How to Remove the Membrane from Pork Ribs

a person shows how to remove the membrane from pork ribs

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If you’re new to smoking pork ribs, you may be making one fatal error – forgetting to remove the membrane. 

If you have no idea how to remove the membrane from pork ribs, then don’t worry. We’ll guide you through the process step-by-step – so you and your guests can enjoy tender, succulent ribs without a chewy rack in sight!

And if you want to learn a no-fail method for BBQ pork ribs check out our recipe below.

321 Ribs: Low and Slow Smoked Pork Ribs

What is the membrane and why should you remove it?

Technically known as the peritoneum, or colloquially called a “silverskin”; the membrane on your pork ribs coats the abdominal cavity and serves as a conduit for nerves and blood vessels.

raw baby back ribs bone side up
A thin layer of tissue covering the curved side of the ribs is the membrane

This thick, rubbery membrane is not unlike latex in texture. You may hear people say that it needs removing as it inhibits the flavor from rubs and smoke getting to the meat. This is, in fact, untrue. The peritoneum is very porous and it won’t stop any of your flavors from penetrating.

The main reason we recommend removing the membrane from pork ribs is because of its texture.

Unlike fat and connective tissue, the membrane just doesn’t break down through cooking

Try to crisp it up on a high heat and you get a tough and chewy texture. Cook it low and slow, it’s like a mouthful of stringy rubber. 

There is also a layer of fat concealed under the membrane so removing it allows the fat to melt away and drain as you cook. 

Rumor has it that there are some people who actually like the membrane left on (admittedly no one that we know personally.) However, if you’re cooking for someone who does like it left on, you could always puncture the membrane with a sharp knife to help the fat to drain from beneath. 

What you will need

Good news, you won’t need any specialized or fancy equipment to remove your pork rib membrane. 

a metal teaspoon on a piece of paper towel and pork baby back ribs

While some people like to get fancy with needle nose or catfish skinning pliers, we manage just fine with a butter knife and a paper towel.

  • Thin blunt object to initially detach membrane – you could use a butter knife, a table knife, or even a spoon.
  • Paper towels – membranes are notoriously slippery and hard to grip. Use a paper towel to make it easier to hold on to.
  • Pliers (optional) – if you’re having real difficulty keeping a tight hold on your membrane, there’s no shame in using some standard pliers for an improved grip.

How to remove the membrane from pork ribs – step by step instructions

If you’ve ever seen a pro removing the membrane from pork ribs, they make it look like an incredibly simple procedure. 

If you want to see the whole process, this is a good video.

How To Easily Remove The Membrane From Your Ribs

If this is your first try, don’t worry if it takes a few attempts to get it right. With a little practice and our step by step guide, you’ll get the hang of it in no time.  

1. Locate the membrane 

Turn your ribs over so that they have the curved side upwards. You’ll see a fine, translucent layer of tissue covering your ribs. 

This is your pork rib membrane that you’re about to remove.

2. Detach the edge of the membrane

As membranes are by nature slippery and tricky to get a hold of, you’ll want to start off by detaching a small area at one end of your slab of ribs. 

To avoid injuring yourself or stabbing into the meat, use a blunt object, such as a table or butter knife, or even a spoon. 

back of raw ribs with teaspoon inserted under membrane

Insert this object between the membrane and your ribs to separate them at least an inch in.

3. Removing the membrane 

Now you’ve got enough membrane detached to get a hold of it, you should be able to pull it up and off using your fingers. 

Slowly, using a paper towel to improve your grip, tug the membrane upwards and sideways. It should come off as one piece, however, it can tear. 

gloved hand holding membrane attached to back of pork rib

If yours does, simply repeat the previous step and this one until you’ve successfully removed all remaining pieces. 

4. Prepare to cook your ribs 

Once you’ve removed the membrane, you may want to trim off a little of the excess fat that was under it, as well as trimming any excess from the other side too. 

If you are working with a big meaty rack of spare ribs, you may also want to square it up a little more by trimming along the breast bone.

pork ribs on chopping board with knife and trimmed off fat

Wrapping it up

Pork ribs are a tasty, easy dish that nearly everyone loves. Taking a few extra moments and removing the membrane from your pork ribs will give your ribs an even more delicious, melt-in-the-mouth texture. 

Don’t forget to share this guide with your friends to help them make the most of their ribs. And if you have any questions, let us know in the comments below!

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