The Great Mustard Debate

MD_PreYou’ve probably scoured the web for hours, looking at different recipes from BBQ experts. One thing in common is to slather your meat with a type of liquid ahead of time before applying the spice rub. There are two reasons for this. First, it allows the rub to stick to the meat better. Second, depending on the slather, some of the rub ingredients will dissolve into the slab better. This all depends on whether the liquid is water base or oil base.

I’ve spent a lot of time cooking it both ways, but never both ways at the same time. This post is dedicated to my personal study on using water soluble and fat soluble spices and herbs with a mustard slather and oil. My son recently entered into a science fair on alternatives to blowing up a balloon, so I thought it was perfect timing for my own experiment.


The Constant: Rub This! Pork Rub recipe, Loin Back Ribs (baby back), Big Green Egg, and Apple Wood Chunks

The Variable: Regular Yellow Mustard and Oil (I used olive oil for this one because I ran out of peanut oil)


  1. Take each rack and remove the membrane on the back of the ribs.
  2. Mop rack A with oil and rack B with Yellow Mustard.
  3. Apply the pork rub.MD_Rub
  4. Slow smoke at 235° for two hours and then wrap in foil. Cook for an additional 2 hours and remove the foil.
  5. Cook one remaining hour while mopping on BBQ sauce 10 minutes before pulling it from the grill.
Rack A is on the right. Rack B is on the left.
Meat pulled back on both racks.


Great ribs no matter how you slice it. The foil wrap is the typical method of cooking ribs to provide that fall-of-the-bone experience. The rack with mustard pulled away from the bone easily, but didn’t fall apart like rack A. I chalk that up to rack B being slightly larger so it needed more time to cook.

  • Smoke Ring: Both racks showed a great smoke ring. However, the mustard rack seems to have a slight bit more pink.
  • Flavor: very similar, as expected, since some of the spices on rack A would dissolve in your mouth instead of during the cooking process.
  • Texture: Here’s where there is a larger difference. The bark on rack B (mustard) appeared to be a bit more soggy compared to rack A. I’m sure there is some science to it, but I preferred the bark on the oil rack better.
  • Moistness: Another difference. If you look in the picture below, you’ll see that rack A is quite a bit juicier than rack B. Could this be a difference in the size of the rack again, or a matter of oil retaining the moisture in the meat better? Sounds like another rack experiment needs to be performed.

    rack A top and rack B bottom
  • Appearance: Both had that perfect burgundy color that stimulates the eyes in the taste buds. Much better to look at then a pork shoulder or brisket coming out of the smoker looking like a meteorite.


It’s awesome no matter what! Personally, I think I’ll go with mustard for larger cuts of meat like shoulder, but stick with oil on ribs. What’s your preference?


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