MYOM: Make Your Own McRib
The McDonald’s McRib season comes only once a year, but you can MYOM at home year round.
Even if you’ve never actually eaten a real McRib, you’re probably aware of the cultural phenomenon. Each year, usually in the fall, McDonald’s announces a limited-time release of McRibs coming to a select 10,000 franchises — hopefully, one near you.
If you’re wondering which McDonald’s locations, visit a superfan’s website dedicated to answering that question: McRibLocator.com. (At the time of publishing, the most recent McRib had appeared on May 2, 2020, at 9:38 p.m. in Rosemont, California. Thanks, Victor Morales, whoever you are!)
All of this is to say — McRibs are a thing. In a post-modern academic meditation on the allure of the McRib, Ian Bogost, a writer for The Atlantic, suggests we don’t just experience the McRib as something to eat, but also “as marketing campaign, as cult object, as Internet meme.” Our desire for the sandwich is high, it’s availability limited, it’s fans — obsessed.
Sometimes, though, a BBQ pork sandwich is really just that.
What is the McRib made of, anyway?
What is it, then, about the McDonald’s McRib sandwich? It’s essentially a “rack” of boneless pork seasoned with liquid smoke, slathered in McDonald’s barbecue sauce, and topped with sliced onions and pickles, all on a hoagie-style bun. Think of it as a riff on the pulled pork sandwich, an American BBQ classic.
(Real talk: The McRib has no ribs. The rib-esque patties from McDonald’s are made primarily of pork trimmings.)
The history of the McRib
Back in 1981, during a chicken shortage, McDonald’s needed an alternative to its smash hit, Chicken McNuggets. Hence the pork sandwich.
The McRib itself wasn’t exactly a success. McDonald’s pulled it from the menu after four years due to disappointing sales. When it re-emerged on occasion, beginning in earnest in the 2000s, its limited-time aspect gave it renewed appeal. Then, once social media arrived, there was no stopping it. #McRibSZN.
How to make your own McRib
If McRibLocator.com shows no restaurants near you serving the sandwich (and it’s not even close to November), or if you’re a DIY kind of person, you can MYOM.
There are a handful of copycat recipes out there, some more stylized, some less. The original McRib recipe, which, at one point, featured more than 70 ingredients (some of dubious origin), is not something you can easily reproduce in a home kitchen. Don't worry, though, the internet has solutions.
Here are four different ways to do it:
Al Roker's copycat McRib sandwich
Simple and straightforward. Back in 2013, Al Roker showed Today fans how incredibly easy it is to make your own McRib at home. Live, on the show, he placed a pound and a half of pork shoulder in a food processor with simple seasonings — just sugar and kosher salt — and a bit of water. He then shaped the ground meat into rectangular pork patties, which he indented to make “ribs.” Roker browned frozen patties in a pan, then finished them with barbecue sauce — Hunt’s, preferably — in the oven for a few minutes. In the same pan as the patties, he brought the hoagie rolls to a golden brown, placed one “rack of ribs” in each and added raw onion and dill pickle slices, and an extra dollop of sauce. Delish.
The Ultimate Homemade McRib (Smoked-Rib Sandwich)
J. Kenji López-Alt takes a completely different approach — with each element, from the sauce to the hamburger buns and the pickles, made from scratch. “This is not a simple weeknight recipe,” he warns in the instructions for Serious Eats. Oh, but it is worth it. The real smoked rib meat—dusted in a custom dry rub and slathered in a homemade sauce—is combined with pork shoulder and ground into patties. Grilling them adds yet another layer of smoky flavor. For the truly ambitious, there are also steps for DIY dill pickles and homemade cemita buns.
Copycat McRib Sandwich
The Spruce lets its McRib veer "ribbier" with real baby back rib meat pulled off the bone — no patty in sight. This recipe probably resembles its McDonald's counterpart the least. However, it comes closest to what must have been the inspiration for the recipe back in the 1940s when McDonald's was still just a roadside barbecue joint in San Bernardino, California.
Slow Cooker McRib Sandwiches
These sandwiches also boast real baby back ribs, done in a slow cooker to make it easy. One of the features of this particular McRib recipe from Dinner Then Dessert is the flavorful copycat McDonald’s BBQ sauce, which comes together on the stove in less than 15 minutes. What sets this recipe apart are some of its ingredients: black pepper, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika, brown sugar, ketchup, onion powder, garlic powder, white onions, and hoagie sandwich rolls.