Get that barbecue flavor year-round with these Slow Cooker Barbecue Baby Back Ribs. They are rubbed with a smoky-sweet spice blend and cooked in the slow cooker until these crockpot ribs are fall off the bone tender and then smothered in your favorite barbecue sauce.
I have been making Barbecue Ribs in the slow cooker, probably ever since I had a slow cooker. I’m pretty sure it was one of the first things I learned to cook in my crockpot. Baby Back Ribs benefit greatly from the “low and slow” method of cooking. My method is perfect because the ribs get all day to cook and your whole oven isn’t taken up for hours.
One of the issues I’ve always had when cooking crockpot ribs is the meat can fall off the bone in the slow cooker or whatever meat is sitting in the bottom of the crockpot sits in all the juice and drippings and ends up getting kind of mushy and not very tasty. Wanna know a secret? I now have a sure-fire trick to make sure that doesn’t happen – Read on for my tips! Or just ask my little hand model who tried to sneak a bite of my crockpot ribs when I wasn’t looking.
HOW TO PREPARE BABY BACK RIBS
In my family, I am known for these amazingly fall off the bone tender crockpot ribs. My kids ask for them almost daily. Along the way I’ve learned a thing or two about how to prepare them for cooking.
Remove the membrane. Remove your slab of ribs from the packaging and take a look at the back side. You’ll see a thin layer of membrane that holds the ribs together. This is quite tough and should be removed. Slide a knife underneath one side to loosen it, then just peel it off. If you’re lucky the butcher will have already done this for you, or you can ask them to at the meat counter of your grocery store.
Inspect. Take a look at the whole slab and check for shards or pieces of bone that may have been left behind when the butcher cut the ribs.
Cut. Lay the slab flat on a cutting board and cut into three equal pieces. This will help the ribs fit snugly into the slow cooker.
TIPS FOR GETTING FALL OFF THE BONE TENDER SLOW COOKER RIBS
See down there in the bottom of the slow cooker underneath those gorgeous ribs? That’s a bunch of wadded up foil. What the foil does is lift up the meat so it’s not sitting in the juices and getting all icky. The result is perfectly tender, fall of the bone barbecue baby back ribs that are so finger licking good you won’t be able to eat just one…or five…or ten.
The right spice rub can be pretty epic too. A blend of brown sugar, smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and salt and pepper is my go-to. It really gives that sweet and smoky flavor that you expect from the best crockpot ribs.
Add the barbecue sauce after your crockpot ribs have finished cooking. Cooking ribs in the crockpot with barbecue sauce adds a little flavor, but what ends up happening is not so tasty. While the ribs are cooking the release a ton of liquid that will just water down your barbecue sauce and you won’t have that finger licking stickiness that you expect from a good plate of bbq ribs. Let the ribs cook in the crockpot, then douse them in your favorite bottled barbecue sauce, or use my homemade Root Beer Barbecue Sauce.
Once the slow cooker ribs are cooked, I like to go the extra step of broiling them in the oven. This helps to caramelize the barbecue sauce, making them extra sticky and yummy, and ensuring that the sauce stays right where it belongs. They get all charred and crispy on top with just adds to the overall deliciousness. You could also grill them on your outdoor grill for extra smokiness.
HOW LONG DO YOU COOK CROCKPOT RIBS?
There are lot of “secrets” to getting that fall of the bone tender texture when cooking ribs. But the most basic of those is cooking low and slow. Cooking ribs at a low temperature for a long period of time yields incredibly tender meat that just just falls off the bone without any effort.
When cooking crockpot ribs, cook on low for 8-9 hours or on high for 6-7 hours. I always recommend cooking on low because it will tenderize the meat more evenly and just produces a more flavorful result.
Here are some great sides to go with your crockpot ribs:
In a small bowl, combine brown sugar, salt, onion powder, garlic powder, pepper and paprika. Set aside.
Remove ribs from their packaging and pat dry. Look at the back side of each rack of ribs. If the membrane is still in tact, remove it by sliding a dull knife or your fingers underneath to loosen and peel it off. Rub the spice blend all over the meat on both sides. Cut racks into 3 even sections each.
Crumple foil loosely into about 5 balls the size of your fist. Place these on the bottom of a 6 quart slow cooker. Stack ribs on top of the foil. Make sure you able able to secure the lid all the way and they are not touching the lid. (In my 6.5-quart slow cooker, the sections of ribs fit tightly).
Cook ribs on low for 8-9 hours on low or 5-6 hours on high. (TIP: low and slow is recommended).
When ribs are fork tender, place them on a foil or parchment paper lined sheet pan and brush with barbecue sauce. Serve immediately, or proceed to the next step if desired.
Turn your oven's broiler to high and place a rack near the top. Place ribs under the broiler for 3-4 minutes or until sauce is caramelized. Watch closely so they don't burn. You could also opt to grill them on an outdoor grill over high heat for several minutes.
Cut into individual pieces and serve immediately.
Serving size will vary depending on how many ribs are in each rack that you purchase.
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Kristin Maxwell is the creator and main recipe developer, writer, and photographer of Yellow Bliss Road. A self-taught cook and self-appointed foodie, she specializes in easy, flavorful and approachable recipes for any home cook.