Usually I’m skeptical of any slow cooker recipes with meat. Somehow these recipes manage to slow-cook meat into dry, flavorless non-food that ends up on a”weekly meal planning” blogs. Slow cookers cannot, in general, beat a long braise or a good smoking.
I have found an exception. I tested this one out last week, and the secret is that there is no liquid involved, and the spareribs are finished by broiling for a few minutes in the oven. This recipe doesn’t promise only a one-dish preparation, but the extra couple baking pans are worth dirtying. This recipe is adapted from America’s Test Kitchen’s Meat Illustrated.
You’ll need a wire cooling rack, a baking sheet, and a slow cooker (or Instant Pot with slow cook capabilities).
Sweet and Sour Pork Spareribs
- slow cooker (an Instant Pot is fine. Most have slow-cook capabilities)
- wire rack
- baking sheet, rimmed
- small mixing bowl
- 2-3 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
- 6 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tbsp. ground allspice
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1 tsp. pepper
- 2 (2.5-3lb) racks St. Louis style spare-ribs, trimmed and halved. (See note.)
- 1/2 c. pineapple preserves (See note for alternatives.)
- 1/4 c. ketchup
- 1/4 c. brown sugar
- 1 tbsp. apple cider vinegar
- 1 tbsp. soy sauce
- 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
- Combine half of the ginger, 2/3 of the garlic, the allspice, salt, and pepper in a bowl.
- Pat the spareribs dry with paper towels, then rub with the spice mixture you made in Step 1.
- Arrange the ribs upright in the slow cooker with the thick ends pointing down and the meaty sides against the wall. The ribs may overlap, and that’s ok.
- Cover and cook until the ribs are tender (7-8 hours on low or 4-5 hours on high. See note.)
- When the ribs are finished in the slow cooker, adjust your oven rack 4″ from the broiler element and heat the broiler (use the high setting if your oven has more than one broiler option.)
- Transfer the ribs meaty side up to the prepared rack. Let the ribs rest about 10 minutes until the surface is dry.
- While the ribs are resting, mix the pineapple, ketchup, sugar, vinegar, soy sauce, pepper flakes, remaining ginger, and remaining garlic in a bowl until the sugar is dissolved.
- Brush the ribs with half the sauce, then place in oven and broil about 5 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and beginning to char.
- Brush the ribs with the remaining sauce, then tent with foil and rest for 10 minutes.
- Cut the ribs in between the bones to separate. Serve with rice.
- Pineapple preserves can be a strange ingredient to ask for. I just pulse some canned or thawed frozen pineapple to make the required amount.
- You will need a slow cooker or instant pot big enough to handle the spareribs. The mini versions aren’t big enough. I had no trouble fitting everything in a standard sized Instant Pot.
- I tend to err on the shorter side of slow cooker cooking times.