Slow cooker, Weeknight dinner
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Slow Cooker Pork Western Shoulder Ribs with Barbecue Rub and Sauce

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Slow Cooker Western Pork Ribs with Barbecue Rub and Sauce

My kids just started school, so this week I’m featuring weeknight dinners. Today, I’m using my slow cooker…and I’m cheating. Oh, the shame…

I’m almost embarrassed to publish this as a recipe. It’s almost too easy. Almost. This is an example of dump and cook in the slow cooker, which I was disdainful of in my previous slow cooker recipes. But, because this is an attempt to simulate low and slow barbecue, where you don’t brown the food before putting it on the grill, I let it slide. And, you know what? It works, because there is so little liquid in the crock. The ribs brown where they are exposed to the air, adding the extra flavor that browning gives to meat.*
*The Maillard reaction strikes again!

The key to this recipe is to find pork shoulder cut into 1″ to 2″ thick strips. My local grocery store calls these Western Ribs; make sure you see the words pork shoulder somewhere on the label. Country Ribs, which are cut from the pork loin, will dry out if they are cooked for this long. The loin doesn’t have the fat and connective tissue that the shoulder does, and that connective tissue is what makes the shoulder “ribs” so tender and juicy after the long cooking time.

Are these really ribs?  No. Is this real barbecue? Absolutely not. Is it as good as real, low and slow, smoke kissed pork shoulder? Not a chance. But…if you need some tender, juicy pork to feed the family after a long day at work (for you) and school (for them), this will get the job done nicely.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Pork Western Shoulder Ribs with Barbecue Rub and Sauce

Equipment:

 

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Slow Cooker Pork Western Shoulder Ribs with Barbecue Rub and Sauce


  • Author: Mike Vrobel
  • Prep Time: 5 minutes
  • Cook Time: 8 hours
  • Total Time: 8 hours 5 minutes
  • Yield: 6-8 1x

Description

Slow Cooker Pork Western Shoulder Ribs – strips of pork cut from the shoulder – sprinkled with rub and cooked with barbecue sauce.


Scale

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds pork shoulder western ribs (or cut a pork shoulder into 1 1/2″ thick strips, or use pork shoulder chops)
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon barbecue rub (My homemade barbecue rub recipe is here; or use your favorite rub.)
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup barbecue sauce plus 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (My homemade barbecue sauce recipe is here; or use your favorite store bought sauce)

Instructions

  1. Prepare the ribs: Sprinkle the ribs evenly with the kosher salt and the barbecue rub.
  2. Slow cook the ribs: Put the ribs in the slow cooker, add the 1/2 cup water, and slow cook for 6-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high. Add 1 cup of barbecue sauce to the cooker, and cook for another 30 minutes to to 1 hour.
  3. Serve: Remove the ribs to a platter. Spoon 1/2 cup of the liquid from the crock into a measuring cup.  (If you have time, pour all the liquid into a fat separator and let rest for ten minutes, then pour 1/2 cup of the the defatted juices into a measuring cup). Add the remaining 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce to the measuring cup, and stir to combine.  Serve, passing the juices/sauce at the table.

  • Category: Slow Cooker
  • Cuisine: American

 

Notes

  • Tex-Mex ribs: substitute ground ancho powder or chili powder for the barbecue rub, and substitute tomato salsa for the barbecue sauce. (This works best if you shred the ribs with a fork, and serve with tortillas as a taco filling).
  • Serve with cheap white bread (for sopping up juices and barbecue sauce), dill pickle slices, cole slaw, and potato salad. And a cold beer, of course.  Or, rough chop the ribs into chunks, and serve with hamburger buns as rib sandwiches.
  • Normally, I will brown meat before putting it in the slow cooker; it adds an extra depth of flavor to the recipe. In this case, the small amount of water in the cooker leaves most of the ribs exposed, and the cooker browns the ribs for me. That said, if you have the time, brown the ribs before putting them in the slow cooker. Heat 1 teaspoon of oil over medium-high heat until just showing wisps of smoke, then put the (salted, bbq rubbed) ribs in the pan and sear for 3 minutes per side or until well browned. Put the ribs in the slow cooker crock, then add the 1/2 cup water to the pan over medium heat. Once the water comes to a simmer, scrape the pork bits from the bottom of the pan and pour the water into the crock. Cook the rest of the recipe as described.

What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.

Related Posts:
Slow Cooker Pork Pot Roast
Slow Cooker Caribbean Black Beans and Rice

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Filed under: Slow cooker, Weeknight dinner

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Hi! I’m Mike Vrobel. I’m a dad and an enthusiastic home cook; an indie cookbook author and food blogger with a day job, a patient spouse, and three kids who would rather have hamburgers for dinner.

66 Comments

  1. Hi Mike, any chance that you’ve made western country ribs in the pressure cooker? Recipes for this cut of meat seem to range from 15 minutes to 55.

  2. Marcia says

    Agree with your comment about the ribs getting a slight crust from the rub and the lower amount of water. Yet still tender and tasty. They were great right out of the crock put AND I didn’t brown them first. One thing i did do was put then in the oven with bbq sauce. Baked then at 350 for 20 minutes. Put down a sheet of aluminum foil and clean up is easy. Tasted like they just came off the grill!

    Thanks for sharing! This is a keeper!

  3. Michael P says

    This recipe turned out great. I was really stumped on what to do with some Country Style Shoulder Ribs I got a super deal on. I did the browning and de-glazing, and don’t think I would skip that part. Now I know what to do when they go on sale again. Thank you. Keeper.

  4. Cyndi says

    The slow cooker I have has temp so if I’m cooking on high would that be 400 degrees? Does it make a difference if you cook low or high?

    • Low is about 200;high is about 220. The big difference between the two is how quickly it comes up to temperature – high takes about an hour, low takes multiple hours.

  5. Cyndi says

    It was wonderful! I had four pounds and halved it, because I have one that is not crazy about BBQ sauce. It was great both ways! Thank you for your guidance!

  6. Jackson says

    Surprised the wife with this recipe. I earned some serious brownie points. Corn on the cob and corn bread as sides topped it off Thank you!

  7. Melissa Bowser says

    I am so excited to make these tomorrow – I made the spice rub and bbq sauce yesterday so we are ready to roll! Even my picky 12 year old is excited for dinner tomorrow night! Quick question – what do you think about adding the spice rub the meat tonight, wrapping it well and letting it sit overnight in the fridge? Thanks!

  8. Kristen says

    I’m making this as we speak and I will let you know what I think. I didn’t brown it first, but I used your rub recipe with half of the chili powder (we tend to use it sparingly). I did almost double the water before I read your suggestion, but I’m working with a 7 qt crock pot, so I think it will be okay. I’m using country pork butt ribs. After reading the overwhelmingly positive reviews, I’m excited to try these! Thanks for sharing.

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