The Best Way to Cook Pork Ribs in a Slow Cooker

Homemade Saucy Baked Baby Back Ribs
Put your slow cooker to work. (Image: bhofack2/iStock/GettyImages)

Cooking pork ribs on the grill or in the oven is a long and slow process, requiring hours of careful tending. Cooking ribs in a slow cooker eliminates most of the work, allowing your family to enjoy ribs any night of the week.

Remember to add a liquid or sauce to cook the ribs in your slow cooker, and take a little extra preparation effort to develop the flavors for more succulent ribs.

Seasonings and Spices

Commercial products to season and flavor your ribs are available as marinades, sauces and rubs, or you can make your own. Soy sauce, ponzu sauce and grated fresh ginger and garlic, spiced up with chili sauce or chili oil to taste form the basis for Asian-style barbecued ribs.

For more conventional barbecue ribs, cover them with a spicy rub containing chili powder, cumin, coriander, paprika, brown sugar, salt, pepper and cayenne for heat, using apple juice or broth for the cooking liquid. Sauce them in the oven after cooking or skip the rub and cook them using a mustard- or tomato-based sauce as the liquid component.

Preparing the Ribs

A thin membrane, called silverskin, covers the back of ribs. Remove it by slipping a knife blade beneath it to loosen, then grab the membrane and pull it off. Removing this membrane allows the seasonings to better penetrate the meat.

If you have time, brown the ribs under the broiler for 10 minutes per side or until lightly browned to develop a roasted meat flavor. Cut them into two or four rib pieces for cooking.

Cooking in the Slow Cooker

Cook the ribs in the slow cooker, layered with sliced onions, minced garlic and barbecue sauce or cooking liquid. The ribs don't need to swim in liquid, but they should be moistened well — a cup or two of liquid is sufficient, depending on the size of your cooker and the number of ribs. Allow the ribs to cook for 8 hours on the low setting or 4 hours on high. If you have time, use the low setting.

Finishing in the Oven

Pork ribs cooked in the slow cooker are moist and tender, but the sauce can be somewhat drippy. You can caramelize the sauce and thicken it by finishing the ribs in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven, roasting them for 10 minutes per side. If you didn't use barbecue sauce as the cooking liquid, brush it on before baking the ribs, if desired.

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