Barbecued Baby Back Ribs in a Slow Cooker

Photograph by Kate Sears

I think I’m like most people and consider the slow cooker strictly a winter appliance. It’s for making piping-hot casseroles and hearty stews. It is kept neatly stored all summer. There is no room for it on the counter with all of the bags of fresh produce we lug home.

Then something happened that changed my perspective on slow cookers. That something was “The New Slow Cooker” by Brigit Binns. We are lucky to have Brigit living among us in the Hudson Valley. She is an awesome cook and prolific cookbook writer — a marvelous combination. Not only does she know her way around the kitchen, she shares her immense culinary knowledge and spot-on recipes.

It’s always good to know someone who is working on a cookbook. There’s lots of testing and, more importantly, eating involved. Brigit was recently working on a new one. Being good eaters, my husband and I happily volunteered to come over and do our part. We are always helpful that way.

On one such visit, I spied a brand-spanking-new cookbook, “The New Slow Cooker.” These aren’t your grandma’s crock pot recipes. The eye-candy photos are inspiring, as are all the dishes that scream summer. Yes, summer dishes in a slow cooker! I went home, cleared some counter space and let my slow cooker see the summer sun.

Williams-Sonoma was nice enough to let me reprint a couple of my favorite recipes from Brigit’s book.

“The New Slow Cooker” is currently available in Williams-Sonoma stores and online at

Barbecued Baby Back Ribs

Reprinted with permission from Williams-Sonoma The New Slow Cooker.
Photograph by Kate Sears; recipe by Brigit Binns. Copyright 2010 by Weldon Owen Inc. and Williams-Sonoma Inc.

1 tablespoon bacon drippings or canola oil
1/2 yellow onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup (8 oz/250 g) ketchup
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons dry mustard
1 1/2 teaspoons chipotle chile powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon celery salt
1/8 teaspoon Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce, or to taste
5 pounds (2.5 kg) baby back ribs

Apple-Fennel Slaw for serving (see below; optional)

Makes six servings.

To make the barbecue sauce, in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, warm the bacon drippings. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until softened, about five minutes. Stir in the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, wine, lemon zest and juice, brown sugar, mustard, chile powder, cumin, celery salt, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to low and cook very gently, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until slightly thickened, about 12 minutes. Stir in the Tabasco and taste for seasoning. Use right away, or preferably let cool, cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours before using.

Preheat the broiler. Trim the membrane from the back of each rack, then cut into individual ribs. Arrange the ribs on a rack set in a rimmed baking sheet. Broil, turning once, until browned on both sides, 10 to 12 minutes.

Transfer the ribs to a slow cooker, add the barbecue sauce and turn the ribs to coat evenly. Cover and cook on the low setting for five to six hours. The ribs should be very tender.

Using a slotted spatula, transfer the ribs to a large platter and keep warm. Pour the sauce into a small saucepan, let stand for few minutes and skim away the fat from the sauce with a large spoon. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil rapidly to reduce and thicken slightly, three to four minutes.

Arrange the ribs on warm individual plates and drizzle with some of the reduced sauce. If using, mound the slaw alongside the ribs. Serve at once.

Apple-Fennel Slaw

In a large bowl, whisk together 1/4 cup (2 fl oz/60 ml) each fresh lime juice, sour cream and mayonnaise; 1/2 teaspoon each salt and chile powder, preferably chipotle; 1 1/4 teaspoons sugar; and 3 1/4 cups (3 1/4 oz/20 g) fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped. Add 2 large fennel bulbs, quartered lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced crosswise; and 2 small tart red or green apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced. Toss to mix. Cover and refrigerate for one hour before serving to allow the flavors to marry.

One Response to “Barbecued Baby Back Ribs in a Slow Cooker”

  1. susan says:

    Kara, this looks great – send more – I love to use a slow cooker! Joe and I are in Vermont – got here today – just til Wed – long drive home – don’t know if we can stop by this time – I’ll get your cell # from your Mom!

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