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The Mustard Test. To slather or not to slather.

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    The Mustard Test. To slather or not to slather.

    Why the mustard slather? I thought I would compare and contrast - so here's the results with some astonishingly poor photography.

    I took 4 racks of ribs, two 'identical' baby back racks, two 'identical' short rib racks. One rack of each would get a slather with French's, a tight celophane wrap for 24 hours, then some rub (Memphis Dust) prior to cooking. The other rack stays in the packet till go time, then a quick coat of olive oil and some rub.

    All racks were put in the PBC and hung till done. No crutch, spritzing or fiddling. 2 chunks of apple were used for smoke. The cook took about 2.5 hours for the beef, 3.5 for the baby backs.

    Slathered and wrapped. Beef at back, pork infront

    Click image for larger version

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    Hooked and ready to go. The yellowish tinge on the inside pair indicates the mustard slathered ribs.
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    The results:

    As the pics are so appalling I'll give the results:

    Bark: Olive Oil hands down. The mustard had a really dry bark. Just wasn't good.
    Smoke Ring: Olive Oil hands down.
    Taste: OO again - by a margin. The flavor wasn't that different, but the mouth feel was worlds apart
    Look: Olive oil easily. The meat for some reason was darker and just looked right. The MS ribs were pale.

    All in all, the mustard slather was a complete failure. Those ribs were bad enough that I would be embarrassed to serve them. The OO ribs were absolutely as expected - good ribs.

    Mustard on the left, OO the right. I have no idea what I was doing wrong with the camera.

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    The Pork:

    They were basically identical. Indistinguishable from one another. In taste, texture, smoke ring, etc. The far side were OO, nearside MS.

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    The ribs were terrific, BTW. The camera work was awful.
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    In the pic above, the ribs are from different racks.

    So in conclusion, MS seemed to make no difference in one case and ruined the ribs in the other. I'll stick with olive oil.

    I made the switch a long time ago. I just didn't get the whole mustard thing. I don't particularly like mustard, and I found myself saying, "why am I putting this stuff on my favorite food." EVO works much better and I think you get a better bark in the end. Nice post . Camera work was fine. No worries mate.


      Wow. I have never had luck with beef ribs (and frankly my work with pork ribs is somewhat sporadic).

      Your results on the pork ribs reflect the similar experiences of many others that I have read.

      I will always rub and slather my pork butts, and maybe experiment with pork ribs from time to time, but it looks like mustard slather on beef is bad ju ju.

      Sorry you had some waste on this test, but thanks for the info.

      BTW: When I slather pork with mustard, first I put a salted rub on the rinsed and dried meat. Then I mix a small amount of the same rub in a good amount of mustard and very generously slather and wrap tightly to 'marinade' for at least 24 hours. I do not dry brine with salted rub alone and then put mustard on right before putting on the cooker. If I just need a rub binder alone I use oil as you mention.
      Last edited by HC in SC; December 14, 2014, 04:23 AM.


        Thanks for the test, really unusual that it affected the beef to a much greater extent.


          I think Meathead said somewhere that mustard doesnt matter... I can't find the specific quote though. Still... I have tried it and will do it again, mainly because my wife likes it... and I want to keep her happy


          • HC in SC
            HC in SC commented
            Editing a comment
            Very true!

          • Huskee
            Huskee commented
            Editing a comment
            The mustard slather to simply hold the rub on makes no difference tastewise. HC is dry brining with a mustard & rub paste, so that's different in his case. Surely some salt from the rub penetrates the meat as in a standard dry brine, and some of the salt & seasonings join up with the mustard to create a paste/glaze/marinade however you like to call it. I think HC's tests were way different than mtford's here. Both very informative and valuable though!

          • HC in SC
            HC in SC commented
            Editing a comment
            Huskee nailed it. I'll give step by step with pics tomorrow on the prep of my butts I am gonna try and redeem myself with on the PBC. Gonna try and cooked right thru the stall without wrapping. Hoping the PBC crew will be on standby in case anything goes south with the cook.

          Happy wife, happy life!

          Great write up mt.

          Thank you for taking the time to share the results.


            Great write-up mt! Appreciate your effort for the benefit of The Pit community!


              Even though mustard is just a sticky agent to hold the rub to the meat and has no taste I still like using olive oil the best.


                Nice write-up and thanks for putting in the work and sharing the results.
                The photos get the point across so don't beat yourself up over it. Not knowing what type camera you used is kinda hard to guess the problem but my guess is a combo of but not limited to: Slow Shutter speed, Low ISO setting, movement of the camera during the exposure. Looks like the White balance is fine (assuming the cook top is white) If you look at the Meta-Data on your shots and it indicates a shutter speed less than 1/60th second then more than likely when you pressed the the go button you moved the camera during the exposure, with new auto everything cameras it's important to half press the go button to let it focus, figure the exposure then fully press carefully down to trip the shutter. Try some test shots under the same lighting with a similar color/tone subject changing from AP (aperture Priority) T (shutter priority) and high ISO's like 800-1000 (whatch for noise/grain at higher ISO speeds and back off until acceptable) Hope this info helps, if you would like some good knowledge on digital photography take a look at Cambridge in Colour.com
                Have Fun!


                  I know you guys like OO but I have been using Canola for a long time. I tried both once on a side by side and found no difference. I buy expensive olive oil (for taste) and hate to waste it on stuff I can't taste it on.


                    Sorry, I don't understand what this was testing. Every reference I've seen to mustard is to use it just to wet the meat. You then immediately apply the rub over the mustard, so the mustard helps the rub stick to the meat (with no expectation that the mustard actually gives it any flavor - it's just a binder) . I've never seen a suggestion - as in this test - that you should apply mustard alone, then wrap it for 24 hours, then apply the rub. Am I just missing something?


                      I agree with RobertHouston. You're not supposed to marinate in mustard overnight and then apply rub. For what it's worth, I've done babybacks side by side, one rack with mustard and rub, one rack rub only. No one could tell the difference. I decided it's just a waste of mustard.


                        Mosca / Robert - I've seen commentary on both using it (mustard) as a kind of marinade and just using it as rub glue. I had never tried either. The marinade wrap seemed to kill both birds as it were, as I doubt there is a significant change in the mustard in that 24 hour period, but it might possibly do something to aide the bark in the wrapping process. My conclusion was that it didn't do much to the pork, and the beef ribs were significantly worse.
                        I'd be happy to try it again, just with some else buying the meat!

                        That said, trying some kind of vinaigrette might be interesting.


                        • HC in SC
                          HC in SC commented
                          Editing a comment
                          I like the mustard for the vinegar component to start working on the meat with pork; but I normally use vinegar-heavy marinades for tougher cuts of beef. A good go-to is just 1/2 red wine vinegar / 1/2 soy sauce. Marinate in the fridge overnight and it will give a tender-up the cut of meat and leave great taste!

                        • Mosca
                          Mosca commented
                          Editing a comment
                          My test on pork agrees with yours. I never tried it on beef. I usually just put the rub on the ribs, no oil of any kind. If I were to use an oil, I'd probably get crazy and use bacon grease. (Insert evil smile emoticon here!)


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