How to Remove the Membrane (Silverskin) On Ribs

Written in 2022
by Adam

    Ribs are sold with or without the membranes. So, if you're buying ribs, ask your butcher if the membrane is still on the ribs or if it's been removed. In case you forget to ask, you will need to open the package to see if it is still attached.

    Removing the membrane is a personal preference and some people like to keep it on, but if you're one of those folks who hate the leathery texture, we'll guide you on how to remove it before or after cooking your ribs.

    What is The Membrane (Silverskin)?

    The membrane is a tissue attached to the underside of pork ribs where the bone side is.

    It can be found on all meats, but we only remove it from beef ribs, baby back ribs, spareribs and lamb tenderloin ribs.

    The peritoneum is the scientific name for the lining of the abdominal cavity (the ribs) and the covering of the abdominal organs.

    Do You Need To Remove The Membrane From The Ribs

    Whether you want to remove the membrane of your ribs is a preference. Some people like to leave it on, while others remove it.

    It's usually only removed from meat that is cooked by dry heat methods such as grilling or smoking, but not always. In fact, some folks will take it off and cook the ribs using a wet method such as braising them in liquid in a slow cooker, steaming them with a beer in an oven bag, or cooking them foil-wrapped tightly next to the sauce.

    There are two main reasons why people prefer to remove it

    • Many people don't like the texture because it makes the meat hard to chew. This membrane does not soften when cooked, unlike the cartilage and other connective tissue between and surrounding the ribs.
    • The meat tastes better with the silverskin removed. If left attached, the membrane will keep the ribs from properly absorbing the smokey flavour if you are cooking them on a grill or smoker. It also creates a barrier between your spices (such as a dry rub) and the meat, preventing tastes from penetrating the meat.

    Another reason why you might want to remove it is to make your rack of ribs more presentable and easier to cut through. Let's say you're going to slice up your ribs into individual bones or sections before serving - either for dinner or at a momentous occasion where you'll want all the guests to have one rib each - then this membrane can get in the way of a pleasing presentation. The membrane appears black when cooked, and it's been said that it looks like a snakeskin.

    How To Remove The Membrane(Silverskin) Before Cooking

    1. Check for the membrane.

    To find the membrane, you need to flip the ribs over so that they are curled toward you. You'll see a thin, almost transparent layer of white tissue attached.

    2. Dry your ribs

    Make sure your ribs are dry: You definitely don't want them damp or wet when you remove the membrane because it will make things slippery. Pat them dry with paper towels.

    3. Loosen the membrane

    Look for the thickest part of the membrane at the corner end of the rack, slide a dinner knife under the membrane and over a bone to loosen it. If it won't loosen, or you accidentally slice through the membrane, just try a different spot.

    With the knife, lift and loosen it till you can get a good grasp of the membrane

    4. Pull and peel the membrane

    The best way we've found is to peel it off using a paper towel for grip and resistance against your hand, or you can use catfish skinning pliers. Pull towards your ribcage, not away from your body - this helps prevent detaching part of the fat cap, which can ruin an otherwise perfect rack of ribs.

    5. Remove the membrane from 1 side, then flip and remove it on the other side

    We repeat this process for the opposite corner, pulling it back towards us and peeling it off gently and evenly on both sides.

    6. Check if the membrane is completely removed

    Once you're done with one rack, check to see if there are still some sections not properly peeled off or trimmed away.

    7. Ready to Season!

    After removing the silverskin your meat is now free to soak up better flavours by way of spices without being 'sealed' between two layers of tissue.) You can now also cook with less worry about burning bits of silverskin.

    If you'd like to season them while the membrane is still on, be our guest. Just remember, the seasoning will have to penetrate all that leathery tissue before it can get to your meat. Therefore, do not use a rub as thick as chilli powder or paprika. Anything more than a generous sprinkling is too much and may ruin your meal by being overly salty or spicy or both 🙂

    Remove The Membrane(Silverskin) For Grilling/Smoking/BBQing Ribs

    You don't want bits of that stuff sticking around when barbecuing your meat because any seasoning, sauce or smoky flavours won't penetrate your meat.

    Put your ribs on your barbecue grill, over high heat, for about 5 minutes (you can skip the pre-heat). This will burn off some membranes and make them easier to remove. 

    Take out the ribs and grab a paper towel.

    Remove the membrane, if any is still stuck to your meat.

    How to Remove The Membrane After Cooking

    The membrane is tougher after being cooked and makes peeling it off a bit harder. This extra toughness helps protect the meat from drying out when barbecuing or grilling, but if you want to enjoy the best texture without that gross silverskin feel, you'll need to remove it.

    We have two methods for removing the membrane. If you want to remove it after cooking , read on...

    Method 1

    1. Cut away any bits of fat, cartilage and membrane adhering to the ribs

    2. Peel away any remaining bits of membrane attached to your rack with a sharp knife or kitchen tweezer

    Method 2

    1. Layout a clean paper towel on a flat surface and place another sheet on top of it at a 90-degree angle, so they resemble an open book having two covers (or leaves if we're going all botanical).

    2. Place your cooked ribs on top of the paper towel with the membrane side facing down (and out).

    3. Press hard to get rid of any excess moisture left in there. Or if you're feeling more adventurous, you can roll up the whole thing like a taco 🙂

    4. Let your cooked or 'dry' ribs rest on this for at least half an hour to dry further before removing the membrane (silverskin).

    How to Make Cooked Tough Ribs Tender

    The silverskin prevents your seasoning from tenderizing the meat, and the meat may come off tough or hard to chew. However, there is a technique to salvage and soften the ribs.

    Make a barbeque sauce by combining your favourite barbeque sauce with apple cider vinegar in a 50/50 combination.

    Apply this coat to the ribs after that.

    The next step is to carefully cover the ribs in foil before placing them in the oven on low and slow for about an hour at 148°C (300°F). Then it's time to devour your delicious ribs and savour their flavour and texture!

    In Conclusion

    Ribs are a great cut and a popular one to cook. In case you have been wondering why they come out chewy, it's just that we've been eating them the wrong way and in the wrong state for too long! The next time you prepare ribs, remove that membrane first and give your taste buds one delicious treat they surely deserve.

    Do not hesitate to leave any comments or questions below!

    I

    Written by Adam

    Adam is the creator of the SmokeGuys website, running it since 2016. Hater of coriander, lover of all things meat... Adam currently works in marketing with a dream of being able to make food his full-time 'job' in the longer term.

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