Taking a ribbing - testing out McDonald's cult sandwich
October 25th, 2011
08:00 PM ET
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I am a Kansas City Barbeque Society certified barbeque judge. Got an official pin and everything. Granted, anyone with a few bucks in their pocket and a free afternoon can qualify for this distinction, but I like to mention it as frequently as possible.

I also like to pretend that this makes me particularly qualified to assess the merits of McDonald's mercurially available McRib sandwich, seeing as it has "rib" in its name and all. I was wrong. There is no expertise needed. There are, for that matter, no teeth required for the consumption of this sandwich, in semi-discordance with the sandwich's signature "CHOMP!" campaign of the late 1980s.

Yup, McRib been around that long, but not consistently. Since its first appearance from 1981 to 1985, the sandwich has whack-a-moled through the menu, popping up to great fanfare in 1989, 1994, periodically (and regionally) throughout the '00s and several times nationally throughout the current decade. While some of this can be attributed to shrewd marketing to devotees under the thrall of this meaty mistress, Whet Moser of the Chicago Tribune takes a deeper delve into the availablity, process and inconsistent availability of the sandwich in an excellent article, citing Roger Mandigo, one of two inventors credited with the meat-forming process used to craft the McRib patty.

"Restructured meat products are commonly manufactured by using lower-valued meat trimmings reduced in size by comminution (flaking, chunking, grinding, chopping or slicing). The comminuted meat mixture is mixed with salt and water to extract salt-soluble proteins. These extracted proteins are critical to produce a 'glue' which binds muscle pieces together. These muscle pieces may then be reformed to produce a 'meat log' of specific form or shape." Mandigo told the authors of a University of Nebraska report on restructured meat products.

Moser goes on to tie the sandwich's visceral appeal to the roots of traditional South Carolina barbecue (making inexpensive cuts of meat more appealing with a cooking process and a slathering of sauce), and its sporadic appearance on market conditions, quoting Mandigo once again.

"If you suddenly start to buy a large amount of that material," said Mandigo, "the price starts to rise." Then the cuts go back into their traditional service as ingredients in processed meats like Spam and Vienna sausages.

"That material," as Mandigo calls it, is pork trimmings - but not from the rib. According to McDonald's Executive Chef Dan Coudreaut, it's primarily shoulder and loin meat, chopped and formed into a boneless patty in the shape of a four-ridged rib slab, and then quickly frozen until it meets it final fate on a restaurant grill. Then it's slathered in sauce, topped with pickles and raw onion and served in a long, soft white bun. That's in adherence to the original recipe formulated by McDonald's first Executive Chef Rene Arend - also credited with the invention of the Chicken McNugget.

While Mandigo and Arend's contributions may have been key, their creation has hogged all the glory, inciting frenzy each time it's reintroduced for a limited engagement on the McDonald's menu. Not only does McD's build buzz with promotions like an online "Quest for the Golden McRib" game, a now-defunct site for the "Boneless Pig Farmers of America," Twitter promotions and seemingly endless "farewell tours," - they also rely on homegrown hype from Facebook fans and enthusiasts like Alan Klein, founder of the McRib Locator website. Klein developed the site (which now has a popular Facebook fan page) to assist other fanatics in pursuit of the elusive sandwich.

But does it really stand up to all the ballyhoo? Heck - that's up to you. Taste is an incredibly subjective thing, and as we often say around Eatocracy HQ, if it tastes good, it is good. In the opinion of this certified judge, it tastes and feels not so much (or anything at all) like barbeque, but rather akin to a thin, wet hunk of mattress padding slathered in sharply tangy sauce and spiked with enough raw onions to make the Lincoln Memorial tear up. The pickles are good and the bun sufficiently pillowy, but it all comes back to that squishy, machine-formed slab that I described to a colleague in an IM as "creepy."

It may not be my cup of barbeque, but that just means more for you. Chomp.

soundoff (324 Responses)
  1. QueenVelveetaJamimaLaqueetaTelmaColenderDaKeeshaaLaPorsha

    Oh Lordi Lordi
    I dare you to cut the "meat" lengthwise and take a look, it is like tapioca pudding!

