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?!”
So when Baby Back ribs went on special, 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, I thought of the slow cooker.
When it’s just too hot to contemplate anything else, the slow cooker can save the day. Ya just gotta know a few secrets to cook ribs in the slow cooker. You can’t just toss your ribs in on low and let them cook all day – they’ll be shreds. And they’ll taste like steamed slow cooker ribs.
So here are my secrets:
- Season, liberally, all over with rib rub (preferably my rib rub, but any good rub will do) and 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. Do this 24 hours in advance if possible, and wrap with plastic wrap. If you can’t do 24 hours, go as long as you can on it.
- Toss a little liquid and a little liquid smoke in the bottom of the slow cooker. 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. Liquid Smoke is a little scary to some, but trust me on this! It’s on my Top Secret Super Stealth Arsenal of Ingredients.
- Cook these guys on high for 3 1/2 to 4 hours, until they’re nice and tender. Not “falling off the bone.” Ribs should never fall off the bone, they should be perfectly tender and have just a bit of a bite. You might need to find your “sweet spot” as far as time goes. Then remove them, slather them with your favorite sauce and broil on a foil-lined sheet until they’re hot, bubbly, caramelized deliciousness.
Look for ribs on sale, especially during Holiday weeks. Unless you have a large freezer, you might not be able to stock up, but I find them on sale regularly throughout the summer. Baby backs tend to be a bit pricier and a bit meatier, and serve more people. Spare, imho, have a bit more flavor and more bone.
Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs
- 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, discard liquid. 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.