Leaving an Instant Pot Unattended – What You Need to Know

Instant pots are a great household appliance that allows you to cook quick and tasty meals and save on a lot of washing afterwards. Instant pots are the fast version of a slow cooker and so with that, there is a common question of can Instant Pots be left unattended?

Instant pots are similar to slow cookers in the sense that they can be left unattended and that is one of the design features though Instant Pots work on a quicker time frame so shouldn’t be left longer than the cooking time stated on the appliance.

In this article, I am going to talk about whether it is safe to leave an Instant Pot unattended, what to know before you do and what to be aware of.

Can You Leave an Instant Pot Unattended?

An instant pot is much like what you would call a slow cooker or rice cooker. The short answer is yes, you can leave these unattended, at least for the duration of the cooking period. Instant pots cook much faster than a slow cooker, in 1 to 2 hours as opposed to 7 or 8, so do not turn the instant pot on and head to work. 

If you are working around the house and close by, then you can absolutely leave an instant pot unattended, as they do not require constant supervision. You just need to be close enough that you can turn the pot off after it is done cooking. 

Is It Safe to Leave an Instant Pot Unattended?

For a short period of time, it is safe to leave an instant pot unattended, assuming you have set it up correctly and not overfilled it. Instant pots usually finish cooking in 1 to 2 hours, so they are more for having lunch ready while you work in the garden, not for setting in the morning to have ready when you come home from work.

Before you leave an Instant Pot unattended, make sure the Instant Pot is not overfilled: 

  • Instant pots cook using pressure and a tight seal; the steam and heat generated by the pressure cooks food much more quickly than a stovetop pot or slow cooker
  • Overfilling it can lead to food spilling out and subsequently an enormous mess on your countertops

Essentially, it is safe to leave an instant pot unattended, but as the cooking period is relatively short, you will want to stay nearby to make sure there are no issues and that you are there when the food is done cooking. The safest place to put an instant pot is on a countertop, set back from the edge so it does not move.

Although instant pots operate under pressure, they have strong seals and clamps to make sure they do not explode and send steam and food everywhere; instant pots vent pressure when it gets too high, to prevent explosions. They are safe to leave unattended for short periods; just be nearby to ensure safety.

What Happens When an Instant Pot Is Left Unattended?

You should never leave an instant pot unattended, but if you are simply working around your house and are close to the kitchen at all times, then it is not the end of the world to leave it to its own devices. An instant pot will simply keep cooking if left unattended.

Instant pots also have settings to keep food warm for a period of time after it is done cooking, so you could leave it to cook while you went to bed since the seals of Instant Pots are highly effective. 

However, you should not do that if possible, especially if you are making food that has potential to foam: 

  • Instant pots have mechanisms to seal the pot and maintain that seal
  • Foods that can foam or otherwise expand during the cooking process can inhibit the valves from doing their job and allow the food to overflow because the pot is not sealed correctly

Clean your pot regularly, and avoid sleeping while it is operating. Instant pots have mechanisms that both vent pressure if it reaches an unsafe level, and will not build pressure if it detects a leaky seal, so it will address those problems by itself. This does not mean you can leave it unattended for hours while you go out for the day; it just means it will not explode if you leave it unattended for ten minutes.

Can I Leave My Instant Pot on When I Go Out?

Instant pots take 1 to 2 hours to cook, much less than the typical 7 to 8 hours needed for a slow cooker. You cannot nor should not leave your property or go too far from the kitchen while the instant pot is in operation. This is more for safety than convenience. If you want to work in the garage, that is fine, but you should not go out for the day.

The short cooking period and the pressure cooking aspect are the reasons you should not leave the property unless totally necessary while your instant pot is operating. It is not that instant pots are unsafe, more that they build pressure and cook for short periods of time, so you need to monitor them just in case.

Of course, if you want to do something on your own property while the instant pot does its job, you should be fine. Just make sure you are back in the house before the cooking period is over, so you can switch it off and relieve the pressure. Instant pots have mechanisms to relieve excess pressure, but you can never be too careful.

When it is finished cooking, an instant pot is much like a rice cooker. Instant pots also have features to keep cooked food warm for a short period after it has been cooked; however, you cannot reheat food with it. When it is done cooking, you simply relieve the pressure, then open the lid.

Will My Instant Pot Set on Fire If I Leave it?

The short answer is no, your instant pot will not catch fire all by itself, except in the most extreme circumstances. For instance, it could be left unattended, there could be a brief electrical short and the pots of electrical controls could malfunction, causing it to catch fire. This is why it is best never to leave them unattended.

That being said, as long as you are careful, instances of instant pots catching fire are extremely rare, and you have nothing to worry about. Instant pots also have fuses in case of a random power surge; the power going to the pot is cut and the hazard mitigated. 

Will My Instant Pot Turn off Automatically?

Instant pots have a feature that stops the cooking and switches to a warming mode once the set timer runs out. That way, you do not need to run back as soon as the food is done, you can take a little more time to get ready to eat. This feature works through slowly releasing pressure, so that the food does not cook but stays warm.

The cooking stops when the timer is done, regardless of setting. However, instant pots have a keep warm feature that keeps the food warm after it is done cooking, to give you a little more time to prepare yourself. It does this through slowly releasing pressure, maintaining just enough to keep the food warm without cooking it further. 

You might hear the instant pot whistling and see steam being vented; that is either the keep warm feature or the pressure release valve at work. If it releases pressure while it is cooking, then it is doing so to maintain a safe level, but if it releases steam while it is on the warming feature, then your food is done but being kept warm.

How Long Can I Leave My Instant Pot Unattended For?

As a general rule, you should avoid leaving your instant pot unattended for more than an hour, but that is not always realistic. If your instant pot is on the keep warm cycle, then you can leave it unattended for as long as it takes you to get ready to eat, because it is not holding on to as much pressure, but stay close if it is still cooking.

  • While your instant pot is cooking, you should remain close by in case there is a problem or the cooking cycle is finished and you have not enabled the keep warm feature
  • Again, when the keep warm cycle is on, then you can leave it unattended for as long as it takes to clean up and get ready to eat

You should not leave your instant pot unattended because of the short cooking period, but working around the house is fine and as long as you listen for any problems you will be fine.