure cooker DOES happen to fully pressurize, performing the quick release of pressure when the timer sounds will prove why overfilling is a terrible idea: the liquid contents of what’s inside the pressure cooker (such as soups) can be spewed everywhere…..creating a nightmare mess!

I hope learning about these culprits that keep your EPC from pressurizing can help you figure out what’s delaying dinner.

For additional help, please feel free to email me here:  ChefAlli@ChefAllis.com.  Together we can figure it out and help you conquer electric pressure cooking!

Bonus Tip: I highly recommend the Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker. Other EPCs are great and they all work essentially the same, but out of all the ones I’ve tried, the Cuisinart has an ease and simplicity of use that I have yet to find elsewhere. A non-stick pot and only three buttons? That sounds good to me!

Let’s Get You PRESSURE Cookin’,
Chef Alli 

Click on the photos for links to more delicious Electric Pressure Cooker recipes.
You can also find all of my pressure cooker recipes here: Electric Pressure Cooker Recipes
Or try some of my Top Ten EPC recipes:

Electric Pressure Cooker Breakfast Monkey Bread

Big Bold Beef Carnitas

Electric Pressure Cooker Beef and Cider Stew

Note: Although electric pressure cooking works technically the same way (using steam) for every pressure cooker, these guidelines may not apply to all pressure cooker models. Please refer to the user manual of your particular brand/model for the most accurate troubleshooting tips.

5 thoughts on “The Top 6 Reasons Your Electric Pressure Cooker Won’t Pressurize…..and What To Do About It 

  1. My valve you turn to lock the pressure and have it cook right just spins. It doesn’t lock. What am I doing wrong? And it goes all the way around not just from lock and unlock. What do I do?

  2. The browning light is on constantly and won’t go of meaning I cannot use any of the other function buttons like stew for instance.

    • Hi Marie – Oh no! That’s frustrating. So once you’ve browned something, you can’t turn off the sauté (or browning) button to then lock your lid into place and create pressure? If that’s the case, I’d say you might have a defective EPC. Alli

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