    August 10, 2013 at 8:17 am |
  2. Scared

    The McRib is a good sandwich, but in my area.....

    The homeless population goes into a steep decline almost right before the McRib comes out. Infact some well known transents in our area just go completely missing....

    this isn't a joke....

    take a close look at your cities homeless.... why is there so few just before McDonalds releases the McRib?!


    soylent green! SOYLENT GREEN!!!!!!!!!

    January 4, 2013 at 10:18 pm |
  3. Samantha

    If you want to eat an even grosser, more gelatinous version of Spam…. Some sort of polymer-based gelatinous goo, suffused with chemicals & crammed into a bun so soft and fiber-free, you can blow bubbles with it—then have fun being a fatty! ☠☢

    If I saw a guy eating this type of fatty, disgusting, revolting, filthy, nauseating, sickening mystery garbage—honestly, why give him a chance. If he’ll treat his body that piss-poor, imagine how he’d treat you…? Think about it.

    Only a lonely, obese loser {or on his way to being one} would eat such crap...bleck!

    November 7, 2011 at 8:02 pm |
    • Bob

      Don't worry, I can speak vegan....

      what Sam here said roughly translates to; "I dislike the McRib, I have not had one personally but I feel entitled to berate it because I am a vegan." I think I translated that right.... so many different diolects to vegans.

      January 4, 2013 at 10:29 pm |
    • VeganVealLover

      I would rather eat a McRib than nibble foliage and get high off the smell of my own farts in the recycled air of my electric car on my way to another gay drum circle meeting.

      May 18, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
  4. Frank

    I remember attending the grand opening of Mcdonalds on Williston road in Vermont way back in the early 70's, or late 60's. Not sure when and it may have been the first Mcdonalds in Vermont. Ronald Mcdonald was there as well as the flying hamburg he used to fly around on. Of course he rode it that day. But there used to be a villian, large strongman type guy, bald and a handlebar moustache. What was the character's name? He was there that day also. Everyone thinks i'm crazy and searching the internet yeilds no results on this guy. Please help me out on this.

    November 7, 2011 at 9:18 am |
    • Bruce T

      Frank, that guy was the "Hamburglar". And you are not crazy in remembering him. I don't remember when Mickey D's finally started removing him from commercials; I think sometime in the late '90s. Probably thought he was a bad influence on all the kids they were trying to lure into the restaurants.

      November 9, 2011 at 10:31 pm |
  5. Claude Gothic

    I had some of this writer's BBQ and it tasted like a month old road killed opossum with Shur Fine ketchup splattered on. I think he was actually arrested later because it really WAS that.
    The McRib is sublime, this person never actually tasted one and is trying to make his useless life seem relevant by acting like a food snob.

    November 4, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Samantha

      If you want to eat an even grosser, more gelatinous version of Spam…. Some sort of polymer-based gelatinous goo, suffused with chemicals & crammed into a bun so soft and fiber-free, you can blow bubbles with it—then have fun being a fatty! ☠☢
      If I saw a guy eating this type of fatty, disgusting, revolting, filthy, nauseating, sickening mystery garbage—honestly, why give him a chance. If he’ll treat his body that piss-poor, imagine how he’d treat you…? Think about it.
      Only a lonely, obese loser {or on his way to being one} would eat such crap...bleck!

      November 7, 2011 at 8:05 pm |
    • Kat Kinsman

      Psssst! You mean "HER" useless life. Not his.


      The Writer

      December 20, 2012 at 6:41 pm |
  6. KB

    Comparing McDonalds to Food is like comparing urine to water. Yeah, there's some in there, but would you want to eat/drink it?
    All the additives in their food is what is causing 75% of the heath problems in America. It's all sugar, carbs, and high fructose corn syrup. The reason they call it "rib" and don't refer to it as "Pork" is because based on the amount of pork IN the patty, it does not meet the requirements. Remember that next time you eat one. The FDA worries when elderly people eat cat or dog food, but not when the general public eats this swill.

