Easy slow cooker BBQ baby back ribs is the best way to make tender, fall off the bone ribs at home. The ultimate easy weeknight ribs recipe with dry rub or optional finishing with BBQ sauce in the oven.
Tips and Tricks
What do you serve with BBQ ribs? I like to serve vegetables with my ribs because it brightens up the heavier flavor of the ribs. Ribs are delicious, but can be very dense. I suggest either oven roasted broccoli or three minute corn on the cob if corn is in season. Both are minimal prep, which is a big benefit of this recipe. Other options include mac and cheese, cole slaw, cornbread or a side salad.
How do you store leftover ribs? Store leftover ribs (with either just the dry rub or with BBQ sauce) in an airtight container in the fridge for three to four days. I keep the ribs on the bone, but you can just as easily remove the bones before storing them.
How do you know when the ribs are done in a slow cooker? The ribs are done when the bone will cleanly and easily come away from the meat. There should be little to no resistance when you wiggle the bone. This is how I like my ribs because they are tender and juicy.
How do you make slow cooker ribs? Start by putting the broth into the slow cooker. Add a trivet if you have one, but if not, not a problem. Place a full rack of baby back ribs on a rimmed sheet pan and remove the membrane from the bone side. Once removed, fully coat the entire rack of ribs with the BBQ dry rub of your choice. Pat the dry rub onto the ribs so it sticks and then bend the ribs into a U-shape so they fit into the slow cooker. Place the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for four to six hours or low for eight hours. Do not remove the lid until at least four hours.The ribs are done once the bones remove easily from the meat. If desired, preheat the oven to 400 F and line a sheet tray with tin foil. Remove the rack of ribs carefully as it may tear into pieces and place meat side up on the tray. Lightly spread BBQ sauce on the ribs and finish in the oven with 10 minutes until caramelized. Serve with vegetables, cornbread or mac and cheese.
How do you remove the membrane on the ribs? The membrane on baby back pork ribs is on the bone side (the curved side) of the ribs. Looking at the ends, I start with a butter knife and wedge the tip under to start the membrane removal. It helps to grab the start with a paper towel to get a good grip. Continue to pull the membrane and it should easily peel off the ribs. Try to get it in one try but if a little sticks, it’s no big deal.
Do you need to use exactly ½ cup of the dry rub? No way, this is a general ballpark of how much I use. I usually pour out about ½ cup into a small bowl and then add more as needed. If I have any extra that has been touched by my raw rib juice hands, I just add it to the broth in slow cooker. The dry rub that I typically use comes in a 6 oz container and I basically use half of it, so that should give you a ballpark of how much to buy.
What is the easiest way to add the dry rub to the ribs? To minimize mess, completely empty out your sink. If you can’t or it isn’t big enough, do it on the counter. Either way, I use a large rimmed sheet tray to contain everything and make clean up easier. Lay the ribs down and remove the membrane. Next liberally apply the dry rub until it completely covers the ribs. Pat the dry rubs onto the ribs so it sticks, but a lot will still be on the sheet tray. Ensure every inch is covered and then add it to the slow cooker to cook.
What’s your favorite type of BBQ sauce to use for this ribs recipe? My favorite type of BBQ sauce is Sweet Baby Ray’s traditional BBQ sauce. It is thick enough that it sticks to the ribs but isn’t overwhelming sweet. Use your favorite or make your own!
Can you substitute spare ribs for baby back ribs?I prefer to eat baby back ribs because they are less fatty. However, some people argue that they are less flavorful. I don’t like spare ribs but they will work in this recipe, I’m just not a fan of fattier cuts.
What kind of dry rub do you use? I’ve used a lot of different dry rubs and I’ve found that McCormick Grill Mates: Applewood Rub works the best. It’s cheap, taste good and easy to find. You can use any BBQ rub that you prefer but you do use a lot for one rack of ribs. Another option is to make your own or buy local. Just make sure you have at least ½ cup of rub to use.
What kind of broth do you use? I’ve used chicken and beef stock as well as hard apple cider. Use whatever you have on hand or even water.
Why is the BBQ sauce optional? The ribs are delicious with just the dry rub. They are easy to eat and less messy. However, sometimes I just like to up the flavor and add BBQ sauce. I just use my favorite bottle and brush it on the meat side of the ribs. You don’t need a ton of sauce because you just want to lightly coat the ribs.
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Easy Slow Cooker BBQ Ribs
- 1 cup broth
- 1 rack baby back ribs
- ½ cup dry rub
- BBQ sauce to coat optional
- Pour the broth into the slow cooker, it should coat the bottom of the vessel.
- Place rack of baby back riibs on a sheet tray and remove the membrane from the bone side of the ribs. To remove the membrane start with a butter knife at an end and then grab the membrane with a paper towel for a better grip. The membrane should peel off in one piece.
- Once the membrane is removed, liberally coat both sides of the rack of ribs with the dry rub. There should be no bare spots on the ribs. Pat the dry rub onto the ribs so it sticks.
- If you have it, place a trivet into the bottom of your slow cooker. If not, don’t worry.
- Curl the rack of ribs into a U-shape and place inside the slow cooker and add the cover to the slow cooker.
- Cook the ribs on high for 4-6 hours or low for 8 hours. Do not open the slow cooker until at least 4 hours, or you will increase the cooking time considerably.
- Remove the ribs from the slow cooker once the meat falls easily away from the bone.
- If desired, preheat the oven to 400 F. Line a sheet tray with aluminum foil. Remove ribs carefully with tongs and place meat side up on a sheet tray. Lightly coat the meatier side of the ribs with BBQ sauce and cook for 10 minutes in the oven until caramelized.
- Remove and serve with vegetables, cornbread or mac and cheese.
- I’ve used both chicken and beef stock. Use whatever you have/prefer.
- You can use spare ribs but they may be fattier.
- The membrane is on the bone side of the ribs. It’s easier to find a spot that it’s already coming off and pull it with a paper towel.
- Be sure to thoroughly cover the ribs in dry rub, every inch should be covered.
- The ribs are delicious right out of the slow cooker if you use enough dry rub but I like the added flavor and caramelization of the BBQ sauce.
- Store in the fridge with or without BBQ sauce and with or without bones in an airtight container for 3 to 4 days.
Originally posted May 8, 2019. Republished with new photos and tips on February 6, 2020.