Do All Ribs Have A Membrane? [What Is It & How to Tell]

By default, butchers and meat suppliers do not remove the membrane from ribs before selling them to their customers. So, if you have never heard of rib membrane or don’t know about silverskin, you have probably cooked Beef or Pork ribs with the membrane intact. 

You’ll see it on all meats, that thin silver-white skin-like tissue layer on the underside of all ribs. The membrane or silver skin (peritoneum) is smooth and shiny and is attached to the rib bone. In addition, it does not soften when cooked, and removing it before cooking has many benefits. 

do all ribs have a membrane

Have you ever wondered why your home-cooked ribs are not as juicy and tender as those you get in a restaurant? Of course, the reason may lie in the rib membrane, but how do you know if the ribs you purchased still have the membrane on, and how do you remove it? In addition, is it essential?

What Is A Rib Membrane Or Silver Skin?

All ribs have that thin, shiny silverish layer on the bone side of the ribs. It is animal tissue layered across beef, lamb, and pork ribs. It is also noticeable on cooked meats. 

The ribs will be chewy and challenging to eat, with an almost plastic-like sheet attached across the surface of the rib bone.

How To Spot If There Is A Membrane On Ribs

Each rack of ribs has two sides, the meat side and the bone, where the bones are visible. Therefore, you will probably not know if the ribs still have the membrane attached until you have opened the package and looked closely at the ribs.

So, you have purchased ribs from your local butcher or supermarket, opened the package, and placed the ribs with the bone side facing upwards on the kitchen table. 

You will immediately notice a pale, silver-white, thin skin layer across the rib bones. That is the membrane or silver skin.

Rumour has it that the membrane prevents the flavor from entering the rib meat, thus making the ribs less tasty. In addition, the cooked membrane will have your ribs layered with a difficult-to-chew, plastic, or rubbery surface on the bone side.

The Rib Membrane Culture 

Some cultures prefer to leave the silverskin on as they perceive it as part of the meat, filled with nutrients and added value. Sometimes they puncture the skin with slits in the membrane to enable the fat to drain. However, some restaurants would not go to any extent and leave the skin as is.

Fine dining and connoisseur cooking of late, where tenderness and flavor plays a considerable role, will promote the removal of the rib membrane as critical. The presentation should be perfect, and leaving it on is rude. It’s a definite NO in competitions as you will lose valuable points if you leave it on.

If you want fall-off-the-bone pork or beef ribs, removing the skin will only take a few minutes. However, smoked ribs are better without the membrane. 

In addition, when you BBQ the ribs over an open fire, and you prefer a crunchy rib, it may be better to leave the membrane on the ribs.

Advantages Of Removing The Rib Membrane Before Cooking 

Many people believe it is essential to remove the silver skin from the bone side of the rib when preparing the rib before cooking. This layer prevents all the spicy rub flavors or BBQ smoke from entering the meat, and in addition, the cooked membrane is chewy and with an almost plastic texture.

Let us look at a few advantages of cooking ribs without a membrane.

  • It is more difficult to remove the membrane after cooking
  • The thin layer of fat under the membrane will melt and drain while cooking
  • It makes the ribs more tender and juicy
  • It allows seasonings and smoke to penetrate and flavor the meat
  • You won’t have the leathery and plastic texture of the silver skin on your plate
  • You want to season the flesh and not the membrane
  • The membrane would curl the ribs up into an arch
  • Ribs will fall off the bone without the membrane

Is Removing The Rib Membrane Before Cooking A Myth?

Now, there is another side to the same coin. Maybe you were told to remove silver skin and other connective tissue attached to the meat while processing game or other animal meats. However, silverskin isn’t as bad as everyone makes it out to be.

Let us look at a few pointers to cook ribs with the membrane:

  • It can add some value to your meal in terms of texture, taste, and nutrition
  • Silverskin is porous, and smoke and marinade can easily pass through it
  • Only puncture the membrane and still allow the thin, fat layer to melt and drain while cooking
  • Many prefer ripping the cooked membrane from the bones as part of enjoying ribs
  • Cut slits in the membrane to prevent it from curling up and will sit flat

Easy Steps To Remove The Membrane From Ribs

Once cooked, the silver skin can be challenging to remove; thus, removing the membrane before cooking is better. In addition, you probably need the membrane off before cooking to add flavor and tenderness to your meat. 

It is simple, easy, and takes only a minute or two.

In addition, try to keep the collagen intact when removing the silverskin from the rib rack. The collagen is the white fatty pieces under the membrane and along the sides. 

Should you prefer a lean cooked rib, you can remove most, but keep some for a flavorful and juicy rib result.

Step 1: You need a cutting board, sharp knife, paper towel

Step 2: Place the rib on the cutting board with the bone side facing up

Step 3: Tap the rib dry as it will be less slippery when removing the membrane

Step 4: Insert the knife anywhere under the silverskin, then lift it and loosen it from the bone

Step 5: Grab the loose portion with the towel paper for better grip and pull it off the ribs

Step 6: Try to pull the membrane off in one go. Else, use the knife and repeat the process in another section.

Final Word

All ribs have a thin, almost invisible, membrane tissue that keeps the ribs together. It can be identified as a silverish skin-like layer on the bone side of the rib rack. Leave the silverskin on or take it off is ultimately your choice.

In addition, it also depends on the cooking style you use to prepare the rib meal. Smoking would probably be better without the membrane, and BBQ-style Ribs prefer intact silverskin. Then, there is the cooked skin texture, which is not everybody’s favorite.  

Related Articles


Skip to content