What is Silver Skin? How to Remove it

By Dylan Clay
Last Updated 
April 20, 2022

When following a meat-based recipe or a YouTube video, you'll likely hear the person mention "silverskin." At some point they'll tell you to remove the silverskin before applying your dry rub or cooking your meat.

However, most of these guides will fail to tell why.

The main reason the silverskin is removed is because it's essentially inedible and adds nothing to the eating or cooking experience.

Unlike fat, silverskin won't render/melt - rather it will shrink, twist, and bend; It's also extremely chewy, which isn't pleasant to eat.

What is Silver Skin?

Silver skin or epimysium is a thin membrane of protein elastin that surrounds skeletal muscle. The overall purpose of silverskin is to separate and support muscles, allowing them to slide past each other easier.

silver skin

Think of silverskin like spanx for muscle.

Silverskin is essentially inedible and provides nothing to the cooking or eating experience. Unlike connective tissues like collagen and fat which renders into gelatin, it doesn't render nor become tender. Rather, it shrinks and becomes chewy.

When meat smokes, the collagen denatures and dissolves, the fat renders into a gelatin, and the protein remains. The meat shrinks as the fibers are squeezed and juices are forced out; This same thing happens with the silverskin.

How to Remove Silverskin?

It's important to first qualify the type of silverskin you're referring to.

For example, the membrane that's found on the back-side of beef ribs or pork ribs can be easily removed.

I actually have an entire guide that goes over the removal of membrane/silverskin from ribs - you can read that guide here, or watch my video below:

To quickly summarize:

  1. Pat dry the ribs with a paper towel. It makes working with the ribs easier.
  2. Lift the membrane with a butter knife. Once lifted, use a small spoon or measuring spoon to lift the lip you've created.
  3. Once lifted end-to-end, use a paper towel to rip the membrane off.
  4. Discard the membrane in the trash.

There are also times where you might consider removing the silverskin that sits between muscles. For example some folks like to remove the silverskin that sits on top of the brisket flat.

As an example for this article, I removed a piece of the silverskin that sits on top of beef short plate ribs.

Removing this type of membrane is super simple. All you need is a sharp knife, like a boning knife or paring knife.

  1. Starting at one end of the meat, insert the tip of your knife between the silverskin and lean meat.
  2. Carefully glide the knife along the meat while at the same time pulling the silverskin away from the meat.

The only challenging part is minimizing the amount of lean meat that you remove, which just comes with practice.

Is Removing Silverskin Necessary?

Yes and no.

In some cases, keeping it on is borderline necessary. For instance, on beef ribs, most folks leave the membrane on the bone side. The idea being that it gives the meat something to anchor itself too.

beef rib membrane

If you've never smoked beef plate short ribs, then you may not know that the meat tends to shrink, a lot. When smoking, it's not unrealistic for the meat to fall entirely off the bone.

With that said, for something like beef back ribs, the membrane doesn't tend to help much as the meat is intercostal or between the bones. If anything, the shrinking of the membrane would do more harm than good for the meat yield.

wrapping beef back ribs
Beef back ribs

The short plate ribs used in this article I actually only removed that section of silverskin for this article. There is actually a layer of fat on top that can tend to render quite well and I usually leave it on (pictured below).

silver skin removed from ribs

For something like pork tenderloin, it's recommended to remove the silver skin because the meat will tend to corkscrew.

Dylan Clay
I've grilled and smoked meat for roughly half my life. While i'm not a professional Pitmaster, I've worked with nearly every cut of meat. Not everyone has a hands on guide to teach them BBQ. It's my hope that Barbecue FAQ can be that helping hand.

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