I really love ribs and in the summer time we often make them in the smoker. It takes all day and it's truly a labour of love but well worth the effort if you have that kind of time. Unfortunately, we don't always have an entire day to babysit meat in the smoker and in the winter, even if we COULD smoke ribs all day out in the snow, we won't because we are not nuts and it's way too cold to spend the day outdoors cooking. I used to cook them slow and low for hours in the oven and then broil them but I always feel like I should be home when I have the oven on all afternoon - it's the paranoid old lady channeling my mother I guess. Next thing you know, I will refuse to drive on rainy days, on really sunny days, in rush hour or at night... oh wait, I already don't drive at night if it is raining. Never mind.
Anyway, I kept reading about this method of cooking them in the crockpot and people who sounded really sane were raving about them so I finally gave it a try and it was a huge success. I am going to admit that I was HUGELY skeptical about this working so if you are reading this and thinking "oh yeah, whatever grandma, crock pots are for stew" , keep an open mind.
Back then, I was adding the bbq sauce from the get go but this time I thought I would start dry because I don't want them quite as saucy and felt like a long period of dry heat would be a good thing. The best part about making ribs in the slow cooker is that you can walk away from them. Throw them in in the morning, forget about them and then add the sauce and forget about them again for a few hours. If you can't do the halfway add in thing, feel free to add the bbq sauce right from the beginning.
You can also just use your favourite bbq sauce straight up out of the bottle if you want but there is a lovely spot that sits between using bottled sauce and making homemade sauce. Starting with a bbq sauce that you like and then adding stuff to doctor it up is the easiest way to make them different and a bit special without going whole hog. I used half a jar of apple butter from last year in my pulled pork last week to make a bbq sauce and wanted to try the other half in here - good choice. I added a bit of habanero bbq sauce that has great flavour but that is way too hot for me to use straight up if I want my kid to eat it.
Don't forget that you can get the bbq sauce ready a day or two in advance if you know you are only going to have time to get the ribs from the fridge into the crock pot on the day. I am all about making life easier without resorting to Hungry Man Dinners although, now that I write that out, I could really go for one of those fried chicken tv dinners with the tiny apple cobbler and the fake mashed potatoes from my childhood.
MMM, eating that tv dinner off of a card table while I watch a Partridge Family marathon in my toe socks.
Crockpot Ribs with Doctored BBQ Sauce
enough pork side ribs to fit in your slow cooker - for me it was two small racks
spice rub - I used this one but you can use any rub you like
doctored up bbq sauce
Doctored Up BBQ Sauce
about 1 or 2 tsp veg oil
1 shallot, minced
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/4 cup smoking habanero bbq sauce
1/2 cup Bullseye bbq sauce
1/4 cup = 2 tbls apple butter
2 tbls cider vinegar
1 tbls honey
Heat the veg oil in a small pot over med heat and sauté the shallot and garlic for a minute. Mix the rest of the ingredients in a bowl, stir well, taste. Here is where you make it your own. It's up to you to decide that you want it sweeter or tangier, spicier or more mellow. Once you think the taste is where you want it, add it to the shallots and garlic in the pot, stir well and let heat through. Set aside
Okay, I like to cover my ribs with dry rub the night before and then leave them in the fridge overnight, uncovered. If you don't have time to do that, rub them as far in advance if you can. If you can only rub them right before putting them in the crockpot you have to do what you have to do, right?
So, when it's time to cook them, just stand them up on their sides with the meaty sides facing the walls of the crockpot. You don't have to put anything else in with them at this point. Cook them on low for a total of about 6 or 7 hrs but after about 3 or 4 hrs, add 3/4 of your bbq sauce, trying to coat the ribs with it as much as you can and continue to cook until it has been a total of at least 6 hrs and up to 8 hrs. If you can't do the halfway thing add the sauce from the get go.
When they are done, remove the ribs carefully (they will be very well cooked and want to fall apart) and set them on a rack over a baking sheet (you might want to line the tray with tin foil to catch the drippings) and set aside until you are ready to finish them right before you are going to eat them.
At that time, preheat your broiler with the rack about 10" below the element. Brush your ribs with the reserved bbq sauce that you just didn't add to the crock pot and broil for about 4 or 5 minutes. Brush more sauce on them and broil for another 4 or 5 minutes. Continue to do this until they reach your desired level of caramelized goodness and then take them out and eat them up.