Using Mustard on Brisket | Does It Make Any Difference?

September 13, 2022

Should you use a mustard binder or not when smoking brisket? This is a new, commonly-asked question among BBQ circles. Opinions are split on whether it keeps the rub on, makes a prettier bark, and help enhance the natural meat flavors or not. I personally think there’s not a big difference.

I have been smoking brisket meat with and without mustard rub over the years. So in this article, I'm going to share with you the cooking process of two briskets done exactly the same way. Except that one has a mustard rub and the other one does not. I'll also be sharing my thoughts on mustard binders and whether or not I recommend using one. 

Mustard on Brisket

Adding Mustard to Brisket: Is There Any Difference?

Some cooks will say that you don't need mustard rub on brisket before adding your spice rub. Others believe mustard helps tenderize the meat and adds a thin crust, which makes this debate a real conundrum!

In most professional cooks’ opinions, a mustard rub does not alter the natural flavors of the meat in any way, shape, or form. You can’t even tell the mustard flavor is there. However, it does help improve the bark, which can enhance your salivation. So, it really depends on the BBQ rub, other ingredients, and the skill of the pitmaster. 

I also did a little investigating with a couple of my friends. One of them mentioned using the Worcestershire sauce and Dijon Mustard. He says he used binders when he cooks brisket. It gives him a head start, especially when he uses a pellet grill.

Another friend who loves making brisket says he uses brisket mustard occasionally. If he opens a brisket and it's fresh out of the pack, he just trims the meat up and won't use a binder. He goes straight with the rub and throws the brisket on the pit. When he cooks the briskets, they become crusty and have a good bark. 

When you ask most pitmasters who specialize in smoking brisket if they use binders or think mustard rub or binders work on brisket, opinion is split in the middle. 

For those who say no, it's because whenever they put some seasoning on the meat, it pulls a lot of moisture out of the brisket. 

During the smoking process, the seasoning pulls moisture out that binds it. But for me, using a binder for briskets helps get some barking, makes the meat take on the full spices and rub and helps the meat retain the moisture it would have lost to wetting the seasoning. 

Except you’re sure your cut of brisket is well-moisturized or has some fat toppings. 

Mustard Binders: Does It Work?

Some guys swear it does work, while some say it's not necessary. Since I wanted to know whether the mustard rub makes a difference or not, I put a little binder on a piece of brisket. Then I didn't put a binder on another cut of beef brisket. 

I made use of the same dry rub and cooked them in the same pit at the same temperature till they were both done perfectly. 

Heinz Yellow Mustard

2 Hours Into the Cooking 

After about the first two hours, I went ahead to do the first spritz with apple juice. The only real difference was that one had a little yellow hue due to the yellow mustard sitting below the rub. 

3½ to 4 Hours Into the Cooking 

Now, when I went in for the second apple juice spritz, I could see that the bark and the color was really starting to look a little more different. This was now three and a half to four hours into the cook. 

However, I did notice that there wasn't a whole lot of difference between one and the other, apart from the yellow hue under the dry rub of the brisket that had the prepared mustard rub on it. 

Then I went ahead, rotated, and spritzed them again. When I went to wrap them, I didn't see much difference between them. 

I was surprised that the one without the binder was a little darker in color. Was it because of the yellow in the mustard? They looked identical and I couldn’t tell which one was the slathered one and the unbinded meat. The barks looked the same to me. 

After They Were Wrapped

After the two beef briskets had cooked for about an hour or more, I unwrapped them to see if the binder or no binder made a difference.

I found that the one with the binder was super soft and had a lot of moisture. However, they were both nicely cooked. 

The bark on the one with the brisket mustard was not hard or set as I hoped. It seemed like the one without the mustard rub had the bark set a little better. Still, the difference is hard to tell! They were both really good, but the meat on the one with the binder had more flavor, in my opinion. 

Should I Put Mustard on Brisket Before Rub?

If you want to give it a try, you should. The idea behind the use of brisket mustard rub on the brisket is to let the dry rub that will be added sit or "bind" to the brisket fat side. 

When the mustard rub is applied, all the spices and dry rub that come after (the black pepper, onion powder, brown sugar and BBQ rub) will not fall off during the smoking process. 

BBQ spices are really dry. They are often a mixture of salt, ordinary sugar, brown sugar, garlic powder, paprika, dry mustard, black pepper, and other spices. If these are simply applied on meat that's not wet enough, the spices will not bind well. 

Why Is Mustard Used on Brisket?

I sometimes can't tell whether adding yellow mustard on my beef briskets does or does not do anything for my brisket or other barbecued meats. So the first question is, why use a brisket mustard rub in the first place? 

Many cooks feel that using a binder, like yellow mustard, creates a better bark. Mustard helps dry rubs stick to the meat, and even enhance the brisket flavor, depending on what you use. So, over the years, why has the mustard rub emerged as the most popular binder? 

Well, mustard is pretty inexpensive. Second of all, it's been around for ages. I remember my dad using it in the early '80s on his briskets. And it does a fairly decent job of keeping the dry rub on the raw meat. So it’s part of the culture of brisket smoking!

Preparing and Braising Beef Brisket

Alternatives to Mustard Binders

Some cooks like to mix pickle juice with their mustard while others like to use Worcestershire sauce. Some use a combination of all three. Other good alternatives are olive oil, hot sauce, and plain water. However, some cooks use mayonnaise. 

Those who don't like to use binders also prefer apple cider vinegar. However, it's not used as a direct binder. 

The apple cider vinegar is used to spritz the raw meat so that the spices like black pepper or dry rub can bind. Olive oil can also be used to spritz the meat. 

If you've read my articles, you might know that I'm a fan of using Parkay margarine. I recently tried it on my Johnny Triggs ribs recipe. I don't really use the Parkay so much as a brisket binder. 

I feel like it adds a subtle enhancement to the natural flavors of the meat due to the oils and the butter flavor in the Parkay. 

FAQs 

1. Should I Put Mustard on My Brisket?

Yes, if you like to slather your beef brisket with some binder, yellow mustard is the most used binder. Mustard creates a sticky wet surface on the meat, keeping the dry rub stuck and preventing moisture loss. Other types of binders aside from brisket mustard include olive oil or Worcestershire sauce. 

2. What Kind of Mustard Do You Put on Brisket?

Yellow mustard is the most commonly used brisket binder. Brisket mustard, like the classic yellow mustard and beef spice rub, is a good combination. You can also mix the mustard with pickle juice if you want to have a well-seasoned brisket that is tender, juicy, and has a sweet-tasting mustard flavor. 

Final Thoughts

You probably have your answer now. I had two similar cuts of beef brisket and had both of them seasoned identically. One had a binder. The other did not. Both barks turned out nice but I noticed the barks stuck just equally well without the binders. So I'm going to vote that the binder is not necessary. 

If you want to put mustard on your brisket and think it works for you, go right ahead. However, with or without it, I think they both looked great, tasted great, and cooked perfectly. Some people find considerable differences when they prepare the mustard rub well, maybe with some pickle juice or other ingredients.  

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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