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These Crock Pot Ribs are legit! You don’t need a smoker or to heat up your kitchen with the oven for hours. Your slow cooker and a few minutes under the broiler will do all the hard work for you, resulting in fall-off-the-bone, caramelized BBQ pork ribs.
Why We Love These Ribs in the Crock Pot
I’m gonna skip the humble brag talk and get to the point, friends. I really do think this is the best slow cooker pork ribs recipe out there and here’s why:
- We have tested the heck out of this recipe! We know the timing is correct in the crockpot, because we became slow cooker experts while writing and researching our cookbook, From Freezer to Cooker.
- They are well-loved by our families. I make this recipe about every other month for my family because they request it so much. All ages go for this recipe!
- Layers of flavor and the perfect texture. With our special rub, homemade BBQ sauce, and clear cooking instructions, we think these are the tastiest slow cooker ribs out there!
- Simple to make. In minutes you can whip up our simple rub and have your ribs in the slow cooker. Set it and forget it. Then, at the end, you’ll pop them under the broiler to crisp up. Anyone can make delicious ribs this way!
- Includes freezer meal instructions. When ribs go on sale, stock up and make one batch for dinner and one for the freezer for another night using our expert instructions. Such a great use of your time!
Aside from the ribs, this recipe only requires a few pantry staple ingredients…
- Baby back ribs – You can use another kind of pork ribs, but we’ve tested this recipe with baby back ribs several times and found that they result in fall-apart-tender ribs every time. Two racks (about 2 to 2 1/2 pounds each) will fit in a 6 quart slow cooker. Look for them to go on sale and stock up! You can freeze them until you’re ready to use.
- Our special rub – This includes salt (which tenderizes the meat), ground black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, and pure maple syrup. These combine to make a paste that you’ll rub all over the ribs. Bonus: Place the rubbed ribs in the fridge for 24-48 hours before slow cooking to enhance the flavor and tenderness of the meat.
- BBQ sauce – We recommend making our simple Killer Homemade BBQ Sauce or grabbing an all-natural, tasty, store-bought sauce like Stubb’s BBQ Sauce.
Tips for Making Perfect Crockpot Ribs
Keep just a few key tips in mind when preparing ribs in the crockpot, and you’ll end up with fall-off-the-bone tender ribs with the perfect outside texture.
- Know your pork ribs. Baby back ribs or spare ribs? We prefer baby back, personally. That’s because they are a bit leaner, have less bone and fat, and are the most tender. But, spare ribs or St. Louis style ribs (trimmed down spare ribs) would work just fine. It’s really your choice.
- Use a dry rub for seasoning. This adds a deeper layer of flavor under the sauce. If you have time, wrap the rubbed ribs tightly in plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 24 hours before slow cooking. Doing this allows the salt and other seasonings to get deep down in the meat, seasoning and tenderizing it even more.
- Arrange them in the crock pot the right way. Place the racks of ribs around the perimeter of the slow cooker, with the meaty side facing out and the wider ends at the bottom.
- Make your own sauce. You can use store-bought sauce, but we personally don’t love that most of them are filled with HFCS and other additives. Plus, our Killer Homemade BBQ Sauce takes minutes to make and is tastier and healthier than most store-bought versions!
- Broil and brush with sauce before serving. Yes, the crock pot gets your ribs tender, but they will lack the caramelized edges and sticky glaze unless you broil and brush them with sauce at the end. This step only takes minutes and adds the flavor and texture of grilled or oven-cooked ribs. You can also use the broiler to reheat ribs, if you’ve made them ahead of time.
- Let them rest. After broiling, tent with foil and let your ribs rest for about 10 minutes so the juices can redistribute throughout the meat.
How Long to Cook Ribs in the Crock Pot
We wrote an entire article about how long to cook ribs in the crock pot. We explain what setting to use, how long to cook them, and what NOT to do when cooking ribs in the slow cooker.
How to Freeze Ribs
Freezing Uncooked Ribs
The key to freezing uncooked ribs is to make sure they are wrapped tightly with several layers of plastic wrap and foil or freezer paper to keep air from reaching the meat. If wrapped tightly with several layers and placed in a deep freeze in a constant frozen state, frozen ribs can maintain good texture for 9-12 months.
