What is the "Water" Notice?
The Water Notice displays as "WATR" on the Ninja Foodi control panel and it lets you know that there is a problem and the Ninja Foodi is not able to function properly under the Pressure Cook or Steam settings. If you are familiar with the Instant Pot, their message says, "BURN" and it is essentially the same thing.
There are a few reasons why you can get the water notice and it isn't always because you don't have enough thin liquid. Sometimes it's because there is food burning on the bottom despite having plenty of thin liquid. This can happen when cooking foods that absorb liquid as they cook, like rice, pasta, and beans.
The "WATR" or water notice can occur when steaming or pressure cooking and usually happens because the liquid isn't thin enough to let the steam escape through the surface or there isn't enough liquid. It can also happen when something is stuck on or burnt to the bottom of the pot. To better understand what triggers the water notice, it is important to understand what's going on in the pot during steaming or pressure cooking.
The best analogy is to think of a pot of spaghetti sauce on the stove. When you turn the burner on to heat the contents in the pot, the heat source is coming from below. If you had the burner turned all the way to high, it is likely that you would scorch the spaghetti sauce on the bottom if you didn't constantly stir it to release the steam that is being built. If the burner is turned to low and you see tiny bubbles forming on the surface (what is called simmering), it is less likely that your pot of sauce will burn because the steam has time to make it's way through the thick sauce and be released through the surface. The steam being released is those tiny bubbles over the surface of the sauce.
Whether you are steaming or pressure cooking, it is imperative that the steam being produced at the bottom of the pot be able to make its way through to the surface. This happens much faster and easier with thin liquid versus thick liquid. Take the same pot on a stove with water versus spaghetti sauce and it is impossible to burn water because the steam can easily make its way to the surface and be released so the temperature of the water will never increase past 212°F/100°C at sea level.
Think of the steam as a person, it would be much easier for a person to make their way to the surface in a pool filled with water rather than a pool filled with pudding. In the Ninja Foodi during steaming or building pressure, if the steam can't escape through the liquid, the food burns on the bottom of the pot and the water notice is triggered.
Most steaming is done with thin liquid, so it is less common to get the water notice, but it can happen. When you want to steam something, make sure you use enough thin liquid for what you are making. I steam rice all the time in the Ninja Foodi and for most rice I use 2 cups water to 1 cup rice and steam for 7-8 minutes. This amount of liquid is enough for the rice to absorb as it cooks and also allow the steam to fill the pot and escape from the vented pressure valve. If I used 1 cup of water to 1 cup of rice, I might get the water notice as the rice absorbs all the available liquid and starts to burn on the bottom.
Pressure cooking is slightly different because we seal the pressure valve to trap in the steam. While you can get the water notice at any time during pressure cooking, the most common time it occurs is during the building of pressure. The principles are the same as when steaming, the contents of the pot are heated from below and the thin liquid is heated so it produces steam. The steam bubbles make their way to the surface and fill the pot with steam. When enough steam is built in the pot, the pin pops up and seals the steam in. This is what allows the pressure cooker to cook at such high temperatures.
If you try to pressure cook with liquids that are too thick or not enough liquid for what you are making, you may get the water notice. You can also get the water notice if you used the sear/sauté to brown or sear something and didn't scrape the bottom when adding the thin liquid.
Preventing the water notice is always the best practice, so make sure you have enough thin liquid for the food you are cooking and you deglaze the pot after searing. Deglazing simply means adding a thin liquid like water or more commonly a flavored broth or stock to the hot pot after searing or sautéing and scrape the bottom of the pot to release anything that may be stuck on.
If you get the water notice and need help troubleshooting how to fix the problem, see this article: Troubleshooting the water notice.
If you need help with how much water you need to pressure cook, see this article: