It has gained a cult following since the McRib sandwich are going to have to wait a lot longer to satisfy their cravings. Though they're usually on the menu sometime in October, according to AdAge this year's McRib won't make an appearance until late December.
Related: How to make perfect McDonald's-style French fries at home
Inspired by the pulled pork sandwiches he ate in Charleston, South Carolina, McDonald's first executive chef Rene Arend created the sauce-slathered boneless pork patty in 1981, just two years after the debut of his other big invention, the Chicken McNugget.
"The McNuggets were so well received that every franchise wanted them," Arend told Maxim magazine in 2009. "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."
Though it tested well in the Midwest, the McRib -- which is actually made out of pork shoulder meat pressed and shaped to look like a mini rack of ribs -- was pulled from the McDonald's menu in 1985 because it wasn't selling well. It returned in 1989 but disappeared again in 2005; since then, it's only been offered for a few months out of the year, and only in select restaurants -- except in Germany, where it's available all year.
In the United States, the limited availability has become a marketing tool. Devotees of the McRib track its very existence -- witness The McRib Locator. For them, the fact that this year's appearance will be delayed until Christmas is definitely cause for alarm.
After the news broke on Monday, the McRib Locator Facebook page was filled with a chorus of "Noooooooooo!"
"Why do we have to wait unti December for your deliciousness to return???" Facebook user Mike Gardner mock-wailed.
McRib fans, have no fear. Todd Wilbur of Top Secret Recipes has been cloning restaurant favorites for decades, and his version is easy to make at home. The real thing packs 500 calories (240 of them from fat), which means that Wilbur's version, which clocks in at 307 calories, is a bit better for you. He even did sauce taste tests to figure out which commercial brand tasted most like the one McDonald's uses (Hunts won). At the very least, it'll satisfy your cravings until McDonald's breaks out the McRib in December.
"I'm a huge McRib fan," Wilbur wrote in 2010. "And I was blown away by this one."
Todd Wilbur's Top Secret Recipes Version of McDonald's McRib Sandwich
1 pound uncooked pork sparerib meat, cut off the bones of 1 whole rack (you can use pork shoulder, as McDonald's does, instead)
3 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon white sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
4 6-inch center-split white sandwich rolls
1 cup Hunt's Original Barbecue Sauce
8 dill pickle slices
1/2 cup thinly sliced onion
Combine pork, water, sugar, and salt in a food processor and process on high speed for 30 to 60 seconds or until it's a smooth pink paste.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or nonstick foil. Divide the pork puree into 4 equal portions. Using your fingers (wet them with water first), shape the portions of pork on the baking sheet into thin 6-1/2 inch by 3-inch rectangles, or about the size of your rolls. Cover them with another sheet of parchment paper or foil and freeze until pork is frozen solid, about 2 hours.
Split the rolls open and toast them. pour the barbecue sauce into a large shallow bowl.
Heat a large skillet or griddle over medium heat, and then cool the frozen pork patties for 3 to 4 minutes on each side, or until browned in spots. Cool the cooked patties for a few minutes, then dip each portion into the barbecue sauce to coat completely. Place each patty on one half of the roll, top with two pickle slices and about 2 tablespoons of sliced onions, and the other half of each roll.
Just before serving, heat each fully assembled sandwich in the microwave for about 15 seconds on high, to warm through.