For the longest time, I’ve toyed around with the idea of making some barbecue ribs. The only reason I’d put it on the backburner was my thinking that I’d need to make them on the grill, something which I didn’t have. It was two weeks ago, however, that I randomly stumbled across a recipe that talked about making ribs in the slow cooker. That’s when the lightbulb went on and I started pursuing the idea once again.
It was a process that spanned over the course of two weekends. My first attempt last weekend was good, with the rib meat falling off the bone like I wanted. The drawback, however, was that with most bites, all you could taste was barbecue sauce. It was almost like the rib meat wasn’t even there! Determined to balance out the flavors, I did a little bit of research over the course of the week and adjusted both my ingredient proportions and cooking technique. So yesterday, when it was time to put the tweaked recipe to the test, it passed with flying colors.
These ribs are slow cooked for 6-1/2 hours until moist and tender, finished off with a session in the oven to lock in the barbecue flavor.
Slow Cooker Ribs
Makes 2 – 3 servings
~ 2-1/2 lbs. ribs (spare or baby back)
~ 1-2/3 cups barbecue sauce
~ 3-1/3 tbsp brown sugar
~ 2-1/2 tsp oregano
~ 2-1/2 tsp chili powder
~ 3-1/3 tbsp apple cider vinegar
~ 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
~ Garlic powder
~ 2-1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- To make the barbecue sauce mixture, take out a large bowl and measure out the barbecue sauce. I’d recommend using a glass bowl to prevent staining any plasticware.
- Add in your brown sugar, oregano, and chili powder, whisking in between each addition to get everything distributed evenly. Once that’s complete, combine the apple cider vinegar and Worcestershire sauce as well. With the sauce mixture complete, set that aside.
- (As kind of a quick side note, I put the cayenne pepper above in the “optional” section, since spice heat tolerance varies for everyone. I like to eat spicy foods, and I thought that the added cayenne pepper gave the ribs a nice, lingering heat. It wasn’t overpowering at all, but if you’re on the fence about it, maybe stay on the safe side and leave it out.)
- Take your rack of ribs and cut them down to size to fit inside of your slow cooker. Since my slow cooker is round, I cut my set of ribs down into three smaller racks, each the width of four bones.
- Season each side of the ribs with an even layer of salt, pepper, and garlic powder. Give the surface a light rub to get the seasoning into the meat.
- As you’re laying each rack of ribs into the slow cooker, pour a portion of the barbecue sauce mixture on top. Lightly spread the sauce to ensure the top surface gets covered. Repeat this process until all of your ribs and sauce have made it into the slow cooker.
- This is where the agonizing part begins. Set your slow cooker to low and cook the ribs for 6-1/2 hours. After a little while, the kitchen will start to smell a bit like barbecue sauce.
- (I also realized that in my excitement and oversight, I forgot to take a picture of the ribs actually in the slow cooker. I’ve got it on my to-do list for next time.)
- Fast forward to about half hour before the slow cooker is finished cooking. You’ve been waiting all day for this moment, so is it time to eat the ribs when you pull them out of the slow cooker? Not so fast! You’ll have to find a way to put off the growling stomach for just a little while longer, because there are a few more steps to complete before you’re at the finish line.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. We’ll use the dry heat to bake the sauce into the meat before finishing it off with a glaze.
- Take out an oven pan and cover it with some aluminum foil to make to easy clean-up later. Use a light coating of nonstick spray onto the foil to ensure the ribs don’t stick onto it after baking.
- Once the ribs have hit the 6-1/2 hour mark, carefully transfer the ribs over to the oven pan. The meat is probably tender enough at this point to fall off the bone, so I found the best ways for transferring were either to take a set of tongs and grab the top and bottom sides or use a wide spatula and slip it underneath the ribs.
- If there were any ribs that were sitting at the top of the pot with little sauce remaining after the cooking process, spoon out a little bit of the sauce mixture from the slow cooker and evenly spread it out over the top.
- Put the ribs into the oven, uncovered, for about 10 – 12 minutes on the middle rack. When that cycle is done, switch the oven over to “broil” mode.
- Take out some of the stock barbecue sauce and lightly brush the top surface of the ribs. A thin layer is key here to get the sauce caramelizing to the meat. Broil that on high for about 4 – 5 minutes.
- Once the ribs are back out from the broiler, let the meat rest for about 2 minutes before digging in to the long-awaited finished product.
It only took me one bite of this rendition of the ribs to know that no more tweaks were needed. The meat retained a ton of moisture through the oven process, but yet had that glazed layer on the top that I was looking for. I also liked the fact that while the meat fell off the bone, I could take a knife and still cut through it a little bit, as opposed to instantly caving in. I’d say that these ribs are a little lighter on the sauce, but if you feel like adding some more before you dig in, that’s certainly a flexible option. Even though it’s a bit of a drawn out process, I think these ribs well worth the wait. As a great combo of flavor and tenderness, you’ll be hard-pressed to not devour everything in one sitting. I know I certainly had to restrain myself.