Chef's Hat: Craving the flavor of summer
Make Barbecue Slow Cooker Pork Ribs with homemade sauce for a taste of summer during the winter
The winter of 2022-23 seems to be never-ending.
It started late last fall with storms dropping a couple of feet of snow in the area. Then there was a long stretch of ice, more snow and off and on subzero temperatures
There are those hardy souls who will cook outside no matter what the weather. However, for some of us, our smokers and grills ended up getting buried behind a wall of snow.
You can’t completely duplicate the charred, smoky flavor that an outdoor grill instills in foods. But you can come reasonably close and satisfy your appetite for summer dishes.
When you are entertaining, no matter if it is in the dead of winter or the middle of a hot summer day, you can’t go wrong when you cook up a rack or two of ribs.
Granted, I was a bit skeptical that ribs cooked in a slow cooker would have that smoky taste I was craving, but since baby back ribs were on sale, it was worth a try to see how this all-time summer favorite would turn out.
The process of cooking ribs in a slow cooker is fairly simple.
First, it is recommended to remove the membrane. That is the very thin white layer on the back of the ribs technically called the peritoneum. This tissue never gets soft and can actually get chewy and somewhat leathery if cooked.
It also prevents the flavors from absorbing into the ribs.
To remove the membrane, slip a knife under the membrane and just above the bone. Then loosen and gently tear the membrane away from the ribs.
Sometimes it will come off in one nice piece, but other times you might have to slip the knife under another section and remove it in pieces.
Then cut the ribs into chunks that will fit into the slow cooker. For easier cleanup, spray the slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray and then put the ribs into the slow cooker.
If you really want an “easy” recipe, once the ribs are in the slow cooker, cover them with barbecue sauce and then cook them on low for 8 to 9 hours. This method will make tender ribs.
But to get more of a “smoky” flavor, there are a few additional ingredients that are needed — a bit of garlic, Worcestershire sauce, a bit of mustard, some brown sugar and, if you want some heat, a spoonful of cayenne pepper.
A key ingredient to this dish is barbecue sauce. There are dozens of varieties of barbecue sauce on grocery store shelves. They vary from sweet and saucy to hot and tangy.
But bottled sauce is a bit generic. The ingredients in most of these sauces have a tomato base, a bit of smoke flavor and a tad bit of seasoning.
If the sauce does not have the “kick” needed, it takes just a few minutes and some common ingredients that are most likely in your cupboard or refrigerator to jazz it up.
A bit of garlic, onion powder, brown sugar and hot sauce can transform a flavorless sauce into one that has a kick!
If you are ready for those delicious summertime dishes but not ready to dig out and clean up that grill, there are still ways to get your fix of those flavorful dishes.
Give slow cooker ribs a chance and enjoy a bit of summer even though there is still two feet of snow on the ground. Happy Eating!
Barbecue Slow Cooker Pork Ribs
- 1 cup barbecue sauce
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon plain yellow mustard
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 1 rack of baby back ribs
Spray a slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray. Remove the membrane from a rack of ribs. Cut the ribs into several pieces so they fit into the slow cooker. Place the ribs into the slow cooker.
In a small bowl, combine the barbecue sauce, brown sugar, garlic, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, salt and pepper. Mix well and then pour it over the ribs.
Cook the ribs on low. For tender ribs that stay on the bones, cook for 7 hours. For ribs that are not only tender, but are falling off the bones, cook for 8 to 9 hours.
Line a large baking sheet with aluminum foil. Spray the foil with nonstick cooking spray so the ribs do not stick to the foil.
Remove the ribs from the slow cooker and place them in a single layer on the baking sheet. Taste the remaining sauce and if it does not have the “kick” you want, mix up a batch of sauce (see barbecue sauce recipe). Brush additional sauce over the ribs.
Turn an oven to broil. Place the pan of ribs into the oven. Broil for 5 to 10 minutes, just until the ribs are slightly browned and bubbly. Remove the ribs from the oven and let them sit for 5 minutes before serving.
Spiced Up Bottled Barbecue Sauce
- 2 cups barbecue sauce
- 3 tablespoons hot sauce (add more if you want a hotter sauce)
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard
- 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon paprika
- ½ teaspoon cumin, optional
- ½ teaspoon thyme, optional
Place a medium sized saucepan on the stove. Add all of the ingredients. Stir well. Taste. If the sauce is too bitter for your taste, add additional brown sugar. If the sauce is too sweet, add another ¼ cup of apple cider vinegar.
Turn the heat to low. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste after 10 minutes. If desired, add a bit of salt and pepper, stir and taste again.
Donna Evans is an Echo Journal correspondent.