Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs — Tender, juicy, fall-off-the-bone baby back pork ribs that are finger-lickin’ good! With just 5 minutes of active prep, your slow cooker does all the work in creating ribs that your friends and family will beg you to make over and over!
Slow Cooker Ribs Recipe
These baby back pork ribs are fall-off-the-bone tender! They’ll be an instant favorite that your friends and family will beg you to make.
The best part is that your slow cooker does all the work for you. The hands-on prep time in literally five minutes.
They have the perfect amount of sweetness from the dry rub as well as from the barbecue sauce, but are balanced with the right savory notes.
Grab the napkins because these juicy babies are finger-lickin’ good!
Ingredients in Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs
The ribs are first coated in a homemade dry rub seasoning before being slathered with bbq sauce. For this easy slow cooker ribs recipe, you will need the following ingredients:
- 1 rack baby back pork ribs
- Light brown sugar
- Smoked paprika
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Kosher salt
- Garlic powder
- Onion powder
- Barbecue sauce
How to Cook Ribs in a Slow Cooker
Slow cooked ribs are superior to any other kind! The meat becomes incredibly tender and falls right off the bone as you’re eating it.
Here’s an overview of how the slow cooker bbq pork ribs come together:
- Prep the ribs: Optionally begin by removing the skin on the underside of the bone with either your finger or a paring knife. They can be slippery so grabbing the ribs with a paper towel will help you gain leverage.
- Cut the ribs in half between the bones and set them aside.
- Make the dry rub: In a small bowl, add the brown sugar, smoked paprika, pepper, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and stir to combine to create your dry rub.
- Prep the bbq sauce: Separately, add one cup of barbecue sauce to a small bowl with two tablespoons of water.
- Assemble and cook the ribs: To your slow cooker, add one section of the ribs, evenly sprinkle half the dry rub, and evenly drizzle half the bbq sauce.
- Add the second rack of ribs and then sprinkle the remaining dry rub and drizzle with the remaining barbecue sauce before covering and cooking.
How Long to Cook Ribs in a Slow Cooker
Cook the ribs on low for 6-8 hours or on high 3-4 hours. You know they are ready when you pierce the meat with a fork between two bones and there is no resistance.
However, I suggest cooking them on the low setting instead of the high because I find they are super tender while still being moist.
Tip: If you use the high setting, they may dry out by the time they are fall-off-the-bone tender.
Broiling Baby Back Pork Ribs
After the ribs have cooked through in the slow cooker, you can optionally broil them.
- Preheat the broiler to high. Adjust the oven rack to the second-highest position.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and then very carefully lift the ribs out of the slow cooker, one half at a time, and place them on the baking sheet.
- Brush them with more bbq sauce if you like them extra saucy, or leave them as is.
- Broil for a few minutes, until the outside of the ribs is bubbling and caramelized.
Keep watching at all times because they can burn very fast! I cannot stress this enough that all you will need is a few minutes of broiling!
Notes on the Dry Rub for Seasoning Ribs
The dry rub for the slow cooker ribs adds so much depth of flavor that you can’t achieve with bbq sauce alone!
The rub is sweet but also has a tiny kick from the pepper. Make sure to use freshly ground black pepper here.
You can also add some cayenne pepper (½ teaspoon) or chipotle pepper would also be amazing for a smokiness along with a little kick.
What Kind Of Barbecue Sauce Is Best for Cooking Ribs?
You can use any bbq sauce you like, but I think a sweet thick, molasses-based sauce works best for this style of rub on the ribs.
I used Sweet Baby Ray’s.
Slow Cooker vs. Other Forms Of Cooking Ribs
Make sure your slow cooker is big enough to accommodate your two halves of ribs.
I haven’t tested this recipe in an Instant Pot and while it could theoretically work, I fear there is going to be space issues. Specifically, that they may not fit in it, even in the larger 6-quart Instant Pot. Plus it’s round rather than oval, another limiting factor.
You can make these in the oven. Cook them at 350F covered for about 2 hours, and after they’re done, you can decide if you want to uncover them, and broil them or not.
Tips for the Best Slow Cooker Ribs
You can skip the step of taking the skin off the underside of the ribs. This just helps with the tenderizing, however some people skip it.
Additionally, you can omit the broiling step as well as adding more bbq sauce if you don’t love extra saucy ribs.
At times, my family prefers just enjoying the ribs straight from the slow cooker because sometimes cooking the ribs longer under the broiler can cause them to dry out if you’re not careful.
BUT, the broiler helps you get that sweet sticky glaze that everyone loves on the outside of ribs. Totally your call to broil or not.
However, if you’re broiling, my vote is to add extra bbq sauce, but again it’s up to you.
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Slow Cooker Ribs
- 1 rack baby back pork ribs, about 3 to 4 pounds; mine were 4 pounds
- ⅓ cup light brown sugar, packed
- 1 tablespoon smoked paprika, use chili chipotle powder for a smoky kick
- 2 teaspoons freshly black pepper, make sure it's freshly ground
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon onion powder
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper, optional (for spicier ribs)
- 1 to 2 cups barbecue sauce, I prefer a thick, molasses-based sauce like Baby Ray's
- 2 tablespoons water
- Optionally, flip the ribs over and take the skin off the bone. Start at the side of the ribs where they taper off. At the edge, you will see there is a thin layer of skin over the ribs. You can sometimes pry it up with your finger or you can take a paring knife and run it along the bone right under the skin just to get a small flap up so you can get a grip on it. It is slippery so I suggest using a paper towel to help leverage your hold on the skin; it will then pull off easily. You can skip this step of taking the skin off. This helps with tenderizing but some people skip it.
- Cut the ribs in half between two of the bones; set aside.
- To a small bowl, add the brown sugar, paprika (or chipotle), black pepper, salt, garlic powder,
onion powder, optional cayenne pepper, and whisk together to create the dry rub; set aside.
- To a separate small bowl, add 1 cup of the barbecue sauce, 2 tablespoons of water to thin it slighting, and stir to combine; set aside.
- Lay one of the half racks of ribs into the slow cooker, meat side up.
- Evenly sprinkle half the dry rub on top.
- Evenly drizzle half of the barbecue sauce mixture on top.
- Add the other half rack of ribs on top, meat side up.
- Evenly sprinkle the remaining rub.
- Evenly drizzle the remaining barbecue sauce.
- Cover with the lid and cook on low for 6-8 hours or high 3-4 hours; however I recommend cooking on
- low to prevent the ribs from drying out. Tip - You know the ribs are done when you pierce the meat with a fork between two bones and there is no resistance.
- Allow the meat to rest for about 15 minutes before serving. Or optionally, continue onto step 15 and broil the ribs to create a thicker, stickier glaze* (See Notes for more info).
- To optionally continue with broiling the ribs - Adjust the oven rack to the second-highest position and preheat your broiler to high.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
- Very carefully lift the ribs out of the slow cooker, one half at a time, and place them on the lined sheet pan.
- Optionally, brush them with additional barbecue sauce if you like them extra saucy, about 1 cup; or leave them as is.
- Broil for a few minutes, until the outside of the ribs is bubbling and caramelized. Keep watching at all times because they can burn very fast!
- Allow the ribs to rest for about 15 minutes before serving. Extra ribs will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.
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