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Mustard Metabolism: Rah! Rah! Rah!

Grilled Dijon-Chicken Kabobs
Grilled Dijon-Chicken Kabobs
with Dijon Rice & Grilled Corn
By Cheryl Hill-Burrier

Don't just envy those with a mustard metabolism. Join 'em! There are nearly six hundred flavored mustards in the U.S. right now, which include ingredients from Jack Daniels to wine, and honey to cranberries, yet plain old yellow mustard is still the most popular. And, while cooking with mustard is nothing new, all of the health aspects from eating it might come as a big surprise, including the fact that it can speed up your metabolism by twenty-five percent! So, keep reading, and I'll explain how and why I know all of this, and then I'll pass along some really tasty recipes for y'all to grill up.

After having attended the best university in the U.S., I earned my Ph.D. (Philosopher of Dijon) from POUPON U, an online study course affiliated with www.MustardMuseum.com. (I am not making this up.) I aced Mustard 101 (after five attempts), and now, as an alumnus of this rowdy group, I get to shout out our fight song.

Eat, Eat, at Old POUPON U
Bratwursts and hot dogs, hamburgers, too
All with mustard spread on thick
We never eat ketchup 'cause it makes us sick
We slather it on our bagels and fries
Licorice and corn flakes, blueberry pies
Even with our Irish Stew
'Cause we are true to POUPON U!

Whew! That just sends chills up my spine! But, let me calm down and get on to the reality of cooking with mustard and the actual health benefits.

First, a little background. The word "mustard" came from mixing the ingredients mustum (Latin for unfermented grape juice) with ground mustard seeds. As to where it's grown, many of you might think of France because of their Dijon mustard, but North America and Canada are actually the top producers of the mustard crop, with an annual production of 250,000 acres in the United States of which North Dakota has the largest share. Of those crops, there are three types of mustard, yellow, brown and oriental, and of those three, yellow mustard comprises about ninety percent of the crop.

Now, yellow mustard is usually used for "prepared" or table mustard and also as dry mustard. Dry mustard is frequently used as a seasoning in mayonnaise, salad dressings and sauces, while the flour made from yellow mustard is an excellent emulsifying agent and stabilizer, which is why it's used to make sausage. The brown and oriental mustards are also used as oilseed crops, but are less popular because of their strong flavor.

Mustard's Health Benefits

And, while the majority of us love eating mustard, some people now say it's the new health food, proving once again that sometimes less is better, since the average ingredients in mustard are generally vinegar, turmeric, and sometimes a tiny bit of sugar. Vinegar has been shown to be helpful in protecting against cancer and thyroid disease, and also known to slow gastric emptying, which results in slower absorption of carbohydrates. The turmeric, which gives mustard the bright yellow color, is considered an anti-inflammatory. Other health benefits from eating mustard include speeding up the metabolism by twenty-five percent, stimulating digestion, reducing the severity of asthma and rheumatoid arthritis, lowing blood pressure, preventing migraines, acting as an antibacterial and anti-fungal, plus, according to Dr. Oz, it makes you think better!

As far as cooking with mustard, the word on the street is that fine restaurants across the nation are "going yellow" because the tangy taste enhances food so uniquely that it edges out fattier choices like mayonnaise and butter. In fact, Chef Francois Sisera, who not only has the Fleur de Lys cooking school, but also hosts the television show World Class Living, says that he likes cooking with old-fashioned yellow mustard because it doesn't mask the flavor of meats and vegetables the way some herbs and spices do.

So, now that you know all about mustard, let's pull out the grill and get down to cooking up some fantastic recipes for your outdoor meal. And, just in case you're a little rusty with the coals, I've included some grilling tips from Larry, who is the actual Grill Master in our family. Place your hand about six inches above the coals and start counting "one Mississippi, two Mississippi," etc., until the force of the heat causes you to pull away.

Grilling Tips and Temperatures

If you're using a charcoal or wood-fired grill, you need to know how to adjust temperatures for different foods. Fire needs oxygen; the more oxygen, the greater the heat. Your grill has vents to adjust how much air is allowed in and may even have a temperature gauge attached. So, once you've filled your grill with charcoal or wood and have it going, let the coals continue to cook steady for about five minutes, which should put the cooking temperature at a medium high heat. If that's not the temperature that you're looking for, give it another ten or fifteen minutes with the lid on and then check again. By now, it should be in the medium range, which can be sustained for up to forty-five or fifty minutes if the lid remains on.

For this recipe, we're going for medium heat, and here's a "hands-on" way of gauging the temperature. Place your hand about six inches above the coals and start counting "one Mississippi, two Mississippi," etc., until the force of the heat causes you to pull away. Depending on how long you can keep it there will determine the approximate temperature:

  • 1-2 Seconds: 650 degrees, High Heat, Steaks and Chops
  • 4-5 Seconds:400 to 450 degrees, Medium High Heat, Burgers, Fish, Veggies
  • 6-7 Seconds: 350 to 375 degrees, Medium Heat, Chicken, Roasts, Stews
  • 8-10 Seconds: 300 to 325 degrees, Medium-Low Heat, Good for Warming, Reheating
  • 12-15 Seconds: 250 to 275 degrees, Low Heat, Slow Cooking Briskets

Dijon Marinade

  • 1/4 cup Dijon mustard
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/2 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
Using a small saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking for another minute, stirring constantly.

Reserve 1/4 cup of the cooked marinade in a separate bowl and refrigerate. This will be mixed with rice. Cool the larger portion of the marinade to room temperature.


  • 1-1/2 to 2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 4 kabob skewers
Cut chicken into 1-inch pieces and place in the larger batch of marinade and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Cut the red and green bell peppers into 1-inch pieces and set aside.

Once the chicken is marinated, alternately thread pieces of chicken and the two types of bell peppers onto the kabob skewers. (If skewers are wooden, be sure and soak them in water for about an hour to avoid burning, or wrap ends of sticks with aluminum foil after threading the meat and vegetables.

Start the fire in your grill and burn it down until you reach the medium-heat temperature (350-375°F), which is best for cooking chicken. Any higher than that and you'll end up cooking the outside, leaving the inside undercooked and still pink. Remember, if you can hover your hand six inches over the fire for six or seven seconds without having to pull away, your temperature should be just right.

Before putting the kabobs on, prepare your grill by using tongs to grasp a folded paper towel soaked in cooking oil to oil the grates. Set kabobs on the grill and put the grill lid down. Turn the kabobs every 2 or 3 minutes until fully cooked, about 15 minutes total time.

Grilled Corn-on-the-Cob

Grilling corn without the husks takes a little more care and attention, but the results are incredible! Cut four ears of corn in half and soak in 2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1 quart water for 2 hours. Place the corn on a 350-400°F grill and cook on all sides by turning with tongs at regular intervals. Do this at least 4 to 5 times for 10 to 15 minutes.

Dijon Rice

Make enough rice for two servings. Before the rice is completely done and the water evaporated, add the 1/4 cup reserved marinade (saved from Marinade recipe above) and mix well with rice.
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