If talking about baby back ribs could make one giddy, this is the recipe to bring it out in me.
This old oven-baked ribs recipe has been a favorite in our house for years. But if you are looking for a slow cooker version with an amped up semi-homemade BBQ sauce (root beer forever!), today’s recipe is for you.
The only disclaimer I have to offer for this baby back ribs recipes is that thanks to the magic of the slow cooker, the ribs are unbelievably tender – so tender that it’s almost impossible to pick them up like traditional ribs.
RIBS AND SEASONINGS:
- 3 tablespoons coarse kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon garlic powder
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon chili powder
- 1 tablespoon paprika
- 2 racks pork baby back ribs, trimmed (see note)
- 1 large yellow or white onion, sliced
- 1/2 cup root beer (see note)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 1/2 cups finely chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh garlic
- 1 cup root beer
- 1 1/2 cups BBQ sauce (my favorite homemade version here; also a big fan of Sweet Baby Ray’s for storebought)
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup packed brown sugar, light or dark
- 1 tablespoon minced chipotle in adobo sauce (leave out the seeds for less heat)
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- Salt and pepper to taste
- For the ribs, in a small bowl stir together the salt, oregano, garlic powder, black pepper, chili powder and paprika. Make sure to remove the membrane from the back of the ribs (simple how-to here). Spread the spice mixture over the meaty side of the ribs and rub gently until coated.
- Add the sliced onion and 1/2 cup root beer to the slow cooker (see note above for sizes/details) and place the ribs on top, cutting the racks of ribs to fit if needed. Cover the slow cooker and cook on high for 3-4 hours or on low for 6-7 hours.
- While the ribs cook, make the sauce by heating a saucepan over medium heat with the 1 tablespoon oil. Add the onions and garlic and cook on medium to medium-low, stirring often, until the onions soften and turn translucent, 7-8 minutes. Add the root beer and bring the mixture to a boil. Let it cook for 5-7 minutes until the liquid is reduced by about half.
- Stir in the BBQ sauce, vinegar, brown sugar, minced chipotles and Worcestershire sauce. Season with salt and black pepper – start with 1/4 teaspoon each and add more to taste.
- Simmer the sauce for 10-15 minutes. Let it cool slightly and then carefully process in a blender (or use a handheld immersion blender) until smooth. Refrigerate the sauce if making in advance.
- When the ribs have finished cooking, preheat the oven broiler and position an oven rack about 4-6 inches from the heating element. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with foil.
- Carefully lift the ribs from the slow cooker using a large, flat spatula and tongs (they will be very, very tender – like, fall-apart tender) and place them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Brush liberally with the prepared BBQ sauce and broil until the sauce bubbles and caramelizes, 2-3 minutes (watch closely so it doesn’t burn).
- Serve ribs with the remaining sauce on the side.
Ok, let’s talk. Baby back ribs are simple to prepare but you do want to make sure you remove the membrane/silver skin from the underside of the ribs. Here’s a simple how-to; the trick is using a paper towel to help grip the membrane as you peel it off.
Also, when it comes to root beer, brand matters. Choose a root beer that tastes good. Sounds silly and simple but it’s really important. We’re A&W fans around here; as long as you like the taste drinking it straight, you’re good.
Finally, slow cookers. I used my 10-year old oval slow cooker that I think is right around 6-7 quarts. The oval shape is ideal for these ribs; however, I still had to cut them in half so if you only have a round slow cooker, try cutting the ribs into smaller pieces and stacking them on top of each other or side-by-side.