How to Make BBQ Ribs In Your Crock-Pot

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Garnish the serving platter with lemon wedges and fresh vegetables.
Image Credit: Olga Lyubkina/iStock/Getty Images

Start to finish: 8 hours Servings: 4 Difficulty level: Beginner


You can't go wrong slow-cooking barbecue ribs; the process heats the sauce-infused meat until it falls off the bone. Slow-cooking allows the heat, seasonings and sauces to do their job with little attention. Your choices for rib cuts are few, but those for barbecue sauces are many and varied -- from tart vinegar-based barbecue sauces to those flavored with brown sugar, molasses and hot spices. You can use a prepared barbecue sauce as is, customize it or create your own.


  • 6 pounds spare ribs, or 3 racks
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 teaspoon cooking oil, or cooking spray
  • ½ cup water
  • 2 cups barbecue sauce



Lay the spare ribs out on a flat surface to prepare and season.

Cut away and discard any large fat chunks on the ribs, but leave the fat that sits between the ribs.

Mix the black pepper, salt and paprika in a small bowl. If you prefer, add a tablespoon of brown sugar to the mix.


Use the cooking spray or cooking oil to cover the bottom of the slow cooker.

Place the spare ribs in the slow cooker. Separate ribs that are too large to fit the cooker.

Peel and slice the onion, spread the onions over the ribs and add ½ cup of water to the slow cooker.

Cook the ribs on the low setting for 5 hours or until the meat is tender and falls from the bones.


Remove the ribs from the slow cooker and set them aside on a plate.

Pour the liquid and onions from the slow cooker through a strainer or colander into a bowl, separating the liquid from the onions. Discard the liquid safely and return the onions to the slow cooker.

Place half of the cooked ribs in the slow-cooker, pour half of the barbecue sauce over the ribs and turn the ribs to coat both sides.


Add the rest of the ribs to the slow cooker and cover with the remaining barbecue sauce, turning the ribs to coat both sides.

Cook the ribs on the low setting for another 1 ½ hours.

Use tongs to transfer the ribs to a serving dish and break them into single ribs.

Spread the remaining sauce and onions from the slow cooker around the sides of the serving dish, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes before serving. Set the onions aside for another use or discard.


Serve barbecue ribs with side dishes such as corn-on-the-cob, cole slaw, potato salad, candied sweet potatoes, baked beans, string beans or green leafy vegetables.

Ribs and Sauce

You can substitute baby-back ribs or Southern-style ribs for the less expensive spare ribs. Baby back ribs, the most expensive cut, have shorter, leaner bones. Southern-style ribs are boneless and very meaty with more fat, making them more likely to remain moist and tender.


Make a basic homemade barbecue sauce with catsup and your choice of ingredients. For instance, add some of the ingredients listed in Epicurious magazine's basic barbecue sauce recipe: minced onions, lemon and pineapple juice, vinegar, hot sauce, brown sugar and Worcestershire sauce. The sweet and spicy Kansas City Classic Barbecue Sauce, as described by, contains catsup, mustard, vinegar, molasses, brown sugar, hot sauce and garlic. Another choice is to use a bottled barbecue sauce as a base and add ingredients to make it hotter, sweeter, spicier or thicker.

Variations and Tips



  • Add the barbecue sauce at the start of cooking, if you prefer. You may want to remove the liquid before adding the sauce to help the sauce stick to the ribs. If you add the sauce early, cook on low for 8 hours.

  • Create the taste you want in your barbecue ribs with added seasonings and spices, such as a little garlic or red pepper in the seasoning rub, or 1 to 2 tablespoons of vinegar in the barbecue sauce.

  • Cook the ribs in the seasonings and ½ cup cola for 5 to 6 hours, remove the liquid, add the barbecue sauce and cook for another hour.


  • Although slow-cooking is sufficient to dissolve the membrane covering the bones of the spare ribs slab, you can remove it, if you prefer. To do so, use a butter knife to make a small separation between the meat and the membrane. Use your fingers to fully separate the membrane from the rib.

  • Provide plenty of napkins so diners can pick up barbecue ribs with their fingers.