Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Serious Eats: Taste Test - Mustard

Serious Eats, one of my favorite food blogs, breaks down mustard. worth a look, i think.

Taste Test: Mustard

Yup. We tried 39 mustards.


[Photographs: Robyn Lee]

Mayo phobia is understandable. Ketchup disdain can be justified (people always have complex relationships with tomatoes). But not liking mustard? Oh, come on. Mustard is just the little something-something that sandwiches, hot dogs, burgers, salad dressings, and pretzels need. When people say they don't like mustard, alarms sound in my head: Not to be trusted.

But even a mustard enthusiast would have trouble stomaching 39 kinds of mustard.We dolloped, squeezed, scooped, and dunked into jars and tubes of all types of the yellow condiment—sometimes it wasn't even close to yellow.

After visiting four stores and staring at many condiment aisles, freaking out any nearby employees and shoppers, we found mustards to fit into the following categories:

  • Yellow
  • Dijon
  • Deli-Style and Spicy Brown
  • Honey
  • Full of Seeds
  • "Other" (trust me, they didn't fit anywhere else)


Best Yellow

Plochman's not only came in the funnest-to-squeeze rotund tube (with "25% MORE FREE!*") but it was exactly what every picnic needs to have. Not offensively vinegary, it offers that sturdy "yellow" flavor that you want on hot dogs and burgers. Plus you have to trust a company that's been around since 1852—a year before Vincent Van Gogh was born, as the website points out.

Guldens vs. French's

"I grew up eating this," was the response everyone gave, no matter which brand. This is the Crest vs. Colgate battle of the mustard world. It's tricky to name a winner since you're just going to piss the other group off, and they'll insist you're wrong. "To me, [insert one of them here] is what yellow mustard should taste like. The other one is too metallic, gross, and/or stupid." Sorry to cop out of picking, but this decision was too emotionally strenuous.

Best Organic Yellow

Who knew there was such a competitive market for organic yellow mustards? We tried Annie's, Whole Foods 365, and Eden Foods, but of them all, Annie's tasted the most like the cheap-o classic. It wasn't complicated. So if for some reason you need to organicify every aspect of your life, down to the mustard, this won't compromise the iconic taste.


Best Deli-Style

Ba-Tampte (means "tasty" in Yiddish) is what you want on your pastrami on rye. "The very essence of mustard," said one taster. Great texture, a bit spicy, and there's a menorah on the label—can you really argue with that? If the Jewish delicatessen approves, bring it. Plus it was only $1.50 for a 16-ounce barrel.

Best Spicy Brown

There's not much separating this category from the aforementioned "Deli-Style" (alright mustard scholars, come out and correct me, I can take it) but the winner here wasKosciusko. Made by trusted brand Plochman's, this was one of our favorites overall. It's not hot in the sense that it attacks your sinuses, just nudges them, while still having flavor. The ingredients read: White Distilled Vinegar, #1 Grade Mustard Seed, Water, Salt and Spices. Not sure what #2 mustard seeds taste like, but the #1 is doing the trick. Comes in a small nine-ounce jar.


Best Not-Too-Sweet Honey

If you like your honey mustard more mustard than honey, Gulden's will make you happy. Just a smidge spicy with lots of good texture bits, it's not part of the dessert mustard family.

Best Fancy-Pants Honey

If it comes in a hexagonal-shaped jar and costs $5.29 for eight ounces, it's fancy-pants. Honeycup is super thick, almost pasty. It would never work in a squeeze bottle. Spicy and zippy, it's more than just brown sugar (the first ingredient, by the way) and honey (the fifth). Take a whiff and your nostrils will borderline flare. A little goes a long way.

Most Versatile Honey

Annie's Naturals would be good on nuggets and sandwiches alike. Not oozing with sweetness, it's just an all-around mellow honey mustard.


Most Like Birdseed

If you like to floss after your mustard, you'll love Maille's Old Style moutarde. There's hardly any filler paste between all those seeds. Slightly sweet and super vinegary, the little pebbles pop in your mouth. Good for kickstarting a sandwich.


Best Classic Dijon

Grey Poupon, you've still got it. You're still what I want to pull out of my glove compartment when a polished dude in a Rolls-Royce happens to cruise by. Spicier and more complex-tasting than many other mustards—but still available at non-complex stores like Target—this gets your attention. Maille (prounounced "my") was also a favorite. Slightly less up-your-nose spicy, it's creamy and smooth with a more interesting Dijon-y flavor, if that makes any sense.

Most Sinus-Clearing Mustards

Trader Joe's Dijon deserves a category all its own. The my-nose-just-exploded category. Geez, put a warning label on that. It's like Grey Poupon squared, multiplied by infinity. Also spicy, but somehow more acceptable since it comes in a teeny 3.5-ounce tub: Colman's. My papa always keeps a jar of this in the cupboard—the same jar since I was small. You really just need a dab. He swears it also helps with sore throats and colds. Mister Mustard (look for the mustached chef image and "HOT" in all caps) might be tougher to find, but is also good.

Least Mustardy Substance

Um. You are 18 other things before you are mustard. Made in Vermont, Fox Hollow Farm's Fox Mustard looks like molasses and is equally goopy. But there's a great progression of flavors happening here—from sweet to spicy, back to sweet again. Made with balsamic vinegar and fresh garlic (and were those curry whiffs?) this should never go on a hot dog, but could be nice on ribs or really specific sandwiches.

Most Disappointing Overall

The Whole Foods 365 line is usually solid as far as generic brands go (they won our last olive oil taste test). But, yikes. The dijon tasted like metal. The yellow went way overboard on apple cider vinegar. And did a bee ever go near the honey mustard?

Mustard with the Biggest Cult Following


[Flickr: teamperks]

When we asked for mustard suggestions, the love for Oregon-based Beaver brand came pouring in. "Unbelievable stuff!" .. "I'd just squeeze out a little bit on my finger and eat it raw." .. "The favorite in our house."

More commonly known for dams and buck teeth, the beaver is apparently a successful mustard mascot too. The Beaver brand is easy to find all over the West Coast, and according to Beaver Mustard headquarters, parts of Chicago, Texas, Florida, and South Carolina—but beyond that, not so much. "Beaver has always been easier to find on the West Coast and Inglehoffer on the East," said representative Roger Klingsporn on the phone.

Inglehoffer is made by the same Beaverton Foods company (replace rodent with mustached man mascot) and exactly the same recipe for some flavors: Sweet Hot, and Cream Horseradish.


[Flickr: passiveaggressivenotes]

Beaver mustards are so delicious, they even inspire passive aggressive notes like this one, which had someone so upset, they even used the verb "absconded."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We get Inglehoffer's here in Indiana. It is good and I'm glad to see that here in the sticks we're not being deprived of these nice, Northwestern things.

I'm still trying to find a brand of mustard I had a few years back. It was French and called a strong mustard with fresh tarragon. I don't think it was Maille. It was bitter and sweet and hot and strong. In short, it ruled. And at $6.75 for an 8-oz. jar, it should have also gotten up and done a song and dance to accompany the meal.