Baby back pork ribs cooked in the crock pot are fall-off-the-bone delicious. The dry rub and caramelized barbecue sauce make these the BEST baby back ribs around. Flavorful and tender, a true Southern specialty.
When you need a fabulous dinner recipe that you can forget about all day long, but still impress friends and family, you’ve got to try baby back pork ribs made in the slow cooker. It’s a recipe that my family is always asking for. Serve it with some fluffy pimento cheese biscuits and some baked beans for a true Southern dinner.
Everyone in the South has their favorite baby back rib recipe, handed down for generations or just tweaked until it’s just the way they like it, and this is mine. In the oven, on the grill or in the slow cooker, all have one thing in common, you have to cook them slow.
When I want to have friends over for a casual dinner, this is my go-to recipe. Who doesn’t love tender pork ribs, and while it takes a little planning, there’s hardly any effort needed. These melt-in-your-mouth pork ribs are a treat any time of the year.
Now for the taste. These are AWESOME. When I say you have to try them, I really mean it. If you’re going to splurge and eat ribs I think you’ll find that this version is worth every calorie. It has just a hint of spice from the red pepper flakes and a slightly sweet flavor from the honeyed bbq sauce.
How to plan for BBQ ribs
Baby back ribs are delicious all by themselves because they cook slow with the bones which brings out the flavor. But to really get a great barbecue flavor, you need to take a couple of steps in advance.
The night before you need to get them started by removing the membrane and adding a dry rub.
The next day you will add them to a slow cooker with some pineapple juice along with a little vinegar to help tenderize them while they cook. Pork ribs need to cook slowly to become tender, so plan on 6 hours for this step.
Right before serving you will place them under the broiler with some BBQ sauce and let it caramelize on the ribs.
How do you remove the membrane from pork ribs
If you’re new to ribs, you might not realize that baby back ribs have a thin white membrane that should be removed if you want really tender ribs. It’s not the end of the world if you forget but we are going for fall-off-the-bone tender here.
Sometimes this can be a bit difficult because your hands are wet from holding the ribs. Use a knife or your finger to pull up the edge and then grab it with a paper towel and pull it off. Sometimes it will come off in pieces and that’s ok.
What you’ll need for slow cooker baby back ribs
- Baby back ribs – these typically come in racks of 2-3 lbs. There’s not a lot of meat on pork ribs so It might seem like a lot. Depending on what else you are serving this should feed 4 people. If your slow cooker is big enough you can double the recipe. If you do this, about half way through, rotate the ribs from top to bottom so that they cook evenly.
- Seasonings for the rub – brown sugar, smoked paprika, cumin, garlic and onion salt, dry mustard, cayenne pepper and ground ginger.
- Pineapple juice – this helps tenderize the ribs, you can also use orange juice instead.
- Vinegar – I prefer apple cider vinegar, but any type of vinegar will help tenderize.
- Garlic – for a bit more flavor
- BBQ sauce – you can just use a bottled version, but I like to doctor up my favorite bottled version, Rufus Teague, with honey, vinegar, dry mustard and red pepper flakes
How do you make crock pot ribs
Step 1: add a dry rub
The night before, remove the membrane and then rub the ribs with a dry rub which is a mixture of brown sugar and seasonings. Wrap them up and refrigerate overnight.
Step 2: add some liquid
Cut the rack of ribs so they will fit in the slow cooker and place them in. Pour pineapple juice, vinegar and garlic over the top.
Step 3: low and slow
Cook on high for 1 hour and then on low for 5 hours. If you have doubled the recipe, it might take longer than 5 hours. Carefully remove to a foil lined rimmed baking sheet.
Step 4: create a sauce
Combine barbecue sauce, honey, vinegar and red pepper flakes and bring it to a boil. Slather the sauce on the top and bottom of the ribs.
Step 5: broil the sauce
Broil for a minute or two until the bbq sauce is bubbly.
This recipe is easily adaptable to your taste preferences by changing the prepared sauce that you purchase. I like them sweet so I use Rufus Teague, but there are a million out there, so choose your favorite.
If you don’t want them to have a bite, then leave off the red pepper flakes.
The only down side to ribs, is you need to plan ahead so they can refrigerate with the dry rub overnight.
The end result is tender ribs with a slightly sweet bbq sauce cooked into the ribs but not dripping off. They are still a little messy but worth every bit of sauce on your fingers.
What’s nice about this method of cooking ribs is you can just forget about them all day, no basting or anything. Try waiting to put them under the broiler until you are ready to sit down at the table.
You can make these in advance and broil them before you’re ready to eat.
Common questions about baby back ribs
What is the difference between spare ribs and baby back ribs
The difference between baby back and spare ribs is the location on the pig. Baby back ribs are the upper ribs which are smaller than the lower spare ribs which are much larger and don’t have as much meat.
How many ribs are in a half rack of baby backs?
A half rack of baby back pork ribs will contain about 6-8 ribs.
How do you know when baby back ribs are done?
To get tender ribs that are not dry, test with a meat thermometer. The ideal temperature is about 200º.
Sides to serve with ribs
More Southern recipes
- There’s nothing more Southern than biscuits or cornbread
- Lemon pies are pretty popular down here, whether it’s chess or chiffon
- Pecan pie big enough for a crowd
- Try some Southern BBQ served on a yeast roll
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Slow Cooker Ribs
- 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
- 1 ½ tablespoons smoked paprika
- 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
- 1 ½ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon garlic salt
- ½ teaspoon onion salt
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- ¼ teaspoon pepper
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne
- ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
- 2-3 lbs baby back pork ribs
- ½ cup pineapple juice
- 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon garlic minced
- 1 cup tomato based BBQ sauce Rufus Teague Sweet Honey
- ¼ cup honey
- 1 ½ teaspoons apple cider vinegar
- ½ teaspoon dry mustard
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- In a small bowl, stir together all of the rub ingredients.
- Rinse slabs of ribs and pat dry with paper towels. Remove the thin membrane from the back of the ribs by slicing it and then pulling it off. Reserve ½ tablespoon of the rub. Sprinkle remaining rub on both sides of the ribs. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill for 8-12 hours.
- Combine pineapple juice, vinegar and garlic and reserved rub in a 6 quart slow cooker. Cut the slab of ribs in half and stack in slow cooker. Cover and cook on high for 1 hour. Reduce to low and cook for 5 hours or until tender.
- SAUCE: Stir together all ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring often. Boil for 1 minute. Remove and cover to keep warm.
- Preheat broiler with oven rack 10 inches below the heat. Remove ribs from slow cooker and place in a single layer in a foil lined rimmed pan. Brush both sides of ribs with the BBQ sauce and broil for 2-3 minutes on each side until caramelized. Serve with remaining sauce.
- Can easily be doubled
Barbara’s Tips + Notes
- Remove the membrane from the back of the ribs before adding the dry rub.
- You can easily double the recipe, if you do so, rotate the ribs half way through.
- Ribs will be done when they reach 200º with a meat thermometer.
- You can heat the bbq sauce in the microwave until it boils.