For the best results when preparing pork ribs, take a few seconds to remove the tough membrane. Leaving the membrane attached to your ribs will result in less-flavorful ribs and a tough texture.
The membrane (called the peritoneum) is a piece of tissue that is attached to the underside of pork ribs. Unlike the cartilage and other connective tissue between and around the ribs, this membrane does not soften when it's cooked. It just comes out tough and chewy, like a sheet of plastic.
It also forms a barrier against your seasonings (like a dry rub), preventing flavors from penetrating the meat. If you are cooking on a grill or smoker, the membrane will prevent the ribs from fully absorbing the smoky flavor.
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. On any cut, it's easy to remove and only takes a few seconds.
Watch Now: How to Make Perfectly Smoked Pork Ribs
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Loosen the Membrane at One Edge
To find the membrane, flip the ribs over so that they are curved toward you. A thin, somewhat translucent layer of white tissue is attached, and this is what you want to remove.
The first step is to pull up a corner of the membrane at one edge of the slab of ribs. You can slide the point of a blunt knife (such as a table knife) underneath to get it started, but you can often pull it up using your fingers. The membrane is the only part of the ribs you should be able to easily separate from the ribs, so don't worry about pulling off the wrong thing.
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Pull the Membrane From the Ribs
Once you have it detached from one end, simply get a good grip and peel it away from the ribs. You can use a paper towel to help get ahold of the membrane since it can be a little bit slippery. Continue to pull away from where you started, and it should come off the ribs in one whole piece.
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Discard the Membrane and Prepare Your Ribs
Once the membrane is removed, you'll see how elastic the peritoneum is. That is exactly why it's best to remove it. When the membrane remains on the ribs, it's like chewing on a big rubber band. Once you've removed it, discard it and continue seasoning and prepping your ribs.
There are so many tasty ways to prepare and cook ribs, from slow cooking to grilling to smoking. From oven-braised country-style pork ribs to South American-style grilled pork ribs, you'll find your favorite in no time. If cooking ribs is new to you, it's best to start with a beginner's guide to pork ribs. If you're planning to light up the grill, go over some tips and tricks for cooking ribs on the grill.