Remove The Membrane or Not?

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by jwg299, Aug 10, 2015.

  1. jwg299

    jwg299 Smoke Blower


    There has been this Great Rib Debate about the membrane on the backside of ribs, of if you should remove it or not, so you can make the best ribs possible. Well, I decided to conduct my own blind test on my family and friends to see which they would like best and why. Before getting into the results of my test, I would like to visit some of the things I have seen, read, and heard about this Great Rib Debate.

    I’ve heard reasons for leaving the membrane on as well as taking it off, but here is what I’ve found from other cooks and pitmasters. 
    • CNN, in their online column titled Eatocracy  says “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.” When giving instructions on making Memphis Style Spareribs.  
    • John Willingham  of Memphis, TN says “Do not remove the membrane from the back before you cook them… leaving the membrane on, keeps the meat juices in.”
    • Meathead Goldwyn from the great site  says “I think removing the skin is like…; An extra step of respect for guests…..” and “The membrane can also get very tough and chewy, especially if you cook hot, and if you cook low and slow, it can get rubbery. In addition there is a layer of fat under the membrane, and removing it lets it melt and drain.” 
    • The winningest man in barbeque, Myron Mixon says “peel off the thick membrane that covers the ribs. This prevents rubs and other seasonings from adhering to the rib rack and doesn’t allow a marinade or smoke to penetrate the meat….” in his top-selling book Smokin’ with Myron Mixon. 
    So, now that you have heard from the pros, let’s get into our test results and later I’ll give you my preference and why. I cooked spareribs and babyback ribs, removing the membrane from half of each cut of meat. I applied the same rub and smoked them at 250 degrees using charcoal as my fuel choice and cherry wood chunks for smoke. Naturally the babyback ribs finished before the spareribs.




    I made sure I cut all the ribs and had them separated based on them either having or not having the membrane. I told my family and friend that I was trying out 2 new rubs I had come up with and this was the reason for me separating the ribs. I asked each person, 6 total, to take 1 rib bone from each tray, eat it, and tell me what they liked or didn’t like about each one they ate. I did this before allowing anyone to make a plate for dinner.

    The results were 5-1 for the ribs that had the membrane removed. The common theme I kept hearing was, they seem to be more tender, didn’t have pieces in between their teeth and they seemed more flavorful. As for the 1 person who liked the membrane on, they said it reminded them of the ribs their father use to make when they were a kid growing up. No other reason was provided. Funny thing, nobody noticed the rub was the same. LOL!

    So, in conclusion, it can come down to personal preference but when cooking for others I would suggest removing the membrane. I personally remove the membrane because I feel it allows the flavors of the rub you are using to better penetrate the meat, makes for a more tender rib and you avoid having to pick that tough membrane out of your teeth or mouth while enjoying great ribs!

    I would love to hear if you remove the membrane or leave it on and why, so tell me!
  2. tumbleweed1

    tumbleweed1 Smoking Fanatic

    I've always removed it for the purpose of rub getting in & fat dripping out.

    Just my $.02

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  3. joe black

    joe black Master of the Pit OTBS Member

    I have always removed the membrane. I like the way they turn out more tender. Some say that they can get the same results by scoring the membrane. I guess that's just personal. I don't know about spares, because I always cook BB's, but for about 2 years, Costco has been carrying a Swifts loin back rib. It is basically a baby back with a good portion of the loin meat still on. They are very meaty. Swift packs 3 racks to a cryovac and the membrane is already removed.
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  4. damon555

    damon555 Smoking Fanatic

    I just remove it after easy as it gets.
  5. dirtsailor2003

    dirtsailor2003 Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    If you buy Costco ribs the membrane is already removed. I usually don't because my restaurant supply has better prices. I do pull the membrane, not a big deal. That's pork ribs and I could go either way.

    Now for beef ribs I think you need to pull the membrane because it doesn't break down and is too chewy.
    jwg299 likes this.
  6. jwg299

    jwg299 Smoke Blower

    I love that about Costco's ribs
  7. paul6

    paul6 Meat Mopper SMF Premier Member

    Interesting !!! I always remove it but have never thought of doing it after????
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  8. mummel

    mummel Master of the Pit

    I love posts like this.  Thanks.
    jwg299 likes this.
  9. mummel

    mummel Master of the Pit

    The last two 3 packs I got from Costco had their membrane on :(
  10. link

    link Smoking Fanatic SMF Premier Member

    I always remove the membrane as it takes no time at all and I like the results much better.
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  11. bearcarver

    bearcarver Smoking Guru OTBS Member

    I always remove the Membrane for the same reason I remove the rind from a Belly before I cure & Smoke it---"I'm not going to eat it, so why should I smoke it", and I also don't like the texture of the Membrane.

    And similar to what Case mentioned, "The Membrane on Beef Ribs is like chewing thin chunks of Rubber".

    jwg299 likes this.
  12. cal1956

    cal1956 Smoking Fanatic

    I have always removed it , simply wouldn't do it any other way

    good post !!!!!
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  13. phatbac

    phatbac Master of the Pit

    jwg299 likes this.
  14. Rookie question: What's the easiest way to remove it?
  15. phatbac

    phatbac Master of the Pit

    i like to get the end of the biggest part if i cant get the corner then i use a butter knife and get it loose a little on the end and then give it a good pull. try to pull hard but not really hard. like even pressure and usually it comes off in one piece. the first few times you will pull it in many pieces but with some practice you will be able to pull it off most of the time with one pull.

    thats how i do it

    phatbac (Aaron)
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  16. tumbleweed1

    tumbleweed1 Smoking Fanatic

    Use a paper towel & you get a better hold of it & life is much easier.

  17. Great post :yahoo: I always remove the membrane more so for my rub to get to the meat on the back side, it doesn't take to much time to remove away.
    Happy smokin :grilling_smilie: !
  18. rabbithutch

    rabbithutch Master of the Pit OTBS Member SMF Premier Member

    5 to 1 in favor of membrane removed!

    Sounds like you answered the question.

    Personally, I try to remove the membrane but don't always succeed. When I don't, it doesn't stop me smokin', eatin' and enjoyin' the ribs. :grilling_smilie:
  19. fwismoker

    fwismoker Master of the Pit

    The way i cook ribs there is no sign of it after it's cooked.  I don't even remember the last time i pulled one so it's a moot point. 
  20. phatbac, thanks for the reply. I ignored the membrane on my first ribs. I'll try again.

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