Sorry, Andrew Zimmern, But The McRib Rules

The chef and TV host hates the McDonald's McRib. We respectfully reject this opinion.

To be a fan of the McRib is to be well aware of everyone else's opinions of it. Americans are torn on the McRib; some people think it's overrated, while others are documented enthusiasts. We devotees love it for what it is: an oddball patty of ground pork shaped into a miniature rack of ribs (fake bones and all) drowned in corn-syrupy barbecue sauce. The raw onions and pickles are there to add some bite, and that torpedo-shaped split-top bun makes it the only non-circular sandwich offered at McDonald's. No matter what you think about it, it's unique in the fast food landscape.

I often forget that not everyone has eaten this novelty before—hell, my own coworkers didn't taste it until recently. Celebrity chef and TV host Andrew Zimmern just gave the McRib a shot for the very first time, and let's just say he's got some firm opinions about the sandwich.

Andrew Zimmern hates the McRib

Zimmern documented his first McRib experience on Instagram this week, where he began by explaining its provenance.

McDonald's introduced the McRib onto the menu from 1981-1985, Zimmern explains, and the fast food chain now releases it periodically as a limited-time item—"Although, McDonald's in Germany and Luxembourg, it's on their menu all the time," he says.

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"It is made through a process called meat restructuring, where it's essentially ground pork shoulder that's shaped like a little section of riblets," he says, showing off his McRib, which is about as respectably banged up as you'd expect.

"It's super slippery to pick up," Zimmern notes as he lifts it from its box.

After taking a pretty good-sized test bite, Zimmern frowns. "I don't want to yuck on anyone's yum, but that has a really bad, cheap, commodity pork aftertaste. It's not how pork should be."

"Wow. I'm glad I tried it, but guess what?" he asks, waggling his finger to the camera. "I'm not going to take another bite. That sandwich just jumped the shark for me. That's super, super unpleasant."

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Oh, he's yucking my yum, all right. One of my food heroes has just taken a dump on one of my favorite fast food items. I will staunchly defend the McRib with everything I've got, because despite its cheap pork, the McRib is more than the sum of its parts.

In defense of the McDonald’s McRib

Let's break this down. The McRib's demand is artificially inflated by its scarcity. By not being available year-round (except in Germany and Luxembourg, as Zimmern notes), its marketing push always ushers in the winter season, which offers an air of anticipation. After all, we need something to look forward to when the daylight hours grow short. We all know the McRib's return is imminent every year, so we play along. It's fun.

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As to its execution, Zimmern is right—it's ground-up pork, Frankenstein-style. Yet what could be more American? Riblets exist perennially in the freezer section of the grocery store in the form of Banquet frozen meals, and nobody seems to trash-talk those. Besides, a burger is much the same thing, just a different animal rendered into a patty.

Zimmern has his own line of frozen meals, one of which features Swedish meatballs, a mix of ground beef, chicken, and, yes, pork. It's very possible that these dinners are using a higher quality pork than McDonald's, but it's still pork produced on a mass scale, which usually does taste subpar on its own; it needs some sauce (whether BBQ, gravy, or something else) to liven it up.

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We all have our aversions, and that's okay. Zimmern has admitted publicly before that if there's one thing he hates, it's Spam, also a restructured pork product, specifically shoulder and ham. At least he's consistent in his tastes. And if Zimmern never eats another McRib, that certainly won't stop me from having one or two every year, and I'll relish every last messy bite dripping with barbecue sauce.

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