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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Solving The McRib Mystery: McDonald's Employees Tell Us What's In The Seasonal Sandwich


The McRib is Back

Unless you've been living under a rock -- or in line at LudoBites 6.0 -- you may have heard that McDonald's McRib sandwich is back. The story seems to be everywhere: in national magazines, in local newsletters, and there's even a McRib Locator where fans of the sandwich report recent "sightings" of the eagerly anticipated menu item.

Since we're not typically ones to trade our gastropub grass-fed beef for fast food's processed variety, we visited four L.A. area McDonald's and quizzed drive-through employees about what's in the McRib, why it's so popular, and exactly how the boneless meat get its signature "rib" shape.

McDonald's describes its 500-calorie sandwich, which first debuted in 1981 and has made limited-time, seasonal appearances ever since, as perfect for people who "love flavorful pork and tangy barbeque sauce," and "who don't mind getting sticky." Hmmm. According to the "Legends of McRib" video on McDonald's website, McRib lovers of times long past included Cleopatra, Benjamin Franklin, William Shakespeare and Christopher Columbus, who all appear sporting tangy barbeque-stained mouths and clothing. While these faux McRib fans might give the sandwich a more storied history, they're not able to tell us about its ingredients, taste, texture or McRib's mystery meat. Errr, pork.

Christie Bishop
McDonald's McRib Sandwich

McDonald's employees, on the other hand, are well-versed when it comes to the McRib. On cue, each drive-through employee asked, "Welcome to McDonald's. Would you like to try the McRib?" Why, yes we would. But first, we need to know what's in the sandwich. This is where the employees' united front fell apart.

Answers varied from "Frozen pork patty," to "Deep fried pork," to "Pressed pork." Perhaps the most comprehensive answer was, "A boneless pork patty that's deep-fried and then slathered with tangy barbecue sauce, topped with pickles and onions and served on a warm roll." While (part of) that sounds delicious, not one employee was able to explain how the McRib gets its signature "rib" shape. At store after store they each shrugged their shoulders and said, "I have no idea." One did speculate, however, that "it must be magic."

Despite what's in it or how it's technically made, all of the employees' faces lit up when we asked if they think the McRib tastes good. Unanimously, the employees' proclaimed their love for the sandwich, going in depth on how they like to eat it. One likes extra barbecue sauce for added "tang," another piles it high with crisp french fries, a third forgoes the onions but doubles up on the pickles, and another doesn't mess with the original recipe but makes sure to stockpile extra napkins (we agree, it's saucy). The enthusiasm also extends to the true McRib fanatics, some of whom have lined up to get their McRib fix when the sandwich makes its seasonal debut. In L.A.'s case, it will be around until December 5th.