Removing the Membrane from Pork Ribs

  • 01 of 02

    The Membrane Should Easily Peel Away

    Removing the membrane from a rack of pork baby back ribs
    Danilo Alfaro

    I've written about how important it is to remove the membrane from the back of your spare ribs or baby back ribs before cooking them. So I wanted to show you what I'm talking about and what it looks like.

    (And by the way, if you're new to cooking ribs, check out this beginner's guide to pork ribs.)

    The membrane (called the peritoneum) is a piece of tissue that is attached to the underside of the ribs. Unlike the cartilage and other connective tissue between and around the ribs,...MORE this membrane does not soften when it's cooked. It just comes out tough and chewy, like a sheet of plastic.

    And like a sheet of plastic, it also forms a barrier against your seasonings (like this dry rub), preventing those flavors from penetrating the meat. This is also true of the smoke flavors, if you happen to be cooking on a grill or smoker.

    The peritoneum is thicker near the backbone, so it's more important to remove it from back ribs, which come from high up on the back, than spare ribs, which come from the belly area. But it's really easy to remove and takes about five seconds. So other than not knowing that it exists (and now you do), there's really no reason to leave it on.

    (Why, you're probably asking, don't they just remove it at the packing facility, or the butcher shop, so that you don't have to? This is one of those eternal questions. What's really inexcusable, though, is when restaurants leave it on. And they do.)

    In the picture above I'm removing the membrane from a rack of baby back ribs. What happened is I got halfway through peeling it off and realized I'd better take a picture. That's how quick it was. I'll be cooking more ribs soon, so I'll be sure to take a "before" picture and add it to this how-to.

    Continue to 2 of 2 below.
  • 02 of 02

    With the Membrane Removed, You're Ready to Season Your Ribs

    That's what the membrane (and the ribs) looks like after it's peeled off
    Danilo Alfaro

    What you want to do is just pull up a corner of the membrane at one edge of the slab of ribs. It'll look like a sort of floppy white piece of tissue. You can slide the point of a knife underneath to get it started, but you can generally just pull it up with your fingers.

    Once it's up, just peel it away from the ribs. You can use a paper towel to help you grip it, since it can be a little bit slippery. But in this case, that wasn't necessary either. I just used my fingers.

    You can see...MORE how elastic the peritoneum is. Which is why we remove it, because it's like chewing on a big rubber band. Once it's peeled off, discard it and continue seasoning and prepping your ribs.

    Here's a great recipe for baby back ribs you can make in a slow cooker, and here's one for Memphis-style spare ribs you can cook on the grill. And finally, here are some tips and tricks for cooking ribs on the grill.