I love barbecued ribs. But in the winter it’s tough to keep the smoker cooker up to temp. So I make these crock pot ribs in the slow cooker!
Yes, gas grills may work but they provide no smoke flavor and the goal here is to stay warm while cooking. So during the winter, I make these short ribs in the slow cooker.
How to Make the Best Crock Pot Ribs
I prefer short ribs, but you can do any rib that will fit in your slow cooker.
Choosing and Prepping the Meat
Beef and pork ribs work best for this type of recipe. Short ribs or riblets work really well, although baby back ribs work well too.
You’ll need to cut your ribs so they fit into the crock pot. Choose enough to fill the slow cooker about half full, maybe a bit more. Don’t pack them in too tight, you want the juice to work around and through the ribs.
Clean your ribs well and prepare them for seasoning. You can season them with salt and pepper, or you can use a rib rub. Keep in mind that you won’t be able to get the “crust” or “bark” like with a dry grill. The ribs will soak up any seasoning you rub on them.
I use a bit of salt, pepper, brown sugar, and a few drops of liquid smoke.
After seasoned, place the crock pot ribs in the slow cooker (WITHOUT liquid) and turn it on high. Leave it for a few hours to sear. Then you’re ready for the next step.
Choose a Liquid
Once the ribs have dry cooked for a while you can add some liquid. Depending on the size of the slow cooker and the amount of meat you have, you can use about 2-3 cups of liquid.
Here are several liquid options that impart great flavor to your crock pot ribs:
- Root beer is a great choice. I’ve used a great organic root beer that was low in sugar, but high in flavor, which worked amazingly.
- For the same reason, ginger beer works very well too. The spicy ginger adds a different depth of flavor.
- Cola can also add a unique flavor. Choose an organic brand as they usually contain less sugar.
- Veggie broth can work as a no-sugar option, but it won’t taste like barbecue. But you’ll still get tender ribs.
- If you want something really different in your crock pot ribs try coconut milk. It’s naturally sweet and adds a very different flavor.
- Fruit juices, like apple juice, can help tenderize ribs.
- Pineapple juice can help with really tough meat. It contains enzymes that help break down fibers in meat.
- Want an Asian flair? Try soy sauce, ginger, honey, and garlic. Add some broth to thin it out.
- Barbecue sauce is always a safe choice. I used to work in a restaurant where ribs were served; they were marinated in a cheap brand of barbecue sauce, along with the juice of one lemon, one lime, and one orange. It tasted just like a great homemade barbecue sauce!
Finishing the Crock Pot Ribs
Add liquid of your choice to the slow cooker, enough to cover the ribs. Put the lid on. Cook on LOW for 4-6 hours for amazing fall-off-the-bone ribs.
Have you made slow cooker ribs in the crock pot? If so, share your tips with us!