I know my buddies on the grilling and smoker forums are going to give me grief over making slow cooker baby back ribs. But I am always up to trying something new (to me). Now, yes, I know these baby back ribs don’t sit in a smoker for 6 or so hours and get a beautiful smoke ring. But, they are tender, almost fall-off-the-bone tender, and with a little help, quite tasty. And hey, when it’s blowing 45 MPH winds outside with a wind chill well below 0, slow cooker baby back ribs will do just nicely.
Like with boiling ribs (ok, don’t hate me for boiling ribs!) before grilling them, you have to add something so that the ribs get some flavor to them. Last time I boiled ribs, I added Old Bay seafood boil seasoning. When I made these baby back ribs I added a drop or two of liquid smoke and a little smoky BBQ sauce to boot. Sure, it’s not the same as sitting over hickory smoke for a long time, but those smoky flavors do absorb into the meat as it cooks.
Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs
Servings 3 -4 servings
- 3 pounds baby back ribs trimmed of any excess fat
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup water
- A few drops of liquid smoke optional
- Your favorite BBQ sauce I recommend a smoky Hickory BBQ sauce
- 1/2 onion sliced
- 1 clove garlic minced
Separate the ribs into sections, 2-3 bones each.
Season the ribs on both sides with plenty of salt and pepper. Don't be shy.
Add the water to the bottom of your slow cooker.
Stir in 1/4 cup of the BBQ sauce.
Add the ribs. Top with the onion and sprinkle with the garlic.
Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
Preheat oven to 375 F.
Remove ribs, discarding the onion.
Coat ribs in BBQ sauce on all sides.
Place on a foil-lined baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes or until the sauce has set.
I usually smoke my ribs, but there are times when I’m more than happy to cook them in other ways. Usually, that means on the Char-Broil Big Easy. Once, heck, I even made them in the slow cooker! Gasp! This time I figured I’d try oven baked ribs, which really isn’t much different than using the Big Easy.
I ended up with tender, juicy ribs that tasted absolutely great. Of course, they do not have that smoky flavor I’d get on the smoker, cooked for 6 hours. But, I make up for that a bit by adding smoky ingredients like smoked paprika and using a smoky (hickory in this case) BBQ sauce at the end.
Although I did not include it in the recipe below, I’d consider adding a drop (and surely not much more) of liquid smoke to the foil before sealing the ribs. There’s already a good bit of great smokiness added by the smoked paprika so I wouldn’t go crazy with the liquid smoke. If you aren’t a fan of liquid smoke but want more smoky flavor, substitute smoked sea salt for the Kosher salt.
I used back ribs, though when I smoke ribs I almost always use spare ribs trimmed St. Louis-style. I wouldn’t use spare ribs in this recipe because I’d be afraid that the additional fat in them would almost end up ‘boiling’ the ribs in the foil.
Also try my oven-baked hot dogs. Hankerin’ for more ribs? Make some slow cooker Vietnamese ribs.
Oven Baked Ribs
Servings 2 racks
- 2 racks back back ribs membrane removed from back, loose fat trimmed, rinsed and patted dry
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon onion powder
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 tablespoons smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
- Your favorite BBQ sauce
Preheat oven to 300 degrees.
Place ribs onto two large pieces of foil.
Combine the remaining ingredients except for the sauce. Sprinkle the rub mixture over the ribs on all sides. Depending on the size of your ribs you may not end up needing all of the rub.
Seal the foil tightly, transfer to a large baking sheet and place in the oven.
Bake for 2 1/2 hours.
Carefully open the foil.There will be lots of hot liquid accumulated in the bottom of the foil packets!
Remove the ribs from the foil (they might be quite tender, so support them from underneath using large turners or flat wooden paddles and transfer to the baking sheets.
Brush with plenty of sauce and place ribs under the broiler for about 5 minutes or until the sauce has set.
Let rest 10 minutes before slicing. Serve with more sauce for dipping if desired.
I’m a huge fan of spareribs trimmed St. Louis-style and smoked low-and-slow. I have to admit, my favorite part are the rib tips that come from trimming the spareribs. And that’s why, until recently, I haven’t really smoked a lot of baby back ribs, which have less fat and no tips. Well, now I cannot stop making them. This is my go-to method for making the most tender, juicy, flavor-packed baby back ribs in around 5 hours. They’re truly easy to make and are about as fool-proof as you can get, and you get the same results time after time.
Don’t be afraid of the mustard on these smoked baby back ribs. It’s there to help the seasoning adhere to the ribs. Trust me, you won’t taste it a bit when the ribs are done.
So why are they called 2-2-1 ribs? Because you smoke them uncovered for 2 hours, then smoke them wrapped in foil for another 2 hours, and finally finish them off uncovered for another hour. Now, depending on the size of the ribs and the temperature of your smoker, they might be done a bit earlier or later, but a minute here or there won’t make a big difference. Just make sure they’re nice and tender before removing from the foil.
If you prefer spareribs, check out my technique for making 3-2-1 smoked St. Louis-style ribs. Need a great homemade sauce? Here are just a few of the ones I’ve made and love: smokehouse, southwestern, atomic, Sriracha and sweet-n-spicy.
2-2-1 Smoked Baby Back Ribs
Servings 1 rack
- 1 rack baby back ribs any loose meat removed, membrane on back removed, rinsed and patted dry
- Prepared yellow mustard generic is fine
- Your favorite BBQ rub
- Chili sauce
- Margarine the kind in a squeeze bottle works best
- Your favorite BBQ sauce
Fire up your smoker for 225 F. Use a medium or light wood. I prefer hickory, cherry, apple, peach or maple.
Spread a thin layer of mustard on both sides of the ribs. Dust lightly with the rub.
Smoke for 2 hours, bone-side down.
Lay out a large piece of thick foil (double it if using thin foil). In center of the foil squeeze out a thin line of honey, a few teaspoons of chili sauce, and a line of margarine.
Place the ribs bone-side down onto the center of the foil.
Squeeze out another line of honey, a few teaspoons of chili sauce, and some more margarine along the meat side of the ribs. No need to spread out the ingredients.
Seal the foil tightly and return to the smoker for 2 hours or until you can easily slide a toothpick between the ribs.
Carefully open the foil (the escaping steam will burn!) and remove the ribs, placing them directly on the smoker grates. Reserve the basting juices and brush them onto the ribs.
Smoke another 30 minutes, brushing with the basting juices every 10 minutes.
Now, brush the ribs the BBQ sauce and smoke another 30 minutes or until the sauce is set as you desire.
Let rest 10 minutes before slicing and serving.