Everyone wants fall-off-the-bone BBQ baby back ribs — you know just thinking about them is making you sing that song! But no one wants to babysit their dinner all day long. Which is why we want to show you how to cook ribs that are both hands-off and finger-lickin’: in the slow cooker!
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These ribs are every bit as mouthwatering as our favorite crock pot recipes, and somehow even more effortless; it’s kind of like having someone else cook ribs for you.
The real trick to coaxing the most tenderness and flavor from your slow-cooked ribs isn’t about addition, but subtraction. It hinges on the silverskin, that membrane of silvery connective tissue that covers the bone side of the ribs. Peeling that off allows the seasoning and BBQ sauce to penetrate the meat from all sides, so you get thoroughly luscious ribs. (The silverskin doesn’t break down at all during cooking, so if you don’t take it off, you’ll be left gnawing on a tough skin.) Luckily, this doesn’t take any fancy knife skills — just yank it off!
To deepen the flavors even more, you can season your ribs overnight; just sprinkle them with salt and pepper the night before and keep them covered in the refrigerator until you’re ready to pop them into the crock pot the next morning. (But if you’re reading this with one foot already out the door to work, it certainly won’t ruin your ribs to skip the overnight treatment and just cook them as-is.)
You’ll know you did good when everyone ends up with a BBQ sauce mustache and a pile of bones!
Slow Cooker Ribs
Makes 6 – 8 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Total Time: 4 – 10 hours.
- 3 – 4 pounds of pork baby back ribs
- kosher salt, to taste
- ground black pepper, to taste
- 2 cups barbecue sauce, divided (store-bought or homemade)
- Line a baking sheet with foil.
- Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs: use your fingers to get underneath and loosen the membrane along one side of the ribs, and then pull off the membrane.
- If needed, cut the racks of ribs into smaller sections so that they will fit better in your slow cooker.
- Season both sides of the ribs with salt and pepper. If you’re cooking them immediately, proceed to the next step. If you want to season your ribs overnight for deeper flavor, cover them and keep them in the fridge until you’re ready to cook them.
- Measure one cup of barbecue sauce. Place one rack or section of ribs in the slow cooker and cover it with a layer of barbecue sauce. Repeat the process with the remaining racks or sections of ribs and what remains of that one cup of barbecue sauce.
- Cook on low heat for 8-10 hours, or on high heat for 4-5 hours, depending on how many racks of ribs you are cooking and the temperature of your slow cooker. (If you have a small crock pot and end up having to stack your rib sections more than two high, they will need more time to cook fully.) Burnt BBQ sauce is a pain to clean off of your slow cooker, so don’t leave these too much longer than the suggested cooking time. When the ribs are tender, gently remove the racks and lay them out on your foil-lined baking sheet.
- Reuse those meaty juices and combine the liquid from your slow cooker with the reserved barbecue sauce, then reduce it over medium heat until the sauce reaches your desired consistency. (This is optional, you can also discard the liquid from your crock pot and just use the remaining BBQ sauce as-is.)
- Allow the ribs to cool slightly before cutting them into individual ribs or portions. Brush the remaining one cup of barbecue sauce on top of the ribs.
- If desired, you can also place the ribs under the broiler for a few minutes to caramelize and set the sauce.
- Serve the ribs with extra BBQ sauce.
If you love doing BBQ in the slow cooker, check our out zesty BBQ slow cooker chicken! Do you have a favorite recipe for homemade BBQ sauce? Tell us about it!