Sunday, 16 November 2008 | Tags: ,

Used by ancient Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans to perk up old or badly preserved meat and dried fish, mustard today is a great way to add zest to a meal without adding a lot of calories or fat. We check out a selection of mustards to find the best hot dog topper.

The Basics

  • You can tell a lot about how mustard tastes by its colour:

    • Most American mustards are made from white mustard seeds and taste slightly sweet. The yellow color comes from added Turmeric (an Indian spice).

    • French mustards are made with brown seeds and have a more pungent taste.

    • English mustards are made using a combination of black, brown, and white mustard seeds. The resulting flavor is spicy and complex.

  • In France, only mustard made in Dijon can be called “Dijon mustard”. Others must say “Dijon-style mustard.” North American companies like French’s use variations of old Dijon recipes, but they don’t have to follow the same labelling requirements.

  • If you’re lucky enough to be able to taste mustards before buying (e.g. at a local deli), here are a few things to think about:

    • The taste experience should be entirely pleasant.

    • The flavour is somewhat acidic but not overly so, and not too salty.

    • Coarse grain should be pleasantly grainy, not gritty or hard. Non-coarse grain mustard should be smooth.

    • Consistency should be thick enough to hold its shape on a spoon, but not thick like butter.

    • It should not taste floury, musty, or metallic, nor should it smell eggy.

    • It should have pleasant aftertaste.

Other Considerations

  • Mustard has a lot of health benefits:

    • Few calories and little fat

    • Mustard seeds produce oil when crushed, which has been used for centuries to relieve symptoms of arthritis, gout, rheumatism, and colds.

    • Heated mustard poultices or mustard plasters may help relieve chest congestion and sore muscles.

    • Mustard in small doses may increase the appetite and help with digestion.

    • Chewing seeds may relieve toothaches

    • Gargling a mustard concoction may relieve a sore throat

  • Most mustards don’t require refrigeration, but it helps maintain the flavour.

  • Mustard doesn’t go bad, but the flavour fades over time when it comes in contact with air. It lasts about a year (tightly closed) before it loses strength. A small spout helps reduce air contact.

Be Aware

  • Flavoured mustards (e.g. spiced or honey) often have more additives and preservatives than regular mustard.

English Mustard Detail

  • English mustard is quite hot and is available either as a powder in a tin, or as prepared mustard in a jar.

  • If a recipe calls for English mustard, it generally means the powdered form.

  • English mustard is comprised of black or brown mustard seeds ground together with yellow or white mustard seeds.

  • The most famous brand of English mustard is Colman’s which is sold only as powder in North America. It can be tricky to find, so try at your local deli or specialty food shop. (They can often order it in if you ask.)

  • If you can’t find English mustard for a recipe, you can try substituting a Chinese-style mustard, but use a smaller amount. Or you can grind up the seeds yourself for a powdered mustard.


We recruited a team of university baseball players to taste test these mustards on some ball park hotdogs:

Inexpensive American mustards:

  • Bulk (no-name) mustard: 17.9 cents per 100 grams.
  • French’s: 55 cents per 100 grams.
  • Heinz: 58.4 cents per 100 grams.

Expensive Mustards:

  • Malle Original French Dijon: $1.99 per 100 grams
  • Grey Poupon French Dijon: $2.28 per 100 grams
  • “The Original” English Style: $4.68 per 100 grams.

Taste Test

  • In the inexpensive category, French’s was the winner, chosen by 75% of the players.

  • With the pricier brands, it was a grand slam for Malle, preferred by 100% of our baseball boys. They admitted they chose Malle because it tasted the most like regular mustards.


For the typical North American palate, the ever-popular French’s mustard ranks #1 for topping hot dogs. Don’t be afraid to experiment with other mustard types, however, especially in more sophisticated dishes. Start with the Malle, which is closest to French’s, and explore flavours from there.


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