Freezing Cooked Ribs
If you cooked your ribs and want to freeze leftovers, let them cool completely and then follow the same guidelines as above. Wrap tightly and place in the back of the freezer. To rewarm, let thaw completely in the fridge and then warm in the microwave in short segments.
How to Defrost Frozen Ribs
The best way to thaw frozen ribs, both cooked or uncooked, is to place them in the refrigerator for 24-48 hours.
If you need a quicker way to defrost them, place the ribs in a zip-top plastic bag, squeeze out all the air, and seal tightly. Submerge the bag in cold water, replacing the water every 30 minutes until they are thawed. This usually takes a few hours.
The last resort is to thaw them in the microwave using the defrost setting, but it may cook the edges of your ribs.
How to Freeze as a Meal Kit
If you want to make this Crock Pot Baby Back Ribs recipe into a simple freezer meal to have on hand for dinner another night, here’s how to do that.
Freeze For Later: Make the rub and cover both sides of the racks of ribs in the paste. Either cut the racks in half and place in a gallon-sized freezer bag OR wrap the full racks in several layers of plastic wrap and foil. Seal tightly and freeze.
Prepare From Frozen: Thaw using one of our safe thawing methods. Cook according to the recipe instructions. (Do NOT cook from frozen in the slow cooker.)
Can I Put Frozen Ribs in the Slow Cooker?
We don’t recommend cooking frozen food in the crock pot. The USDA states on their website, “Always thaw meat or poultry before putting it into a slow cooker.” Frozen ingredients in a slow cooker can mean the meal sits at an unsafe temperature for too long and become a breeding ground for bacteria to grow. So, be sure to thaw your frozen ribs or any freezer meal first using one of our safe thawing methods.
What to Serve with Crock Pot Ribs
When your racks of ribs are ready to go, cut them into individual pieces and serve with extra BBQ sauce on the side.
Here are a few of our favorite side dishes that can go with these ribs…
If you follow our tips and recipe, you can be assured to whip up some super tender and tasty pork ribs without all the fuss. Stock up on ribs when they go on sale and freeze until you’re ready to use them. Serve with our Sweet Potato Biscuits and enjoy!
Did you make this? Snap a photo and tag us on Instagram at @thrivinghome so we can see your creations and cheer you on!
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
- 2 teaspoons garlic powder
- 2 teaspoons paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
- 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
- 2 (2 to 2 1/2 pound) racks pork baby back ribs, trimmed
- 1 to 2 cups BBQ sauce (either use our Killer Homemade BBQ Sauce or your favorite store-bought version)
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Make It Now:
- In a small bowl, use a small spoon to stir together the salt, pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, and maple syrup to make a paste.
- Pat the ribs dry with paper towels and then rub the paste all over both sides of the racks. (Freezing instructions begin here.) Optional: You can wrap the ribs in a few layers of plastic wrap and place in the fridge for 24 hours at this point to enhance the flavor.
- Arrange the ribs around the perimeter of a 5 or 6 quart slow cooker, with the meaty side facing outward and the wider end at the bottom. Cover and cook on Low for 5 to 7 hours, until the ribs are tender. (We do not recommend cooking on High.)
- Position the top oven rack about 6 inches below the broiler. Preheat the broiler. Cover a sheet pan with foil.
- Using tongs, transfer the ribs to the sheet pan with bone side up and meaty side down. Brush BBQ sauce on the top side and broil for 2 to 4 minutes, until they start to brown. Flip and brush the other side with sauce. Broil for 6-10 more minutes, until well browned, brushing with sauce every few minutes.
- Tent with foil and let rest for 10 minutes. Serve with remaining BBQ sauce on the side.
Freeze For Later: Follow Steps 1 and 2. Either cut the racks in half and place in a gallon-sized freezer bag OR wrap the full racks in several layers of plastic wrap and foil. Seal tightly and freeze.
Prepare From Frozen: Thaw. Follow Steps 3 through 6.
Instant Pot Ribs: We’ve tediously tested and nailed the recipe for Instant Pot Ribs, too! We love how fast you can cook ribs using this method.