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Dijon Mustard on Ribs Before Rub: Is There Any Point?

Wondering whether you should put Dijon mustard on ribs before rub? If you’re like us, you keep a good supply of this versatile ingredient on hand at all times. But that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best binder for spice rub.

Dijon Mustard on Ribs Before Rub

Adding Dijon mustard to ribs before applying the seasoning rub will help the spices stick to the meat. Although Dijon has an intense flavor, this step shouldn’t affect the taste of the ribs. That said, we prefer using regular yellow mustard for this step and saving the Dijon for recipes that allow its flavor to shine.

Why Put Mustard on Ribs?

Putting mustard (or another wet ingredient) on ribs is known as “slathering” or binding” the meat. That’s because the moisture helps to keep the spice rub from falling off during the initial stage of the smoke.

Some pitmasters opt to skip this step, deeming it unnecessary. Others believe that the binder makes a positive contribution to the end result. Since it doesn’t take a great deal of time or money, we would recommend trying it both ways to see which you prefer.

Because moisture attracts smoke, the binding ingredient should promote stronger bark formation. That means your ribs will have a superior flavor and texture.

You might be apprehensive about putting mustard on your ribs because the condiment has such a strong, vinegary flavor. Don’t worry—once the ribs are cooked, you shouldn’t be able to taste the mustard anymore.

What’s The Difference Between Dijon and Yellow Mustard?

Yellow mustard (sometimes called “American” or “regular” mustard) can be made anywhere, but Dijon mustard can only be made in the area for which it was named. That would be—you guessed it—Dijon, France.

One major difference between authentic Dijon mustard and yellow mustard is that the latter uses vinegar as its base, while traditional Dijon uses an ingredient called verjus, a highly acidic juice made from unripened grapes.

The rules have relaxed somewhat since Dijon first entered the scene. Today, any mustard made with a Dijon-style recipe may use the name. Many of these will replace the verjus with white wine, vinegar, or a combination.

It’s easy to tell the two apart when you compare them side by side. Dijon has a richer and more powerful flavor than yellow mustard, and it has a creamy consistency. “Regular” mustard is bright yellow in color, and it’s not quite as thick as Dijon.

You could argue that yellow mustard is more versatile, since it can be squeezed out of a bottle and added to just about anything. However, you can use Dijon in a number of recipes, from marinades to salad dressings to specialty cocktails.

Can You Put Dijon Mustard on Ribs Before Rub?

When it comes to mustard for ribs, we typically recommend prepared yellow mustard. It’s inexpensive, simple to find (even in bulk), and it gets the job done.

Here’s why we tend to avoid using Dijon as a binder: It usually costs more than yellow mustard. Even if that weren’t true, it has a unique flavor that deserves to be highlighted. That doesn’t happen when you use it as a binder for smoked meats.

That said, if Dijon is the only type of mustard you have on hand, feel free to use it instead. While it does have a stronger flavor than yellow mustard, it should mellow out once the bark begins to form.

Other Suggestions For Binding Ingredients

If you don’t want to put Dijon mustard on ribs before rub, you have plenty of other options.

As we mentioned, yellow mustard is a perfectly adequate binding ingredient. But let’s say you’d prefer not to use mustard at all. What else can you use to help the spice rub adhere?

Here’s a list of suggestions to help you get started.

  • Olive oil
  • Canola or other neutral oil
  • Melted butter
  • Cooking spray
  • Mayonnaise
  • Chicken stock or broth
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Apple juice
  • Water

Remember—your goal here is to provide just enough moisture to allow the spices to stick to the meat. The flavor will come from the seasoning rub and the sauce you add toward the end of the smoke (if you choose to use a sauce at all).

How Much Mustard Should You Use?

You don’t need to use a great deal of mustard to slather the ribs. That’s one of the reasons why you can’t really taste it once the ribs have finished cooking.

About 2 tablespoons per rack should do the trick. Try slathering 1 tablespoon on the bone side of the rack, then repeating the process on the meatier side. Add the spice rub and press lightly so that the seasoning sticks to the meat.

Tips on Timing

How far in advance can you add the mustard slather to the ribs? While it’s fine to add it just 15 minutes before you add the meat to the smoker, some pitmasters like to plan ahead.

If you want to rub the ribs the night before you smoke them, it’s permissible to do so even when there’s mustard involved. In fact, the mustard might act as a tenderizer, lending a melt-in-your-mouth quality to the finished ribs.

Remember, though, that you don’t want to go overboard when it comes to tenderizing ingredients. If the meat is exposed to vinegar-based condiments or marinades for too long, it will be unpleasantly mushy once it’s cooked.

Don’t add the mustard and spice rub to the ribs any further than 12 hours in advance. A window of 8 hours is preferable, but 12 hours should be considered the limit.

We’ve found that adding the rub in advance will contribute to a crunchier and more full-flavored bark. While that can be a good thing, you should wait until the last minute to add the rub if you want your barbecue sauce to take center stage.

The Bottom Line

Since a mustard slather doesn’t affect the flavor of the ribs, you can use Dijon if you prefer. The main reason we recommend using yellow mustard is that it’s usually more economical to do so, but you can use whatever mustard you prefer.

Best of luck, and happy grilling!