How To Remove Membrane From Ribs

How to remove the membrane from ribs

Who doesn’t love ribs? But how do restaurants create those tender fall off the bone ribs that are so succulent they fall off the bone. After trying to recreate the ribs time and time again, we’ve finally figured out the secret to the perfect ribs.

It doesn’t matter whether you are cooking spareribs or baby back ribs. The secret to the most tender ribs is getting rid of the membrane on the back of the ribs.

How Do I Know If The Silver Skin Is On The Ribs?

While all slabs of rib do not have the silver skin attached, if you purchased them from your local supermarket, chances are the silver skin is on the ribs. You may ask your butcher to remove the silver skin, but they may tell you to know as the ribs will likely come vacuum sealed in a package.

Knowing whether or not the membrane is on the ribs is very easy. Turn the ribs over, so the curved edge is facing towards you. If a thin opaque sheet of white tissue is on the ribs, the silver skin has not been removed.

Some ribs may have silver skin that is so thin it is nearly impossible to see. In this case, you should inspect the meat and connective tissue on the concave side of your ribs.

Suppose there are knife indentations on the fat or muscles near the bones. Rather than being smooth, there may be stray fibers of connective tissue or fat clinging to the bone. This is an indication the membrane has been removed.

On the other hand, if the underside of the ribs is smooth, the silver skin has not been removed.

What Happens If I Don’t Remove The Membrane From Ribs?

Though it is easier to leave the membrane or silver skin attached to the ribs, it will not result in the perfect ribs. Instead of tender ribs, you will be met with tough ribs that are not as tasty as they should be.

The peritoneum or membrane is a sheet of tissue located on the underside of ribs. The cartilage and additional connective muscles surrounding the bone soften and becomes tender as it cooks. However, the membrane results in an unpleasant tough, and chewy rib.

The silver skin also acts as a barricade and prevents your BBQ dry rub from permeating the meat. In addition to this, if you are cooking ribs 3-2-1 style on the pellet grill or offset smoker, the smoke will not be able to penetrate the meat fully.

There are multiple kinds of ribs. All ribs do not require the silver skin to be removed. For example, beef short ribs and Korean short ribs come prepackaged with the membrane removed.

Can You Remove The Rib Membrane After It’s Cooked?

Of course, you can remove the silver skin from the ribs after it’s cooked; however, if you want to cut the silver skin off, it’s best to do it before the ribs are cooked. Nevertheless, some BBQ experts believe removing the silver skin is unnecessary.

They believe it prevents the ribs from falling apart when you are flipping them over during the smoking process. In addition to this, they also think it gives the ribs a unique flavor.

How To Remove Membrane From Ribs

Unlike trimming a brisket, removing the silver skin from the ribs is a relatively easy process. Remove the ribs from their packaging, then pat the ribs dry with paper towels, and discard the ribs wrapper.

Although it is common to wash the ribs, do not wash the ribs. Washing the ribs may cause cross-contamination, but more importantly, it will prevent your ribs from turning a beautiful brown color. 

Set the rack of ribs on a large cutting board so that the curved side of the ribs is facing towards you. You will notice a thin, translucent film of white tissue. This is the silver skin that needs to be removed.

Slide the tip of a table or butter knife underneath one corner of the silver skin at one the edge of the ribs. Pull the membrane with your fingers.

The silver skin will easily slide off the ribs, so there’s no need to worry about detaching the wrong thin. Once the silver skin is a quarter or half of the way removed, peel it away from the entire slab of ribs.

If you are having trouble gripping the silver skin, use a paper towel to grip it and peel it away from the ribs. Discard the silver skin, season your rubs with a BBQ rub, and smoke, slow-cook, bake, or grill them.

Alternatively, there is another way to remove the silver skin, including with a knife. Simply remove your ribs from their packaging and place them onto a large cutting board.

Turn the ribs over, so the curved side is facing towards you. Remember, the ribs are on the right side when the white silver skin is towards you.

Use your fingers to search for the one rib close to the center of the slab of ribs. Be sure to feel around for a solid bone with your fingers.

At the edge of the side of the ribs closest to you, hold a pairing knife horizontally and carefully slide the point between the rib your finger is on and the silver skin. If you do not feel comfortable using a sharp knife to remove the silver skin, use a dull knife or a table knife.

Lightly maneuver the knife between the rib and silver skin until the length of the blade is covered by the membrane. Do not cut the silver skin.

A small gap of air should be between the bone and silver skin. Press the sharp side of the blade against the bone, turning the pairing knife to a 30-degree angle. Lift the knife, keeping the sharp blade against the bone, and this maneuver will help to detach the silver skin.

At this point, you can remove the knife from the ribs and pull the silver skin off with your fingers or carefully use the knife to remove the entire silver skin.

Final Thoughts

Even though most people’s mouths water when they see a dish of ribs, more work goes into it than simply placing the rack on the smoker and walking away from it. Removing the silver skin is one of those steps that cannot be skipped if you want delicious, tender ribs. Luckily you know how to remove the silver skin with ease.

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