Rib

This Is My Favorite Way to Cook Baby Back Ribs

Ideal for days when you don't want to turn on the oven.

September  2, 2019
Photo by Bobbi Lin. Food Stylist: Samantha Seneviratne. Prop Stylist: Brooke Deonarine.

I’m about to say something that a lot of people, especially die-hard BBQ lovers, will find controversial: If you’re not using a slow cooker to make your BBQ ribs, then you’re doing it all wrong.

(Hear me out.)

If you’re a barbecue rib master, sure, you’ve probably got your go-to method down pat. But as a home cook who believes cooking should be as effortless as it is tasty (and one who's had one too many rib fails), using a slow cooker or multi-cooker is your best bet for the juiciest, most hands-off barbecue.

Here’s the thing: I’ve always been a huge fan of ribs; just never a fan of cooking them.

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Top Comment:
“My favorite way is to broil them in the oven. I cut the slab in half and sprinkle all 4 sides with a dry rub of garlic salt, black pepper, and paprika. Broil for about 15-20 minutes a side. (Broil the undersides first, and then flip over after 15-20 minutes.) I don’t like barbecue sauce (too overwhelming for me) so I eat the ribs as-is. Delicious!!! ”
— Russell L.
Comment

The easiest way to make ribs is to smoke them using a smoker. This method involves a little babysitting, but nothing you can’t pass the time with by sipping a beer. (That’s how babysitting works, right?) Typically smoked ribs have an incredibly rich flavor and unparalleled texture. But the biggest problem with the smoker method is that you, ahem, need a smoker, an appliance that most people don’t own, let alone have the outdoor space for. So, unfortunately, that method is off the table for me (and I imagine for many others).

Another method is to just throw them on the grill. But, in my experience, this is the most problematic. Any time I’ve attempted to grill baby back ribs, they’re either perfectly cooked on the outside but not tender enough on the inside—or heck, just the opposite! (And, believe me, even if the BBQ sauce covers up the burnt outside, it will never cover up the taste.)

My many failures are likely due to my impatience. I tend to do a lot of poking, prodding, and lid-lifting, aka all the things most recipes tell you to avoid.

The most foolproof way I have found is to cook the ribs in the oven, from start to finish. Why? The heat is controlled, soft and steady, and the pork cooks to fall-apart perfection. The only problem with this method is that the oven is on for HOURS. In the warmer months, I follow a strict 15-minute rule when it comes to the oven, so unfortunately this method will have to wait until fall.


How to Cook Ribs in a Crock-Pot

This is where the slow cooker comes in like a superhero swooping in to save the day. It has the same temperature control as an oven, producing perfectly cooked ribs but without heating up the kitchen.

I like to give the ribs a dry rub before they’re cooked. To make them fit into the slow cooker, you’ve got to roll them up. So they don’t dry out, I add a little apple cider vinegar and water. The super flavorful leftover cooking liquid is then used as the base for a sticky BBQ sauce.

Rolled up. Photo by Bobbi Lin

The best part about the slow cooking method is that it can be done a day in advance—meaning that, when it’s time to grill them up (or broil them), dinner is on the table in just 15 minutes. And finishing on the grill is key to giving them that flame-broiled kiss, should you want that. (Though, why wouldn't you?)

If you’re feeding a crowd, I’d suggest doubling this recipe. Served alongside this deliciously pickled potato salad and this cheesy broccoli salad situation, it’s the perfect (mostly) make-ahead Labor Day menu. And for drinks, I’d suggest a simple spritzer, but if you want to make things even easier, a bucket of beer will do just fine.

What's your favorite way to cook ribs? Let us know in the comments below.
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Grant Melton is an Emmy Award-Winning Producer of the Rachael Ray Show, food writer and recipe developer. He's a contributor to Food52, NYT Cooking and Rachael Ray Every Day Magazine. He loves cookies, cocktails and kindness.

7 Comments

Adrienne B. September 8, 2019
I have found the Instant Pot to be the best for making ribs. I also have an 18-quart Nesco roaster that comes into play. First, I put a rub all over them and let them sit with the rub on in the fridge for about an hour. I put the ribs in the Instant Pot with a 1/4 cup red wine, 3/4 cup water, a bay leaf, and two garlic cloves, just broken up. I pressure cook them, then I take them out and put them in the Nesco roaster, lathering them with BBQ sauce. If I don't feel like bothering with the Nesco, then I put them on a half sheet pan and throw them under the broiler. They are fall off the bone tender and such flavor!
 
Dee A. September 5, 2019
I always cook ribs in the slow cooker because (a) where I live, it's incredibly hot in the summer and (b) I suck at BBQ. Adding the cider vinegar sounds like a great idea, and it never occurred to me to cook them the day before and then broil them to reheat and glaze (i always put the ribs under the broiler to finish them). I use a dry rub I found (of all places) on about.com. I'm definitely going to try this version!
 
Russell L. September 5, 2019
My favorite way is to broil them in the oven. I cut the slab in half and sprinkle all 4 sides with a dry rub of garlic salt, black pepper, and paprika. Broil for about 15-20 minutes a side. (Broil the undersides first, and then flip over after 15-20 minutes.) I don’t like barbecue sauce (too overwhelming for me) so I eat the ribs as-is. Delicious!!!
 
Baylaketrail September 5, 2019
I would be interested in the response to this question. Thank you.
 
September B. September 3, 2019
Can I make this in my Instant Pot? If so, how can I adjust recipe? Thx
 
Arlene September 6, 2019
Just use the slow cooker button on your instant pot and follow the directions. Basically you are using your instant pot as a slow cooker instead of a pressure cooker.
 
Marie F. September 2, 2019
Delicious! The sauce was just right, and the ribs were tender. I put mine on the grill according to the instructions. We loved them!