    November 2, 2011 at 12:11 pm |
  7. euro nate

    I am living in Germany and the McRib is always on the menu. So once this reintroduction ends, just keep a note in the back of your heads to find the McDonalds the next time you fly through Frankfurt.

    And for all the haters, just order something else because there are a lot of people that really like them. Go get your Whole Foods wrap and leave everyone else alone!

    November 1, 2011 at 11:11 am |
  8. Atlanta BBQ club

    McRib has no bone. Where is Mc Donalds getting these ribless pigs?

    What about the children? We in the South must educate them as to what a real Rib Sandwich is.

    October 31, 2011 at 4:49 pm |
  9. Snaporaz

    They call it a "McRib", but thereare no ribs.... I suppose it's more appetizing than calling it "McExoskeleton", which would be more accurate...

    October 28, 2011 at 7:53 pm |
  10. Juanzo

    I want a mcrib sandwhich machine in my house! Mmmmmmmmmm.......wettttt matressssssss...........

    October 28, 2011 at 5:06 am |
    • Charo

      Laughing out loud at 7 in the morning is a great way to wake up. Thank you.

      October 28, 2011 at 7:02 am |
      • Juanzo

        Youre welcome ;)

        October 28, 2011 at 2:15 pm |
  11. Liz

    I had one in college in '81, right after they were introduced. It was delicious, but gave me my first-ever case of heartburn. I've steered clear of them ever since (and pretty much steer clear of all fast food now that I'm an old fart).

    October 27, 2011 at 9:50 am |
  12. Tom D

    If I am going to eat something that is going to make me sick, I'd rather go to White Castle!

    October 27, 2011 at 9:09 am |
  13. gan ga banga dat

    dat big D can sell my mcnatz wid da saucy

    October 27, 2011 at 9:08 am |
  14. Grumpster

    I can get the same meat patty at Aldi's 6 for $2 and they're pretty darned close. Why pay that much just for one sandwich? It's ok, but totally bad for you.

    October 27, 2011 at 8:54 am |
  15. Morgan

    Just looking at the picture is enough to make me think twice about every trying this puppy.

    October 27, 2011 at 1:30 am |
    • Wimper

      You eats puppies?!

      October 27, 2011 at 8:58 am |
      • Juanzo

        Lol^^^^^ leave him alone....hes probably ASIAN. J.k :)

        October 28, 2011 at 4:58 am |
  16. Nissim Levy

    McDonald's does not serve food. I can't quite put my finger on it but there is a weird vibe I get from McDonald's products. I don't feel that McDonald's products have a soul.

    October 27, 2011 at 1:09 am |
  17. Kay

    McRib= McNasty! I tried one last year...barf! Also, each McRib is 500 calories! I have seen so many people purchase two McRibs, large fries and a large coke. If you finish all of that you have now eaten 1810 calories! That is awful.

    October 26, 2011 at 11:32 pm |
    • Guest

      Get it right
      Its a DIET coke without ice(Ice has calories?)

      October 28, 2011 at 11:28 am |
  18. Ms L

    I have never gotten over the smell of the sauce boiling away all shift from when I worked at McD's in the late 80's. And I still bear the scars on my forearms from the explosion of grease hitting the grill when you seared those lovely gray patties. I may have tried one once, but it's those two experiences that make me gag a little every time McZombie rises from the dead yet again.

    October 26, 2011 at 11:21 pm |
  19. G-Rant

    Not a fan of McDonald's anyway, but after reading this I'm even more disgusted. Rather than fries, they should be serving their sandwiches up with a side of Immodium A-D and a cup full of Pepto. YUCK!

    October 26, 2011 at 11:20 pm |
  20. celisti

    along with big Mac and all that, it is just another way to get people fat. don't we have more than enough fat and overweight people in US already?

