If 2020 were a sandwich, it would be the McRib.
McDonald’s limited-edition take on barbecued pork is as divisive as this year has been. People either love the sandwich for its boneless, rib-shaped patty smothered in tangy sauce with pickles and onions, or find it completely vile.
So it’s fitting then that after an eight-year hiatus, McDonald’s is bringing the McRib back for a limited time nationwide on Dec. 2 at participating restaurants.
“The McRib has been a beloved menu item at McDonald’s since its inception nearly 40 years ago,” vice president of menu innovation Linda VanGosen said in the announcement on McDonald’s website. “There’s nothing quite like the taste of the McRib. To our customers, it’s become more than a delicious, saucy moment … it’s a season, and it’s taking the internet by storm. That’s why this year, we’re proud to serve the McRib nationwide for everyone to enjoy.”
The McRib hasn’t been released nationwide in the United States since 2012, so for aficionados, its return on Dec. 2 will be like Christmas came early.
Fans and haters took to Twitter to respond to the news.
This tweet highlights the McRib’s status as a cultural icon:
Not everyone is a fan:
The announcement sparked a flood of requests for the return of other former menu items, including the McLobster Roll, McPizza and the McDLT, a burger promoted with a commercial featuring Jason Alexander before his Seinfeld days.
There might not be another sandwich that has a history like the McRib.
According to a 2009 Maxim article, the McRib was created by McDonald’s first executive chef Rene Arend while he was working on the Chicken McNugget in 1979.
“The McNuggets were so well received that every franchise wanted them,” Arend told Maxim. “There wasn’t a system to supply enough chicken. We had to come up with something to give the other franchises as a new product. So the McRib came about because of the shortage of chickens.”
Arend told Maxim that he was inspired to create something with Southern barbecue flavors after a trip to Charleston, S.C., where he ate a pulled pork sandwich.
“I said to myself, something with that flavor should really go over.”
It was Arend’s idea to form the meat into the shape of a miniature rack of ribs, despite it being boneless. That bit of whimsy and the flavor combination are what make the sandwich so popular with some people.
The McRib doesn’t consist of much rib meat. Rob Cannell, who was director of McDonald’s U.S. supply chain in 2009, told Maxim that it’s primarily shoulder meat. The process that takes it from pork to patty takes 45 minutes, he said.
The sandwich hit the test market in 1981 and was officially rolled out as a limited-edition menu item in 1982. By 1985, it was removed because it wasn’t very popular at the time.
Over the years, McDonald’s has brought the McRib back as a promotional item with much fanfare, including two Farewell Tours, stoking its cult following. It would periodically only be released in certain markets, leading to the invention of the McRib Locator Map.
The McRib is available as a full-time menu item in Germany.