The sauciest post ever on MetaFilter!
April 2, 2006 1:11 PM   Subscribe

For some, it's an obsession. For others it's just a hobby. Some people just buy it, others make it. Some live to consume it, but sometimes it's not made to consume; just to collect. It's funny, racy, generic and specific. In any case, it's an interesting reflection of current events and popular culture.
posted by Kickstart70 (56 comments total)
And, my own collection/obsession (warning, direct link to large image).
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:15 PM on April 2, 2006

Looks like a little shrine, Kickstart70. Maybe it's a religion.
posted by the Real Dan at 1:34 PM on April 2, 2006

I don't quite understand the obsession with owning/eating/making the hottest hot sauce possible. I love spicy food, but for me, hot sauce has to be more that hot, it has to be TASTY. There is a local guy who makes hot sauce (and hot sauce products like hot ketchup and hot peanut brittle - YUM!) and his hot sauce is really flavourful - I think it's got mango in it as well as all the usual suspects. Hot sauce that TOO hot just completely overwhelms the flavour of the food. I don't know, maybe that's what some people want.
posted by arcticwoman at 1:35 PM on April 2, 2006

All those unopened bottles make me sad.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 1:39 PM on April 2, 2006

In my case, I consume sauces. I tend to pick a bottle at a time, use it completely, and move on to the next. Some, like Satan's Blood, will remain unopened forever. The giant bottle of Frank's Red Hot will be use for grilled chicken wings tonight though, and I intend to get around to using the Hooter's Wing Sauce.

I prefer a high heat, but won't sacrific flavour for it. I've been known to not detect the heat in something my wife can't handle at all though, so my range of enjoyment is very high.

The hottest I had was on wings at a small Mexican place in Steveston BC. That was homemade and never bottled, however.
posted by Kickstart70 at 1:48 PM on April 2, 2006

Ah, yes, the search continues for the Guatemalan Insanity Pepper.
posted by blue_beetle at 1:49 PM on April 2, 2006

Kickstart70: "And, my own collection/obsession (warning, direct link to large image)."

That "Raw Heat" stuff is nasty... really, really nasty. Nice collection, though!

@arcticwoman: You can build up a tolerance to capsaicin pretty fast; that means you can learn to ignore the pain (and that's what "hot" really is: it triggers not taste buds, but pain receptors) and focus on the taste. Habanero peppers, for instance, are very hot, but if you make a hot sauce using them you can get a very flowery, peach-like aroma that's quite unlike the bell pepper/paprika taste of some of the other hot peppers.
Plus, some people actually like the pain in small doses - it triggers endorphins to counter the pain sensation which results in a "natural high".
Oh, and if any fellow Germans wonder where to get this stuff: check your local Asia store, or go to, which carries a whole assortment of hot sauces, imported (among others) from the US and cleared for European consumption (a factor that should not be underestimated are German food safety laws, which are extremely strict and often make it tough to order for tasty/dangerous stuff like that).
posted by PontifexPrimus at 1:56 PM on April 2, 2006

Fantastic Post. If it's not searingly hot, I can't taste it.

I keep meaning to put together a hot sauce collection, but didn't know where to start. Thanks for the pointers.
posted by AaRdVarK at 1:57 PM on April 2, 2006

I was once on this quest. I eat pure Habenero paste on tortilla chips. I thought nothing could be hot enough. I then foung Gold Cap Hot Sauce with 1,000,000 scoville African Capsium.

It tastes smokey. Then your taste buds melt. Then the walls melt. Then you see little imps with pitchforks and fire all around them searing your tongue on Satans asshole.

After I came back to reality, I shit blood for a day. (<-- True!)
I was physically unable to eat anything else for several hours.
I thought I had really screwed up my whole digestive tract.

I thought, several months later, 'Aw, I was probably just having a bad day.' I decided to add a couple drops to a gallon of barbecue sauce, to liven it up. I ended up having to throw the whole gallon away as unedible.

Now I just enjoy Habenero paste, and Chipolte Tabasco, and Siriacha chili paste, and the rest of the mellow stuff.

I kept a small bottle of the Gold Cap stuff, and keep it on my stove, as a reminder. It's clearly marked, " TOXIC DEATH SAUCE."
posted by shnoz-gobblin at 2:03 PM on April 2, 2006

The first one I'd be trying on that shelf is "PAIN." No beating around the bush.

