Cleaning Spareribs

How to clean your spareribs.

I got back from Costco last night and started prepping six racks of ribs for the 4th of July barbecue. Cleaning spareribs isn’t my favorite thing to do and it can take a good amount of time so I thought I’d get a headstart. No, it’s not crucial that they’re prepped that far in advance but it does let you front-load some of your work so that you can spend more time in front of the pool or just socializing. I am barbecuing at my sister in-law’s home and it is just plain easier to come prepared and avoid making a mess. It also gives the ribs a bit more time to get acquainted with the rub.
The following is how I like to clean my ribs to make them nice and pretty for when company arrives. All the steps aren’t necessary, but there are a few good tips especially if you aren’t familiar with Barbequing ribs.

Cleaning Spareribs, The Steps involved:

Step 1: Give your ribs a good rinsing off

It’s obvious, but it should be mentioned. Go ahead and pat them dry with a paper towel afterward.

spare ribs membrane

Step 2: remove the membrane

I am putting this step first because if there is only one thing that you do to prep your ribs (aside from rinsing them), this should be it. Using a paper towel to grab the membrane is the best way that I have found to do this. Don’t’ worry if you don’t get it all in one pull, this thing is tough and that is why you don’t want it on your ribs.


Step 3 (optional):remove the flap.

This is not necessary at all; I just like doing it because it gives me a nice little taste of meat that will be done before the rest of the ribs are. It also makes the ribs a little prettier. Just run a sharp knife along the line where the flap meets the rest of the rack.

Step 4 (also optional): trim your ribs

This step is for those who are space limited in their pit or prefer BBQ spareribs that are aesthetically pleasing. It’s definitely the way to go if you want uniformity in your BBQ ribs. You will need is a sharp butcher’s knife that can cut through some cartilage. It’s going to take a little feel on your part, but once you get this down you will look like such a pro to your friends and family. As a matter of fact, my wife came by as I finished trimming these ribs and complimented me on having such great looking meat. What you want to do is separate the rib tips from the rest of the ribs. Feel your rack (of ribs) and towards the front end and you will notice that there is a natural bend above the ribs. Cut along this line towards the rear of the rack. After that is complete square it off by trimming the triangular piece at the end of the rack.

There you have it, wonderfully handsome ribs that will impress all of your guests. Check out our post on how to BBQ ribs on a Kettle Grill.

After these steps add a wet or a dry rub and refrigerate for a couple of hours before smoking.

You can also check out this video on trimming your ribs:

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20 thoughts on “Cleaning Spareribs”

  1. Thank Que! Roommate brought home an entire rack and was wondering how on earth to break it down. You’re step-by-step looks foolproof, knock on wood. Happy grilling!

  2. This is my first rack of ribs and I wanted to prove to my Mom and the rest of my family that I could do this without help; well, maybe a little help from you 😉 Thanks!

  3. To “Life Happens” (above): thanks for the link to find a park in your neighborhood. This link would be helpful to locate parks in distant towns on vacation trips.

    I will never forget pulling off the freeway into a very large and flat Bakersfield city park, for a family lunch stop on the 99 enroute Altadena to Mariposa one hot summer day. The kids were happy to be out of the car. We found some shade and unwrapped our lunch – dandywiches from home. What makes this occasion unforgettable was the smell of wood smoke and something else lofting over from a standard barrel under the next clump of trees. I wandered over to meet a local guy and his kids, several other folks, loosely gathered around that barrel. When I mentioned that I was drawn in by the great smoke seeping out of his pit, the Man stuck out his hand and said, “No problem, I’m Bill, and everyone comes over to take a peak sooner or later. Wanna see?” Bill then raised his lid to show 6 slabs of spareribs over a mild bed of almond wood coals and about 6-8 whole onions smoldering around the perimeter of his pit. Bill says, “Everyone around here uses almond, but I like the way it combines with the onion.” AS good as those ribs looked and smelled, I had to turn down his offer to sample, since the ribs were a long way from done and we were a long way from Mariposa. Anyway, it was a great lunch stop in a city park in an unfamiliar town where I shook hands with a pit man up to his shoulders in onion-scented smoke and slabs of ribs, cool in the shade and surrounded by family and friends probably there to celebrate being in the park.

  4. Great pics. Very useful imformation. One thing I do differant is to trim after the ribs are smoked,the pieces that are trimmed off I use in my brown beans for flavoring.

  5. Nice pics. I do it exactly the same way. I’m on my way to my uncle’s for a BBQ. I don’t know what he knows about BBQ so I mad a Pork Butt and a coupla fatties, just in case…

  6. Great visual, Thanks for the tip on removing the membrane. I try to use a knife with out much success.I hope Costco is open on the 4th. I need to pick up some ribs.

    Happy 4th,

  7. I have just added BBQ Junkie to my Yahoo page and wish I had done it sooner. I do a lot of smoking and grilling, but the pictures and instructions are some of the greatest that I have seen.

  8. Hey Thanks. This is great. I wish you would added the next steps in grilling ribs. I just can’t seem to get it right..

  9. How nice. Can\’t wait for further pictures. Also, to tack onto the previous commenter, the visuals are great. Next to watching the Professor, I haven\’t seen such a nice clearcut example of the right way to do this.

    I still have problems making a straight cut through the cartilidge.


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