We burned some sensitive parts of our GI tracks for this list. You're welcome!
By Sara Can, Men's Health
For the past month, my co-workers have been avoiding me. Why? Perhaps it's the vinegary odor that's been seeping into my clothes from the 100 bottles of hot sauce in my office. Or maybe it's because I've been hosting weekly hot-sauce taste tests, and some tongues can only take so much.
Okay, maybe I've been torturing my co-workers, but it's all in the name of journalism!
Our mission? To find the most irresistible hot sauces-no matter how bad our tongues tingled or how much sweat rolled down our foreheads. To help us sift through the hot sauce contenders, we reached out to hot-sauce aficionados who focused our taste buds on looking for the perfect balance between heat and flavor. (For your complete guide to every grocery aisle, see what Men's Health editors selected as the 125 Best Foods for Men.)
"Anyone can load up a sauce with super hot chilis and make a sauce that will hurt you," says Austin Chronicle Hot Sauce Festival champ Chuk Hell. "It takes skill to make a sauce that is hot and so delicious that you want more, despite the pain."
Fifty hot-sauces later, staffers have a better idea of what their tongues can handle. Some (literally) ran from the room after tasting sauces like Tabasco (about 2,500-5,000 Scoville Units-a measurement of heat intensity) while others sweated through the super hots, like Ass Reaper, which ranks at 1.5 million on the Scoville scale. By the end, everyone had his or her favorites.
Here are the five most popular sauces for the following five categories. Check out Tyler Florence's 5 Upgrades for Tastier Tacos for a simple meal that'll taste amazing with these hot sauce picks.
For those who like to keep it simple: FRANK'S REDHOT ORIGINAL CAYENNE PEPPER
This category glorified the classic hot sauces-those that didn't mess with the recipe of tasty, fiery chili peppers married with just enough flavor to not overpower your food. All our contenders can be found at the supermarket, and the one that won over the most taste buds was Frank's RedHot Original Cayenne Pepper sauce. It was so pleasing that one of our testers commented that this hot sauce has enough flavor to make a bland meal taste good. A close second was Cholula Original, which was a nice blend of heat and smokiness (which conjured up memories of Taco Bell for some tasters), and Trappey's Louisiana-style Red Devil Cayenne took third.
For those who like green peppers: AHMED FOODS GREEN CHILI SAUCE
I found this winner tucked inside a small spice shop in New York City, which harbored aromatic Middle Eastern spices. This chunky, Pakistani hot sauce went up against other green sauces, but took first because of its fresh-almost minty-flavor that begged for a meaty fish fillet. (One taster mentioned that it tasted like it had peppers picked out of the backyard.) Taking second was Tabasco Green Pepper Sauce with a more watery consistency, and a slow rolling heat that lingered at the back of your tongue. And coming in third, Jalapena El Yucateco had a bright flavor, but a more intense heat that attacked the entire tongue-probably why it fell behind these two milder sauces.
For the person who likes chipotle hot sauce: TEXAS PETE CHIPOTLE HOT SAUCE
For those who puts hot sauce on everything: DIXIE DELIGHT DELICIOUS TASTE
Tasters hunted for a sauce that was mild enough they wouldn't mind dashing it on any meal, but still hot enough to warrant the title "hot sauce." The winning number came from producer Dixie Delight. Their batch of viscous hot sauce smells like a spicy Bloody Mary and is a bit reminiscent of sweet ketchup, just with more of a kick. Coming in second, Baron West Indian Hot Sauce, is a Caribbean batch that mixes hot peppers, mustard and garlic to make a spicy honey-mustard-like hot sauce. And rounding out the competition was a tie between the ever-popular Sriracha and Emeril's Red Hot, which was slightly reminiscent of Frank's RedHot.
For more taste tests, cooking tips, and gourmet recipes you can make at home, sign up for the free Men's Health Guy Gourmet newsletter.
For those who likes to sweat: FIGUEROA BROTHERS' ASS REAPER
This was a blind taste test, but if our brave tasters could have seen Ass Reaper's bottle, they might have voted for it merely due to its drama factor, and then would probably forgo tasting. Who is ballsy enough to try a super hot sauce that is outfitted with a skull? To give you an idea of how hot this sauce is, "Great for melting faces" and "I feel my eardrums burning," are two apt descriptions from staffers. (Did I mention I tortured my co-workers, a bit?) But it had such a sweet, tomato bite that people gave it high scores.
Coming in second was CaJohn's Angry Cock, which lists fiery Bhut Jolokia Chilis (or ghost peppers) as their first ingredient. One our experts, Danny Cash, whose hot sauce was nominated for this category, poignantly describes the feeling you experience after downing one of these sauces: "These sauces leave your eyes blurry and watery, your head sweating, your back dripping, and your ears ringing." But producer John Hard is a founding father in the hot-sauce world and he's an expert at packing flavor into his wicked hot sauces to make them worth the pain.
And in third was Dixie Fire Fiery Hot, a much milder (but still very hot) sauce that gave a slow burn and finished with a sweet, barbecue kick (a welcome relief after the ghost pepper sauces!).
Looking for a cold drink after all this hot sauce talk? Make sure to avoid the 15 Worst Drinks in America.
THE FUNNIEST THINGS PEOPLE SAY WHEN EATING HOT SAUCE
Reading through these comments not only gave me a good laugh, but proved that everyone has different taste buds. Even for our top hot sauces, there were some who abhorred them.
"I'm now breathing fire, but that's okay because it's good." -CaJohn's Angry Cock, Super Hot category
"It's like an infection in my throat." -Danny Cash's 1%, Super Hot Category
"Tastes like leather." -Bufalo Chipotle, Chipotle Category
"HITS MY NOSTRILS-ACK!" -The Cheech Chipotle Sauce, Chipotle Category
"Tastes like shoe polish." -Texas Pete Chipotle Hot Sauce, Chipotle Category
"Tastes like pickles. I don't like pickles." -Danny Cash Bottled Up Anger, Green Sauce Category
"Tastes like peat." -Louisiana Swamp Scum Hot Sauce, Green Sauce Category
"Really Taco Bell-y. This tastes like college." -Cholula Original, Classic Hot Sauce Category
"Unmemorable, even immediately after trying it." -Texas Pete Original Hot Sauce, Classic Hot Sauce Category
"Shocking orange color, and industrial flavor. I can almost see the Sysco truck delivering this." -Trappey's Red Devil Cayenne, Classic Hot Sauce Category
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