How to Remove Membrane from Ribs

How to Remove Membrane from Ribs

Grilling is one of the best forms of pleasure when it comes to outdoor activities. Everyone loves munching a juicy rack of ribs, but sometimes there is a thick membrane on the ribs making them tough. The membrane has a ‘flat’ taste and is also tough making the ribs have an unsatisfying taste and texture too. You can do the best to try and get the best-grilled ribs, but with the membrane still on the ribs, it gets tough. Before we learn how to remove membrane from ribs, lets learn more about the membrane. 

What is the membrane

The membrane is like a “silver skin” on the ribs. It is also known as the peritoneum, and it is a piece of tough clear tissue attached to the underside of the ribs. Unlike other connective tissue found between the ribs, this membrane is so tough, and it doesn’t soften even after grilling. When cooked, it doesn’t even get a taste, and it comes out like a tough and chewy piece of stubborn plastic.

The tough membrane is thick and tough causing a barrier against seasoning preventing the flavor from penetrating inside the meat. If you are grilling, the membrane becomes a hindrance preventing the smoke flavors from penetrating the meat, and the ribs don’t come out as well as they should.

This thick tissue is thicker near the backbone, and it is essential to remove it from the back ribs than the spare ribs that come from the belly area. It is pretty easy to remove the membrane, and it also doesn’t take a lot of time. There are more than enough reasons why you should not have the membrane on your ribs, so there is no reason to leave it and let it destroy the flavor of the meat.

How to remove membrane from ribs

Here are the few steps (how to remove membrane from ribs) you should follow to get rid of the stubborn tissue and get the perfect grilled ribs:

  • Unwrap the ribs and locate the membrane

It is rare to find a butcher who has removed the membrane for you. The meat is sold raw with the membrane, and it is up to you to remove it. Unwrap your ribs and use paper towels to pat the ribs dry. Get rid of the wet paper towels in the trash. Don’t rinse the meat as this can cause cross-contamination in the kitchen and also prevents browning.

  • Turn the ribs and let the membrane face up

Place the dry ribs on a clean surface like a baking sheet or cutting board. Position the ribs such that the concave shaped side is facing up with the curved side flat against the clean surface you prefer to use. The ribs are positioned the right way if the thick white membrane is facing up.

  • Get beneath the membrane with a sharp knife

Next up, use a sharp knife to get under the membrane slowly. Locate one rib near the middle of the rack. You can use your fingertips to feel for the firm bone. At the base of the rib and on the closer side, hold the knife horizontally and push the knife between the rib and the membrane. Be careful not to tear up the membrane by pressing the sharp tip of the knife directly through the membrane. You should push the knife under the membrane until the knife is all covered in the membrane. All this time, the blade is in a horizontal position, and the sharp knife edge doesn’t come into direct contact with the membrane. The aim is to remove the membrane and not cut it as this makes it harder to remove.

  • Lift up the membrane with the blunt knife edge

Turn the knife vertically against the rib such that the blunt edge of the knife lifts up the membrane slightly. At this time, the sharp edge of the knife is against the rib bone. If the membrane is lifted, a small space opens between the membrane and the bone. The best knife to use in this situation is a paring knife. When the space opens up, use a butter knife to loosen the membrane. The paring knife is sharp and can tear or cut through the thick silver skin while the butter knife is blunt but sturdy making it perfect for the lifting job.

  • Lift the membrane further

Position the butter knife at a 30-degree angle and press the sharper side of it against one of the rib bones and lift up with the handle. Some membranes can be tougher, so it is recommended that you use a strong knife here. With the knife in this position, perform a hinge motion to lift the membrane further up then remove it and put it aside.

  • Put your index finger in the gap between the membrane and the bone

The knife created a gap, but you have to work your finger into this gap by pressing the index finger into the gap. To help enlarge the gap, wiggle your finger side to side separating the membrane further. Using your finger, lift enough membrane leaving a grip-able flap of the tissue.

  • Grip the membrane using a paper towel

Take a clean piece of paper towel and place it on top of your dominant palm such that it covers the thumb and the index finger. Grab the paper towel and use it to grip one loose edge of the membrane. A paper towel gives you traction when holding the slippery membrane.

  • Press your fingers beneath the membrane

Use your non-dominant hand and pull up the membrane flap using the paper towel. Lift the membrane up with your dominant hand as you press the fingers on your other hand through the other side if the ribs. Your fingers are supposed to come out on one side leaving a loop of the membrane. Make sure the membrane doesn’t tear.

  • Pull the membrane up

Get a good grasp of the loop created on the membrane and press the ribs down with the other hand. Pull the membrane up with the dominant hand while the non-dominant hand pushes the ribs down. Pull the membrane off the ribs careful not to tear, and it should come off in a single piece.

  • Get rid of the membrane

Once it comes off, throw the thick, slippery membrane from the ribs into the trash. This leaves your ribs clean and ready for seasoning to be cooked for the best taste.

It is good to note that sometimes you can have a large rack of ribs. You should readjust your grip on the membrane as required moving close to the edge to lift the membrane off the ribs. Sometimes your grip might slip as you pull up on the membrane. You should grab another clean paper towel and grip on the membrane for better traction.


For those who love grilling, the difference between ribs without a membrane and those with the membrane is pretty clear. The taste in itself sets these two apart. Once the tough, chewy, slippery membrane is removed, your seasoning and flavors penetrate the ribs evenly and without any resistance. The results of grilled ribs without the membrane are satisfied taste buds and soft flavor oozing ribs. Therefore, this blog should answer questions that you had on how to remove membrane from ribs. 

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