"Can I have some pain on this steak please?"
posted by fire&wings at 2:10 PM on April 2, 2006

The hottest pepper yet discovered is the Dorset Naga (scroll down half way):

From th e Times article:

“It is something I wouldn’t eat but some people must like them,” said Joy Michaud, who developed the chilli at the Peppers by Post business she runs with her husband Michael at West Bexington.

An American laboratory found the chilli to be almost 60 per cent hotter than the one listed in the Guinness Book of Records. The Naga registered a Scoville heat unit of 876,000. The record holder is a Red Savina Habanero with a rating of 577,000.

The result was so startling that the Dorset pepper was sent for a second test to a laboratory in New York used by the American Spice Trade Association. It recorded a higher figure of 970,000 heat units. The Naga, which is sold with a health warning, was developed from a variety which originated in Bangladesh.

posted by patricio at 2:12 PM on April 2, 2006

shnoz-gobblin: Heh. Good story...I'm 'blessed' with a pretty high tolerance, but I'm not crazy like that.

here is someone who is though, with an excellent explanatory pic showing how a very small amount can cause a major heat problem.
posted by Kickstart70 at 2:14 PM on April 2, 2006

arcticwoman: I have a weird thing where, sometime in my late teens, most of the heat receptors in my mouth just... stopped working. So I can eat food that other people gasp and choke on, and not feel it much with my mouth.... in fact, if I can even feel the heat of a sauce on my tongue, it's REALLY HOT. (for the same reason, I constantly burn my mouth on pizza and stuff, because I can't tell I shouldn't be eating it yet.) My lips and throat seem to be normal, but in general, when I want hot food, it has to be EXTREMELY hot.

Resistance, however, is not the same thing as immunity. They used to have these _really_ good Kung Pao Chicken mixes in the supermarket. I loved them. They had what I think were dried tree chiles with them. They said, in big bold letters, "DO NOT EAT THE CHILES". But I ignored that and ate them anyway.

I did this many times, and it was fine, just a pleasant heat. But then I bit the Mother of All Chiles. Shortly thereafter: mouth full of fire, spitting and coughing in the sink, gasping for air... tears down my face. I'm sure it would have been absolutely hilarious to watch. Pride goeth before the fall. :)

Strangely enough, they took it off the market... maybe I wasn't the only foolhardy consumer. Someone more susceptible could have really been in trouble, I think.
posted by Malor at 2:24 PM on April 2, 2006

I can usually get a good buzz off of regular tabasco sauce if I douse my pizza in it. I'm addicted to the stuff.

Also, that capsaicin powder really takes the fun out of hot foods.
posted by puke & cry at 2:47 PM on April 2, 2006 [1 favorite]

It's funny, I used to have an incredible tolerance for pepper heat, and could eat peppers (those Kung Pao peppers, for example Malor) like there was no tomorrow.

About ten years ago I got bursitis and my doctor, instead of giving me a long course of pain meds, gave me a capsaicin-based cream to rub on my shoulder to relieve the pain.

OWOWOWOWOWOWOWOWWWWW! The idea is that the capasaicin in the cream basically tires the nerve endings out so much so that they can no longer send messages of pain to the brain for an extended period of time, but in this case, aegrescit medendo!! Just gimme the damned vicodin!

At any rate, after my shoulder healed, I found I could no longer tolerate the heat of hot peppers, though the flavor seemed to intensify. I rarely go hotter than a good jalapeno now though, which makes me a little sad.
posted by WolfDaddy at 2:48 PM on April 2, 2006

My favorite Peppers.
posted by Mayor Curley at 2:55 PM on April 2, 2006

Ever since we went to Belize, I've been hooked on one of the proudest national products, Marie Sharp's hot sauce. It makes just about anything taste better.
posted by muckster at 3:12 PM on April 2, 2006

Hopefully more people will learn that different hot peppers have different FLAVOR in addition to different HEAT.

AND that the burn of different hot peppers can affect different parts of the mouth.

Making a hot sauce/salsa can be much more than just 'gee that's HOT'
posted by HTuttle at 3:18 PM on April 2, 2006

posted by brundlefly at 3:34 PM on April 2, 2006

Ever since we went to Belize, I've been hooked on one of the proudest national products, Marie Sharp's hot sauce.

