Slow Cooker Ribs

These slow cooker ribs require just baby back ribs, barbecue sauce, a slow cooker, and, for the finishing touch, your oven. Easy to make, tasty as can be, minimal mess to clean up, and no need to stand outside and shiver in the snow or sleet as you tend a smoker.

A rack of slow cooker ribs on a cutting board with four single ribs cut off

This slow cooker ribs recipe bears all the same fall-off-the-bone succulentness as ribs that you slowly tend on a grill or a smoker—without having to stand outside in the rain or snow or sleet or ice or heat. The easy and tasty and not-so-secret secret to getting these lightly charred barbecued ribs to taste like they came off the grill comes at the very end of the recipe when you take the ribs out of the slow cooker and slide them under the broiler and brush them with barbecue sauce now and again until sticky and caramelized. Easy. Crowd-pleasing. And a cinch to clean up.–Renee Schettler Rossi

How To Remove The Membrane From Ribs

When it comes to unmentionables, people have panties and boxers and all manner of other underthings, whereas 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 slow cooker ribs recipe, cautioned us to leave the membrane intact during cooking, although truth be told, some of us rebelled and found that our racks of ribs were just fine when we ridded them of the membrane before tossing the rack of ribs in the cooker. So if you, too, wish your rack of ribs to go commando, you have our blessing to take it all off. The easiest way to strip the ribs is to stick the entire slab in the freezer until it’s cold but not frozen. Holding a paper towel in your hand, grip the membrane at one end of the slab of ribs and tug. It usually pulls right off; if it puts up a tussle, simply try the other end of the rack.

Slow Cooker Barbecued Ribs

  • Quick Glance
  • (14)
  • 25 M
  • 6 H, 45 M
  • Serves 6 to 8
4.8/5 - 14 reviews
Print RecipeBuy the Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook

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Special Equipment: 6-quart or larger slow cooker



Mix the paprika, sugar, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a small bowl.

Rub the mixture evenly over the ribs. Arrange the racks upright in the slow cooker, meaty sides facing outward. (To ensure that the ribs cook evenly, prop the racks along the perimeter of the slow cooker, the bony edges of the ribs 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. (If you like your ribs tender but not fall-apart tender, you’ll want to start checking your ribs for doneness after 6 hours. If you let them go all the way to 8 hours they will be literally fall-off-the-bone tender.)

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 cooked ribs, meaty side down, to the prepared wire rack and tent with foil. Let the braising liquid in the slow cooker rest for 5 minutes to allow the fat to float to the surface. (To make the ribs ahead of time, place them on a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil, let them cool, and then cover and refrigerate. Pour the braising liquid into a measuring cup and then cover and refrigerate. Remove the ribs from the fridge about 30 minutes before continuing with the recipe.)

Skim the fat from the surface of the braising liquid and discard it. Strain the defatted 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.

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.

Slice the ribs between the bones and serve with the remaining reduced braising liquid on the side—and lotsa napkins. Originally published May 20, 2013.

Print RecipeBuy the Slow Cooker Revolution cookbook

Want it? Click it.

    Cooking For Two Slow Cooker Ribs Variation

    • It’s incredibly simple to scale down this slow cooker ribs recipe for just the two of you. And you don’t have to be incredibly precise about the amounts. Depending on your appetites, you’ll want to use just a single rack or two of ribs. And then use as much spice rub as desired, and use 1 cup barbecue sauce per rack of ribs you’re making. Follow the instructions above. When reducing the barbecue sauce and pan drippings, use a small saucepan and reduce until it measures about 3/4 cup if you used 1 cup barbecue sauce and 1 1/2 cups if you used 2 cups barbecue sauce. Otherwise everything remains the same.

    Recipe Testers' Reviews

    Up until yesterday, my old pork ribs were the best I’ve ever had. Well, things changed. They’re now a tie with this slow cooker ribs recipe. What a discovery to slowly cook baby back ribs in a slow cooker! Mine is a 7-quart slow cooker, so the stack of ribs fit a bit snugly but well. The description of "authentic crispy, lightly charred exterior...sticky and caramelized" is very fitting. The rub is very simple and all that’s needed for flavorful meaty ribs. In the past I've always rubbed pork ribs the night before to allow the flavor to permeate, and wondered how simply rubbing the ribs then placing into the slow cooker would compare. Intriguingly, it was enough! You learn something new every day.

    The slow cooker ribs were quite tender cooked on low at 6 hours but fell off the bone at 8 hours. I’ll definitely cook them 8 hours in the future. Another thing I particularly fell for was broiling the ribs for 4 minutes on the first side and 9 on the second after being basted with the sauce. Mmmmm—the look and flavor of ribs grilled outside really came through. After straining the braising liquid and reducing it for just a few minutes (it was already nicely thickened), we had just under 1 1/2 cups. It was still enough for a generous dousing. We served the ribs with the sauce, which, by the way, made a great dipping sauce for our oven fries that we also had for dinner. These ribs had everything I look for in the perfect rib. Honestly, what could be better? l already have visions of summer barbecue plans ensconced in my mind although it’s -25°F at the moment here in Canada.

    The barbecue sauce I used was the Chipotle Maple Barbecue Sauce. This sauce tastes complex partially because of the smokiness of the chipotles. The sauce is smoky and highly flavorful with just the right amount of sweetness from the maple and kick that mellows when slowly cooked with the ribs. What can I say? I really love this sauce and highly recommend making it with this recipe. Ribs without this particular sauce would still be good but with this sauce? Nothing short of a miracle.

    These slow cooker ribs are absolutely the simplest ribs I’ve ever made and the final taste was phenomenal. They were extremely juicy, tender, and fall-off-the-bone and the sauce was outstanding, though I’m sure that the taste would depend on the type of barbecue sauce you use. I actually only had sweet smoked paprika at home, so that’s what I used and loved the smoky taste. My slow cooker has a 5-quart capacity and I can’t imagine being able to use a smaller one for the quantity of baby back ribs. I must say that 3 cups barbecue sauce may’ve been too much. I used only 2 cups and I think next time I’ll only bother with 1 1/2 cups. I used the spray oil though I really don’t think it’s needed.


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    1. These were a big swing and a miss for me. I cooked them 7 1/2 hours and they were overdone. The meat was tasteless, no sign of the rub in flavor. The BBQ sauce had lost its essence and just tasted tired. Very disappointing.

      1. I’m so sorry these weren’t a win for you, Mom24. Perhaps a shorter cooking time would work better for you?

    2. Fabulous recipe. I had two baby back ribs that totaled to 6 pounds. I broke up each in thirds so I could fit in the slow cooker. Used all the spice rub- had a little leftover and just threw it in the crockpot with the bbq sauce. I used Dinosaur BBQ Sensuous Slathering Sauce. 😋 It is the best bbq sauce. Cooked the rinds on low for 6 hours, and finished in the oven, under the broiler, as directed. The reduced sauce was amazing- totally delicious!

    3. Great recipe. 6 hours in low was a little too long in slow cooker (already fall off bone). Grilled to finish instead of broiling.

    4. Very easy to make and delicious to eat. I will make this over and over again and will pass this on to my daughter.

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