If you're anything like me, and I have to assume you are, then you spend a lot of time watching the cable food channel, FoodTV. The shows that are featured on that cable channel are a wealth of information about cooking and I frequently find myself integrating portions of recipes I see on some of those shows as well as learning valuable techniques.
One thing that I frequently heard was that when cooking ribs, any self respecting cook that wasn't a foul lich and wasn't actually interested in poisoning their guests, would remove the membrane. Which seems like good advice. Of course I would remove the membrane. I mean, it sounds disgusting. Anything called a membrane has no purpose lurking around attached to the food I love to eat.
Of course, no one really explained what the membrane was, or where it was at, or how to actually remove it. I can only guess that they presumed something so foul would easily stand out and the process for removal would be clear to anyone capable of both tying their own shoes and walking through a kitchen without getting stabbed, burned or sliced before tripping because they'd tied their shoe laces together. I'm here to save you that pain.
I could infer from the sparkling comments of the TV hosts that the membrane rested along the back of the ribs, close to the bones. I assumed that there would be some kind of pulling, or maybe cutting, certainly some swearing was involved.
Here's the straight poop. The membrane does indeed run along the back side of the ribs, close to the bone. It is thin, well, membrane, composed largely of elastin. If I were to guess, I'd say it's a cousin of silver skin, that other enemy of delicious that sits so closely to our beloved ruddy morsels. It's just a guess though, I'm neither a scienctician nor Alton Brown.
How to remove the membrane:
Turn the ribs over.
One side of the rack will have longer bones that the other. Locate the second bone from the end on the short side. Slip a paring knife or butter knife between the bone and the membrane.
Use the knife to gently pry the membrane away from the bone. Don't go to fast, and don't apply too much pressure, you don't want to tear the membrane.
When you've pulled the membrane far enough way, slip a finger under the membrane and work it farther from the bone.
Once you get your whole finger under it, pull the membrane away from the bone and towards the long end of the rack. A piece of paper towel might make it easier for you to grip the membrane, as it's quite slippery, like most of the insides of a pig.
With patience, experience and luck, the membrane will come off in one large piece. Once you've removed it, take a moment to stare at it. Make some appropriate noises about how disgusting it is.
If you're like me you can consider rolling some cheese or other tasty bits up in it for frying. Push those thoughts away. Elastin is really tough, chewy and despite it's bouncy stretchy name, tends to shrink up and become inflexible when it's heated. Don't give in to that temptation, the results are not good, and certainly not edible.
Now that we've removed the membrane, all that's left is seasoning and cooking the ribs. We'll cover that in a future installment.