How to Remove the Membrane From Ribs
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How to Remove the Membrane From Ribs

Maybe you decided to break in your first grill by cooking a bunch of ribs for your friends and family. Maybe you decided you want to serve something other than steak or a pork loin or burgers. Maybe you’re just curious about why that silvery sliver snarls ribs if left lingering and left to its own devices.

These are just a few scenarios that might preface the need to know how to safely and easily extricate the membrane from the rib rack before you go to town with your seasonings and cooking them; that’s where this guide comes in.

By the end of this article, you’ll know all that there is to know about culling that cellular meat coat from a rack of the rib cage.

What Is the Membrane?

The “membrane,” what is properly known as a peritoneum, is a lining of connective tissue found along the underside of meat found along the rib cage. If you try to grill rib cage meat without taking off the rib membrane, the end product will be a tough, chewy mess akin to trying to chew on rubber or plastic.

More obviously, the membrane is also a barrier to flavor; salt, spices, and other seasonings cannot penetrate through the membrane in order to flavor the meat, hence why it is imperative that anyone attempting to cook pork or beef rib should remove it before ever moving on to seasonings, let alone cooking.

What Tools Are Needed to Remove the Membrane?

Raw meat and a knife on a desk
Image Credits: Kyle Mackie on Unsplash

Honestly, there isn’t all that much you will need to safely tear away the membrane from pork ribs.

  • Butter Knife. You want something that is both straight and rigid so that you can easily grip and manipulate the rib. While a butter knife is not the only tool for the job, it is among the most common options for anyone working with rib meat in or near a kitchen. Remember that you will want to use a sharp knife.

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  • Optional: Gripping Aids. Sometimes you may find yourself working with a rack that is particularly slippery. It is in these cases that you use something like paper towels, placed between your hands and the ribs, or even some latex or rubber gloves; whatever you need to gain the leverage and grip necessary for the job.
  • Hands. While fire may have been man’s first tool, he needed his hands to start that fire. By this same token is rib handled; you need to use at least one free hand for the membrane-removal process. That said, you may also want to consider bringing in some younglings into the mix, especially if this is any sort of family meal or gathering.

How Should the Membrane Be Removed?

Raw ribs
Image Credits: steven lim on Unsplash

For all of the build-up to this process, the actual process of removing the membrane from the rib is rather simple.

  1. Grab your butter knife or other straight edge and slide it underneath a flap of the membrane, right between the membrane and the meat. It is best to start this process as close to the backbone as possible because the membrane is thickest at that point; you want to spend as little effort as possible.
  2. Once you have managed to penetrate the membrane and loosen it some, the next step is to peel the membrane away from the meat and bone with your hands. While keeping a firm grip will usually do the trick, this is the point where you may want to resort to grip-enhancing tools like gloves or paper towels-the membrane can be a tad slippery.
  3. Dispose of the membrane with your organic trash. There’s no reason to save it for something like broth.

Congratulations! That is all there is to remove the membrane from a rib or any other type of meat. You can now freely apply any sort of marinade or dry rub to your food.