3 Kids, a Mom & a Kitchen: Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs

3 kids, a mom & a kitchen: lemon pound cake

slow cooker ribs

Phil’s BBQ in San Diego is one of our favorite places to eat baby back ribs. I’m kind of (okay, very) obsessed with these ribs. In the past when we’ve taken the kids to Phil’s, we just order them the less expensive chicken dinner and save the ribs for ourselves. But on our last visit, the kids asked to try the ribs. Just like that no one wanted chicken anymore, and going out to Phil’s became a lot more expensive!

Choosing the Recipe:
I love that my kids enjoy ribs, but they’re a pricey item to order at a restaurant, and whenever I’ve tried to make ribs at home, they just aren’t that great. But last month I picked up the Cook’s Illustrated Slow Cooker Revolution magazine at the grocery store and found a recipe for ribs that seemed tempting. Why had I never heard of cooking ribs in the slow cooker before? It’s genius! A long, slow cook is exactly what you need for good ribs. Plus, every recipe I’ve ever tried from Cook’s Illustrated has been a home run, so I knew we must try this one out.

I asked the kids if they’d like to help me make ribs for dinner and they replied with an enthusiastic “yes!”

slow cooker ribs

The kids helped with prepping the ribs for cooking, which only took about 10 minutes. We threw it together before school and had a great dinner that night. The cutest part was how proud they were of the food they made!

Rankings: Slow Cooker Ribs Were a Hit!
We’re all smiles! The recipe worked beautifully, we had fun as a family, and our dinner was delicious!

slow cooker ribs recipe rankings

Steps Where Kids Can Get Involved:
Prepping the ribs for cooking is straightforward, making it easy to get the kids involved. However, raw meat can be a little tricky with the little ones. For this reason, I didn’t have my 3-year-old work with it, and I made sure my 7- and 10-year-olds both washed their hands thoroughly afterward. They also helped clean the counters after all was said and done (lucky for me, my 7-year-old loves cleaning these days!).

slow cooker ribs

Once the ribs cooked in the slow cooker, the steps following are a little less kid-friendly. Here is how we broke down the tasks in our family, from start to finish.

  • The kids helped measure and mix the rub for the ribs.
  • I assigned one of my daughters to be the person to pat the ribs down with a paper towel and the other to help me spread the rub on the ribs.
  • Once the ribs were ready to come out of the slow cooker and get broiled, Cate (my 10-year-old) helped me transfer the ribs to the pan and stir the sauce on the stove.

slow cooker ribs

The Tasting:
The ribs were fantastic. Very tender and the sauce you get from this recipe is spectacular. Every last person in the family enjoyed their dinner!

slow cooker ribs

The Recipe:
The recipe below originally came from Cook’s Illustrated, but I have rewritten the directions in my own words because I had a lot of notes on the recipe!

Slow Cooker Baby Back Ribs

Prep Time: 10 minutes before slow cooking, 20 minutes after

Cook Time: 6-8 hours

Makes: 8-10 servings

3 tablespoons sweet paprika
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon pepper
2-3 cups barbecue sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray’s)
6 pounds pork baby back ribs

1. Remove ribs from packaging and pat dry with a paper towel.
2. Mix together paprika, brown sugar, cayenne pepper, salt, and pepper. Spread mixture evenly over both sides of the racks of ribs, pressing rub into the ribs.
3. Place ribs upright in a large slow cooker, meaty sides facing out. The ribs will look like a big cinnamon roll in the slow cooker.
4. Pour barbecue sauce over the ribs. The original recipe called for 3 cups, but my slow cooker was getting quite full after 2 cups. If you do just 2 cups, check the ribs about halfway through cooking time and add more barbecue sauce to top off.
5. Cook ribs on low for 6-8 hours.
6. Turn on broiler in your oven and place rack about 10-12 inches from the heating element.
7. Line a large, rimmed cookie sheet with foil. Carefully transfer the ribs, meat side down, to the lined baking sheet. The ribs will be VERY tender and hard to move. Have a helper hold the baking sheet up right by the edge of the slow cooker, then use two large spatulas to lift the ribs out. They are not only very tender but hot, so be careful! Tent ribs with some foil.
8. Let the braising liquid in the slow cooker sit for about 5 minutes, then scoop the fat from the top with a large spoon. Strain the fluid into a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium and simmer for 15-20 minutes to reduce the sauce.
9. Uncover the ribs, brush some of the sauce on them and then put under the broiler for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the oven, flip the ribs over so the meat side is facing up. Brush more sauce on the ribs then return to the oven and broil for 5-10 minutes. (The original recipe says 9-12, but ours were ready around the 5-minute mark, so keep an eye on them.) Ribs should be darkened and sticky. Feel free to brush additional sauce on the ribs.
10. Remove from oven, let rest for 10 minutes then serve with remaining sauce.

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