    October 26, 2011 at 9:52 pm |
  21. Dan

    Its like the street walker of fast food sandwiches. You know it 's a gamble but sometimes you just gotta roll the dice. There is be plenty of time for guilt later

    October 26, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
    • charls

      When I was in the Army, we used to call it "mystery meat". It was fed to trainees during boot camp. We knew it was meat but we were unsure what animal was sacrificed to make it. After leaving boot camp and able to find other food, we avoided it. Now it is marketed and hyped by news organization around the world. It will disappear soon and become a legend in our time, only to return again when everyone has forgotten what it really taste like. A truly great triumph of marketing over taste. No wonder America is the greatest country in the world.

      October 26, 2011 at 9:40 pm |
      • JDT

        @charls-I was in the AF. I had the displeasure of getting a tuna noodle cassarole MRE once. I'd take the McRib over that any day of the week.

        October 27, 2011 at 8:33 am |
        • JMK

          When I was in the Army there was an MRE called "pork rib, imitation, pressed and formed, in barbeque style sauce" or some similar-sounding string of ironically under-descriptive adjectives and nouns with too many commas. Wonder if they still have it, or still call it that? I'm pretty sure it was a disembodied McRib meat. Not too bad between two pieces of "wheat snack bread". But then, I heard it said that if a food makes a decent MRE, it wasn't a very decent food to begin with.

          August 12, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
      • Troll Patrol

        Haha...right on with that. The Chicken-al-a-King MRE that looked and smelled like vomit was a winner as well. Would have LOVED a McRib while out on FTX but otherwise...no.

        October 27, 2011 at 10:32 am |
  22. Jack

    Mmm, McGristle.

    October 26, 2011 at 7:20 pm |
  23. Porkasaurus Rex

    First things first: I'm from Memphis, one of the BBQ capitals of the world (yes, KC, TX and the Carolinas are good too - I have no problem admitting that.)

    But even though I'm surrounded by world-class 'cue, that damn McRib has something alluring about it that I just can't put my finger on. Every time McDonald's offers them, I'll have one - just one - and I'll love it. Then I won't think about it about again until it comes around again a few years later.

    October 26, 2011 at 6:48 pm |
  24. sosofresh

    Every time this sandwich is re-introduced, I convince myself that I like it or at least that it can't be as bad as I remember. Then I go out and grab one. Then I take a bite. I am anything but a picky eater... I will try nearly anything and dislike nearly nothing. The McRib is truly awful tasting. If they made it even slightly less offensive, it could be stomached with the soft roll, pickles and onions. But the foulness of the flavor is unapologetic and bold. It hits me hard and stays with me. It's so bad that I have to take a second bite... maybe I just got a bad section. Then, BOOM, wow... it honestly is that terrible. The unpleasant taste on my tongue becomes overshadowed by a sense of wonder. How can they sell enough of these for it ever to be on the menu? How was it invented and originally introduced? Did they test a sample market? Who gave it the final green-light? Maybe it was a typo in the final report or a miscommunication with the tasters. At this point, I'm not even mad I bought it... I'm impressed. To sell food this objectively bad is like charging someone $3 to have you kick them in the nuts. I admire that it some strange way. I'm going to stop by the drive-through and happily pass $3 into the window this evening. As the sandwich is handed to me, I'll know that I am part of the problem. I'm the reason this sandwich won't go away. I'll go home, take two bites, toss it in the garbage and and swear the McRib off forever. Just as the sinewy, form-pressed meat product's impression has left my taste buds and the heartburn-inducing sauce is explosively expelled itself from my memory, I'll renege on my promise and get back in line for another roundhouse to the jewels. With fries.

    October 26, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Miss Trixie

      Sounds like someone is in denial for their love for the McRib.......

      October 26, 2011 at 6:05 pm |
    • Dirk Diggler

      Awesome sh!t...how about a Taco Smell review?

      October 26, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
      • Me

        Don't you mean Toxic H*ll??? lol ;-)

        October 26, 2011 at 8:19 pm |
    • Confused

      I just spent half an hour looking for something to stuff in my anus to stop the McDiahrrea. Fortunately a wine cork did the job!

