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Easy Crock-Pot BBQ Ribs Made in the Slow Cooker

Learn how to make the easiest (10-minute prep) fall-off-the-bone slow cooker ribs that will have everyone licking their fingers & plates! This is the best method for fixing bbq ribs if you don’t own a smoker or it’s cold outside. Cook the ribs in as little as 4 hours using the high setting on your crock-pot. Use your favorite rack of ribs (spare, country style, baby back, beef) and barbecue sauce for an easy comforting meal any night of the week.
Easy Crock-Pot BBQ Ribs Made in the Slow Cooker (VIDEO)
I’m betting you’re here because you either love ribs or want to cook a rack for someone else who does. If so, you’re in the right place! Why? Ribs are my absolute favorite food.

Smoked pork ribs, to be exact, but those are a labor of love (hours of babysitting the smoker/charcoal grill to make sure it stays at a consistent temp).

This is totally worth it to me because I’m from Kansas City (barbecue capital of the world) and I grew up eating smoked barbecue & grilling out with family for get-togethers.

And for the record, my favorite Dallas barbecue restaurant is Hard Eight BBQ and my favorite KC barbecue restaurant is Oklahoma Joe’s (now Joe’s Kansas City). I also like Gates and Q39, but I usually stick to Joe’s so I can order a z-man with fries. 😛

So, when I can’t fix my own smoked ribs (weather & time play a part), my second favorite method for making ribs is in the slow cooker.

NOT the oven. Big fat nope on that one.

St. Louis Style Crock-Pot BBQ Ribs Seasoning

Why Make Ribs in a Slow Cooker Instead of the Oven?

Every time I’ve tried the oven, the ribs don’t turn out tender enough and the meat tastes very “meh”. Probably because it’s cooked at a lower temperature covered in foil, so the outside hardly develops any caramelization.

In contrast, ribs cooked in the crock-pot yield meat that is fall-off-the-bone tender, juicy, and flavored with fat (this is part of the reason why I like St. Louis style spare ribs the best). You don’t want tough and dry meat.

And cooking it on the HIGH setting in a slow cooker helps to create a bit of caramelization on the edges of the ribs from the barbecue sauce that has dripped down.

Easy Slow Cooker Ribs Recipe

How to Make Slow Cooker Ribs

First things first, you have two options when it comes to ingredients: store-bought or homemade. If you have access to high-quality spice blends and bottled barbecue sauces, using store-bought ingredients probably seems like a no-brainer. It also cuts down on the prep time (only 10 minutes), which is a big bonus.

However, if you’re avoiding certain ingredients (gluten-free, paleo, or whole30) or want to show someone you love ’em by making it all from scratch (lots of room to get creative), a homemade sauce and spice blend is the way to go. It’s on my shortlist to experiment with a homemade sweet & spicy version! (Let’s make it happen, Elaina.)

Once you have the ingredients ready (homemade or store-bought), it’s as simple as:

  1. rubbing the ribs on both sides with a generous coating of dry spices
  2. placing the rack standing up in the crock-pot near the wall (this prevents the ribs from turning into a soggy mess in the juices)
  3. drizzling your favorite barbecue sauce (I usually mix two types) over the ribs on both sides
  4. cooking the ribs on HIGH for about 4 hours (give or take depending on the size of your ribs and how  many racks you put in)
St. Louis Style Crock-Pot BBQ Spare Ribs Made in the Slow Cooker

Important Tips For Making The Best Ribs In Your Slow Cooker

1. Use a Barbecue Sauce You LOVE.

You want it to taste REALLY GOOD. This is important! Don’t use a BBQ sauce that makes you feel “meh”. PUH-LEASE choose a brand (or homemade recipe) that knocks your socks off and makes you want to dip every dang thing in it. The barbecue sauce is a key ingredient here since there is no smoke involved.

Why? The BBQ sauce thickens and reduces down while in the crock-pot, almost forming a glaze on the ribs. That thickened sauce + tender meat + background of rub spices = all the flavor.

Lately, I’ve been doing a combo of Trader Joe’s Organic Kansas City Style Barbecue Sauce and either Rufus Teague’s Blazin’ Hot or Lillie’s Hot Smoky Memphis-Style with Heat. It would also be EXCELLENT with Oklahoma Joe’s Original Barbecue Sauce or Night of the Living BBQ Sauce (my favorite of theirs).

2. Use Your Favorite Type of Ribs.

You have quite a few options and they’ll all work in the slow cooker (as long as they fit). My favorite cut is St. Louis style pork spare ribs because they’re meatier and have a bit more fat, which means more flavor.

You can also do baby back ribs if you prefer more ribs on a rack with less meat on each bone. Another popular option is boneless country-style ribs (probably because they go on sale often).

TIP: Ribs freeze well so if you find them on sale, buy several racks at once so you can keep them on hand for slow cooking, grilling, or smoking.

You could also opt for beef ribs if you’re avoiding pork. My recipe is based on St. Louis-style specifically, so if you switch up the variety used, check on them an hour earlier in case they cook faster.

3. For Extra Caramelization Finish The Ribs Under The Broiler.

Using my slow cooker on the high setting tends to char/caramelize the edges of the meats I cook in it (like pork shoulder or Mississippi roast, for example). But from reading the copious Pinterest “tried it” comments on this recipe, it seems that lots of folks don’t get the same charring results.

There’s an easy fix for that though! You’ll want to gently place the rack of ribs on a baking sheet (it should be practically falling apart), rub the top with a bit of extra barbecue sauce, and stick the ribs under the broiler for 3-5 minutes to caramelize the sauce.

4. If You Skip The Barbecue Sauce, Use a Really Good Dry Rub.

The barbecue sauce adds the majority of the flavor when you fix ribs in a slow cooker, but you could definitely make a dry rub the star and serve extra barbecue sauce on the side instead. You’ll want to do a thick coating on both sides of the ribs and probably remove the membrane (silver skin) on the back, as well. At the end of cook time, pop the rack under the broiler in the oven for 5-ish minutes to let the sugars in the dry rub caramelize a bit.

Easy Crock-Pot BBQ Ribs Made in the Slow Cooker (VIDEO)

What to Serve with Crock-Pot Ribs

You’ll have plenty of extra time while the ribs are slow cooking, so why not make an easy side dish or two to serve with the meal?

Here are some of my favorite sides:

Also…leafy side salads with an easy homemade salad dressing like:


Easy Crock-Pot BBQ Ribs Made in the Slow Cooker (VIDEO)

Did You Make This Recipe?

I’d love to hear your thoughts on how it went! Please leave a comment here on the blog, on Pinterest via the “tried it” feature, or use the hashtag #therisingspoon & tag @therisingspoon when you share pics to InstagramFacebook, or Twitter. It helps me to get feedback on my creations and it totally makes my day. 🙂

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