Whataburger chose a good weekend to introduce its ketchup, spicy ketchup and mustard into HEB stores. It's Memorial Day! Those backyard barbecue burgers and hot dogs (or tofurky dogs) need dressing up. We must re-create the Whataburger experience even when we are not at Whataburger. The condiments' newfound availability at supermarkets has spurred an unprecedented fervor that even surpasses the horrid McRib.
So is all the hubbub deserved? Are these humble combinations of tomato paste, vinegar, garlic powder and high fructose corn syrup really so special? It's time for a review and taste test. We compared the Whatburger original mustard to good old-fashioned French's classic yellow, Grey Poupon country Dijon, and Jack in the Box's signature honey mustard. We rate them by number of hot dogs, 4 being best. (We'll also be reviewing the ketchup.)
Whataburger original mustard - 2 hot dogs
Ingredients: water, vinegar, mustard seed, salt, turmeric, spices, garlic powder, natural flavors
Flavor is sharp and vinegary, with a bit of spicy heat and a sweet note of applesauce. Texture is notably thick and slightly bumpy, making it feel more substantial than a mere sauce; it has a serious "mouthfeel." The finish is sour. The inclusion of turmeric is notable, but it's also a direct lift from the classic French's. In fact, much of what the Whataburger mustard is doing seems to be lifted from French's.
French's classic yellow - 4 hot dogs
Ingredients: vinegar, water, mustard seed, salt, turmeric, paprika, spice, natural flavors, garlic powder
French's is the only mustard in which vinegar, not water, is the first ingredient. That instantly tells you something about the purity. Flavor is bright and sharp, with an acidity that is mellowed by the garlic powder. Probably the coolest thing about French's is the peppery component you get from the paprika. Texture is silky, almost fluffy; that seems to make the flavor settle on the tongue all the more potently.
Grey Poupon country Dijon - 3 hot dogs
Ingredients: water, vinegar, mustard seeds, salt, white wine, fruit pectin, citric acid, tartaric acid, sugar, spice
Wonderfully tart up front, with a sophisticated combination of flavors that gets ramped up by the fact that salt is the fourth ingredient. Higher sodium, I know, but hey, it's just a condiment; it's not like you'll be eating a bucket of the stuff.
This is definitely the only mustard that contains white wine. The coarse ground mustard seeds add less texture than you might think, but this is still the one that's most like a food item of its own and the least like a sauce. The ingredients don't mention garlic, but it's somewhere in the mix. Definitely a subtler flavor overall.
Jack in the Box honey mustard - 1 hot dog
Ingredients: high fructose corn syrup, water, Dijon mustard, soybean oil, honey, vinegar, food starch, egg yolks, smoke flavor, mustard seed, phosphoric acid, xanthan gum, microcrystalline cellulose and sodium sorbate, garlic, honey flavor, onion, caramel color spices, artificial color, and about seven more disodium this and autolyzed that
Jack in the Box deserves credit for being willing to try new things, and it has introduced some nifty trends to the public, like ciabatta bread. This honey mustard intrigues on the first taste with its sweetness and hint of smoke — almost like a barbecue sauce version of mustard. Yes, the glossy, plastic appearance is unsettling, as is the way it oozes out on the plate, but it takes all kinds to make a mustard.
Alas, it quickly fades into a weird pickle-juice flavor that threatens to upset the stomach. The final stroke is the number of ingredients: 31, one of which is egg yolk. Who needs egg yolk in his mustard?