Barbecue How and Why to Remove the Membrane From Ribs Before Grilling

How and Why to Remove the Membrane From Ribs Before Grilling

The membrane on ribs is tough and chewy regardless of how long you cook it, so learn to remove it for the best experience and taste when you grill or smoke pork ribs.

No matter which type of rib you’re smoking or grilling, removing the membrane is the first thing on the to-do list.

The membrane is stringy, tough, and just plain unappetizing — something every rib lover and pitmaster knows.

In this article, we’re going to learn how to remove the membrane from ribs — we’re also going to be discussing what the membrane really is.

It’s possible to buy ribs with the membrane, or silverskin, already removed, this makes your prep easier. But, if you buy ribs and discover the membrane is still intact, don’t worry, removing it is no biggie, but it’s certainly necessary.

Before we get into removing the membrane, let’s find out what it actually is.

What is the Membrane?

A large piece of membrane being pulled away from a rack of ribs

You’ve most likely seen the membrane on pork ribs. It’s a silvery opaque skin sitting on the underside of the ribs, covering the bones.

You can find it on all meats, but it’s usually only removed from beef ribs, pork ribs, or even lamb tenderloin. It’s commonly referred to as silverskin — which suits the look perfectly.

The peritoneum is the scientific name of the membrane. It lines the entire abdominal cavity of animals, covering the abdominal organs.

If left intact, once you smoke the ribs, the membrane will be chewy, tough, and tasteless. Some experimental chefs discovered that smoke and rubs would pass through the membrane to the bones and meat — but it remains tough, so why even waste time?

Why Remove it?

Unlike collagen that breaks down during the cooking process, silverskin is elastin, and no matter how long it cooks, it won’t break down.

Elastin fibers were used to make bowstrings and strings to attach arrowheads to the shafts during ancient times. Can you imagine eating meat with the membrane intact?

Smoked ribs will also look more presentable without the membrane.

What if You Don’t Remove the Membrane?

The taste and tenderness of the meat will be pretty much the same with or without the membrane.

However, with the membrane intact, the ribs tend to stick to the bone more. There will also be a chewy covering on the bones, and as you’re enjoying the succulent meat, you’ll likely pull some of the membranes into your mouth.

It’s a matter of personal taste — some people appreciate the added texture, while others don’t find it pleasant.

Removing the membrane isn’t a must, but if you do, you’re joining the majority of grillers and rib-lovers.

If you want to win grill-competitions, the membrane has to go.

How to Remove the Membrane from Ribs

Removing the membrane is as easy as one, two, three — in most cases, you can simply pull it off.

Use a dull tool, such as a spoon or butter knife, to get under the membrane. Avoid sharp knives as you might accidentally slice it through the meat, or worse; your hand.

Step 1 — While holding one end of the rack, slide the dull tool underneath the membrane and slowly separate it from the bone.

A dull knife being slipped under the skin of a pork rib membrane

Tooltip: Try an oyster shucker instead (not a clam knife).

Step 2 – Once the membrane is loosened, you can slide a finger or two underneath and begin to peel it off gently.

The membrane on bottom of pork ribs being worked loose with a knife handle and finger

Step 3 – The membrane will be slippery, so to help you get a better grip, grab a piece of paper towel to hold it. Pull slowly and gently to keep it intact. If it does tear, you’ll need to keep pulling all the pieces until they come off.

Pulling the membrane off pork ribs

Tooltip: If you have catfish skinning pliers, use them to remove the membrane, they help a lot!

Pre-Peeled Ribs – And Cooking Membrane on

If you simply don’t have time to remove the membrane, your best bet is to buy already peeled ribs. However, it won’t be a complete tragedy if you can’t find peeled ribs, just smoke the ribs with the membrane.

Who knows? Maybe your guests are among the people who don’t mind the membrane. Season and prepare your ribs as you usually do, the membrane is permeable, so it won’t affect the taste or tenderness of the meat itself.

Conclusion

I hope this super-quick guide on how to remove membrane from ribs has helped you out.

Let me know how your ribs have turned out and whether you cook them with or without the notorious silverskin.

Happy grilling!

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Hi! My name is David and I'm the founder and primary writer for this site. I have been an avid grilling and barbecue enthusiast for over 9 years now and I started this website to share my knowledge and experience with those looking to get into this fun and tasty hobby.

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