Chili burning in Instant Pot – Common causes
The Instant Pot is a popular electric pressure cooker that allows you to quickly cook dishes like chili. However, it’s easy for chili to burn in the Instant Pot if you don’t take the right precautions. Here are some of the most common reasons chili burns in an Instant Pot:
- Not enough liquid – Chili needs to have enough moisture to create steam and build pressure. If the liquid evaporates too quickly, the ingredients on the bottom can scorch.
- Too many tomatoes – The sugars in tomatoes can caramelize and burn onto the bottom of the pot.
- Overcrowding – Filling the pot too full can prevent ingredients from moving around freely and lead to burning.
- Cooking on high pressure – High pressure speeds up cooking which also increases the chance of burning.
- Not stirring – Failing to stir and scrape up any browned bits after pressure cooking can cause more burning when simmering.
- Too many dried chiles – Like tomatoes, dried chiles contain sugars that can burn.
Tips to prevent burning
Here are some tips to help prevent your chili from burning in the Instant Pot:
Use enough liquid
Chili needs plenty of moisture to build up steam and pressure cook properly. Use at least 1 1/2 cups of liquid per 1 pound of ground meat. Broth, crushed tomatoes, beer, and water all work well. Adjust the amount as needed based on how thick you want the final chili.
Don’t pack the pot completely full. Leave at least 1-2 inches of space at the top for the ingredients to bubble up during cooking. Overfilling can prevent proper circulation and lead to burning.
Stir before pressure cooking
Give the chili a good stir after sautéing the vegetables and meat and before securing the lid to pressure cook. This helps evenly distribute the ingredients and prevents bottom burning.
Skip long pressure cooking
Cooking chili on high pressure for a short time (5-10 minutes) is usually sufficient to allow the flavors to meld. Cooking too long under pressure increases the chance of scorching.
Natural release, then stir
After pressure cooking, let the pressure come down naturally for 10 minutes before doing a quick release. This more gradual release prevents splattering. Open the lid away from you to avoid steam burns. Give the chili a good stir after cooking.
Add tomatoes at the end
Fresh tomatoes add great flavor but also extra liquid that can hinder thickening. Add diced tomatoes during the last 5-10 minutes of simmering after pressure cooking.
Use fewer dried chiles
Dried chiles add smoky flavor but also have sugars that can burn. Use fewer dried chiles and more chili powder and cayenne to reduce burning. Or bloom the chiles in hot broth before adding to the chili.
Skim any oil
Use a spoon to skim off any surface oil before pressure cooking. Excess oil can contribute to burning on the bottom. Brown the meat before pressure cooking without oil.
How to fix burned chili
If your chili still manages to burn in the Instant Pot, here are some tricks to try and save it:
- Add more liquid like broth and simmer for 10-15 minutes
- Stir in a tablespoon or two of flour to absorb some of the burnt flavor
- Add baking soda – 1/4 tsp can help neutralize acidity from burning
- Stir in a dollop of peanut butter or a few tablespoons of jam
- Transfer to a Crock-Pot and cook on low for 2-3 hours
- Blend the chili with an immersion blender to incorporate any burnt bits
While burnt chili can’t be fully fixed, these tips can help improve the flavor. Next time try the preventative measures to avoid scorching.
Chili ingredient ratios
Getting the right balance of ingredients is key to making the perfect pot of chili. Here are some guidelines on proportions:
Meat to beans/veggies ratio
Use 1 pound of ground meat to every 3 cups of beans/veggies. This creates a meaty but not meat-heavy chili. Going heavier on the beans and vegetables allows you to stretch fewer pounds of meat.
Aim for 2 cups of liquid for every 1 pound of ground meat. This provides enough moisture for the chili to simmer without drying out or burning.
Start with 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 tablespoon cumin, and 1/2 tablespoon oregano per 1 pound of ground meat. Adjust to taste.
Tomato product ratio
Use a 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes or 24-ounce jar of sauce for 1-2 pounds of ground meat. Too many tomatoes increases burning risk.
Figure about 1 1/2 to 2 cups of cooked beans per pound of ground meat. Too many beans can make the chili too thick.
Use 1 cup each of diced onion, bell pepper, carrots, celery, and corn per 1 pound of ground meat. More watery veggies like zucchini may need reducing.
