Instant Pots have become a staple in American kitchens, revolutionizing the way we cook. They are one of the most popular kitchen appliances, and their convenience and versatility make them a favorite for busy home cooks. However, there have been quite a few reports of such pots exploding, which have raised concerns about the safety of this appliance.
In this blog, we will discuss the truth about these explosions and how you can avoid them. We will also provide the essential knowledge and facts to keep your family safe.
Table of Contents
Understanding Instant Pot Mechanics
Instant Pots operate on the principle of pressure cooking, a method that helps reduce cooking time that otherwise would have taken hours off your day.
Pressure-cooking creates a pressurized environment in the cooker that helps increase the cooking speed. The temperature inside the cooker can go as high as up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (121.11 °C), thus building up a lot of steam and pressure. Now, the pressure inside the cooker needs to be controlled, or else the cooker will explode right in your face. To avoid this, traditional cookers use a weighted pressure regulator, aka a “jiggler”.
The jiggler would sit atop the cooker and regulate the pressure inside the cooker between 10 – 20 psi. If the pressure levels exceeded the threshold, the regulator would let out excess and maintain the optimal level. The FDA, Code of Federal Regulations Title 2, states that a pressure household pressure cooker should operate at a nominal pressure range of 15–20 pounds per square inch (psi).
Now, in instant pots, instead of the jiggler you have safety mechanisms such as pressure release valves, locking lids, seals, and venting systems designed to regulate pressure. It’s crucial to understand that pressure cooking, when done according to the user manual, is generally safe.
However, despite these safety features, there have been reports of instant pot explosions, which have raised concerns about their safety. This brings us to our next part.
Can Instant Pots Really Explode?
While extremely rare, an instant pot can explode if misused.
The sealed pot builds up very high steam pressure, around 11-12 psi. If enough pressure is not released, it might cause the pot to explode. There have been media reports of instant pots exploding, but the actual number of occurrences is deficient. According to the lawsuits, an Instant Pot explosion mainly occurs due to defective parts of the safety mechanism. These parts falter under pressure, allowing the lid to shoot off and injure people.
For example, according to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, Sunbeam Products Crock Multi-Cookers, recalled over 914,000 pressure cookers in November 2020 citing burn hazards. These products, which were manufactured between July 1, 2017, and October 1, 2018, had issues with the safety lid. The pressure cooker could pressurize even when the lid wasn’t secure.
Sunbeam revealed that they received 119 such reports, which resulted in 99 burn injuries causing first and third-degree burns.
How to Prevent an Instant Pot Explosion?
Thankfully, there are ways you can minimize the risk of an instant pot explosion:
- Befriend the Manual — Before even plugging it in, familiarize yourself with your specific Instant Pot model’s instructions and safety guidelines.
- Don’t Overfill — Follow fluid level lines in the inner pot and don’t fill past the max fill line. Overfilling can clog valves.
- Secure the Lid — Make sure the lid is locked and sealed before starting pressure-cooking.
- Monitor Cooking — Stay nearby during cooking just in case excess pressure builds up.
- Maintain It — Replace valves and gaskets every 18–24 months to keep sealing tight. Check that they are cleaned and fitted correctly before each use.
- Vent Pressure — Always turn the valve to release pressure and steam before attempting to open the lid after cooking. Never attempt to open the pot under pressure.
In case, you’re injured, TorHoerman Law recommends that you seek immediate medical care and once recovered, reach out to a qualified product liability attorney.
Legal Aspects of Instant Pot Explosions
According to the University of Kentucky College of Agriculture, Food and Environment, the temperature inside an instant pot can reach up to 250 degrees Fahrenheit (121.11 °C).
Hence, having some in-built safety features is crucial, as they ensure your safety. However, pressure cooker lawsuits allege that defective product design lulls people with a false sense of security.
In a shocking tale, N.G. a minor suffered third-degree burns, scarring, a cold shoulder, and permanent disfigurement when a seemingly ‘depressurized’ pot exploded. According to N.G.’s mother, Brittany Gonzalez, Target Corporation, the seller of the instant pot was aware of the defects yet chose to sell it in an act of reckless indifference.
The lawsuit, filed against Instant Brands, Inc. and Target Corporation, alleges that the claims of ‘The product won’t explode’ and ‘The product won’t open when it is active’ are both false. Brittany Gonzalez, the plaintiff, was awarded $27 million in compensation following the injuries of her three-year-old daughter, N.G., which resulted in second and third-degree burns and required several amputations.
However, in contrast to this case, many of them are dismissed as user errors rather than product defects. With millions of happy customers and very few lawsuits or recalls, Instant Pots appears to have a good safety record. However, there are a few lawsuits against some e-pressure cooker companies such as Crock Pot, Breville, and Tristar Power Pressure Cooker XL. There are other brands involved in lawsuits.
If you find your pressure cooker brand in the list, make sure you stop using your cooker and consult a product liability lawyer for further assessment. While isolated explosions from user error may occur on rare occasions, overall these pot explosions do not indicate any systematic issues with the popular pressure cookers.
In conclusion, while Instant Pots have made cooking easier, there have been rare instances of explosions, leading to severe injuries.
While explosions are rare when following safety guidelines, isolated incidents can occur if the pot is damaged, overfilled, or ill-used. The safety features, including pressure release valves and locking lids, are designed to prevent such incidents. However, defective parts can compromise these safety measures, as seen in some lawsuits and recalls. Stay vigilant, maintain your Instant Pot, and always follow the manufacturer’s instructions.
Though alarming, reports of pot explosions need to be considered in the context of millions of safe uses every day. When used according to the manual, these pots pose no greater risk than any standard kitchen appliance. So, remember to take the necessary precautions so you can confidently use your Instant Pot to enjoy delicious meals in a fraction of the normal cooking time.