What is the Membrane?
The membrane is a layer of tough tissue located beneath the pork ribs. It’s a layer most butchers refer to as “silverskin” and has a rubbery texture. You’ll also encounter it on other steak ribs such as beef ribs, the lamb’s tenderloin ribs, and mutton.
Scientifically, it’s termed the peritoneum, a layer that covers the animal’s abdominal cavity and protects the organs beneath it.
Why Remove the Membrane and What If You Don’t?
Most people prefer removing the membrane to allow all dry rubs, barbecue sauce, spices, and all smoked flavors to permeate the meat well and deeply. It also helps in creating a tender meat texture thus making it easy to cook and soft to chew.
Being elastin, silverskin has a tough, chewy texture that’s tasteless and very hard to cook. This is because it doesn’t easily break down like collagen. That means your meat will likely be tough if you leave the membrane on the ribs. It may seem small, but its effect on the back ribs is significant.
It also acts as a barrier that keeps most of the marinades and smoked flavors from getting through it. However, sometimes it’s also good to leave the membrane as it helps to hold up the rib bones together. It depends on what you prefer. But on a final verdict, removing the membrane gives you a chance to enjoy soft and flavorful smoked ribs or steak.
What You Need
Removing membranes is a simple task. You just need a blunt knife or the back end of your knife in case it’s sharp. Be sure to use a blunt knife so the membrane doesn’t cut off when trying to remove it. You can also use the back of your spoon or fork if you don’t have a blunt knife.
You’ll also need a couple of everyday-use paper towels for firmly gripping the silverskin. Avoid using bare hands to pull it off. The membrane is so slippery and your bare hands will keep sliding off in the process. Paper towels provide the necessary friction for firmly holding the membrane.
You can also get pliers for an extra grip. There’s no harm in reinforcing grips on the membrane to get rid of it. They’re quite slippery.
Also, ensure the piece of back ribs are dry to help you hold it well throughout the procedure. You can do this by pat drying it with paper towels to clear any blood remains or trickling water.
How to Remove the Membrane from Ribs in 3 Easy Steps
1. Locate the membrane
First, flip over the back ribs so that the internal curvy side faces upwards. If you look at the ends of the back ribs, you’ll notice some fatty layers on the edges. This is where the membrane starts. It may be a bit difficult to find it if you’re a beginner. But you can easily locate it by noticing the thin layer overlying the entire bone ribs that are translucent, glossy, and shiny. It also has a rubbery texture when you touch it.
2. Detach the edge of the membrane
Use the blunt end of your knife to reach the underside of the silverskin attached to the rib. Separate the skin from the underlying meat by inserting the knife in between the membrane and the meat. Hold a small section (about an inch) of the membrane then hold it using a paper towel and start peeling off.
3. Removing the membrane
To effectively remove the membrane, do it in steps. Once you pull out a significant length of the membrane, grab its lower end again and peel off another length of the membrane. Keep doing this until you reach the end of the back ribs. This procedure will help minimize tearing which can make removing the silverskin difficult.
It may come out whole, nice and easy, but sometimes it tears up in the process. It’s okay to leave small pieces of the membrane as it can be frustrating trying to remove it all. Just make sure the bigger section is removed so your ribs come out great after cooking them.
What If You Don’t Have Time for Membrane Removal?
If you feel you don’t have time to remove the membrane, then it’s suitable for you to buy a ready-made back rib – one which the silverskin has already been peeled off.
In case you don’t find such, cooking it with the membrane on is still okay. It doesn’t fully prevent all flavors and smoke from penetrating it. Just make sure you cook it under low and steady heat to bring out great results. Also, sometimes the membrane is good for holding the bone ribs together. So it isn’t a bad thing after all.
Back ribs, spare ribs, St. Louis-style ribs, and many other types of pork ribs can make great tasty barbecues and recipes. Removing their membrane does not only make your meat tender but also allows the full marinade of pork rub and seasonings to permeate through it. You may have eaten pork ribs and wondered why it feels chewy yet it’s well known to have a tender texture. Try paying close attention, next time you purchase a piece if the silverskin is still intact. If not, consider removing it and see if your pork ribs taste better and softer.
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