Saturday, December 12, 2009

MC Rib and the Furious Five

Fast food gets a bad rap amongst the fooderati. There's a lot of value in businesses providing fast, cheap, and nutritious food to a struggling middle class.

And if you steer away from getting sodas and limit your side of fries to a small, a fast food meal isn't really all that bad for you, even nutritionally speaking. Sure there's going to be a good amount of fat and heaps of sodium, but that can be said about a lot of dining options (pork belly slider anyone?). And almost everything is raised and grown in the USA and that's something significant. Sure it's cheap factory farmed meat which is reprehensible, but also a problem that isn't, for now, going away.

At the end of a meal of a quarter-pounder with cheese and a small fries (that's enough food for a meal, it really is) you've consumed 750 calories, 38 grams of fat, 1360 milligrams of sodium, along with 6 grams of fiber and 32 grams of protein. Is that ideal? Not really. Is it bad for you? Not really. Is it good for you? It's better than a soda and potato chips.

What I'm saying is this: fast food once or twice a week is fine if you order smart and control your portions. Hell, skip the fucking fries and get a side salad or fruit (standard options at some fast food-eries now).

Which is a long way of saying that I had a McRib last week.

I hadn't had the McRib in ages, not since the early 90's I imagine. The McRib is sometimes described as the most dubious of all fast food items, largely due to its absurd shape: ground pork formed into a reasonable approximation of a rack of ribs, but ingredient-wise it's actually pretty straightforward. The patty is pork, water, a little dextrose, and a few standard preservatives (BHA, BHT, Sodium Benzoate).

The McRib sauce is a bit more dubious: Water, high fructose corn syrup, tomato paste, distilled vinegar, molasses, natural smoke flavor, food starch-modified, salt, sugar, spices, soybean oil, xanthan gum, onion powder, garlic powder, chili pepper, sodium benzoate, caramel color, beet powder. But really, other than a few texturizers and preservatives, it's pretty quotidian by most processed food standards.

Notice something? No added "natural" or artificial flavors other than the smoke flavor, no extenders, no autolyzed yeast extracts, meat broths, or souces of backdoor MSG (my porn star name)--just the straight-vanilla preservatives and texturizers.

Compare the McRib to the McDonald's Angus Beef Patty: 100% Angus beef prepared with Grill Seasoning: Salt, Pepper, Angus Burger Seasoning: Salt, sugar, onion powder, natural and artificial flavors, maltodextrin, natural beef flavor [beef broth, yeast extract, maltodextrin, salt, lactic acid, natural flavor, beef fat, citric acid], spice, dextrose, autolyzed yeast extract, garlic powder, dried beef extract, sunflower oil, caramel color, worcestershire sauce powder [distilled vinegar, molasses, corn syrup, salt, caramel color, garlic powder, sugar, spices, tamarind, natural flavor], spice extractives, annatto and turmeric, calcium silicate and soybean oil added to prevent caking.

And we won't even begin to get into the McChicken ingredients.

The McRib, despite it's shape, seems to be the least Frankenfoodie of all the McDonald's proteins. Is it good for you? It's got a lot of sugar thanks to the sweet sauce, but I would give it a solid "kinda."

And does it taste good? Also a solid kinda. The texture is pleasant--surprisingly similar to really tender pork ribs--and the sauce isn't cloyingly sweet. The McRib is nominally topped with two pickles and maybe eight pieces of chopped onion and the impact of either is nominal. If I were making a similar sandwich at home, I'd throw a lot of onions on there, especially since the flavor of the pork itself is really bland. That happens when you have inexpensive processed meat and don't re-add meat flavor to it (as McDonald's does with its beef and chicken).

Fast food's not good, but it's not bad. I don't recommend it but I don't judge if you partake and try a McRib, even just ironically.


Kenny said...

Seriously? With all that flavoring in the Angus beef patty you'd think it would be more flavorful.

David J.D. said...

You would think, wouldn't you? Yeah, kinda weird about that--it surprised me with its amount of added flavoring even by fast food standards.