How to Remove the Membrane From Ribs (3 Easy Steps)

Are you getting ready to smoke a nice rack of ribs? Well, before you do, you should remove the membrane from them. Are you wondering why? Well, you’ve come to the right place!

In the guide, you will discover:

  • Why you should remove the membrane from ribs
  • How to remove the membrane from ribs
  • And much more!

What You Need to Know About the Membrane on Ribs

Here at, we are passionate about ribs. There is nothing that says grilling season has begun quite like a nice, fall-off-the-bone rack of ribs. 

But before you can become a pro at smoking or grilling ribs, it’s important to know what the membrane is so that you can remove it from your rack of ribs. If you don’t remove the membrane, you’ll find that your ribs may be tough and chewy. 

While it isn’t a requirement to remove the membrane, it is suggested by pros all around the world. So, read on to learn more about how and why you should remove the membrane from ribs. 

What is the Membrane on Ribs?

The membrane is a part of the ribs that covers the exterior. Because ribs come from the interior of the animal, the membrane is what keeps all of the blood vessels, muscles, and parts in their proper place. 

Once an animal has been butchered, the membrane helps keep the meat together. It’s typically white or silvery in color, and it is found in all animals, from cows to pigs and even sheep! 

Sometimes, the membrane on ribs is referred to as silverskin because of its silvery color. 

While the membrane, or silverskin, certainly is helpful when it comes to buying your meat, it is not nice to eat. In fact, it is chewy, tough, and has no taste. Although it won’t prevent seasoning or smoke from getting to your meat, it is just not nice to eat, so it is better to remove it altogether. 

removing membrane from ribs

Why You Should Remove the Membrane From Ribs

As mentioned above, the membrane portion of the ribs only serves a purpose when the animal is alive and when you first purchase the meat. Once you are at home and getting ready to cook, the membrane doesn’t add any flavor to your meat. 

The membrane also makes the meat very tough and makes your final product not look very polished. Therefore there is no reason to keep it on, and it is better off being removed. Plus, if you leave it on, it won’t break down, no matter how hot you cook it. 

If you still aren’t convinced, consider that ancient people used the membrane from ribs to make bowstrings. Can you imagine eating a bowstring? That’s what you will be doing if you keep the membrane on your ribs. 

There is one single argument that states keeping the membrane on for cooking alone will help the meat to be more fall-off the bone tender. But we have found with proper cooking, this can be done anyway, and it’s best to remove the membrane sooner rather than later during the cooking process.

Related >> How Many Ribs in a Rack? All You Need to Know

How Do You Know if Rib Membrane Is Removed?

If you purchased your ribs from the store, you may be wondering if the membrane has already been removed for you. The answer should be obvious.

Turn your ribs over to the bone side. If you see a silvery or pale white covering, which makes your ribs look like they are in some sort of bag, then the membrane has not been removed. 

For those that turn their ribs over and simply see bones and meat, the membrane on your ribs has already been removed, and you are ready to start cooking!

How to Remove the Membrane From Ribs

Luckily, the process of removing the membrane from ribs is easy and can be accomplished in just a few steps. Here is how you do it. 

Tools Needed:

  • Spoon
  • Butter Knife
  • Oyster Shucker (optional)

Step 1: Slide the Butter Knife Under the Membrane

Take your butter knife or spoon and slide it under the membrane of the ribs. 

Step 2: Peel

After you have loosened the membrane enough to get your fingers underneath, use two fingers to peel the membrane gently away from the ribs. 

Step 3: Pull

Slowly pull the membrane from all parts of the ribs, trying not to tear it. If it tears, you will need to use your fingers to remove all pieces of it. 

Editor’s Note: You can use a paper towel to help you peel the membrane off, as it might be slippery! 

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04/23/2024 08:58 am GMT

What If You Don’t Want to Remove the Membrane from Ribs?

If the aforementioned process sounds a bit too daunting, don’t worry, as you can purchase ribs with the membrane already removed. Plus, if you are headed to a local butcher for your ribs, you can often just ask them to remove it for you. 

If you don’t want to remove the membrane because you are pressed for time, just put your ribs on the grill. As mentioned above, the membrane doesn’t affect the cooking process, so it’s not the end of the world if you cook the ribs with the membrane on. 

Why Can’t I Get the Membrane Off My Ribs?

Are you struggling to remove the membrane from your ribs? Maybe it keeps breaking, or you simply can’t get a hold of the slippery thing. 

First and foremost, try a paper towel to help you get a good grip. If you are still struggling to remove the membrane even with a paper towel because it keeps breaking, then don’t panic. Sometimes the membrane is too thin to remove. 

When this is the case, and the membrane is especially fragile, it is likely fragile enough that it won’t affect the taste or texture of the ribs. We still recommend trying to get off as much of the membrane as possible, but leaving a little behind, in this case, won’t harm your final product! 

Does the Membrane on Ribs Affect a Dry Rub?

Dry rubbing your ribs is a great way to get some nice flavor into the meat before you cook. If you are planning to leave the membrane on, you may wonder if this will stop the spices from getting to your meat. 

The good news is that the membrane is easily penetrated, meaning your spices will go through it and onto the meat if you leave it on. We still recommend taking it off, simply because it’s easier to eat them later on. Either way, the choice is yours! 

Related >> Best Dry Rubs for Ribs

Do All Ribs Have a Membrane?

All ribs, at some point or another, came with a membrane. Whether you are cooking pork ribs, beef ribs, or even lamb ribs, you will find a silvery-white coating on your ribs. 

That being said, many stores do remove the membrane for you, so your exact package of ribs may not have any membrane on them. It should be noticeable if the membrane on your ribs had already been removed, but if you aren’t sure, you can always ask your butcher or at the butcher counter at the grocery store. 

Expert Tips for Making Ribs

Removing the membrane is just one of the necessary parts of making ribs. Below are some of our other expert tips to help make your ribs a success. 

  • Ribs should always be smoked low and slow, so if you are planning to make a rack, plan in advance so you can leave them in the heat for at least 4 to 6 hours. 
  • Before putting ribs on the grill or in the smoker, coat them with BBQ sauce or apply a rub.
  • As ribs cook, you should brush them with BBQ sauce every 45 minutes. 
  • Keep the lid closed as much as possible.
  • Buy ribs fresh–while it can be tempting to grab them when they are on sale, ribs taste the best when they are cooked within a day of purchase. 

Related >> 321 Smoked Ribs Recipe

Final Thoughts on How to Remove the Membrane from Ribs

Overall, it’s a good idea to remove the membrane from your ribs. Not only will the ribs be more tender, but it also makes the final product look better. Plus, the process is quick and easy, so there is no reason not to remove the membrane from your ribs. 

But, if you do decide to leave the membrane on, you can rest easy knowing that it won’t affect the taste of your ribs, nor their ability to cook, just the texture of the final product. 

Photo of author

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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