- Prep time 30 minutes
- Cook time 3 hours
- Serves 4
Using a slow cooker (or the Slow Cook function on a multi-cooker) guarantees a fall-off-the-bone result without having to labor over a hot grill or smoker for hours. You can even cook the ribs a day in advance, store them in the fridge, and flash them on the grill or in the oven before serving. The three-ingredient honey BBQ sauce, made with the leftover cooking liquid, is highly recommended—but any sauce of your choosing will do just fine. If cooking for a crowd, doubling the recipe is advised. —Grant Melton
Test Kitchen Notes
Who would have thought that the best way to cook baby back ribs would be right in your slow cooker? This is one of our favorite methods, and this recipe also has the added bonus of putting together the best seasonings that result in super-flavorful ribs. All you need is some brown sugar, paprika, salt, chili powder, black pepper, and cayenne pepper for that perfect balance of sweet and spicy. Of course, if anyone in your family or friend group is very spice-averse, feel free to adjust the chili powder and cayenne or omit entirely (you can always serve the ribs with hot sauce on the side). You'll love the fact that you can assemble the ribs in the slow cooker in the morning, let 'em go on Low for 7 hours, then finish them off right before dinnertime. Or cook them on High for 3 hours while prepping the rest of your sides.
If you can and it's warm outside, we definitely recommend finishing the ribs on the grill. The quick sear helps caramelize and brown them and you get an extra layer of savory, sweet goodness. If it's chilly or you don't feel like grilling, you could always broil the ribs for a few minutes to achieve the same effect. Just be sure to keep an eye on them so they don't get overdone. Or you could just go ahead and eat them as is! You simply won't believe how easy it is to make tender ribs at home, and you'll find yourself using this slow-cooker method over and over again. —The Editors
light brown sugar
(3-pound) rack baby back ribs
apple cider vinegar
- In a small bowl, mix the brown sugar, salt, paprika, chili powder, black pepper, and cayenne.
- Pat the ribs dry. Arrange them meat side down and remove the thin transparent membrane on the back of the bones. Sprinkle the spice rub evenly on both sides of the ribs and, well, rub!
- Into the slow cooker, pour the water and vinegar. Roll the ribs into a big coil and place in the slow cooker, meat side facing out. Cover and cook for 3 1/2 hours on High or 7 hours on Low.
- When the ribs are finished cooking, carefully remove the rack of ribs to a foil-lined sheet tray. Pour the liquid from the slow cooker into a small pot. Using a spoon, remove the layer of fat that floats to the top. Whisk in the ketchup and honey. Cook over medium-low heat for about 20 minutes, until reduced by half.
- If finishing on the grill, preheat the grill. Once the grill is hot, grill the ribs, meat side up. Pour one-third of the sauce over the ribs and close the lid of the grill. Grill for 5 minutes. Baste the ribs with more sauce, cover, and continue to grill for another 5 minutes. Cut the ribs into 4 to 6 slabs and serve with the remaining sauce.