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Cooking with a Crock-Pot is foolproof, right? Well, sort of. It’s the most low-maintenance way to make dinner, because it simmers on low heat all day long while you’re out. But if you’re making one of these six rookie mistakes, your slow-cooker meals might come out less than stellar. Live and learn.

RELATED: 7 Mistakes You’re Probably Making When You Cook Chicken

slow cooker mistakes seasoning
Twenty20

You Season the Dish Too Early

The recipe might call for salt, pepper and rosemary, but if you add them all when you’re loading up the Crock-Pot, you’re likely to over-season and end up with an overly peppery—or worse, salty—stew. Seasonings taste twice as strong when they’ve been simmering all day, so add a bit to start, then fine-tune a few minutes before you eat.

slow cooker mistakes overcrowded
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You Overcrowd the Pot

Why cook four servings when you could cook six? Because overcrowding, whether it’s in a sheet pan or a slow-cooker, will make the dish cook unevenly. And our guess is you aren’t hoping for mushy, half-cooked meat and veggies. For best results, fill the slow-cooker halfway to 1/3 of the way up—if you can’t fit the lid on tightly, it’s definitely too full.

slow cooker mistakes lid
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You Keep Lifting the Lid

We know, it smells delicious. And you want to make sure the soup isn’t sticking to the bottom. And you want to give it just one more taste to see if the flavors are coming together. But if you keep lifting that lid, it’s not going to be ready in time, and the eight-hour cook time might turn into ten. Patience is a virtue, people.

RELATED: 6 Mistakes You’re Probably Making When You Cook Fish

slow cooker mistakes dairy
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You Add Dairy Too Soon

If your recipe calls for milk, cream or sour cream, wait until the last few minutes of cooking time to add it to your Crock-Pot. Otherwise, you risk the dairy curdling and ruining the entire dish. (And that would be so sad.)

slow cooker mistakes trim meat
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You Don’t Trim the Meat

As we established above, space is at a premium in your slow-cooker. Why waste extra space on pork fat and chicken skin, which you’ll just end up tossing anyway? Trim away any excess you won’t be eating to keep the meat tender and help it cook evenly.

slow cooker mistakes liquid
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You Don’t Add Enough Liquid

Look, that pot of chicken and dumplings will be simmering for eight whole hours, so don’t skimp on the gravy. Keeping ingredients submerged is the best way to stop them from drying out, and the liquid will take on the flavor of the meat and veggies. If you find yourself with extra liquid at the end, save it for tomorrow’s dinner. Meatloaf with slow-cooked gravy? Don’t mind if we do.

RELATED: 5 Mistakes You’re Probably Making When You Bake

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