If you think there is any cuisine more unapologetically American than BBQ, you’ll get an earful when you state your case to most people. On the other hand, claiming that a rack of baby back ribs is the star of the show when it comes to BBQ won’t be much cause for consternation. When cooked right, these little strips of pork become some of the most flavorful, tender bits of meat you can sink your teeth into, and cooking baby back ribs properly does not required a day spent tirelessly tending a smoker. In fact, you can spend your time doing pretty much whatever you want, because your trusty slow cooker will do all the work for you.
And speaking of time, chef and recipe developer Christina Musgrave of Tasting with Tina says there’s pretty much never a bad time for a great rack of ribs. "These ribs are great for a backyard BBQ, baseball watch party, or just a laid back dinner," she says.
Looking for pairing ideas? Don’t reinvent the wheel! "I love serving these with classics," says Musgrave, like "potato salad, mac and cheese, corn on the cob, baked beans, or pasta salad." If there’s some brisket and BBQ chicken on the menu also, well no problem there.
Gather your ingredients
For a perfectly flavorful and tender rack of ribs, you’ll need brown sugar, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, cinnamon, barbecue sauce, and a rack of baby back ribs weighing in at between 3 and 4 pounds.
As for the best BBQ sauce to choose? "Definitely a personal preference," says Musgrave. "Any BBQ sauce is delicious with this recipe." So you can go with a true American classic like Stubb’s Original or go for the umami with Bachan’s Japanese Barbecue Sauce. Whatever sauce you choose, just plan to lay it on thick.
Prep the ribs with the rub
First things first: you need to remove the membrane from the back of the ribs. Use a sharp knife and pull at the membrane with your fingers and don’t worry if it comes off piecemeal. And if you asked your butcher to remove it ahead of time, that was a good move, FYI.
Now make the dry rub by combining the brown sugar, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and cinnamon in a small bowl and whisking them together completely with a fork. Next, place the ribs in the slow cooker, then cover them in dry rub mixture by sprinkling it all over the meat.
Low and slow cooking time
Give the ribs a couple of minutes to sit with the dry rub applied, then brush the rack all over with the barbecue sauce. Now let the ribs cook for 8 hours on low or for 4 hours on the slow cooker’s high heat setting.
"If the ribs are too big for the slow cooker, you might have to cut them in half and cook them in layers," says Musgrave. "If this is the case, move layers around halfway through cooking." This will ensure an even cook throughout the entirety of the rack — or racks, as the case then becomes.
Quick and hot cooking time
Once the 8 hours (or 4 hours for higher heat) of cooking have passed, remove the ribs from the slow cooker and transfer them to a baking sheet lined with tin foil. Brush the ribs with reserved barbecue sauce from slow cooker, then fire up your broiler.
Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and broil the ribs for 5 minutes. Serve them with the remaining sauce from slow cooker, and of course with potato salad, corn bread, corn on the cob, slaw, soups, green salad, grilled veggies, and anything else that sounds excellent to you and the gang.