Barbecue Baby Back Ribs

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Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 390 minutes
Servings: 6

Don’t be intimidated by the long ingredient list: Many of these ingredients are pantry staples, and the rest are readily available. And using a slow cooker to prepare this dish results in meltingly tender ribs without the fuss of maintaining a fire in your grill for hours on end.


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

For the slaw:

  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) sour cream
  • 1/4 cup (2 fl. oz./60 ml) mayonnaise
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. chile powder, preferably chipotle
  • 1/4 tsp. sugar
  • 3/4 cup (3/4 oz./20 g) fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped
  • 2 large fennel bulbs, quartered lengthwise, cored and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 2 small tart red or green apples, peeled, cored and thinly sliced


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 5 minutes. Stir in the ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, wine, lemon zest and juice, brown sugar, mustard, chile powder, cumin, celery salt and 1/2 tsp. 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 5 to 6 hours. The ribs should be very tender.

About an hour before the ribs are done, in a large bowl, whisk together the lime juice, sour cream, mayonnaise, salt, chile powder, sugar and cilantro. Add the fennel and apples and toss to mix. Cover and refrigerate for 1 hour before serving to allow the flavors to marry.

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, 3 to 4 minutes.

Arrange the ribs on warm individual plates and drizzle with some of the reduced sauce. Mound the slaw alongside the ribs and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma The New Slow Cooker, by Brigit Binns (Weldon Owen, 2010)

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