That's funny-- I just returned from my first trip to Belize on Wednesday, and I brought Marie Sharps hot sauce back because it was so amazing!
posted by Mayor Curley at 3:39 PM on April 2, 2006

so does that mean people travel to places that have shrines to hot sauce? I seem to recall a nice wall of them at the Heaven on Seven in Chicago... (warning: site contains frames). Me, I'd be holding out for some kind of barbeque world tour in the U.S. south, myself...
posted by rmm at 3:40 PM on April 2, 2006

Before I had to flee New Orleans, I used to enjoy going to malls, where they inevitably had a series of hot sauces stretched out, from milest to hottest, with little pretzels as taste tests. The bottles with jokes names ("Shitfire," and the like), were generally quite hot, but also tasted awful. In New Orleans, you really grow to appreciate the use of hot sauces to add flavor to food (Louisiana is the home of both Tobasco and Crystal, my preference), and these were clearly meant as novelties for tourists. Still, once in a blue moon, you'd find a sauce that set the top of your head on fire and yet was utterly delicious.
posted by Astro Zombie at 4:17 PM on April 2, 2006

This reminds me of an incident in high school, wherein my scruffy friend, broke and hungry, goes into a mexican take out place. Seeing the bowl of chilies on the counter says: are these free? Sure they say. A minute later he's screaming "water! water!" No free water they say, laughing. He then ran door to door knocking frantically looking for water. Funny guy.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:20 PM on April 2, 2006

Silly friend, StickyCarpet. Drinking water only makes the burn worse. Drink milk.
posted by WolfDaddy at 4:25 PM on April 2, 2006

Before I had to flee New Orleans, I used to enjoy going to malls, where they inevitably had a series of hot sauces stretched out, from milest to hottest, with little pretzels as taste tests.

I used to work at Riverwalk, and I'd always take "bathroom breaks" to walk up to the second floor and sample from the hot sauce/pretzel table. My co-workers probably though I had intestinal problems.
posted by brundlefly at 4:29 PM on April 2, 2006

Beer works, too, WolfDaddy. Or maybe I just like to drink beer.
posted by brundlefly at 4:30 PM on April 2, 2006

Somehow the idea of going door to door with a red weepy face asking for milk is even funnier.

There's a restaurant in NYC that has the big array of sauces. I asked the manager how they collected them, and he said they got them through a one-shot purchase from an amalgamator.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:30 PM on April 2, 2006

Another vote for Marie Sharp's sauce from Belize. My parents went there last summer and brought me back a bottle (and I think at least one or two for themselves.)
posted by emelenjr at 4:42 PM on April 2, 2006

All the chilli sauces in the world were no match to that vendor in Chumphon who was frying chillies in oil while we ate our dinner. Once the smoke wafter over our table we were in sheer agony for the next ten minutes. Sweet and merciless, this must be what pepper spray is like.
posted by furtive at 4:42 PM on April 2, 2006

I like hot sauce but I don't like feeling the skin in my mouth peeling. I don't get the attraction to the hot sauces that add no flavor just heat to food. What's the point? Pain isn't good eats.

There was a hot sauce specialty store in Santa Cruz for a while. I don't think they lasted very long.
posted by fenriq at 4:46 PM on April 2, 2006

Marie Sharp's is indeed the best. Habenero, but made with a grapefruit base makes it very tasty, instead of your usual "earthy" habenero hot.
posted by sourwookie at 4:50 PM on April 2, 2006

I don't get the attraction to the hot sauces that add no flavor just heat to food. What's the point?

It triggers the fight or flight response. Gets you going. It's like the culinary equivalent of bungie jumping.
posted by brundlefly at 4:57 PM on April 2, 2006

Arturo's North Shore Nitro (Force 10) is one I've found with an abundance of flavour and too hot for mere mortals. Arturo's "Great Red Shark" is a little hotter, but still has plenty of flavour.
posted by garficher at 5:03 PM on April 2, 2006

I forgot to mention the - .Molokai Hot Sauce Banana Coconut and Curry Hot Sauce
- Not really very warm even, but what a flavour! Just like having a bannana, coconut curry sandwich
posted by garficher at 5:10 PM on April 2, 2006

I don't get the attraction to the hot sauces that add no flavor just heat to food. What's the point?

I agree.

A GOOD sauce should balance the burn around the mouth, regardless of the overall degree. And provide a flavor that makes you want more.

