Copycat McRib using real pork

One of the frustrating things about the pandemic is being unable to fulfill cravings. It could be for a root beer float or an ice cream cone.

Perhaps you crave 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, and take-out or drivethru only. Even fast food places are going through this, and that drive-up window might seem so far away in a very long line.

Worse 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. It is 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 René Arend, who invented McNuggets, came up with the idea of the McRib.

Originally the ground meat was made from pork shoulder (real pork) but not from the rib meat, as the name implies, plus salt and water.

The McRib did not sell well, so it 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 has 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 three or four “ribs.” There should be six portions altogether.

If the underside fat is very thick, trim it. Do not have it more then an eighth of an inch thick.

Mix the seasonings together and rub into tops and sides of the “ribs.”

Spray a two-quart crock pot with nonstick cooking spray. With the fat side down, place one portion on the bottom of the crock pot.

Line the five remaining portions along the sides with the fat against the crock pot wall. Pour barbeque sauce over pork portions and into the 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 (until pork easily comes apart with a fork).

When done, pull out the pork and 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 five 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 the 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 on hand. Makes six sandwiches.

Remember, you don’t 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’ll have trying to copycat a menu item; thinking about its taste, texture, and structure. Who knows what you’ll learn about this item and, more so, yourself.

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