Salt and pepper
Season to taste after cooking. Chili often needs generous salt and pepper to bring out flavors. Start with 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper per pound of meat.
Chili ingredient prep tips
Properly preparing the ingredients also helps prevent burning in the Instant Pot:
Brown the meat
Browning ground meat before pressure cooking adds flavor. Use a skillet to break up and brown the meat. Drain any excess fat before adding to the Instant Pot.
Sauté onions, garlic, and spices to bloom their flavors before pressure cooking. Deglaze the pan with a splash of broth.
Bloom dried chiles
Simmer dried chiles in broth for 10-15 minutes to soften before blending into the chili. This prevents scorching.
Quickly toasting cumin, oregano, coriander and chili powder enhances their flavors. Toast in a dry pan for 1-2 minutes just until fragrant.
For extra flavor, sear halved plum tomatoes cut-side down in oil for 2-3 minutes before adding to the chili.
Broiling bell peppers, onions, carrots, and celery before adding to the chili adds a delicious charred flavor.
Cook beans from scratch
Cooking dried beans from scratch yields the creamiest, most tender beans. Quick soak or pressure cook before adding to the chili.
Proper ingredient prep leads to more complex, better chili flavor with less risk of burning.
Top chili burning mistakes
Here are some key mistakes that often lead to burnt chili in the Instant Pot:
Not enough liquid
Forgetting to add enough broth, tomatoes, beer, etc. means not enough moisture to build pressure and cook properly.
Too many dried chiles
More than 2-3 dried chiles can add too much sugar that caramelizes and burns.
Overcrowding the pot
Packing the pot too tightly prevents ingredients from moving and circulating during cooking.
Cooking at high pressure too long
The chili only needs 5-10 minutes under high pressure to allow flavors to meld.
Not releasing pressure properly
Letting pressure release too quickly can cause splattering and burning on the bottom.
Forgetting to deglaze the pot
Neglecting to deglaze the pot after browning allows fond to burn onto the bottom.
Not stirring after cooking
After pressure cooking, the chili needs to be stirred well and scraped from the bottom.
Using too much oil when browning
Excess oil can lead to burning on the bottom later during cooking.
Over-packing with beans
Too many beans makes the chili too thick and prone to scorching.
Avoiding these common mistakes helps ensure your chili turns out perfectly in the Instant Pot every time!
Chili troubleshooting guide
Even if you take all the proper precautions, chili can still sometimes burn or not turn out quite right in the Instant Pot. Here are some common issues and how to fix them:
Chili burned on the bottom
- Add more liquid like broth and simmer 10 minutes
- Stir in 1-2 tbsp flour to absorb burnt flavor
- Add baking soda to neutralize acidity
- Transfer to crockpot and cook 2-3 hours
- Blend with immersion blender to incorporate burnt bits
Chili is too watery
- Simmer uncovered 10 minutes to reduce liquid
- Mix 2 tbsp flour with 2 tbsp water. Stir into chili to thicken.
- Add crushed tortilla chips or bread crumbs to absorb liquid
- Mix in instant mashed potato flakes to absorb liquid
Chili is too thick
- Add more tomatoes, broth, beer, or water
- Add more diced veggies like onions or bell peppers
- Finish with heavy cream or half-and-half
Chili is bland
- Add more spices like chili powder, cumin, garlic
- Stir in a squirt of lime juice or red wine vinegar
- Top bowls with chopped onions, avocado, cheese
- Garnish with cilantro, Greek yogurt, jalapeños
Don’t be afraid to tweak and adjust the chili after cooking to get it just right!
Making chili in the Instant Pot doesn’t have to end in burning and disappointment! With a few simple tips, you can get restaurant-worthy chili at home every time:
- Use at least 1 1/2 cups liquid per 1 pound meat
- Avoid overfilling the pot
- Stir before and after pressure cooking
- Pressure cook at low pressure just 5-10 minutes
- Add tomatoes at the end
- Use fewer dried chiles or bloom in broth first
Getting the ingredient ratios right and properly preparing the meat and vegetables also prevents scorching. If your chili still burns, try adding more liquid or flour to tone down the burnt flavor. With practice, you’ll be churning out delicious Instant Pot chili burn-free!