Slow cookers are a favorite amongst busy house dads and moms because it can be left on for hours undisturbed while they clean or take their kids out. To ensure that you get the most out of your slow cooker, here are ten tips for you to try:

1. Make Sure It’s Clean

This seems like a no-brainer, but it is very important to thoroughly clean your slow cooker. Even if it has just been sitting in the garage, it still needs to be sanitized, so get on with it and try these tips from Home Food Safety.

2. Find the Perfect Fit

Using too small or too large of a slow cooker for the amount of food you wish to cook makes it so your dish burns or does not cook thoroughly. Make sure not to overstuff or under-fill your slow cooker — find one that’s just right!

3. Minimize Alcohol

The sealed nature of the slow cooker makes it so that the alcohol in wine and spirits does not evaporate like it would in an open skillet or pan, so just add in a splash if you must.

4. Put the Roots on the Bottom

Firm root vegetables need to be placed on the bottom of your slow cooker to ensure that they cook all the way through. Cut these vegetables into uniform pieces to further ensure even cooking, placing the lighter vegetables on top.

5. Find the Right Time

Even if you aren’t cooking meat, you still need to cook your vegetables at the right time or else they’ll be all mushy and disgusting. Fill your slow cooker ½ to ¾ of the way full, and be sure to consult the manufacturer’s directions for the recommended cooking times.

6. Use a Puree or Another Enhancer as the Base

The base of any dish serves as the jumping off point for the rest of the ingredients, melding together all the secondary ingredients while still contributing significantly to the overall flavor profile of a dish. Use chopped, whole, or even the blended sauces of tomatoes, pumpkin, squash, or other veggies for a deep, savory tasting base. Try miso paste, curry paste, coconut milk, roux, and even tahini as well for some variation.

7. After Cooking for a Long While, Season the Dish Again

Many seasonings are already in the ingredients you use in your slow cooker like store-bought or homemade vegetable stock, tomato sauce, and miso broth. Be wary of the amount of salt that you have already from these secondary ingredients to avoid over salting or seasoning your slow cooker dish. After you’ve let your dish cook for a long time, you can taste test it to see if there is enough salt or enough herb flavor. If not, then add in any one of the following: oregano, smoked paprika, curry, cayenne pepper, saffron, fenugreek, dried basil, coriander, turmeric, rosemary, thyme, ginger, or even cinnamon.

8. Leave Out the Fat

Oil or excess fat is unnecessary in the slow cooker because the lid and confined nature of the cooker allows for moisture to stay intact, like a sauna for your little veggies!

9. Let it Be

Slow cookers are meant to do their own thing, so don’t keep opening the lid — it’s not going anywhere. Plus, some heat is lost with every lift of the lid, which increases cooking time.

10. Use the ‘Low’ Setting

Most dishes benefit from a slow, gentle heat to augment and marry the flavors of the dish together. Using the ‘low’ setting allows for this.

Try these ten tips, and see how amazing your slow cooker can be! The possibilities are endless. Try Slow Cooker Spicy Pinto Beans, Slow Cooker Vegan Vanilla Fig Oatmeal Topped with Baklava Filling, and Slow Cooker Vegan Pear Rose Cardamom Cake Oatmeal.

Image source: Slow Cooker Vegan Vanilla Fig Oatmeal Topped with Baklava Filling