Is your pressure cooker not building pressure? Your ingredients might be too frozen. Here are 6 things to check.

Pressure cookers are convenient time-savers. I’ve lost count of how many get-togethers my trusty appliance has saved. Can you imagine having to boil beans, or prepare chicken broth on a regular pot? It would take ages!

It’s undeniable that pressure cookers have revolutionized the way in which we eat, cook, and operate our kitchen. However, as incredible as they are, perfection is a feature they lack, which means they can fail from time to time.

If you’re reading this, yours is not building pressure. Why?

There are many possible explanations to this situation. From a worn out gasket, to user-related errors like overfilling the pot. You name it, it’s a possibility.

In order to regain control of the situation, and get things back to normal, you need a detailed list of the most common causes and the steps you can take to address them.

Below you will find said compendium, so you’re not “going in blind”, so to speak. Rest assured that, after going through it, your appliance will be as good as new.

Are you ready? Let’s get busy!

Fixing a Failing Pressure Cooker

Whether your pressure cooker is fire-heated, or electronic, most of the steps on this list will work to resolve your problems. It is of the utmost importance that we go about this troubleshooting process in a detailed, and orderly fashion.

This will not only help save your precious time and money, but also prevent you from unnecessarily tampering with your appliance.

Your pressure cooker might not be building pressure due to:

  • Having food stuck to the bottom of the pot
  • Compromised sealing
  • Not using enough liquid
  • A dirty pressure valve
  • Overfilling
  • Using food that’s too frozen

#1 There’s Food Stuck to the Bottom of the Pot

Make sure to clean your pot after every use

First, I want us to look at the possibility of there being food stuck to the bottom of your pot.

This is probably not the first thing that came to your mind when you were trying to find the possible culprits for this situation, and I can’t blame you, it’s not very obvious. 

When there are food remains at the bottom of your pressure cooker’s pot, your appliance is unable to properly build up pressure, as the residue is already taking up vital space needed for the process to occur adequately. 

Ideally, you want to clean your pressure cooker after every use.

This will not only guarantee that you’re operating it under the most hygienic conditions, but also allow it to go about the pressure-building process unaffected.

Solution: Keep your pressure cooker as clean as possible.

While using water and dish soap will work wonders, letting the pot soak with an equal mixture of water and vinegar once a week will help kill all lingering bacteria, and provide you with the ultimate cleaning solution.

Just make sure to rinse your pot vigorously afterwards, as failing to do so could spice up a couple of future batches with an unwanted vinegary taste.

Nothing too serious, but I’m sure you want to enjoy your food untainted.

#2 The Sealing Is Compromised

A worn out gasket needs to be replaced immediately

Provided that your energy sources are unscathed, we can safely move on, and look at your appliance’s sealing conditions.

Your pressure cooker’s ability to create an airtight seal is solely dependent on a small rubber ring called a “gasket”.

Woman taking out pressure cooker gasket
Over time heat exposure can contribute to the sealing ring deformation and shrinkage.

When this part gets damaged or dirty, it renders your unit incapable of keeping its internal pressure stable.

Who would have thought such a seemingly unimportant component could cause so much trouble?

Solution: Carefully unplug your appliance, and let it cool down.

Once you have done that, remove the lid, and turn it upside down. You should see a big rubber ring inside it. Check it for damage or food buildup, and replace or clean it as necessary.

Yous should be able to get a new gasket at any hardware store near you, at an online marketplace, or directly from your manufacturer.

Gasket sizes come in relation to their pot’s capacity in quarts, so look for that information in your user manual.

#3 You’re Not Using Enough Liquid

Using the right amounts can go a long way

In order to operate adequately, your pressure cooker needs a specific amount of water.

If you’re not using enough liquid in your recipes, your appliance will have a hard time creating the steam it needs to build up the pressure you’re accustomed to.

It might sound like an unimportant factor, but I’d go as far as to say that, in 80% of the cases, this is the culprit.

Solution: Read your user manual once again to find the recommended amount of liquid you should use. This will resolve your issue, and protect your appliance from possible future damage.

#4 Your Pressure Valve Is Dirty

A dirty pressure valve can compromise the pot’s operating conditions

If you’re in the habit of waiting too long between cleaning cycles, there might be food residue stuck to your pressure valve.

This problem will not manifest itself in a month, or two, but over time, food particles will gather around and inside your valve and compromise its steam-regulating capabilities. If your pressure cooker is not building pressure, there’s a very good chance that it needs an urgent cleaning session.

Solution: Carefully unplug your appliance, and let it cool down.

Once you have done that, disassemble your unit, and let your valve soak in a mixture made up of equal parts of water and vinegar.

After about 10 minutes, take it out, and scrub off any food residue to get the part sparkling clean again.

Unless it’s broken, this should get it working normally again.

#5 Overfilling

Try to never exceed the limits specified by your manufacturer

Not putting enough liquid inside your pressure cooker can be troublesome, but overfilling it, can prove disastrous.

With these appliances, it’s all about precision.

When you put too many ingredients or water in your recipes, your unit has a very hard time generating the steam it needs to build up the pressure inside the pot, since there is not enough space for the cooking process to occur normally.

Constantly exceeding your manufacturer’s recommended limit can not only leave you stranded with a pressure cooker that’s not building pressure, but also reduce its lifespan dramatically.

Pressure cooker filled with vegetables
Away from the food quality, overfilling your pressure cooker can be disastrous.

Solution: According to most manufacturers, you should never fill your pressure cooker beyond 2/3 of its maximum capacity. Most models will have a “Max” marking inside the pot to indicate where this level is.

If you constantly find yourself in the need to prepare several batches for friends and family, thinking about getting a larger pressure cooker is definitely a good idea.

With these appliances, it’s always better to prepare many smaller batches, and keep them in optimal condition, than prepare fewer larger ones, and cause permanent damage to them.

#6 Your Food Is Too Frozen

Thaw out your food before putting it in your pressure cooker

If addressing all the possible causes above did not work, considering the possibility that your ingredients are excessively frozen, is not too crazy.

I’ll be honest with you, had I not done this research, I never would have thought of this as a contributing factor to the issue, but it definitely is.

Here’s why.

As you already know, your pressure cooker harnesses the power of steam to build up pressure inside its pot. When your food is excessively frozen, steam release occurs at a slower rate.

This compromises your unit’s adequate operation, resulting in longer cooking times.

Solution: Take your food out of the freezer a couple of hours before putting it in your pressure cooker. This will thaw it out partially or completely, and allow for optimal steam generation.

Conclusion

To have your pressure cooker fail to do the one thing it’s designed to, can be very frustrating.

Not only are you stuck with half-cooked food, but now you also have to find a way to fix the unit.

Luckily, as you’ve learned on this article, this shouldn’t be too difficult. More often than not, the causes behind your pressure cooker not building pressure, are much more closely related to how you’re using it, than a technical problem.

Remember to always read your user manual and make sure that you are neither overfilling it, nor using an insufficient amount of liquid when using it to cook.

Make sure to thaw out your ingredients before putting them inside the pot, give your unit proper maintenance at least once a week, and wash it after every use.

These are all good practices that will not only guarantee that you’re operating the cooker under the most hygienic conditions, but also expand its lifespan dramatically.

Thank you for sticking with me all the way to the end. If you found this article useful, why not check out our other wonderful resources below?

Bon Appétit!