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


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



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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


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


  • 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)


  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



  • 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


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.


  1. Josie says

    I have NEVER made shoulder ribs so tender until I made these last night! LOVED it! Same with my teenage boys…I think they went into a food coma after eating so much! Thank you so much!

  2. Alison_R says

    Glad I found this, just picked up some shoulder ribs on clearance last night, going to fill the crock pot right now! Thinking of browning them afterwards on the grill really quick prior to serving. Will definitely use the juice + BBQ sauce on the table.

  3. Nickelle Walther says

    I love this recipe. I am from Nashville, and am extremely picky about my ribs & bbq. This is a quick and delicious comparison. I serve it with cheddar hashbrowns, bisquits and a roasted veggie..

  4. Jess Wood says

    I have made this 3 times now, and I think it gets better every time! Bonus that my 2-year-old gobbled it down when she rarely eats meat at dinner!

  5. gina says

    I bought these shoulder country style strips from our grocer the other day and have been wondering what exactly they are and how to cook them. Thank goodness I found your site :). That’s a chunk of meat with a confusing name! I can’t wait to try this recipe today!

  6. diana says

    thanks so much, I am so trying this right now, i love that they will cook in 3-4 hrs seeing as i got a slow start.

  7. Erika says


    Brock pot is a no-go for me but I have the “rubbed” ribs ready to go. Any suggestions for oven cooking this recipe?

  8. Joyce says

    Made this for dinner tonight. Used this rub recipe (it’s a keeper!) and my own BBQ sauce. It was restaurant worthy….an excellent recipe!

  9. Kimberly Conway says

    This was sooooo good my husband went crazy. Even my picky 15 month old was licking his lips! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Bob Billings says

    Found the shoulder ribs on half price sale ($1.49/lb) and said what the heck. Your recipe produced an excellent result. Used both your rub (similar to mine anyway) and BBQ sauce. Only thing I added was a large sliced onion during last 11/2 hours of cooking. Adds a bit of a “smothered” touch if you like that kind of thing.

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