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Derrick Riches

Removing Rib Membranes

By May 18, 2014

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If you've been reading my site for long you know that I am a firm believer in the removal of the membrane off the back side of pork ribs. I feel that the membrane blocks the absorption of smoke and keeps you rib rub out. However, there are people out there that say the membrane gives the ribs texture and holds the meat together. Still others say it doesn't make a difference. Now most of the barbecue competitors I know remove the membrane and swear by it. I just thought I would throw this out there and see what you think. Hit the "comment" button below and share your feelings on the issue of membrane removal.

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September 12, 2008 at 10:35 pm
(1) Bob says:

NO question that removing the membrane from pork ribs makes them cook and eat better. Done it both ways many times. See The Professional Chef for the best technique.

September 13, 2008 at 3:23 am
(2) Kevin says:

I always take the membrane off if the meat falls off the bone better yet.

September 16, 2008 at 8:24 am
(3) David says:

I have done ribs both ways and have found that the ribs are more moist and have better flavor when the membrane is removed.

Also removing the membrane from beef ribs makes them tastier too.

September 16, 2008 at 1:42 pm
(4) David C. says:
September 17, 2008 at 10:28 am
(5) Lou says:

I always try but don’t always succeed. Is there a trick to getting it to come off?

September 17, 2008 at 10:43 am
(6) jim Spinella says:

I’m looking for some tips regarding removing the membrane, I usually mess up the rack when trying to remove it. I’d love some ideas, nobody ever showed me how to do it and I’m sure I’m missing some easy points. Thanks

March 9, 2011 at 1:29 pm
(7) Tom says:

Use paper towel to get grip after cutting one end of ribs. Should pull off fairly easy.

September 17, 2008 at 10:57 am
(8) G says:

I run a flat head screwdriver under the membrane along the second rib on the short side of the rack and pull to the short side. This leaves enough membrane to get a firm grip to remove the rest. Works for me.

September 17, 2008 at 3:42 pm
(9) RonD says:

Absolutley remove the membrane. They “eat” better, and the rub and smoke penetrates the meat deeper. I use a close fitting pair of long nose pliers to remove it. Just grab a corner and pull it off. It’s easier if you marinade or brine the ribs first, but the marinade will not penetrate the meat as well doing it that way. I usually do it that way regardless, because it’s easier.

September 17, 2008 at 5:00 pm
(10) bhold says:

I prefer removing the membrane. Use a butter knife to get under the membrane, you’ll find a likely spot. Then use a towel to get a good grip and slowly pull. You may have to do it more than once. But, no problem if you can’t get all of it.

September 17, 2008 at 10:56 pm
(11) MartyB says:

I think the ribs come out more tender with the membrane off, but it’s a pain in the neck to do it. It’s almost impossible to get the membrane off smoothly on baby backs; a little easier off of spare ribs.

September 18, 2008 at 9:54 am
(12) John says:

Butcher taught me to remove membrane, partially thawed (if frozen) with glove and/or paper towel; he was also same man that sold me on country cut ribs— just did some in slow cooker over night and were delicious.

September 18, 2008 at 2:57 pm
(13) Ed says:

I feel if i’m smoking my ribs i like taking off
the membrane smokin does not crisp up your ribs.But if i am cooking over an open fire then the heat takes care of the membrane.Bottom line smoking them it stays rubbery open fire it crisps up you’ll never know it was there.

September 19, 2008 at 5:13 pm
(14) Patrick says:

Since I learned how to cook ribs from a pro, I always take the membrane off and boy what a difference in the flavors melting together.

September 20, 2008 at 1:49 pm
(15) STEVE B says:

tHE PEOPLE WHO SAY IT DOESNT MATTER ARE JUST TO LAZY TO PULL IT OFF.Once you’ve done it you know it makes a difference

September 21, 2008 at 9:43 pm
(16) Ronald says:

Yes,I temove the membrane from the ribs. It makes the smoke pass thru the meat.

September 9, 2009 at 4:26 pm
(17) Ed says:

I taught classes for 6 years, cooking on a gas grill. I make my ribs “St Louis style” by removing the membrane. I cut actoss the top of the bone and kick up the cut edge and grab membrane and pull it back over itself…

September 10, 2009 at 3:29 am
(18) Tim says:

A potential customer asked me if I removed the membrane from my ribs early in my career. I said no and lost the gig. I experimented and found removing the membrane made for a superior product.

September 10, 2009 at 8:25 pm
(19) Karen says:

I always remove the membrane. I think it makes the ribs chewy or tougher if you leave the membrane on. It only takes a few minutes.

September 7, 2010 at 4:27 pm
(20) Greg says:

This is a no brainer. Leaving the membrane on makes the ribs VERY difficult to enjoy because you’re fighting the rib instead of eating it.

September 7, 2010 at 5:22 pm
(21) Slowburn says:

Sorry, have to disagree. We are festival vendors and competition ribbers, we NEVER remove the membrane and no SteveB, it’s not because we are lazy, we have tried them without the membrane and the response was not as good. We have found the they hold more moisture and keep longer in the warming box.

September 7, 2010 at 7:04 pm
(22) ribrub says:

How about just cutting the membrane between the rib bones?

September 7, 2010 at 8:39 pm
(23) phil perrin says:

Got to remove the membrane! It just tastes better!

September 8, 2010 at 8:18 am
(24) Scott Roberts says:

I’m another one who believes in removing the membrane. There’s just more penetration of the smoke and the rub and it tastes better.

