Too hot to handle
Hot sauce is the Golden Fleece of the culinary world. It has the ability to transform any dish into divine excellence. People with a high spice tolerance understand the importance of the sauce, but with so many different variations and brands, you have to know how to discern the best one.
The spiciness of different hot sauces is measured and ranked in Scoville heat units (SHU). It measures how concentrated capsaicin, the chemical that gives peppers their burning sensation, is in various sauces. The most common pepper used in hot sauce, Cayenne, ranks only sixth on the scoville scale with 30,000-50,000 SHU (Carolina Reaper, for example is 2,200,000 SHU), however, the sauces themselves differ in SHU based on how they are prepared.
For most sauces like Ketchup or BBQ sauce you can expect a similar product no matter the brand. Hot sauce is the black sheep of the sauce community. Even with similar ingredients, these sauces can drastically differ in spice level, consistency and smell. Each brand of hot sauce, depending on your pallet, can either transform a dull dish to a fiery dance of flavors or reduce it to a pitiful plate of despair.
Below Hagerty Journalism staffers Hayden Turner, Bethany Barker, Sophia Woodburn, Chanson Cadet and Laura Shaw rank different hot sauces based on their heat and flavor.