Champions of slow cookers love to extol their convenience and all the scrumptious joy they bring to the table. Coming home (or waking up) to a warm meal made with a medley of ingredients isn’t so bad.

We realize that everyone isn’t a fan of Crock-Pots. Perhaps it’s their notoriety for producing bland and mushy food. Or maybe it’s their rep for making chicken soggy. The worst? When your recipe doesn’t turn out at all as you expected.

Wait, though. There are fixes for those grievances that can turn your slow-cooked food around. Mashed is doling out advice in this video about common slow cooker mistakes. We’ve laid out five of their tips here that may convince you to give this cookware staple a shot.

  1. Skip Pricey Cuts

    One of the great things about using a slow cooker is that it supports budget meals. Save money without sacrificing flavor by buying cheap, fattier cuts of meats for your recipes.

    Because of how the appliance works, tender, moist meat is pretty much guaranteed once you drop it and pop the lid into place. Fat helps it to tenderize. Expensive cuts are fine but not a requirement!

  2. Searing

    Searing/browning your meat will help to unlock deep flavors that will be amplified in the slow cooker. When you sear your meat first, it undergoes the Maillard reaction, a chemical process that helps to brown food and give it its umami.

  3. Seasoning with Herbs

    Dried herbs shine when allowed to simmer for hours, but what about fresh ones? They can lose their pungent flavor if cut and tossed in at the start of your cook time. Instead, drop them in – stems and all – towards the end to help them retain their taste.

  4. Dairy Additions

    Be careful about when you add dairy to the mix unless you want lumps. Low and slow will only ruin the flavor when it comes to this addition. To prevent curdling, wait until the last 15 to 30 minutes of cook time for dairy-based ingredients to go into the pot.

  5. Go Easy on the Alcohol

    When cooking on the stove top, alcohol evaporates through steam and imparts a nice, subtle flavor to the dish. Pouring liquor or wine into your slow cooker with everything else and then trapping it under the lid will result in a booze-flavored dish.

    Because it can’t cook off, you’ll be left with a raw alcohol taste in your food. Add only a tiny dash of it or use it to deglaze your meat before putting it in the slow cooker.

Ready to hop on the slow cooker train? Watch the video below for more tricks to ensure your recipes are on point. If you’ve been avoiding this machine because you’re worried about gross food, these tips may convert you into a believer.

And don’t think your one-pot wonders have to be savory dishes only. Slow cookers are also great for desserts and breakfast foods. Steel cut oats and brownies will be calling your name from under that lid!

Are you a slow cooker connoisseur? What tricks have you learned through trial and error? Which of these tips will help you the most?