Hot stuff: Herald-Mail hosts hot sauce-tasting

February 01, 2012|By CHRIS COPLEY |

You've got friends and family invited for the big game on Sunday. What will you serve? Well, it's a pretty good bet that at least a couple guests will want something spicy — chicken wings, nachos, chili, you know the list.

But not all hot sauces are the same. Some are mild, some very hot, some thin, some thick.

With that in mind, The Herald-Mail Lifestyle Department hosted a "blind" hot sauce-tasting this week. Six volunteers tasted six commercial hot sauces. The sauces were not identified until after the tasters were done sampling.

One hot sauce, of course, had to be Tabasco, which was created in the mid- to late 1860s by Edmund McIlhenny, a Hagerstown native who moved to Louisiana.

The six tasters used toothpicks to taste each sauce, then jotted down notes. Plain corn chips were available for additional tasting, plus cheese chunks and sour cream to neutralize the spiciness between tastes.

Sauces were arranged in order of heat, roughly from mild to very hot.

How they were rated:

Each sauce was assessed for spiciness, flavor and texture. Spiciness was rated on a scale of 1 for mild to 5 for very hot.

Judge Katie Zinno, Hagerstown resident; delivers papers for The Herald-Mail; she loves to cook and she likes spicy food

Frank's— 2; vinegary, thin, horrible flavor

Sriracha — 2; sweet on the tongue at first, then spice hits; nice heat

Cholula — 2.5; mild on the tongue; lemony; light pepper taste

Tabasco — 4.5; too much heat; not enough flavor

El Yucateca — 5; white pepper; best sauce; lots of heat, but flavor balances it

Scorned Woman — 5; stale; too much black pepper

Judge Simon Barber, Keedysville resident, lobbyist for South Africa; grew up in India and says he has a hard time ordering Indian food in America. "They won't make it hot enough."

Frank's —; 2; overtones of vinegar, smooth, mild

Sriracha —; 2.5; tomato, thick; vivid color, dull flavor

Cholula —; 3; jalapeno-forward, medium viscosity

Tabasco — 3; sweet and sour; watery

El Yucateca — 4; metallic, chemical overtones; this comes from the vat the Joker fell in.

Scorned Woman — 4; lemony, bitter; I'd sprinkle this on fried fish

Judge Patricia Barber, Keedysville resident, home cook; not a fan of super-hot sauce; overall assessment: "It all tastes like hot sauce to me."

Frank's — 3; tomato-y, with a little extra "after-kick," but too sweet

Sriracha — 3; fruity, smooth

Cholula — 2; bland

Tabasco — 3; vinegary

El Yucateca —; 5; spiciness overwhelms the flavor

Scorned Woman — 4; artificial flavor

Judge Beth Rowland, Boonsboro resident, owner of Half Halt Press and wife of Herald-Mail columnist Tim Rowland; brings exotic hot sauces home when she travels overseas

Frank's — 1.5; vinegary, thin and smooth

Sriracha — 2.5; pasty, thick, funny taste

Cholula — 2.5; thick texture; odd aftertaste

Tabasco — 3.5; spicy, thin, unremarkable

El Yucateca — 5; smoky, spicy; flavorful, full-bodied; my favorite

Scorned Woman — 4; peppery, spicy, reminded me of turpentine

Judge Montez Dorsey, co-owner of Georgia Boy Cafe at Park Circle in Hagerstown; "The thicker sauces you want to use for wings. They won't run off."

Frank's — 2; vinegary, smooth

Sriracha — 3; sweet, thick, tomato-y; good for grilled chicken

Cholula — 2.5; salty, thick, but lack of flavor

Tabasco — 3; vinegary and salty; mild flavor

El Yucateca — 5; smoky, thick; very good pepper flavor; this is the game changer in this collection of hot sauces

Scorned Woman —; 4; smoky, salty, great heat; almost like a jerk sauce

Judge Glen Gorman, chef at Hempen Hill BBQ, north of Hagerstown

Frank's — 1; plain, smooth

Sriracha — 2; sweet, thick, mild

Cholula — 2; light vinegar flavor; thin sauce

Tabasco — 2.5; little salty, very thin

El Yucateca — 3.5; nice bite, thick texture; this is the most outstanding sauce

Scorned Woman — 4; nice heat; nice fruit taste, smooth

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