Using a slow cooker, also called a crock-pot, is a great way to cook succulent beef or pork ribs. The slow cooker can be used as the initial step in making ribs, with the grill or broiler being used to finish them. When there isn’t time for grilling or broiling, ribs straight out of the slow cooker at the end of a long workday is hard to beat, served up with fresh coleslaw and potato salad for a complete meal.
Your favorite method for seasoning ribs will work just as well in a slow cooker as when cooking ribs using any other method. Some cooks prefer dry rubs on their ribs, others go for marinating the ribs for hours or days in their own special sauce. Either method imparts flavor to the ribs, and some ingredients such as citrus juice and vinegar work on tenderizing the meat as well. New cooks with little or no knowledge of how to season ribs can turn to the internet for inspiration, or just cut loose using their own taste buds and memories of ribs-past to create their own special recipe.
Once the ribs are seasoned, place them in the slow cooker and add just enough water (better yet use broth of any kind) to come one third of the way up the side of the cooker. Add any remaining marinade to the liquid as well. The ribs will release juices of their own as they cook so you’ll end up with more juice than you start with. Pull 1-2 cups of that juice out of the slow cooker 30 minutes before eating. Thicken it by simmering it in a pan on the stove-top until it is reduced by half. Use it for ladling onto the ribs before serving or put it on the table in a gravy boat for diners to add as they like.
Most slow cookers have several different settings, graded either by hot, medium, warm settings, or 4 hours, 6 hours, 8 hours, etc. While the beauty of a slow cooker is that you can fill it with ingredients and walk away, if you are new to this method and are using a new slow cooker, follow the manufacturer’s guidelines when choosing the heat settings, and stick around the first time you use it to get an idea of what the settings will produce in terms of temperature in the slow cooker. Low and slow is best for most anything cooked in a slow cooker, hence the name, as it is when you are oven roasting or indirect grilling ribs on a charcoal or gas barbeque.
Preheat the grill or broiler when using either one to finish the ribs. Use aluminum foil in the bottom of the broiler pan or grill to make clean up easier. Remove the ribs from the slow cooker, placing them on a platter or cookie pan to hold the juices that will run off as you transfer them to the grill or broiler pan. Finishing the ribs in this manner will give them a caramelized coating and that fire-charred flavor of barbeque. Smoked paprika in the rub or marinade will also enhance that barbequed flavor. Setting a timer in increments of 3-5 minutes is a good reminder to keep an eye on the ribs so they don’t accidentally turn into charcoal. Not much time is needed to finish ribs that have been slow cooked ahead of time, so it’s best to be sure the rest of the meal is ready to go before the ribs go onto the grill or into the broiler.
Finally, don’t forget the napkins!