This is my favorite way to make ribs. It starts with a homemade spice rub, then they get popped into the slow cooker with some Smoked Porter for some added complexity. When they come out, these ribs are juicy, flavorful and fall right off the bone. Finish them off on the grill for that perfect caramelized flavor, and you'll definitely be wondering where these have been all your life.
Great ribs have always been one of my favorite things to eat. They're tender, messy, full of flavor, and you can add whatever sauces you enjoy. What's not to like?! My whole life I always thought they were difficult or just too time consuming to make, and I worried I would mess it up. But a few years ago, I learned just how easy they actually are. Say goodbye to expensive restaurant ribs, and start enjoying them at home! They do take a little time, but using the slow cooker means you don't have to actually be around while they cook. Let me show you how I make my favorite fall-off-the-bone ribs.
I start by making my own rub. You can absolutely use a store-bought one if you want to save time, but I like this mix because it has just enough sweetness, a good base flavor, and it's easy to throw together. The recipe as written makes enough for two batches of ribs, or if you will be making ribs often, you can double this recipe and keep the rest in your spice cabinet for future use.
To prepare your ribs, you'll need to remove the silver skin. The silver skin is a layer of connective tissue on the back of the ribs. If you don't remove this layer, they may be tough. They won't be inedible, but they won't quite fall off the bone when they're finished either, so it's best to remove this before getting started. Some ribs will come with it already removed. If you're unsure, you can ask your butcher.
To remove the silver skin, flip the ribs so you are looking at the back (the concave side). Grabbing the short edge of the rack, slide a small, sharp knife along that edge until you get your knife under it. Then, using your fingers, pull it upward. It should remove in one piece. When you pull it up, it sounds sort of like cling wrap. That's how you know you've found it. Now that the silver skin has been removed, check to see if the rack will fit in your slow cooker. If not, you may need to cut it in half or into thirds. I have a fairly wide, oval slow cooker, and so I usually only need to cut mine in half. When I do, they sit slightly on top of each other but that's totally fine.
Once they've been cut to size, I soak my ribs in a mixture of apple cider vinegar and water for 30 minutes. If you need to skip this step, you can do so. HOWEVER, I have noted a difference in flavor between ribs that have been soaked and those that have not. I came across this step when doing research on how to improve my recipe. I looked into what this does, and the answers I found were unclear. Some people seemed to think that it leached blood out, others said it cleaned the bones. The most convincing answer I found was that it likely serves to add some additional flavor to the meat. Ribs that were not soaked sometimes had an earthy flavor to them that I did not find as pleasant as those that were soaked. Since it's only 30 minutes, I go ahead and do it every time I make my ribs now.
After the ribs have soaked, pat them dry, but do not rinse them. Transfer to a platter or other work surface and coat the entire surface of the ribs with 1/4 cup of the rib rub (or rub of your choice). Pour 1/2 cup of beer in the slow cooker. I love using O'Fallon's Smoked Porter for this. It adds a slightly smoky note to the finished ribs. If you can't find a smoked porter, you can use another dark beer or your favorite beer. Just try to avoid beers that are flavored. If you'd like to avoid all alcohol for this recipe, you can opt to add 1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar instead. Add the ribs to the slow cooker, turn it to low and allow it to cook for 8 hours.
At this point, you can either refrigerate the cooked ribs overnight, or finish them off. To refrigerate them, simply cool them completely then transfer to an airtight container and place in the fridge. Before proceeding to the next steps, pull them out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. Otherwise, your ribs will burn before the inside gets a chance to get warm. To finish the ribs, you use your grill or oven. To use the grill, preheat the grill to 450 F, brush the ribs on both sides with your favorite BBQ sauce (I like to use Sweet Baby Rays). Cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes or so. If they've been in the fridge they might need a minute or two longer to fully heat all the way through. Once they've caramelized a bit and gotten as crispy as you like, remove from the heat and slather with a little more BBQ sauce.
You can also use your oven to finish the ribs! I like this method when it's too cold out to use the grill. Preheat the broiler to 500F. Brush both sides with your choice of BBQ sauce. Broil on each side for about 3 minutes (but watch them closely because they can burn quickly under there). I like to start with them face down to make sure that gets crispy last. When they are about as caramelized as you like, remove and brush with some more BBQ sauce, and serve!
These go great with a baked potato and my lemon garlic string beans.
Slow-Cooked Smoked Porter Ribs
1 full rack baby back pork ribs (about 2½ pounds)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1/4 cup rib rub (recipe below)
1/2 cup dark beer of choice (I recommend O'Fallon Smoked Porter)
Your favorite BBQ sauce
Prepare your ribs by removing the silver skin from the back of the ribs. To do this, flip the ribs so you are looking at the concave side. Grabbing the short edge of the rack, slide a small, sharp knife along that edge until you get your knife under it. Then, using your fingers, pull it upward. It should remove in one piece (see photos above)
Cut the rack to size to fit in your slow cooker. If they will need to sit on top of each other, that's perfectly fine.
Combine 1 cup apple cider vinegar with 2 cups water in a wide shallow dish. Soak the ribs in this mixture for 30 minutes.
Remove, pat dry, and coat with 1/4 cup of the rib rub.
Add 1/2 cup beer to the slow cooker, add ribs, and cook on low for 8 hours.
Preheat your grill to 450 F. Brush front and back of ribs with BBQ sauce of choice, and grill on each side for 3-4 minutes until the edges become caramelized and lightly crispy.
Remove from heat, brush with additional BBQ sauce to taste; serve.
Preheat your broiler to 500F. Brush front and back of ribs with BBQ sauce of choice. Place on a foil lined baking pan rounded side down. Cook for 2-3 minutes, flip, and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until the edges are caramelized and lightly crispy. Watch closely so they do not burn.
Remove from oven and brush with additional BBQ sauce to taste; serve.
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp chili powder
4 tsp kosher salt
1½ tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
Combine all ingredients and store in a cool, dry place.
Makes about 1/2 cup