      October 26, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • seattleite09

      This is one of the funniest pieces I have read in a long time. You have got talent.

      October 27, 2011 at 4:14 pm |
  25. Vumba

    Thank goodness I'm not the only one that thinks the McRib is different than the ones from the old days. I thought it was another sign of old age, not able to taste the McRib like they use to taste. Why did they change it, why?

    October 26, 2011 at 5:53 pm |
    • bs

      They didn't change the McRib, the problem is that the subjective quality of US pork in general has been declining. Much like other US animal products the breeds of pigs, cows and the like keep changing to get higher and higher "production", however the flavor continues to decline. This is why US butter and sour cream no longer taste like butter and sour cream, both have become quite flavorless. Try buying some imported and US products and compare them to see the difference.

      October 27, 2011 at 8:50 am |
  26. Mike

    Last time I had one of these was back in the '80s. It was bad then and it's going to be bad now. My stomach could take it back then, I think I'd be heavin' if I had one now.

    October 26, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Miss Trixie

      They are 100% deliciousness. Trust!! Have your Maalox chew tabs available for afterward though.

      October 26, 2011 at 5:30 pm |
  27. suj

    You- the author-
    should have your Kansas City Barbeque Society certified barbeque judge ripped off your miserable chest. How dare you to start to put this abomination in the same class as BBQ? How much were you paid for this infomercial blog? Regardless after this article, you and your opinions, aren't worth the burned BBQ on a grill. Get out of here before You get hit over the head with a BBQ mop!

    October 26, 2011 at 5:18 pm |
    • suj

      I meant burned BBQ sauce on a grill.

      October 26, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • Get a Grip@suj

      Wow. Up the dosage and take it with some of Jylaen's rum.

      October 26, 2011 at 5:33 pm |
    • Ben

      The writer said the McRib was akin to a wet hunk of mattress.

      October 26, 2011 at 5:42 pm |
    • Justice League of America@suj

      How dare you besmirch Our Fearless Leader. You will now be fed Stubb's BBQ, The Wurst BBQ in America and then thrown into a Porta Potty with the door chained shut !!

      October 26, 2011 at 6:00 pm |
    • suj

      okay I totally hosed my cursory scan. I saw what you all said and read the article without skimming. Doh! Yes I concur with the author, she can keep her BBQ judges badge. And it's not meds. but maybe the rum – it's great at fighting off the flu. I'll just go back under my bridge now. Sorry.

      October 26, 2011 at 6:29 pm |
  28. Miss Trixie

    Ok, now that is just plain hateful.

    October 26, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
  29. I Hate Clowns

    Exsqueeze me, but doesn't anyone here realize we are talking about Mickey D's? The Rainbow Lounge? The bottom of gutter food? McDonalds isn't about food, its about food additives – legal addition additives that one will only associate with McDonalds. Case and point – why would anyone crave a McD's when better options are available? If Burger King is Crack, McDonald's is crystal meth.

    October 26, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • Miss Trixie

      Shut up and go get a big Mac. You know you want to.

      October 26, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
      • I Hate Clowns

        I quit Mc'Ds fries years ago and I still crave them, more than anything else I've had an addiction to. What's up w/ that? One day at a time...

        October 26, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
      • gan ga banga dat

        was up wid dat cuz my big D natz is da saucy

        October 27, 2011 at 9:38 am |
    • Mike

      Trust me. I hate McDonald's but when you are in the middle of nowhere USA, you'll be eating there.

      October 26, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • Miss Trixie

      Have you ever had a White Castle? Now that's addictive stuff!!

      October 26, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
      • Yardog59

        Mmmmmmmm. whities One Bites. Nothing better at 2:00 AM.

        October 27, 2011 at 9:29 am |
  30. Stevelk1

    Excellent article, has anybody wondered why the lines at McD's have been sooo long in the morning lately? Their Monopoly Game tokens are only good for free breakfast sandwiches!

    October 26, 2011 at 4:09 pm |
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