Let’s get something straight right off the bat–first and foremost, I LOVE good beer. But aside from beer, I LOVE good hot sauces more than almost any other food product. I love them for a variety of reasons. For starters, it takes some seriously good balancing of ingredients to get the heat and flavor to match up, so when they’re done right, it’s truly impressive. Also, honestly, I just love seeing other people trying to handle some of the more serious hot sauces I have in my hot sauce briefcase. Yes, I have a hot sauce briefcase–everyone does, right? I guess there is a little masochism to all this hot sauce stuff – but in the end, it’s one of the things that really makes life worth living. Trust me–I promise!
So here is Reinhold’s guide not only to the most “stupid-hot” of all the hot sauces, but also to where they all rank on a flavor scale. I wanted to begin with some of the more basic hot sauces you can use every day, to give you a good starter kit if you’re just getting into the hot sauce game.
Before we get into it, let’s make sure we are speaking the same language here. The most important thing to understand when discussing hot sauces is The Scoville Scale.
The Scoville scale is the measurement of the pungency (spicy heat) of chili peppers or other spicy foods, as reported in Scoville heat units (SHU). SHU is a measurement of capsaicin concentration; to explain it most simply, capsaicin is the stuff in hot peppers that makes it hot. The scale was created a century ago by a pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville. To get a good idea of where things rate, jalapeno peppers rate at around 8,000 SHU (which is nothing, you know that, right?).
Here we go:
Texas Pete: 700 Scoville Units
Yes, Texas Pete. Think of it this way – it has flavor, mostly vinegar, with a bit of back end spice… if you wanna call it that. Spray it on some wings and try not to feel lame about it.
Tabasco Sauce (Original Variety): 2000+ Scoville Units
In many ways, this is the sauce that started it all. The recipe dates back to 1868, and has quite a history, appearing in early films and even taking trips to space with NASA. It can kick things up a notch for you with whatever you use it for. I really like it with eggs in the morning; it makes for a interesting beginning to your day. It’s not too hot, so most people will enjoy it.
Sriracha (aka Rooster Sauce): 2,500 scoville Units
Sriracha is something I can put all over anything, and it immediately makes it better. I truly love this stuff. It’s got a great flavor, with its chili peppers mixed with garlic. The heat can be a good guide for people to know if this is where they stop or continue on. Enough of it can feel a bit spicy, and it has what I would call an up-front heat (in the front of the mouth) that can make you sweat a bit.
Local shout out:
KIMKIM: not sure on scoville units
KIMKIM is made here in Richmond and has become pretty popular with local people looking for something on the Sriacha tip from the RVA area. I have had it a few times and enjoy its flavor for sure. I’m not sure about the spiciness of it overall, but it seems to be around Sriracha’s level.
White Zombie: 5000+ Scoville Units
White Zombie is not the hottest of sauces you can find, but it tastes really good. It has a Jamaican jerk fruity taste, with a good spice background. This can go on sandwiches to great effect, without overdoing it with the heat. The bottle of White Zombie in my collection always goes fast, as most people seem to like it.
El Yucateco: 8,910 Scoville Units
You know this one, right? It’s at a lot of your favorite Mexican restaurants here in RVA. It has some kick to it, and that ever-so-lovely Habanero flavor (and burn later, you know!). This is a great sauce to use when making some good guacamole with a kick. This one has a bit of heat to it, and the more you use of it, the more it burns with that classic habanero growing heat.
FOO FOO Mama Choo: 50,000-90,000+ Scoville Units?? (not listed)
This is one I saw Dave Witte recommend online; it was made by his friend and fellow music and food lover Steve Seabury of High River Sauces. I was certainly excited to try it, as it comes from a good source and uses the new highest rated hot pepper “The Carolina Reaper.” Having not tried this new pepper, I was really excited, and wow, it’s HOT!!! This is where things get serious when it comes to sauces. What’s most impressive about this sauce is how tasty it is. It makes me want a lot more. Not all hot sauces possess both the flavor and the heat factor like this one does, but Foo Foo Mama Choo is the total package.
Dave’s Insanity Sauce: 180,000+ Scoville Units
This sauce is a pretty good gauge of whether you can handle some serious heat. This is where you have to realize you’re not dealing with a sauce that you can pour on your food. Unless that’s your thing, and you’re really feeling crazy, of course, in which case go nuts–but it isn’t advisable. Dave’s Insanity Sauce has that really peppery taste and flavor that comes from a pepper extract. It also says it has habaneros in it; however, I don’t really taste any of that in the flavor of this sauce–just pure pepper. The pepper profile kinda makes it seem hotter than it really is.
Buffalo Wild Wings Blazin’ Sauce: 200,000-350,000 scoville units
In many ways, this sauce got me started on trying sauces that were really seriously hot. If I remember it correctly, it was a hot wing challenge of 12 Blazin’ Wings back in early 2000. That wrecked us all at the time, but we kept going back and doing it again. At several points over the years I have gone back and tried Blazin’ Sauce. It’s still hot as hell, and has a good kick — but I have had hotter, as you’re about to learn. Watch yourself on this one…
Da’ Bomb Ground Zero Hot Sauce: 234,000-321,900 Scoville Units
Hotter than advertised, if you ask me. This is very very serious stuff. What’s really cool about it, other than the insane heat, is that it has a good taste overall. It says it’s pineapple, habaneros, lime, lemon, and natural pepper flavoring. So you get something kinda rare here–a serious hot sauce with a great taste. You learn after a while with these higher Scoville Unit sauces that it’s hard to get much hotter without using an extract of capsaicin–which adds no flavor, only heat. Caution: it’s gonna burn!
Mad Dog 357 Silver Collector’s Edition: 750,000 Scoville Units
This is my favorite sauce. It comes with a freaking bullet on a key chain with a small spoon inside, for cryin’ out loud. If you try this sauce, you will be down for 20-30 minutes feeling like you’re in another world. It has a good flavor, but chances are you’re not gonna be able to pay attention to that. Did I mention that its over 600,000 Scoville Units of pure pain? It even comes with disclaimer on the side about how serious it gets. Good luck if you ever try this; it will destroy you!!
Mongoose by Cajohns: 1 mil-3 mil Scoville Units
This is the latest addition to my briefcase of hot death. This is the famed Mongoose. It goes up to a possible 3 mil Scoville Units, or so it says. It’s basically as hot as you can get without going to pure capsaicin extract. It supposedly has a good flavor, and uses all natural flavors and peppers to do that. The heat is off the charts on this, and I’m pretty intimidated about trying it, so I will have to get back to you on this one. Let me know if you have tried it, or want to.
There are a lot of amazing sauces out there; this is just a small sampling. If you’ve got suggestions for sauces I should add to my collection, let me know in the comments!