January 7, 2013

My own riff on the McRib

My hand model and better half, Deb, displays a fresh McRib during its latest return to McDonald's menu.
You hear about the McRib a lot.

Which is not the same, understand, as hearing a lot about the McRib. Hearing about the McRib a lot has to do with the number of times someone shouts about how McDonald's piece of pork is back for yet another limited-time stint on the menu. Hearing a lot about the McRib concerns learning about the sandwich's contents, taste, and properties.

Come to think about it, you hear about the McRib a lot and you hear a lot about the McRib. I know I've seen my fair share of exposés on the thing's ingredients. Such articles are more popular than the McRib at a barbecue-lovers' convention. Here's Mickey D's list of the sandwich's ingredients for you to review yourself, if you so choose. Just click the little plus sign by "Nutrition" and scroll down.

What you don't hear much about when it comes to the McRib is its taste. Maybe that's because the sandwich has been introduced and reintroduced more times than a speed-dating amnesiac. It's the pig who cried wolf, and no one wants to review it anymore.

No one but me, anyway.

I'd never eaten a McRib before 2013. I silently protested its on-the-menu off-the-menu existence and nonexistence by never ordering one. Until this year, when I decided I'd heard about it long enough. Let's see what the hype is about.

The hype, I can report, is mostly just that. Hype. The McRib is a giant unbreaded chicken nugget made from pork products and stuffed in a bun. Oh, it's dunked in barbecue sauce and dressed with onions and pickles, too. Still, it's no shining example of southern-style cooking.

Nothing about the McRib's flavor is offensive, but nothing impresses, either. The meat could be pork or dark chicken. The onions are sweet but unnecessary. The bun doesn't dissolve, yet manages to be dry and insubstantial.

The barbecue sauce is a bit of an enigma. Not for its taste, which is about as close to the textbook definition of barbecue for the masses as you'll find. No, the sauce is noteworthy for its recalcitrance to drip off the sandwich.

It will smear on your fingers. It will smear on your face. It might even splatter around a bit if you shake the sandwich hard enough. I don't know, as I make no habit of playing Bop It with my lunch. Bottom line, this sauce is viscous even by motor oil standards.

By all other standards -- barbecue and otherwise -- the McRib is but smoke and mirrors. McDonald's spends too much time yanking it on and off the menu and not enough perfecting it. Two sporks out of five. Let's hope next time we hear about the McRib, we're getting word of its new recipe.

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