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Crock-Pot® baby back ribs are similar to traditional barbecue ribs, although they are primarily prepared in a slow cooker. Pork ribs are trimmed carefully of any excess fat, added to a braising liquid in a slow cooker, and then left to cook for several hours. They are finished either in the oven or on a grill to sear the outside and caramelize any sauce used.
Fat is usually removed prior to cooking the ribs to prevent the dish from becoming greasy. Typically, when baby back ribs are cooked in the traditional fashion on the grill, most of the fat is left on to add flavor and moisture to the meat. In most cases, the majority of the fat melts off the ribs, leaving behind mostly meat; however, this does not happen when making Crock-Pot® baby back ribs, as the melted fat is confined to the appliance. Oftentimes, after trimming the fat, the meat is either scored or pricked with a fork in several locations to allow the braising liquid to thoroughly flavor the meat.
The braising liquid used for this dish is responsible for most of the food’s flavor. It can vary drastically by recipe, with some simply calling for a bottle of prepared barbecue sauce and others a mix of a variety of ingredients. A combination of dried spices and condiments is usually the most popular type of braising liquid for Crock-Pot® baby back ribs. Ketchup, vinegar, and Worcestershire sauce are often featured in this dish, although fruit juices, chili sauces, and different mustards are common as well. When it comes to dried spices, nearly anything goes; onion, garlic, and mustard powder are popular, as is cayenne pepper and various dried herb blends.
For Crock-Pot® baby back ribs, the first stage of the cooking process occurs in a slow cooker, which is how the dish received its name. The ribs are combined with the braising liquid and cooked at the lowest possible setting for several hours, anywhere from six to 10, depending on the recipe and the amount being cooked. This cooking process, coupled with the low heat of a slow cooker, typically makes the ribs extremely tender.
This dish is modeled after traditional barbecue baby back ribs, in which a rack of ribs is cooked on a grill at very low heat for several hours. While the slow cooker makes cooking the ribs at an even, low temperature effortless, it does not create the same flavor or texture as slow-grilling does. For this reason, Crock-Pot® baby back ribs are often finished off in the oven or on a grill to sear the outside of the meat, making the texture and flavor similar to those of traditionally-cooked ribs. The meat can be basted with barbecue or other sauces before being placed in the oven so that the sauce caramelizes. Several coats can also be applied while the ribs are grilled over medium heat for a short period.
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