How to Remove the Membrane from Ribs? Quick and Easy Steps!

October 25, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton

Ribs generally have a thick membrane, also called silverskin, attached to them. This membrane can affect the texture and flavor of the meat if not removed. Luckily, removing the membrane off your ribs isn’t too difficult. You just need a knife to cut through the membrane and a good grip to pull the skin off. 

Some years ago, I made the mistake of cooking ribs with the silverskin attached, and the outcome was nearly inedible. After that experience, I learned how to remove the membrane and prevent a barbecue disaster.

If you want to learn more about how to remove membrane from ribs, I’ve got you covered. Continue reading to discover my step-by-step guide to removing silverskin. 

Remove the Membrane from Ribs

How to Remove Membrane from Ribs?

Step 1

First, unwrap the ribs from their packaging and pat them dry with paper towels. Next, ensure the curved side of the ribs is flat, facing down, on a clean cutting board.

Step 2

Use your fingertips to feel for a solid bone in the middle of the rack to find a rib. Hold your butter knife horizontally at the base of the rib on the side that is closest to you, and wedge the knife between the rib and the rib’s membrane. Press the knife firmly between the ribs and the membrane until the rib membrane goes over the knife. Be careful not to pierce the membrane when cutting.

Step 3

Now, turn the butter knife between the membrane and ribs vertically so the back side of the knife lifts the membrane, i.e., the membrane should be resting on the dull side of the blade while the front side of the knife should be in contact with the bones. You should notice a little air pocket between the bone and the membrane. Lift the handle of the knife up while pressing the bottom part of the knife down. The silverskin should be pulling off as you lift the butter knife.

Step 4

Now, insert your fingers inside the space between the membrane and bone. Tug upwards to separate the silverskin even more. Stop pulling when there is enough silverskin flap to grip onto.

Step 5

Next, place a paper towel on the hand you’ll be pulling with. The paper towel will provide a bit more traction, so you can pull off the entire membrane.

Take the paper towel in your palm and use your thumb and index finger to grasp the loose edge of the membrane. Use your other hand to hold down the rack of ribs and pull the silverskin right off.

Step 6

Lastly, discard the thick, white membrane you removed. You can now season and prepare your delicious ribs. Don’t forget to dispose of the used paper towel, clean the area, and continue cooking.

 Watch this video for a visual representation of these easy steps.

What is Silver Skin?

Silverskin is a translucent silver membrane, scientifically called the peritoneum, commonly found on the back of pork or beef ribs. While the front part of the ribs will appear meaty, the bone’s side is protected by the membrane, which insulates the animal’s ribs.

Why You Should Remove the Membrane from Ribs?

First off, the silverskin makes the supple rib meat more difficult to chew, making the meat nearly inedible. Moreover, due to the silverskin’s tough and rubbery nature, your favorite marinade and spices won’t be able to properly penetrate the meat. In short, if you cook your ribs without removing the silverskin, you’ll have a chewy, tough, and flavorless rack of ribs.

Can You Remove Membrane After Cooking the Rack of Ribs?

Of course, you can remove the silverskin membrane after cooking the spare ribs. However, note that the rib membrane will be considerably more difficult to remove than if the pork or beef ribs were uncooked.

As the ribs cook, the membrane will shrink and become more firmly attached to the meat. Moreover, it won’t be as tasty because marinade and spices won’t be able to penetrate the meat.

That said, removing it will be straightforward once you figure out how to work your fingers into the space between the silverskin and the bone.

BBQ Ribs on the Grill

Frequently Asked Questions

1. Can I Buy Ribs with the Membrane Removed?

The answer depends on where you buy the rack of spare ribs. From experience, whenever I buy ribs from a major retailer like Costco or a Kroger chain shop, the membrane is typically already removed. Even so, I still suggest you inspect the meat yourself just to be sure.

However, I noticed the silverskin still attached when I got them from a butcher shop or small store. Luckily, you can always ask the butcher to help you peel off the silverskin. If you don’t have much luck getting a butcher to cut off the membrane from ribs, you’ll have to refer to the instructions above and remove it yourself.

If you’re not sure how to tell if your ribs have the silverskin attached, place the ribs bone side up and inspect the surface for a silver or white covering that feels a bit slippery. The membrane may or may not cover the entire ribs, so pay attention to the section that the thin, silvery membrane covers.

2. How Do I Make Tough Pork Ribs Tender?

If your pork ribs have a tough and chewy texture, you probably undercooked them. So, if you want the meat to be juicy with an irresistible smoky flavor, you need to cook ribs for a long time at a low temperature. Wrap the pork ribs in aluminum foil and place them back on the grill.

The foil paper will trap heat and make the pork ribs get tender more quickly. For best results, don’t remove the pork ribs from the grill until the internal temperature reads 203 degrees Fahrenheit.


That’s all you need to know about removing the silverskin membrane from a rack of ribs. It’s important to peel off any silver skin before cooking your rack of ribs to achieve that moist and flavorful mouthfeel. I always advise removing the silver skin before you cook the meat.

This way, your ribs will be able to absorb all of the tasty flavors from the spices and become more tender. So, even though it’s possible to remove the membrane after cooking your ribs, the damage would already have been done to your precious cut.

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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