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.
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.
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.
It's important to first qualify the type of silverskin you're referring to.
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:
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.
The only challenging part is minimizing the amount of lean meat that you remove, which just comes with practice.
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.
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.
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).
For something like pork tenderloin, it's recommended to remove the silver skin because the meat will tend to corkscrew.