Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Using Real Pork to Copycat the McRib

One of the frustrating things, about the pandemic, is being unable to fulfill cravings.  It could be for a rootbeer float or ice cream cone; perhaps the most awesome fries you have ever tasted; or a favorite dinner with a special someone, family or friends.  Covid-19 has restaurants on a rollercoaster ride of open, not open, closed permanently, take out or drive thru only.  Even fast food places are going through this; and that drive up window might seem so far away on a very long line.  Worst yet, maybe your favorite restaurant or fast food place is miles away, and travel restrictions are in constant flux as well.

Solution?  Learn to make it yourself, or a close enough version to satisfy those cravings for a bit. Now for the warning. This article is how I created my copycat version of the McDonald’s McRib Sandwich.   I researched how they made that mini-boneless rib for the sandwich, and what it is made from.  If you love them, no matter what is in them, you can skip this part.  Personally, we have not enjoyed this sandwich, since they changed its consistency, and now we know why.

Here goes, the McRib consists of a restructured boneless pork patty shaped like a miniature rack of ribs, barbecue sauce, onions, and pickles; served as a sandwich on a sub/hero/hoagie roll.

Question, restructured?  Meat restructuring was developed by the US Army to deliver low-cost meat to troops in the field.  For the McRib, ground “pork” is pressed into the iconic rib shape, including the illusion of bones, then seared to give the eye catching “cooked on the grill” look.

The McRib made its debut, in the United States, in 1981.  McNuggets was a best seller, but McDonald’s kept running into shortages on chicken.   McDonald's first Executive Chef RenĂ© Arend, who invented McNuggets, came up with the idea of McRib.  Originally, the ground meat was made from pork shoulder (aka real pork), but not from the rib meat, as the name implies; plus salt and water. The McRib did not sell well, so was taken off the menu.  However, many customers actually liked the sandwich and complained to the head offices.  So, every few years, McDonald’s puts the item back on the menu, for a limited time, and these customers get their treat, and feel special.

Of course, there has been, for years, a call for healthier menu items at fast food establishments, and McDonald’s complied.  Instead of pure pork, tripe, heart, and scalded stomachs were ground, then pressed into the patties.  Being high in protein, completely edible, wholesome, and nutritious was the selling point to the health crowd.  Tripe is the edible muscle lining from the stomach of farm animals, such as cows, pigs, and sheep; there is your pork product then.

Have I ruined your love of the McRib?  Let me make it up to you by giving you my copycat recipe which is made from pure pork.  Boneless pork ribs are still not the rib meat though, but from pork shoulder.  Oh, just what the original McRib was made from!


Copycat McRib Sandwich


 3 lbs. boneless pork ribs (also called country style)

1 tsp. each fine sea salt, ground black pepper, garlic powder

1 extra large onion, julienned (can never have too much onion with this)

1 (18 oz.) bottle brown sugar barbeque sauce

6 sub rolls (I used Ciabatta bread which fit the pork portions better)

Pickles (Dill or Bread & Butter chips)



Each slab of pork will be sliced, not all the way through, into 9-10 “ribs”, attached with fat on the underside.  Cut the slabs, so that each portion has 3 or 4 “ribs”; there should be 6 portions altogether.  If the underside fat is very thick, trim it; do not have it more then 1/8th of an inch thick.  Mix the seasonings together; rub into tops and sides of the “ribs”.


Spray a 2-quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray.  Fat side down, place one portion on the bottom of the crock pot.  Line the 5 remaining portions along the sides, fat against the crock pot wall.  Pour barbeque sauce over pork portions and into center.  Place julienned onion into the center, on top of the sauce.  While cooking, the sauce will rise up over the onions and pork.


Set on low and cook 5-6 hours (pork easily comes apart with a fork).  Pull out the pork, place on an aluminum lined jelly roll pan.  Set broiler on high, place pan under and let pork broil for 10-15 minutes (check every 5 minutes to get to desired grill effect).  At the same time, if the sauce has thinned out, due to juices from the pork, whisk in two tablespoons of flour to thicken.  The onions will have softened, yet still have a bit of bite to them.


Now to create the sandwich.  Slice roll in half, lengthwise and spoon two tablespoons of sauce on bottom half.  Place pork portion on top, spoon additional sauce and onions on top.  Top with pickle chips and top half of bun.  Eat with enjoyment, and have plenty of napkins at hand.

Makes six sandwiches.

Remember, you do not have to deprive yourself of a craving due to restrictions.  Create!  The only limit you have is the limitation you give yourself.  Imagine the fun you will have trying to copycat a menu item; thinking about its taste, texture, structure.  Who knows what you will learn about this item, and more so, yourself.

Mary Cokenour