Hot sauce is much more enjoyable when you can continue eating it for a while. The hair follicles popping open (or whatever they're doing, yeah it's the capillaries, whatever) is better when it keeps up for a while.
posted by HTuttle at 5:58 PM on April 2, 2006

This guy was doing a bottle a day. Hasn't updated in a while though.
posted by rollbiz at 6:06 PM on April 2, 2006

By the way, the El Yucatero's are some of my favorite. They kick the ass out of a lot of the fancy sauces out there. Tasty and cheap, and available in the barrio next door.
posted by rollbiz at 6:08 PM on April 2, 2006

Patricio -

Here's a photo of my dad making crushed red pepper flakes out of Assam peppers. A year or two ago they were the record holder (at a disputed 855,000 on the Scoville scale), and look similar to the Dorset Naga ones you link to. I use the pepper flakes he made almost every day, I go crazy without it!

It's true, you do build up a tolerance surprisingly quickly and that's when the exciting world of flavor and endorphins becomes an addiction that causes you to force your girlfriend to drive around with you at 11:30 at night when you're on vacation to find some store that surely must have at least SOME kind of hot sauce that's not Tabasco!
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:28 PM on April 2, 2006

because Tabasco ain't hot sauce. No matter what the waitress at the Waffle House tells you.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 6:30 PM on April 2, 2006

brundlefly, but no matter how fast I run, I cannot outrun the conflagration in my mouth when I use some of super fiery sauces.

I like the flavor of some hot sauces but just don't get into the machismo heat hot sauce stuff.

HTuttle, those slow burn sauces are good. They let you enjoy the food before the fire overwhelms you.
posted by fenriq at 7:00 PM on April 2, 2006

Just to add to the "good balance of heat and flavor" idea:

When your tolerance has risen, sometimes the amount of hot sauce you have to add to your food (from what someone else might consider a well-balanced heat/flavor sauce) to bring the heat to a satisfying level may add more flavor than you would have liked. Or too much texture from the sauce itself. I've found myself dumping half a bottle of some of the tamer hot sauces onto food at restaurants that only have watery/vinegary/mild hot sauces. That's generally what drives me to seek out sauces that are much hotter - I don't use very much.

The scoville scale may be a way to quantify what makes a pepper hot, but there's no good way to quantify how individuals will react to heat. When I bite into a jalapeno now, I can enjoy the flavor; when I was 12, it would literally make me throw up, it was so hot.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 7:06 PM on April 2, 2006

All this boutique hot sauce nonsense seems to be supported by middle aged balding men. The same guys that think pumpkin or maple syrup beer is a good idea. They buy Harleys too, just like their accountant friends. I get the feeling that the label on the bottle is created before the "sauce".

posted by sharksandwich at 7:22 PM on April 2, 2006

I'm a fan of Dave's. Kickstart70 - did you see the 16 million Scoville?
posted by ObscureReferenceMan at 8:01 PM on April 2, 2006

Ah, hot sauce...reminds of this old chestnut. I guess to forgive is divine.
posted by bachelor#3 at 8:24 PM on April 2, 2006

I have a local supermarket with a very large selection of hot sauces. It is very interesting to spend a while browsing through all the hot sauces they have.
posted by bagels at 9:30 PM on April 2, 2006

What is Pepper Spray?:
All new 10% OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) formula @ 2 million Scoville Heat Units and a[we]some, unbeatable Fox 2% (even faster acting) OC (Oleoresin Capsicum) formula @ 5.3 million Scoville Heat Units with identifying ultraviolet dye*. It is the strongest OC formula allowed by law. Non-toxic and non-flammable. Effects last for 20 to 90 minutes. Units can be fired many times and have a range of 8 to 20 feet, depending on model.

OC is a derivative of HOT CAYENNE PEPPERS and is the newest defensive spray agent. It is not an irritant like the tear gases, but an inflammatory agent. Contact with mucous membranes (eyes, nose, throat and lungs) will cause IMMEDIATE dilation of the capillaries of the eyes, resulting in TEMPORARY BLINDNESS and instant inflammation of the breathing tube tissues, cutting off ALL BUT LIFE-SUPPORT BREATHING. OC will not deteriorate with age and unlike the tear gasses, WILL NOT CAUSE LASTING AFTEREFFECTS.
Oh g'wan, try it—at your own risk—on those scrambled eggs. Just keep in mind that there's no universal antidote (see Cooling the Burn). *The UV dye just lets the coroner make a positive ID on the ashes left from your body's spontaneous combustion.
posted by cenoxo at 9:32 PM on April 2, 2006

Sam's Hot Sauce made by the folks at the is not just nice and spicy hot but it's also got a great flavor to it.
used on there cheese fries yum, or by a bottle for your home and put it on fried eggs with shaved parmesan on a toasted bialy
posted by hpsell at 10:17 PM on April 2, 2006

The tastiest hot sauce is the one from La Fogata in San Antonio.
posted by neuron at 10:20 PM on April 2, 2006

There's a small chain of burrito places in D.C. called California Tortilla, that have lots and lots of hot sauces for sample and purchase. Nothing better than ruining a friends meal (and mouth) with a spritz of some Dave's Insanity while he's in the bathroom!

