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.  Originally published May 20, 2013.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
  • 25 M
  • 6 H, 45 M
  • Serves 6 to 8

Special Equipment: 6-quart or larger slow cooker

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  • 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 (each rack should be no bigger than 1 1/2 to 2 pounds), membranes removed (see How To Remove The Membrane From Ribs note above)
  • 3 cups barbecue sauce, store-bought or homemade
  • Vegetable oil spray


  • 1. Mix the paprika, sugar, cayenne, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and then 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.)
  • 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. 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.)
  • 3. 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.
  • 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 between the bones and serve with the remaining reduced braising liquid on the side—and lotsa napkins.

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.

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