Get ready for this slightly different style blog post! We’re handing things over to Kevin, and he’s about to get pretty personal…
Normally I write about web patterns, cool new CSS stuff, and other nerdy, developer-related things. But today we are going to get a little spicy and talk about something near and dear to my heart–hot sauces. My fellow rabbits know me as the guy who dumps a pint of hot sauce on his pizza during a team lunch and has to constantly add hot sauce to his Fruit Center soup. In fact, one Secret Santa gifted me a spicy maple syrup (which was fantastic) and a hot sauce kit, and last year I received a giant bottle of it. Here at JRD, I’m the guy to talk to about hot sauces and today I’m going to share some of that insight. Read on for my rundown of the best hot sauces for your office hot heads.
Some Rules and Other Factors
Hot peppers, sauces, chilis, etc. are measured on the Scoville scale. It’s a measurement of how concentrated the component called capsaicin is in the pepper. In those instances where I can find it, I’ll provide the Scoville score (abbreviated by SHU). Note that the score can vary depending on the batch of peppers, meaning it’s not uncommon to have a sauce be between 1000-2000 on the Scoville scale.
Another thing to keep mind is extract versus pepper. Some hot sauces use pepper extracts to get their flavor and heat, which usually results in tons of both coming across. Most of the ones I’ve tried in this category are more novelty hot sauces with names like Atomic Bomb or Nuclear Waste. Sure, they might be a fun challenge but… they can taste kind of bad. Pepper hot sauces are just the peppers processed into a paste via a blender or a food processor. To me, these tend to have the sweetest of the pepper and the rather unstoppable heat.
IF YOU ARE NOT GREAT WITH SPICY FOODS PLEASE DO NOT TRY AND CHALLENGE YOURSELF. Even though you are unlikely to go to the hospital because of a spicy sauce, it might not be very fun.
The Ol’ Basics: Franks Red, Sriracha, and Tabasco
This title isn’t a diss on these hot sauces, but a statement of how perfect they are for your base-level hot sauce. There’s a reason why on hit YouTube series like Hot Ones these are usually the first ones tried. They have some bearable heat that everyone around the office can enjoy. Franks is a staple for wings, Sriracha is in almost every Asian restaurant and tastes great on eggs, and Tabasco is an American classic. Any of these three in your office are perfect additions to the fridge’s condiments section. You really can’t go wrong here.
As for the heat, Franks is at about 450 SHU, Sriracha can range anywhere from 1,000-2,500 SHU, and Tabasco is about 2,000 SHU.
For the Spicy-Curious: Alex’s Ugly Sauce, Secret Aardvark, and Melinda’s Extra Hot
The next three might prove a bit hard to find, but if you can they are totally worth trying. One thing they all have in common is their ability to retain the taste of the pepper while delivering a solid heat. Basically, these all taste great but will definitely clear your sinuses if you are feeling under the weather! I also like to believe these are a great intro to spicier (but still tasty) hot sauces.
Alex’s Ugly Sauce is somewhat local to Massachusetts, but they do have an online store. Alex’s is a blend of habanero, cayenne and Serrano peppers, all three known for their spiciness and flavor. The blending and quantity of these three peppers in particular give a fantastic level of heat and a complex flavor.
Secret Aardvark is a hot sauce from Portland, Maine so you may need to order it online. Their classic habanero hot sauce is kind of like the heat-heads version of Franks Red, you can put that S*!% on everything. It has a strong habanero taste with a tomato base.
Melinda’s is my current hot sauce of choice. It’s also a habanero based sauce, and contains a lot of fresh pepper flavor. I believe part of that is because of the inclusion of carrots, onions, and garlic to the mixture before blending into a sauce. It’s perfect for all kind of foods. I usually just dump a lot on my spinach, tofu, and other veggie salads or my boring lentil soup.
It was hard to find exact Scoville units for these but, on average, habanero (the key ingredient in all) is between 100,000–350,000 SHU. Yeah–a big jump from Sriracha, but I think most people can attempt these.
I debated including what I consider great extremely spicy sauces but those aren’t that fun. Like I mentioned earlier, they are all heat and more of a challenge versus an edible food. I must shout out Hot One’s Last Dab though. It’s very spicy but contains that fresh pepper flavor that I feel is important to a good hot sauce. Other than that, I strongly suggest you prioritize trying new hot sauces at every meal you can.