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FOOD

The secret to making the best barbecue pork ribs

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 (iStock)

Sure, it's bright and cheery in the summer sunshine. But before you head outside, you might want to plug in your slow cooker. 

It might seem like a cold-weather gadget, but the slow cooker is a boss move this summer for scoring BBQ-tender meat in the summer without babysitting the barbecue. Especially when it comes to that backyard classic, pork ribs.

I know what you're thinking: With less than fifty days of summer left, it's the prime time to watch pork smolder in a smoker. Why would anyone plug in a slow cooker for barbecue ribs?

Maybe it's a rainy day or you're out of wood chips. Those are both valid reasons. Even more likely, you don't happen to be a full-time pitmaster, adept at regulating temperature and managing smoke for the hours that ribs need to slow-cook for real barbecue.

Allow the slow cooker to step in to help the situation. Though it's usually relegated to wintery braises and pot roasts, the slow cooker is this summer's best way to make barbecue-style pork without breaking a sweat.

You don't even have to be there when it's working, and there's even a cut of pork that's practically made for the slow cooker treatment: Country-style ribs. Yes, the spare rib gets a lot of flavor from its proximity to pork belly, while baby back ribs, well, there's a whole song about them. But neither one melts into tenderness like the country rib. Even though—shocker—country-style ribs aren't even ribs.

Country-style ribs don’t actually come from the ribs themselves—they're actually cut from the shoulder, which makes them especially well-marbled and delicious. But like a lot of inexpensive cuts, the country rib needs a lot of slow and low loving to get tender enough to eat. Slow cooker ribs are the kind of sweet and tangy mess of sauce and tender meat that's built for piles of coleslaw and cornbread.

All you need to achieve the ribs of your summer dreams?

Just sear the ribs in a large heavy-bottomed pot or pan, working in batches, until browned on the outside, then pile them into the slow cooker, pour over whatever sauce and liquid you like until mostly covered, set that slow cooker to low, and after a day at work (or 8-9 hours), you’ll get that falling-off-the-bone texture and tangy taste you want. All without using up a single bag of charcoal. Save those grill grates for burgers instead.