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Slow Cooker Pork Western Shoulder Ribs with Barbecue Rub


The key to this recipe is to find pork shoulder cut into 1" to 2" thick strips. My local grocery store calls these Western Ribs; make sure you see the words pork shoulder somewhere on the label. Country Ribs, which are cut from the pork loin, will dry out if they are cooked for this long. The loin doesn't have the fat and connective tissue that the shoulder does what makes the shoulder "ribs" so tender and juicy after the long cooking time. Are these really ribs? No. Is this real barbecue? Absolutely not. Is it as good as real, low and slow, smoke kissed pork shoulder? Not a chance. But...if you need some tender, juicy pork to feed the family after a long day at work (for you) and school (for them), this will get the job done nicely. Normally, I will brown meat before putting it in the slow cooker; it adds an extra depth of flavor to the recipe. In this case, the small amount of water in the cooker leaves most of the ribs exposed, and the cooker browns the ribs for me.

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  • Variations:
  • 3 lbs 3 lbs pork shoulder western ribs (or cut a pork shoulder into 1 1/2" thick strips, or use pork shoulder chops)
  • 1 tsp 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp 1 tsp barbecue rub
  • 1/2 cup 1/2 cup water
  • 1 cup 1 cup barbecue sauce plus 1/2 cup barbecue sauce (for dripping)
  • Tex-Mex ribs: substitute ground ancho powder or chili powder for the barbecue rub, and substitute tomato salsa for the barbecue sauce. (This works best if you shred the ribs with a fork, and serve with tortillas as a taco filling).


Adapted from


Step 1

1. Prepare the ribs: Sprinkle the ribs evenly with the kosher salt and the barbecue rub.

2. Slow cook the ribs: Put the ribs in the slow cooker, add the 1/2 cup water, and slow cook for 6-8 hours on low or 3-4 hours on high. Add 1 cup of barbecue sauce to the cooker, and cook for another 30 minutes to 1 hour.

3. Serve: Remove the ribs to a platter. Spoon 1/2 cup of the liquid from the crock into a measuring cup. (If you have time, pour all the liquid into a fat separator and let rest for ten minutes, then pour 1/2 cup of the defatted juices into a measuring cup). Add the remaining 1/2 cup of barbecue sauce to the measuring cup, and stir to combine. Serve, passing the juices/sauce at the table.

4.*Serve with cheap white bread (for sopping up juices and barbecue sauce), dill pickle slices, cole slaw, and potato salad. And a cold beer, of course. Or, rough chop the ribs into chunks, and serve with hamburger buns as rib sandwiches.

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