Does it seem you wait and wait and wait for Summer and all of a sudden it’s just too dang hot? And as we’ve all heard, “It’s not the heat it’s the humidity.” What exactly IS that supposed to mean, anyway? Don’t ever say that to me. I’ll be cranky when it’s too hot and give you a “look.” You know the kind of look I mean…the one that says “What in the H E double hockey sticks are you talking about?!” That’s when it’s too hot to cook, too hot to bbq, and you need Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs in your life. Or Spare Ribs. It doesn’t matter, they’re both so good with this method.
When Baby Back ribs went on special this week, my first thought was to go rig our BBQ for low & slow and soak some wood chips. But it was too hot. My second thought was cook them in the oven, but noooo way was I going to have the oven on for hours. Then finally, duh, it hit me. I’ll do them in the slow cooker.
About Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs:
When it’s just too hot to contemplate anything else, the slow cooker can save the day. And with just a little care you’ll have such tasty, beautifully cooked ribs like this, coated in sticky, caramelized barbecue sauce. They’re def a “style” and def crave-worthy! There’s a reason recipes like this for ribs are a workhouse of good home cooking!
But guys, I gotta say it, and while I’d never turn down any rib, there’s also a reason that sometimes slow cooker ribs are…well there’s no delicate way to say it, looked down at a little. You can’t just toss any ribs willy nilly in the crockpot, cook the ever lovin’ holy heck out of them all day and expect what comes out to be great. And really, with the price of ribs these days, well they deserve more.
But no worries, here. I’ve got you covered with all my secret Ninja ways…and they’re all so low effort and easy and they’re gonna up your game for sure on any slow cooker rib. I know if you follow these hints and helps you’re going to have ribs cooked to perfection (not in shreds or falling off the bone) with just the right bite, flavor for days, and that deep, rich, glossy, sticky finish.
How to make the Best Slow Cooker Ribs:
- Season, liberally (use a little more than you would with other methods of cooking), all over with rib rub (preferably my Essential Rib Rub (blatant self-promotion, there!) but any good rub will do. Do this after you remove that membrane on the back of the ribs. Grab a corner with a bit of paper towel (to give you a better grip) and pull it right off.
- Give that rub time: 24 hours in advance if possible, and then wrap tightly with plastic wrap. If you can’t do 24 hours, go as long as you can on it.
- Toss a little liquid in the bottom of the slow cooker, but not very much. You don’t want to “stew” your ribs. I like to use Not Your Father’s Rootbeer (coz then I can drink the rest – I LOVE that stuff!) but beer, broth, Dr. Pepper or Coke, apple juice or just about anything else that strikes your fancy will work.
- Add some Liquid Smoke. I know it freaks some people but there’s nothing to be worried about. It’s actually pure distilled smoke and it comes in a couple of different flavors these days. It keeps literally forever and you don’t need much. It’s on my Top Secret Super Stealth Arsenal of Ingredients. (And I know, I’m a little “full of it” lol!)
- If you’d like, you can slice an onion and toss it into the pot. I personally don’t find that it adds much flavor but some people just swear by it. It’s not in the recipe.
- I prefer to cook these in sections of three to four bones. Layer in the thicker sections first, ending with smaller ones on top.
- Cook these guys on high for about 3 1/2 hours (they could need a little more time, check quickly so you don’t lose too much heat) until they’re perfectly tender and have just a bit of a bite, not falling off the bone. You might need to find your “sweet spot” as far as time goes because slow cookers have no “standard” and vary in the way they cook.
- Remove the ribs, and they may look sad, then slather them with your favorite sauce (preferably something rich, sweet, and thick for this recipe) and broil on a foil-lined sheet until they’re hot, bubbly, caramelized deliciousness. It will take about 10 minutes.
Saving Money on Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs:
First of all, buy your ribs on sale. That’s a no-brainer, right?! Watch the specials and you’ll find many of them throughout the summer and very possibly some of the best sales around the Summer Holidays. You’ll likely see some specials around the Superbowl, too, but do keep your eye out as sales can pop up sometimes with no seeming rhyme or reason.
I usually (but I’m out a freezer now) have a rack or two in my freezer but they are awkwardly shaped and take a lot of room. Ribs generally come in a cryovac package, so I hate to cut into that package and trim the ribs. If space is a big issue and you want nice, uniform ribs to stack, that’s an option.
By the way, don’t toss those juices on the bottom of the crockpot! Use them as a base for a barbecue sauce or see my post on Competition Ribs for ideas on how to use as well as ideas for ways to use your trimmings if you’ve trimmed spare ribs to a St. Louis style.Print
Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs (Spare Ribs Too)
- Total Time: about 4 hours
- Yield: 1 to 2 racks 1x
- Category: Pork Main Dish
- Cuisine: American
- 1 to 2 racks of ribs
- A good tablespoon or tablespoon & 1/2 of Rib Rub per rack
- 1/2 cup of liquid if using a round slow cooker, 3/4 cup if using an oval, Beer, Root Beer, Chicken Broth, Cola, Dr. Pepper, apple juice, etc.
- 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
- Barbecue sauce of your choice, enough to liberally spread on the tops of the ribs, about 3/4 to a cup
If possible, 24 hours in advance, and if not, as far in advance as possible, remove membrane from the back of the ribs. Rub with rib rub, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
When ready to cook, mix liquid of your choice with the liquid smoke and put in the bottom of the slow cooker. Unwrap ribs, cut into sections to fit in the slow cooker and layer.
Cook on high for 3 1/2 to 4 hours or until ribs are tender. This may vary with slow cookers, so check as it reaches the 3 1/2 hour mark, but don’t check too often or it will slow down the cooking.
Remove Ribs from slow cooker. Place ribs on an aluminum foil-lined sheet pan and slather with sauce. Broil 4 to 5 inches from heat source (set on high) until sauce is bubbly and caramelized. Cut into sections and serve.