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Small Appliances

5 mistakes you're probably making with your slow cooker

Perfect your slow-cooking game with these tips.

Chris Monroe/CNET

Using a slow cooker is an almost foolproof way to cook. Almost. There are probably a few things that you can do to make your slow-cooked meals even better. Here are five things you may be doing wrong, and how to fix them.

1. You use way too much liquid

OK, I'll admit I used to fill up my slow cooker with liquid every time I cooked something. That's wrong. 

Generally, when cooking meat or poultry, make sure the liquid covers the ingredients. There's no need to add more liquid than that unless the owner's manual specifies that the appliance needs to be filled to a certain level to function properly. Also, if you're using a slow-cooker recipe, follow it and only use the amount of liquid specified. 

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2. You add dairy products whenever

Dairy products can curdle if you put them in your slow cooker too soon. Always wait until the last few minutes of the cooking process to add cheese, milk or sour cream. 

3. You peek

Just like when you open your oven door, lifting the lid on your slow cooker can dramatically lower the temperature inside the appliance. The more you peek, the longer it will take your food to cook.

4. You fill it to the brim

No, you can't fill a slow cooker all the way to the top. You need space between the food and the rim to prevent it from boiling over. Plus, the heat inside of the slow cooker needs room to circulate to cook your food properly. A good rule of thumb is to never fill the pot over three-quarters full.

5. You don't wait to add herbs

Wait to add herbs until the end of the cooking time. If you add them at the beginning they'll lose their potency throughout the cooking process and you'll just have to add more to kick up the flavor.