Do you remember filling out questionnaires in elementary school that asked about your favorite color, hobby, and food? You might still have a few brightly colored pieces of paper tucked away somewhere with your crooked, misspelled handwriting scrawled across it.
Well, my answer to the food question growing up was usually ribs--smoked barbecue ribs to be specific. Honest to goodness, it's one of my all-time favorite foods.
Yet, at some point in my teenage years, I became self-conscious of my love for ribs. I thought, shouldn't my favorite food be something more sophisticated? Like a perfectly cooked steak, fresh steamed shellfish, or pan-seared foie gras?
Thankfully I overcame that foodie identity crisis by the time I entered college. Around that time, I reconnected with my love for all things barbecue when I tried a Z-Man sandwich from Oklahoma Joe's (a local Kansas City restaurant that's now called Joe's Kansas City Bar-B-Que, but I refuse to use the new name).
It was phenomenal. Tender brisket slices piled atop a soft kaiser bun with melted provolone cheese, an onion ring, and plenty of sweet, smoky & spicy barbecue sauce. Not to mention their uber addicting seasoned-to-the-max fries. This place is so good people regularly wait in line 30 minutes or more in order to eat there. Anthony Bourdain also named it one of the 13 Places to Eat Before You Die. If you ever visit Kansas City, please eat there!
When I moved from KC to Dallas four years ago, I was dazzled by the copious taquerias and Tex-Mex restaurants everywhere, but finding an authentic barbecue joint was a genuine struggle. I eventually resigned myself to the fact that in order to snag good smoked BBQ I'd have to drive 30-45 minutes north to Richardson, northwest to Coppell, or west to Fort-Worth.
So what's a die-hard apartment dwelling barbecue fan supposed to do when they don't own a smoker or charcoal grill and have little to no access to stellar BBQ fare in their town?
Cry into a burger? Heck, no.
You readjust your expectations and improvise in the kitchen. (No need to only eat award winning slow-smoked barbecue. I'm definitely talking to myself here.)
Now would be a good time to introduce you to these heavenly crock-pot barbecue ribs. The kind of ribs that give you sticky fingers, a grinning sauce-smeared face, and a full belly.
Like any good rack of ribs, they're fall-off-the-bone tender, juicy, and flavored with fat (this is part of the reason why I like St. Louis style spare ribs more than baby back ribs). You don't want tough and dry meat.
The only thing these slow cooker ribs lack is that signature smoke flavor you get from a smoker or charcoal grill. However, they more than make up for it with a hefty rub of spices and a thick coating of barbecue sauce added before cooking.
The barbecue sauce is a key ingredient here. You don't want to use a BBQ sauce that makes you feel "meh". PUH-LEASE choose a brand (or homemade recipe) that knocks your socks off and makes you want to dip every dang thing in it.
Why? The BBQ sauce thickens and reduces down while in the crock-pot, almost forming a glaze on the ribs. That thickened sauce + tender meat + background of rub spices = all the flavor.
Perks of Making Ribs in a Slow Cooker
- No need to heat up the whole house by turning on the oven.
- No need to laboriously fire up the grill or smoker and babysit the ribs over indirect heat for long periods of time (although if you have access to this - I'm so jealous).
- Less than 10 minutes of prep and then all hands-off cooking.
- Little skill involved. (Smoking meats is an art form, so attempting it at home can be both expensive and intimidating for the average home cook.)
- You can enjoy tender, home cooked ribs on the fly in as little as 4 hours.
Have I convinced you to run out to the store so you can make these ASAP? I hope so! :)
You'll have plenty of extra time while the ribs are slow cooking, so why not make an easy side dish or two to serve with the meal?
