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What’s not to love about a slow cooker? Using one is a great way to eat healthy while saving both time and money.

But cooking with a Crock-Pot isn’t always as simple as loading it with food and walking away. Turns out, there are several mistakes you can make. Here are six from CheatSheet; avoid them to lessen the chance of ruining dinner.

1. Overfilling

If you stuff your slow cooker to the brim, it may overflow as the food cooks. Who wants to come home to a big mess all over the kitchen counter?

2. Water levels

Slow cooker expert Steffanie Rivers told CheatSheet that too little water makes the food dry, while too much can lead to the aforementioned problem of overflowing.

3. Frozen food

It’s best to thaw frozen food items before putting them in a slow cooker. If they’re still completely frozen, they may not cook all the way through.

4. Herbs

Fresh herbs are a delicious and healthy way to add flavor to your food, but they don’t always do well in a slow cooker.

“Fresh herbs add flavor and color when added at the end of the cooking cycle; if added at the beginning, many fresh herbs’ flavor will dissipate (or burn!) over long cook times,” cookbook author Cathy Mitchell told CheatSheet.

Dried herbs are a better bet for slow cookers.

5. Dairy

Similar to herbs, dairy products don’t do well with long cook times. If you’re going to use them, add them toward the end of the cycle.

Better yet, swap the milk in a recipe for condensed soup.

6. High temperatures

Meat dishes don’t fare well when cooked on high for too long. The temperature can cause the water in the slow cooker to evaporate quickly, meaning it doesn’t have time to sink into the meat. This can also make the meat stringy.

Culinary consultant Jenny Dorsey told CheatSheet she recommends “searing/browning meats… making sure the braise holds a light simmer and keeping it at a medium heat for best results.”

Hungry? Here are some of our favorite slow cooker dishes:

(H/T: CheatSheet)

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