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Easy Slow Cooker Barbecued Ribs

We wanted to create a slow cooker version of barbecued pork ribs with the same fall-off-the-bone texture as their authentic grill-roasted counterparts. To develop an authentic crispy, lightly charred exterior, we broiled the slow-cooked ribs, brushing them with barbecue sauce every few minutes, until sticky and caramelized. We chose baby back ribs for this recipe, which weigh about 1 1/2 pounds per rack. Avoid racks of ribs larger than 2 pounds, as they’re difficult to maneuver into the slow cooker.–The Editors of America’s Test Kitchen

LC Unmentionables Note

When it comes to unmentionables, whereas people have panties and boxers and all manner of other underthings, ribs have membranes running along their undersides. Sadly, said membrane isn’t all lace and satin and such, but rather an unsightly sort of sheath that clings to the ribs and holds them together. It’s terribly functional—or so we’ve been led to believe. The good cooks at America’s Test Kitchen, who graciously loaned us this recipe, cautioned us to leave the membranes intact during cooking. Although some of us rebelled and found that our racks were just fine when we ridded them of the slimy goo before tossing them in the cooker. So if you, too, wish your ribs to go commando, you have our blessing. (The easiest way to strip the the ribs? Stick them in the freezer just until cold but not frozen. Grip the membrane at one end with a paper towel and tug. It usually pulls right off; if it puts up a tussle, try beginning at the other end of the rack.)

Special Equipment: 6-quart (or larger) slow cooker

Slow Cooker Barbecued Ribs Recipe

  • Quick Glance
  • 25 M
  • 6 H, 45 M
  • Serves 6 to 8

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons sweet paprika
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 6 pounds pork baby back ribs, membranes removed (see LC Note above)
  • 3 cups barbecue sauce, store-bought or homemade
  • Vegetable oil spray

Directions

  • 1. Mix the paprika, sugar, cayenne, salt, and pepper together, then rub the mixture evenly over the ribs. Arrange the ribs upright in the slow cooker, meaty sides facing outward. (To ensure that the ribs cook evenly, prop the racks up on their ends along the perimeter of the slow cooker, wide end down, meatier side facing the side of the slow cooker.) Pour the barbecue sauce over the ribs, cover, and cook on low until tender, 6 to 8 hours.
  • 2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and place a wire rack on top, coating both with vegetable oil spray. Using tongs, carefully transfer the ribs, meaty side down, to the prepared wire rack and tent with foil.
  • 3. Let the braising liquid in the slow cooker rest for 5 minutes, then skim the fat from the surface. Strain the braising liquid into a medium saucepan and simmer until reduced to about 2 cups, 15 to 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • 4. Meanwhile, position the oven rack 10 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler. Remove the foil from the ribs, brush them with some of the reduced braising liquid, and broil until they begin to brown, 2 to 4 minutes. Flip the ribs over, brush again, and continue to broil until the ribs are well browned and sticky, 9 to 12 minutes longer, brushing every few minutes. Transfer the ribs to a cutting board, tent with foil, and let rest for 10 minutes.
  • 5. Slice the ribs and serve with the remaining reduced braising liquid on the side—and lotsa napkins.
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