My grocery store had a sale on pork spare ribs recently, so, pulling a page from Jacob Lund Fisker and his book Early Retirement Extreme, I based my menu for my next few meals on whatever happened to be on sale. Plus, I knew had a jar of homemade spice rub that my cousin--a longtime loyal reader--made for me, and I was looking for an excuse to use it. I'd found one. (Thanks Jeff!)
The next step was a quick check of what a typical "spare ribs in the crock pot" type of recipe would look like. Here's where the recipe creation process got interesting.
The thing is, I'd never made spare ribs before: not in the crock pot, not in the oven, not on the grill, not anywhere. How much tolerance would they have for various ingredients, for water content, for cooking time, and for different flavors?
The answer turned out to be ... a lot of tolerance, particularly if you want to prepare them in a slow cooker. You can find spare ribs recipes for the crock pot with wet rubs, dry rubs, sherry, worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, all types of vinegar and so on. And crock pot cooking times across the internet are all basically the same for spare ribs too, 4-5 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.
In other words, as a delicious, high-fat meat, spare ribs are perfect for the crockpot, and clearly, they're a vehicle for a wide range of ingredients.
So today's recipe is what I came up with. It turned out so delicious it was practically a religious experience to eat.
Spicy Crock Pot Spare Ribs
½ cup brown sugar
a little less than ¼ cup kosher salt
4 teaspoons mild chili powder
about 1 teaspoon each of spices of your choice (the rub I used contained black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper and ancho chile powder) for four teaspoons total (see below).
1/2 to 3/4 cup water
one medium large onion, chopped very coarsely
3-4 garlic cloves, chopped coarsely
3.5-4.0 pounds pork spare ribs, cut up.
2 Tablespoons plain white vinegar
2 Tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1) Bring the ½ cup water to a boil and place in bottom of crock pot. Add onion and garlic.
2) Apply rub liberally and generously to all surfaces of the spare ribs. Place spare ribs on top of onions/garlic in crock pot, add vinegar and Worcestershire sauce, cover, and cook for 5 hours on the high setting or 8-10 hours on low. Serve over rice and ladle extra liquid from crockpot over each plate.
1) Rub Ratio: Feel free to experiment with your own rub (sounds sexy!). My cousin's was based loosely on Alton Brown’s 8+3+1+1 recipe. The part you can play with is the final +1, the spices, and my cousin’s version included black pepper, onion powder, cayenne pepper and ancho chile powder. Simple ...and spectacular. Of course, feel free to try other spices of your own choosing: cumin, extra cayenne, thyme, poultry seasoning, you name it. This is a really good rub.
2) I have to share a quick anecdote about the little recipe booklet that came with my crockpot, which offered a simple little recipe for spare ribs that called for a cut up onion, a bottle of barbeque sauce and 4-5 hours on the high setting. One one level this was confidence-inducing evidence that you can do practically anything to spare ribs and still have them come out okay. But I obviously had no intention of violating my spare ribs with a bottle of sugary store-bought barbeque sauce. As with all recipes: sometimes there are hits and sometimes there are misses.
How can I support Casual Kitchen?
Easy. Do all your shopping at Amazon.com via the links on this site! You can also link to me or subscribe to my RSS feed. Finally, consider sharing this article, or any other article you particularly enjoyed here, to Facebook, Twitter (follow me @danielckoontz!) or to bookmarking sites like reddit, digg or stumbleupon. I'm deeply grateful to my readers for their ongoing support.