It’s a hot commodity around these parts. Well, at least at my house. I burn through a significant amount of hot sauce annually, and the funny thing is I am the only one that eats it at Casa de MacDonald. I enjoy a good bit of heat from time to time. I also enjoy putting out the flames with a beer or two every now and then. But I try to keep it reasonable. That is to say I have never let my ego sway me on which hot sauce to purchase.
If you can believe it, there are plenty of folks (usually guys) who think of it as a contest. “I have the hottest stuff you’ve ever had! Should be in Guinness!” No thank you. I’ve tried some hot sauces that may be described as extreme, and I’ve come to the conclusion that if I am less of a man because I can’t take the heat then feel free to dress me in a tutu and call me Shirley (don’t worry, Dad, there’s nothing I need to tell you).
Even the most hardcore of the hardcore heat lovers will have to admit there is a limit as to how hot a consumable hot sauce should be. Just because you can eat it doesn’t mean you should eat it. The hottest one I ever tried was called Da Bomb, and I only tried it once. Eight years later I threw away a full bottle minus one drop.
I remember it like it was yesterday. My bandmate Kelley gave me Da Bomb for my birthday. We read the warning labels, opened her up, and took a whiff. Powerful nose. Kelley got a crystallized piece the size of a half a grain of sand on his finger. No more than a speck of dust, barely visible. Kelley was pretty bad about licking his fingers when he ought not, but this cured him of that. I thought seriously about taking him to the emergency room. It wouldn’t turn him loose. A week later one tiny drop ruined about two gallons of chicken soup. I had no desire to ever try it again.
So I have compiled a list of my favorite and most used sauces. I have more than likely left out a lot of your favorites as there are so many to choose from these days. But my criteria for this list was that each must be readily available without much fuss and I must have at least one application for each. So if I left your favorite out, don’t be offended. I’ve likely tried it unless it is fairly obscure.
Let’s start the list with the least amount of heat and work our way up.
Louisiana Original Hot Sauce
This is one of if not THE first commercially available hot sauce. Look for the word “original” and the red dot on the label as there are many imitators. For the modern palate this is considered mild. I use this one generously. I love this one on eggs or French fries. It’s a great addition to ketchup when you need just a little kick. I can almost drink it out of the bottle. I use a lot of this, so luckily you can find it for less than a dollar a bottle.
Eighty years and still going strong, they aren’t going anywhere. I also love their peppers in vinegar version on my turnip greens.
Crystal Hot Sauce
This is also an oldie but a goody. Originating on Tchoupitoulas in New Orleans, we all know this one well. Though it began in the ‘20s, Crystal really took off in the roaring ‘40s. Like Louisiana Original Crystal isn’t going to burn the house down, but it will get the job done.
This is my preferred gumbo hot sauce. If you want something hotter they have the Extra Hot version with three times the heat.
This Mexican import is perfect for just that — Mexican food. It’s a strong vinegar taste, but the spices come through. I may detect a little cumin in there.
OK, you rolled your eyes. Of course Tabasco is on my list. It’s boring because you’ve heard of it so much. It’s the “Wagon Wheel” of hot sauce. That doesn’t make it bad, it’s just popular. I love it because of the versatility. It has a little more sting than our other sauces, but I still use it more than any. If I could only have one for the rest of my life, Tabasco would be it. If there is a sauce that can replace all the others this is the one.
In recent history Sriracha is celebrating a rise in popularity. Panic ensued when the new plant was shut down for being too awesome. People hoarded the raw sauce with the rooster on the bottle. Next thing you know there was Sriracha flavored everything.
I am a huge fan, myself, but a bottle lasts me over a year. I go to the squeeze bottle for anything Asian, but especially peanut sauce, pho, and noodle dishes. It’s really in a class of its own.
Dave’s Insanity Sauce
This is as hot as I go. It is definitely one to keep away from pets and pacemakers, but Dave’s still has flavor. I first learned of this when founding Fat Man Squeeze member Cliff Fulkerson tried it at San Diego’s Hot Licks Festival. It’s powerful by my standards, but still has a great garlic hint. Most of you should be careful with this one, but if you like dangerously hot stuff this one is so far my favorite. I can’t imagine anything hotter with this much flavor.
When I have a bowl of chili and feel like I don’t want to stop the insanity this one pours on the sweat.
Don’t pigeon hole yourself as a one-sauce guy or gal. Find an application for all of them. I always look forward to my next bottle of boutique hot sauce where often the names are as spicy as the juice. Send us your favorites.
This page is available to subscribers. Click here to sign in or get access.
It looks like you are opening this page from the Facebook App. This article needs to be opened in the browser.
iOS: Tap the three dots in the top right, then tap on "Open in Safari".
Android: Tap the Settings icon (it looks like three horizontal lines), then tap App Settings, then toggle the "Open links externally" setting to On (it should turn from gray to blue).