Here are some of my favorites:
- Hot German Potato Salad
- Red Cabbage Coleslaw with Tangy Apple Cider Vinegar Dressing
- Balsamic Oven-Roasted Green Beans
- Turmeric Roasted Potatoes (That Taste Like Mac n ' Cheese)
- Homemade Cornbread Muffins (Sweet or Savory)
- Crock-Pot "Baked" Potatoes (If you have two slow cookers that you can use at the same time)
- Balsamic Oven-Roasted Root Vegetables
Also...leafy side salads with easy homemade salad dressings like blue cheese dressing, buttermilk garlic ranch dressing, apple cider vinaigrette, and maple balsamic vinaigrette.
Psssst...If you happen to make one of my recipes or DIY crafts and share it on Instagram, Facebook, or Twitter make sure to use the hashtag #therisingspoon and tag my account @therisingspoon so I see it! It helps me so much to get feedback on my creations and it totally makes my day. :)
Crock-Pot BBQ Pork RibsFall-off-the-bone tender pork ribs cooked in the crock-pot. This super easy recipe takes less than 10 minutes to prep and can be made in as little as 4 hours on the high setting. Use your favorite barbecue sauce for a flavorful, finger-lickin' good meal!
Slightly adapted from No. 2 Pencil's Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs
2 1/2 to 3 lbs. of pork ribs (I used St. Louis Style because they're meatier)
Sea salt, to taste (like THIS) - adjust according to the saltiness of your barbecue sauce
Black pepper, to taste (I like to add a generous amount)
1 teaspoon of granulated garlic or garlic powder
1 teaspoon of onion powder
2 teaspoons of your favorite seasoning blend or rib rub (I used a pineapple serrano seasoning)
1 to 1 1/2 cups of barbecue sauce* (homemade or store-bought)
*The barbecue sauce is a key ingredient here (since the ribs won't have any smoke/grill flavor), so make sure to choose a brand or recipe that you LOVE! I often mix a smoky and sweet Kansas City-style sauce with a spicy barbecue sauce for a good balance of sweet and spicy.
slow cooker (I have THIS ONE and LOVE it)
Season your rack of ribs with salt, black pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, and favorite seasoning blend. Feel free to use my measurements as a guideline and add more if you want a thicker coating of dry rub. Place the ribs in the crock-pot on their side (standing up) with the meatier side facing the inner wall.
Pour the barbecue sauce over the ribs on both sides and let it drip down. You can add more sauce here if you want a thicker coating, but I like to keep it a bit lighter (enough to form a glaze while it cooks) while still having the rub shine through. Plus, you can always add more sauce at the end. :)
Close the lid and cook on HIGH for 4 hours or LOW for 8 hours or until the ribs are very tender (meat easily comes off the bone and/or the ribs separate without much effort).
To serve, gently move the ribs to a large platter or baking sheet and spoon some of the cooking juices all over the rack, making sure to supply extra barbecue sauce on the side for those who want it (I never end up using more).
Store any leftover ribs + the cooking juices in the fridge. To reheat, place the ribs in an oven-safe baking dish, spoon over more cooking juices, cover with a lid or foil and bake at 350 degrees until warmed through (about 30 minutes or so). Reheating covered in the oven helps to keep the meat juicy and tender, whereas other methods (like the microwave) may overcook and dry out the ribs.
Notes & Tips
- In case you're wondering, I've only used the HIGH setting so far and they still turn out amazing! It's great for when you're surfing Pinterest or Instagram after lunch and get a sudden craving for ribs. By then it's too late in the day to cook something low and slow, but not when you using the high heat feature. :)
- Cooking time may vary slightly depending on the size of your crock-pot and ribs. If your slow cooker typically cooks faster, check on them earlier. If your ribs are bigger, give them an extra 30-60 minutes or more.
- If you want to double or triple the recipe (you may need to adjust cooking times) you should have enough room for 2-3 racks of ribs when they're placed in the slow cooker this way.
- My guy & I can polish off 2/3 of a rack at this weight by ourselves served with small portions of sides (like salad and mac n' cheese). You could definitely stretch it to serve 4 people if you give each person a smaller portion of ribs and serve with 2-3 larger portioned side items.
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