How to Debone Baby Back Ribs and How to Cook It Properly

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Learning how to debone baby back ribs without damaging the meat is certainly a skill worth knowing. If you are one of those food enthusiasts who love barbecues, then you have an idea of how tasty a baby back rib is, especially if the bones have been removed!

Still, it’s okay to have the bones on the ribs as long as the cooked meat is tender, ​so that the bones fall off on ​their own, removing the need for a  ​dinner knife or your hands to eat the meat.

What Are Baby Back Ribs?

Ribs are a cut of meat, which is usually the less meaty part of an animal generally cooked as one whole piece. This type of meat cut is popular among Asian and Western dishes. The ribcage of the animal is cut into several sections and is usually grilled, baked, or smoked, then served with a variety of sauces, barbecue sauce being the most common.         

There are different kinds of rib cuts, and baby back ribs are just one of them. It is one type of rib cut that came from the top rib cage between the spare ribs and the spine.

Baby back ribs have meat on top and in between the bones. It is shorter and meatier than spare ribs. One rack of baby back ribs has eight to 13 bones, depending on how it is prepared and served.

Other Types of Rib Cuts

  • Spare ribs: Spare ribs came from the lower part of the animal near the breastbone and belly. A slab of spare ribs may have 11 to 13 long ribs or bones with meat on top and in between the bones.
  • Rib Tips: These small and meaty parts connect to the lower part of the spare ribs near the sternum. 
  • Riblets: Riblets are the uniformed flat and short ribs formed from cutting the spare ribs in half, separating the curved part from the flatter half.
  • Button Ribs: Button ribs are flat and round-shaped, and are found at the lowest end of the sirloin. These are not ribs as they did not come from the ribcage.
  • Country-style Ribs: These are meatier cuts taken from the loin near the pork shoulder. 
  • Rib Roast: The rib roast is a whole loin with the back ribs connected to it.
  • Rib Chops: These are tender and lean chops with loin meat and back-rib bones.
  • Rib Patties: These patties came from ground meat that was taken out from the ribs.
  • Christmas Ribs: This is a Norwegian cuisine wherein the ribs are steamed for half an hour before baking in an oven for a crisp surface.

How to Debone Baby Back Ribs

Ribs have two sides. The meaty side is curving outward while the bone side is hollow, letting you see the bones. This deep bone side has a thick latex-like membrane that you should remove.

Here’s a quick guide on how you can easily remove that silvery membrane from the ribs:

  • Step #1: Lay the rack on a flat surface with the bone side up. Most chefs remove the silvery membrane; others use it for stir-frying, while some set it aside and use it when making sausages.
  • Step #2: Insert a kitchen knife between the meat and the membrane from one end of the slab.
  • Step #3: Put your fingers under between the membrane and the meat to loosen it so that it will be easier to grip and lift the layer.
  • Step #4: Gently lift the membrane to separate it from the meat and start peeling it off. You can use a paper towel to help you grip the slippery layer off the meaty part of the rack.
  • Step #5: As you pull the silvery membrane up, there’s a chance it might break into pieces, or you can pull it off in one whole piece. Discard it once removed.
  • Step #6: After removing the membrane, there’s a visible layer of fat on the meat’s surface. You can scrape and cut the excess fat off using a sharp fillet knife.
  • Step #7: Once you have removed all the excess fat, your baby back ribs are now ready for the rub application before proceeding to cook it.

Check our guide to the best boning knives here and ​the full review of our ​top choice –  the Smteng Boning Knife​​​​.

how to debone baby back ribs

Mistakes to Avoid When Cooking Ribs

We all have comfort foods, and ribs are part of the list. We all can’t get enough of the finger-licking, tender, and juicy rack of ribs. Whether grilled or baked, baby back ribs are on top of the list, so it is essential to avoid inevitable mistakes when cooking it.

1. Not Removing the Membrane at the Back of the Ribs

If you want a tender rib meal, do not forget to peel off the thin layer of the silvery membrane under the bony side of the rack. Others choose to keep it, but it tends to get rubbery during the cooking process. So the next time you cook ribs and want to have a tender meal, spend extra time to peel off that membrane off the rack.

2. Not Pre-Cooking Before Grilling

If you love the smoky flavor of grilled ribs, you don’t have to roast the rack from start to finish to achieve that taste. You might burn the meat if you do that.

Baby back ribs are best simmered over low temperature, so remember to always pre-cook the rack before grilling. You can choose to boil, bake, or slow-cook the whole slab first and then finish the cooking process on a griller.

3. Putting Sauce on the Ribs Early

Most sauces put on grilled meat have sugars or sweeteners. It makes our meals tasty but tends to burn quickly. Your cooked meal also absorbs the burnt flavor.

To avoid this scenario, slather the sauce on your grilled ribs ten minutes before you finish the cooking process to give it enough time to be absorbed by the meat without burning.

4. Overcooking or Undercooking the Ribs

This problem is a bit tricky to handle, especially for those who are not used to grilling ribs. Technically, some suggest that ribs should be cooked over a temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

However, the best indicator if the meat is cooked will still be visual clues that you need to take note of. If you can pull the meat away from the bone without a problem, then that’s an indication that you can take it off the heat. The ribs usually bend in the middle when you pick it up with a tong.

5. Grilling Over Direct Heat

Direct, high heat is perfect for burgers, hotdogs, or chicken. These are quick-cooking foods. Ribs are a different matter.

Cooking it under direct heat and high temperatures will only result in uneven cooking and drying out. When grilling ribs, make sure that you do it over low heat and indirect heat. This process will give you tender and evenly cooked meat.


Knowing the proper way on how to debone baby back ribs is the start of enjoying tender and juicy grilled ribs. You don’t need to have excellent skills and knowledge to debone a slab. Just follow the instructions we have provided, and you​’ll be deboning baby back ribs like a pro chef in no time.