My fave: Scorned Woman.
posted by stratastar at 11:01 PM on April 2, 2006

My favorite is "The S Bend" from Barbados. I've never been able to find it here in the U.S. If anyone knows how to get it, short of going to Barbados, chime in.
posted by bz at 11:35 PM on April 2, 2006

Not going to tell you guys that sugar is the cure for pepper burn.
posted by Cranberry at 12:11 AM on April 3, 2006

I don't have a favorite hot sauce. From time to time, however, I like to hire some goons to spray my eyes with mace and kick me in the nuts while I'm trying to eat a plate of chicken wings.
posted by horsewithnoname at 5:48 AM on April 3, 2006

Heh. I used to work at a Texmex joint that had monthly hot sauce tastings. Over the course of my tenure, I tried probably between three and five hundred different sauces and got to know a fair amount about 'em. I got to see bikers cry, and had the "always wash hands BEFORE pissing" experience.
One of the most important determiners of preference in hot sauce tasting seems to be whether or not the person tasting is a smoker or not. Smokers seem to enjoy sauces like Chalula a lot more, which tend toward the really vinegary end (and that I don't happen to like). They can also go hotter than non-smokers.
Right now, my favorite sauce is the Iguana Gold. Mostly a habenero heat, it's also got jalapenos and some cayenne to it, but it's got an incredibly well-balanced flavor. It's a tomato-free sauce, but it uses carrots to give the sweetness that tomatoes usually bring. And it just works with so many different dishes, frankly. I used to love one called Scorned Woman, but they've changed their formula (along with their labelling), and gone from a really great balanced hot sauce to a overly gritty chili and habenero flavor that I don't think is as good.

And, to cap it off, an anecdote. I used to work the counter, and the bottles of sauce that we had open from the tasting, we kept in the cooler under the counter. I'd been there long enough that I could put a decent sized dose of Dave's on my food (though I rarely did, because I didn't relish the flaming shits the next day). We had opened a bottle of Endorphin Rush for the tasting, which is about as hot as Dave's (which is hotter kinda varies by batch and personal preference, though it's a little like putting your hands on two skillets as a guage of temperature).
This guy came in with three friends and asked me for the crate of sauces, and then asked me for the hottest one. I gave him the Endorphin Rush.
"Is it hot," he asked.
"It's got a kick to it. I wouldn't put more than a couple drops on my food," I said.

About half an hour later, he starts looking a bit peaked. He's got a pallor, a greyish that I've never seen on any other living face. He starts jerking around in the booth, and foaming. He's having spasms and this greenish froth is coming out of his mouth. I think he's having some sort of epileptic reaction, and call the fire department. They're right around the block, and we get an ambulence in just a few minutes. In the meantime, he's spewing and flopping like a fish. He passes out right before the EMS folks get there, and they load him onto a gurney, and he's taken out gurgling and sweating.

When I went over to clean up the booth, I saw that the bottle of Endorphin Rush, which had been nearly full when I gave it to him, was over half empty and there was still a quarter-sized glob on his burrito waiting for him. He'd swallowed probably about four ounces of some of the hottest shit I've ever tasted. And, according to the police and EMS folks who came back in, once they found out what caused his reaction it became a running joke in the station houses to try to put it on each other's food.
posted by klangklangston at 8:40 AM on April 3, 2006 [1 favorite]

klangklangston, that's hilarious! Poor guy. Capsaicin is a neurotoxin, I wonder if he was actually poisoned. Did you find out if he recovered ok?
posted by Malor at 10:38 PM on April 3, 2006

Yeah, they pumped his stomach and put some fluids in him. He never came back to the restaraunt while I worked there though. I have a feeling he's stuck with the mild Pace ever since.
posted by klangklangston at 6:47 AM on April 4, 2006

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