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Pork rib membrane - remove or not?

OK............. now I'm confused. The cooking shows I remember about making pork ribs all said to remove the membrane along the back of the rack before cooking. Then I read this:

It says DO NOT remove the membrane: " Don’t remove the membrane that runs along the bone side of the ribs; it prevents some of the fat from rendering out, leading to more tender results."

So which is it??????

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  1. If you are smoking the ribs for a long time then removing the membrane is unnecessary.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Shazam

      Remove the membrane. Thus spaketh Whole Hog Productions.

    2. Get rid of it. It's tough & sinewy!

      1 Reply
      1. re: thymeoz

        i kinda like the texture of cooked membrane...adds a nice texture to meat and fat.

      2. The debate rages; Ruhlman and Zimmern side with the "don't remove it" camp, while nearly every competition BBQ-er says "remove it".

        The membrane will certainly aid in fat retention, and at the same time hinder rub/smoke penetration on that side.

        In the end, unless you're working up to a competition, or looking to impress BBQ Aficionados, it's personal preference.

        1. Up to you. I prefer to leave the membrane intact, because I like the *snap* (similar to a good hot dog casing) when I bite into a rib. I don't think the presence of the membrane hinders smoke penetration appreciably.

          1. I remove the membrane, but you can try experiment for yourself by removing the membrane from half a rack to see if there is a noticeable difference.

            1. After 50 years and 1,763.66 train car loads of ribs....take it off!

              Fun & Enjoy!

              2 Replies
              1. re: Uncle Bob

                Booooob... what happened to the other third of a train car of ribs? ;)

                1. re: Booklegger451

                  On the pit as we speak. :)

                  Some in the freezer.

              2. Yeah I don't know if any of you have actually smoked ribs, but the membrane basically disintegrates into nothing by the time the ribs are done.

                1. Don't cook ribs on a regular basis... maybe 5-6 times a year. The thought of removing the rembrane seems like busy work to me??

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: kseiverd

                    it's dead easy and only takes a minute or two.

                    I took it off the last time I made ribs for the first time -- and I'll take the membrane off every time from now on. Meltingly tender ribs that were easy to cut and chew.

                  2. This past weekend I smoked a rack of back ribs (among other things). I have a small smoker so I have to cut the rack in half. On one end the membrane came off easily bot not on the other so on that end I just slit the membrane between the ribs so the flavors could penetrate from that side.

                    Well, after smoking for 3 1/2 hours and then giving them a final steam and glaze at the end, they were equally tender, equally flavorful. The membrane itself was not tough or overly chewy. So don't kill yourself trying to get it off; it really won't make a whole lot of difference, they;ll be delicious either way..

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: junescook

                      <<<<< So don't kill yourself trying to get it off>>>>>>>

                      Seriously? ~~ In the length of time it took you to type your post you should be able to remove the membrane from a minimum of 3 slabs of ribs.

                      1. re: junescook

                        I slit mine between each rib, sometimes cutting into the meat for rub and marinade to penetrate. I've never removed it entirely, but I might try that next time.

                        I say "mine," but I guess the membrane actually belongs to the pis.

                      2. I liked that membrane when the ribs I ate were all cooked with sauerkraut, and when I started "barbecuing" them (grilling, really) I left it on and still liked it. It's a good way to find out if the ribs are done: the membrane can just about be licked off!

                        Honestly, some people would peel grapes!

                        1. One can cook some darn good ribs leaving it on, but one will never cook Excellent ribs unless you do.


                          1 Reply
                          1. I never used to remove it until I read about everyone saying that you should. Having smoked and grilled many racks of ribs since then, all that I can say is that it's personal preference. There is no meat on the underside of a slab, which means there is little point to putting a rub there, so you're not losing anything. Smoke in a smoker comes from all sides so the most important side - the meaty side - will get it's smoke regardless. Who cares if you smoke the bones?

                            Sometimes I like to eat the membrane off when polishing a bone. When I make ribs for others, I usually pull the membrane off just so I don't get an "ewww" from someone. It takes 5-10 seconds so it's really no big deal either way.

                            1. Leave them on. The recipe you linked also says to finish the ribs in the oven. I would ignore this one and find a more authentic one.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: 4X4

                                I have my own recipes, so not to worry about that. I'm just focused on whether or not to remove the membrane. Actually, I've done it both ways and don't see any real difference in moistness or flavor. Only the 'no-fatty stuff' members of my family seem to prefer no membrane. Reading these replies makes me realize I already had my answer before I started the topic. ;o)

                              2. Paul Kirk says to remove it. That's good enough for me.

                                8 Replies
                                1. re: grampart

                                  Glad you're satisfied with that, but I frankly don't care if a Voice from On High says to remove it. They're my ribs and I like them left whole.

                                  1. re: Will Owen

                                    Go for it! Hell, I don't care if you put ketchup on hot dogs, tip 10%, or pick your teeth at the table. If it doesn't affect me, it doesn't bother me.

                                    1. re: grampart

                                      Thanks...your insight gives me a relief of guilt, and yes I leave the membrane on as I do with lamb ribs and short ribs...my family likes it...so...WTF?

                                      1. re: PHREDDY

                                        Pork rib membranes are an emotional subject, as this thread reveals.

                                        1. re: rudeboy

                                          Since they're barely even there if you've cooked the ribs right, it's one that we've managed to blow up out of all proportion. Amazing.

                                          And for the record, in the Owen household it was a given that hot dogs require ketchup and burgers require mustard. So you see I was raised by Acolytes of the Antichrist …

                                          1. re: Will Owen

                                            Evidently. Let me guess -- ketchup on eggs too? Karo syrup on fried chicken?

                                            1. re: rjbh20

                                              The Acolytes of the Antichrist use ketchup ONLY on hot dogs. Okay, a little bit in the meatloaf … but the bottle is never on the table!

                                  2. Remove.


                                    Incorporate it into meatballs or meatloaf.

                                    4 Replies
                                      1. re: rjbh20

                                        Texture, mouthfeel.

                                        Imparts a nice gelatinous, viscous texture without the addition of water, or other fillers (like bread/milk).

                                        1. re: ipsedixit

                                          the membrane consists of elastin, not collagen. collagen turns in to gelatin when cooked, elastin becomes tough and fibery when cooked. wouldn't adding all that elastin make your meatballs and meatloaf unchewable?

                                    1. I've been removing it for years. Smoke, marinade, sauce penetrates better. Best of all everything is edible, and fall off the bone tender. I think that would be the deciding factor whether you like your ribs chewy, or tender.