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Rib Membrane Tears (doesn’t pull)

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  • buddysexton
    Club Member
    • Jul 2020
    • 8
    • Knoxville, TN

    Rib Membrane Tears (doesn’t pull)

    I have bought baby back ribs at Costco a couple of times. Each time, the membrane on the back of the rib is impossible to remove. It is so thin (and deteriorated?) that it tears as soon as I pull it. I end up scoring the back of the ribs with a knife to rip the membrane rib by rib (= a pain). When I’ve purchased baby back ribs at a different store the ribs cost more but the membrane pulls off completely in one pull. With all that in mind...

    1. Do you consider the ribs with a thin, flimsy membrane that won’t tear off a lesser quality rib (whether due to the pig, packaging or self life)?

    2. If you couldn’t get the membrane off, would you go to the trouble to take a knife and score the back of the ribs to expose some meat back there?

    I’ve got it in my mind that the integrity and “remove-ability” of that back membrane speaks volumes about the quality of the ribs and I would love to know if I’m thinking right or wrong here. If I’m going to spend a day smoking ribs, I will pay a little more for a quality baby back rack. Thanks!!
  • TheQuietOne
    Club Member
    • Sep 2018
    • 219
    • Oshkosh, WI

    This may be BBQ apostasy but I've stopped removing the membrane. I've never had any complaints about my ribs since my conversion, so as far as I care I'm vindicated. I read some say that leaving the membrane on keeps the fat from rendering out and makes the ribs more tender. This is probably nonsense so my only justification is I don't like getting in a wrestling match with meat so I don't do it.


    • RonB
      Club Member
      • Apr 2016
      • 13298
      • Near Richmond VA
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      I don't buy BBs, but I think someone here said that Costco removes the membrane from their BBs. That might be why you are havin' difficulty...


      • pkadare
        pkadare commented
        Editing a comment
        What RonB said! Sounds to me like you're trying to peel the "ligament" or whatever it is called that holds the rack together as opposed to the silver skin which is what is supposed to be peeled off. Pictures would help.

      • bbqLuv
        bbqLuv commented
        Editing a comment
        The outer membrane was already removed was my first thought. Is there not two membranes? A leathery one on the outside and a white tissue paper one underneath. If I remember correctly, in a how to video, remove one but not the other.

      • ItsAllGoneToTheDogs
        ItsAllGoneToTheDogs commented
        Editing a comment
        If it's like Sams, I get the 3 pack BB's and sometimes all 3 will have membrane, sometimes all 3 don't and sometimes it's a mix...
    • Texas Larry
      Club Member
      • May 2017
      • 1665
      • Wilson County, TX
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      I occasionally pull, but usually just score the membrane. Never had a complaint. Apostasy, or just preference?


      • wrgilb
        Club Member
        • Jan 2018
        • 230
        • Santa Cruz, Ca. area

        There are actually 2 membranes. Costco removes the first one on BBacks, the second thin one is the one you are trying to remove and you don't need to do that. They don't remove the first one on St. Louis style ribs though.


        • jfmorris
          Club Member
          • Nov 2017
          • 3381
          • Huntsville, Alabama
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          Originally posted by buddysexton View Post
          I have bought baby back ribs at Costco a couple of times. Each time, the membrane on the back of the rib is impossible to remove. It is so thin (and deteriorated?) that it tears as soon as I pull it. I end up scoring the back of the ribs with a knife to rip the membrane rib by rib (= a pain). When I’ve purchased baby back ribs at a different store the ribs cost more but the membrane pulls off completely in one pull. With all that in mind...
          Haha - been there, and done that. Here's what you are missing. Almost EVERY SINGLE SLAB of ribs you buy at Costco already has the membrane removed. I tried in vain to remove it before I caught on to this fact. You are just seeing the light layer left after the tough membrane has already been removed. I think maybe once time I had 1 of a 3 pack of ribs from Costco have a membrane, and that only happened once. Contrast that to Sam's where I've always had to remove the membrane.

          Hope that helps - you are having trouble getting hold of it to pull it off because it isn't there....


          • gilbertpilz
            Former Member
            • Sep 2020
            • 17
            • Satellite Beach, FL

            Another way of looking at it is to remember that the reason people remove the silverskin is that it is tough and doesn't break down under any normal amount of cooking. You end up with ribs that seem like they have some sort of natural packing material stuck to one side (which is exactly what the peritoneum is).

            If whatever it is you are trying to remove is that thin and delicate, chances are it isn't going to be noticeable after you cook the ribs for however many hours you cook them.
            Last edited by gilbertpilz; September 20, 2020, 07:46 AM.


            • Ahumadora
              Club Member
              • Oct 2015
              • 2157
              • Warkworth, New Zealand

              Membranes are hard to remove when they are dried out. So if the rack has been hanging in a cooler uncovered it will make it hard to remove. Just score it and call it a day
              Last edited by Ahumadora; September 20, 2020, 08:00 AM.


              • barelfly
                Club Member
                • Dec 2017
                • 1395
                • New Mexico
                • Smokin-It 3D
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                I never knew Costco BBs are already prepped. There you go, I can call it day since I learned something new so early in the day!

                I guess I’m removing that second layer, I always peel that off using a paper towel, but I seem to get a decent layer off of it. I have learned to use a spoon rather than a knife when trying to peel up a corner.......yep....don’t ask.


                • jfmorris
                  jfmorris commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Only the Costco loin back ribs seem to have the membrane removed - I think it is still there on the spares or Saint Louis. I buy most of my ribs at Sam's, but was surprised by the lack of membrane the couple of times I got baby backs at Costco.

                  I often use a butter knife to get between the membrane and a bone, to get it started. I can see a spoon working, and the paper towel trick is a must...

                • Parkin
                  Parkin commented
                  Editing a comment
                  Can confirm regarding back and St Louis Ribs at Costco.
              • buddysexton
                Club Member
                • Jul 2020
                • 8
                • Knoxville, TN

                Thank you for the good words! Heck, maybe the membrane was off, but I could slip a knife underneath it (or something) at the bones but if I grabbed it with a paper towel and pulled it would tear. Regardless, I did what many of you suggested and scored it and they are on the smoker now. Thanks Again!


                • pkadare
                  pkadare commented
                  Editing a comment
                  When peeling off the silver skin, you need to get your knife between the silver skin and the membrane that holds the rack together. If your knife is on the bone itself, then you're taking the wrong membrane off. :-)
              • ecowper
                Founding Member
                • Jul 2014
                • 3561
                • Maple Valley, WA
                • Grill = Hasty-Bake Gourmet Dual Finish
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                  Favorite cook = Tri-Tip for the grill, whole packer brisket for the smoker
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                  Eric Cowperthwaite aka ecowper

                I know the Costco meat buyer that set up their ribs program. If you are buying the ribs in cryovac (3 BB’s or 2 SLC’s), the membrane is already removed. If they are not in cryovac, they bought from a local supplier (happens sometimes) and there is no guarantee it meets the standards that Rob set for ribs from their main suppliers.


                • ecowper
                  ecowper commented
                  Editing a comment
                  tbob4 Rob did mention that they have two different suppliers, but I thought he said the standards were consistent for both of them. I'll double check that.

                • pkadare
                  pkadare commented
                  Editing a comment
                  ecowper ask your buddy if he can force Costco Canada to do this as well. :-)

                • ecowper
                  ecowper commented
                  Editing a comment
                  pkadare my understanding is that the supply chain management is run country by country :-(



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