September 10, 2010 at 12:48 pm
(25) Beer Can Dan says:

I too remove the membrane and have found positive results. I remove it off the full slab before trimming to St. Louis Style Ribs. Babyback Ribs are more difficult to remove membrane I have found, but I swear by St. Louis Style Ribs now anyway and don’t buy B-Backs.

September 16, 2010 at 7:39 am
(26) detassler says:

I work as a veterinary assistant in a pork packing plant years ago, once you get under thew membrane with finger it will peel out in one piece. If you can find fresh pork (never frozen) that “peel out” will come off in one even sheet. The older and lesser quality meat will rip and come out in pieces. I live in Iowa fresh pork is readily available, try grilling fresh pork. it isn’t your mommas pork.

September 9, 2011 at 1:14 pm
(27) Kevin says:

I’ve q’m all sorts a ways, but I like scoring the membrane best. Crosshatch perpendicular to the bone and the membrane shrinks in the pit. Flavor doesn’t change either way you pull it, but after kiss’n these ribs with a high flame right outa the pit and charrin up the membrane after a brush of melted butter gives them a good crunch. I like it, and my customers like it and my employees like it. Win, win, win!

September 14, 2011 at 3:50 pm
(28) Donald says:

I always remove the membrain from the ribs. I found the best tool for me is an oyster knife. Blunt edge gets under the membrain with eaze. Pull the membrain with a dry paper towel to speed removal.

December 13, 2011 at 10:55 am
(29) Pit Drummer says:

Can someone please qualify what excactly “St. Louis Style” is? I thought it simply meant any rib that was cooked wet. It looks from reading this stuff like it’s a certain cut of rib as well.

September 18, 2012 at 10:17 am
(30) ElGatoGordo says:

Always remove the membrane, used to leave it on because it was a pain to remove, but I found out that the ribs are more tender and taste better with the mebrance off worth the effort to take it off.

I was taught my a pitmaster to use a dull butterknife and work under the
member to you have loosen a flap big enough to grab with a dish towel
and with a little practice I now can almost always remove the membrane in one piece.

September 18, 2012 at 7:07 pm
(31) BBQ Joe says:

I’ve done baby back blind taste tests with it on, off and slightly slicing it through it between each rib to expose the meat. The last two slightly beet out leaving it on but there was no difference betrween them.

September 19, 2012 at 12:51 am
(32) Kenny Rogers says:

I ALWAYS cook with the membrane off. I recently cooked a couple of racks and forgot to remove the membrane, and they were tough, and chewey, lacking in flavor, and just pain, blah. I cook several dozen racks of ribs every year, and this was the same exact cook that I always do, except the membrane. NEVER again!

September 19, 2012 at 1:14 pm
(33) GarysBBQSupplies says:

I came across a similar post a few weeks ago. Having always been a proponent of membrane off, I decided to do a test cook with the membrane on……. Well folks. There is a reason for taking the membrane off.
NO amount of cooking will make that membrane tender. Never again.
Just my two cents.

September 19, 2012 at 2:38 pm
(34) Chris says:

Remove it! Fish Skinners work really well to get ahold of it and pull it off if hands are wet.

September 19, 2012 at 2:46 pm
(35) Brenda says:

I just Googled “St. Louis Style” and simply defined it means: grilled and sauced…as opposed to dry rub and slow smoked!!

September 19, 2012 at 4:51 pm
(36) Larry says:

Started removing the membrane about 35 years ago and everyone raved about my ribs, thought I had changed my recipe. Also noticed they were more tender.

September 19, 2012 at 11:59 pm
(37) Geane Lohse says:

Wild game buddy gave me a great tip to remove. Rinse with water and scrub with brush. Pat dry and for some reason the membrane is now MUCH easier to start the lift and complete the even and effective near one piece tear off. It works.

September 26, 2012 at 12:29 pm
(38) Bruce Kempf says:

I just makes sense, the membrane serves protects the meat from stomach fluids getting into meat. Removing it allow the smoke and the rub or sauce sauce seasoning to penetrate the meat!

September 26, 2012 at 1:53 pm
(39) Don says:

I always remove the membrane and found the easiest way is to make a small cut between the meat and membrane on a corner and then using a “dry paper towel”, gently pull it off. If it tears, cut another edge and continue although most of the the time it comes right off.

July 8, 2013 at 1:58 am
(40) Joyce says:

I am new to charcoal grilling. My sister did some two weeks ago, didn’t remove membrane. Not much flavor or seasoning. I did some on Sunday, removed membrane, very tasty & tender. It works.

September 13, 2013 at 8:05 pm
(41) DD says:

I’ve done them both ways and could not tell any difference. So now I just leave it on everytime.

October 3, 2013 at 6:05 pm
(42) Mack says:

St. Louis Ribs refer to a specific CUT of pork ribs, not how they are cooked.STL’s are what is left of a full ribs section after the Babybacks and rib tips are removed. Much less expensive than BB’s and very, very good.

October 19, 2013 at 7:08 am
(43) barry morgan says:

Take off the membrane…much better….its a pain to do but worth it..yummy

January 29, 2014 at 4:41 pm
(44) Brian says:

ALWAYS – got to remove the membrane for good BBQ

March 13, 2014 at 11:33 am
(45) chris says:

I’ve always felt that keeping the membrane adds a lil extra bite that issue missed once remove

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