Like most “what is the best” questions there is a different answer for different needs so essentially you are asking what is the best hot sauce for me to use with my X, where x can be a hot dog to a quesadilla. The answer therefor can vary enormously. If I ask on Google what is the best Chinese restaurant in Edinburgh (a question I do ask all the time), I will get results that vary enormously based on the angle of the writer. So I will get told that this tiny take away is best in Edinburgh. But when I investigate the writer loves huge portions and is not fussy about quality. Well that’s not me I like good tasty food. One way to identify is to look at awards. A restaurant or hot sauce that’s won awards has at least been verified by someone. We are not big believers in awards but Ooft! has 3, Great Taste, Scotland Food and Drink and Quality Foods.
So let see what’s important in a best hot sauce:-
- What is a hot sauce
- A hot sauce is a table sauce like Ketchup. You use it on meals as a taste expander. Its not a marinade although it can be combined with other things to make one. So our Ooft! Smoky Chipotle can be combined with tomatoes and herbs to make a lovely marinade for chicken or pork or even seafood before barbeque or grill.
- Type of peppers used
- There are about 50,000 varieties of hot pepper each with its own unique taste
- Some hot sauces us multiple varieties but we have tried so many and found that for us with our taste the scotch bonnet is unique and we have spoken to many hot sauce lovers at farmers markets and they share our view.
- Heat – peppers vary enormously, there is even an index called the Scoville Scale SEE LINK that attempts to show heat. Some people (maybe the food equivalent of skydiving) want the “Hottest”. Our view is that this is a condiment. What would be the point of a salt that was so salty that even a grain or two spoiled your meal so all you could taste was salt? We concentrate on a tasty blend that is hot yes but also has tremendous flavour.
- Quantity or percentage of peppers in mix
- We think that a good sauce should have lots of real peppers. But the most popular hot sauce in the world Tabasco contains no actual peppers, just the liquid extract as its used mostly for splashing on oysters or in drinks. In the Caribbean people like to see some pieces of pepper in the sauce, everyone is different
- Other ingredients
- Good Ingredients – No hot sauce contains only peppers. If it did it would be solid. So pepper makers use a variety of other ingredients. In Ooft! we use daikon a Japanese radish that we think adds unami or taste to our sauce. We also use garlic, sugar salt and vinegar to season the peppers. But our most important ingredient is time. We find that aging creates a unique taste. Tabasco also ages so we are in good company.
- Bad Ingredients – Almost all available hot sauces contain additives and preservatives. Just look on the bottle to see colourings, flavourings and preservatives like guar gum. At Ooft! we don’t think they are necessary in a good sauce. So here is a key way to identify a good sauce. if the bottle has any additives or chemicals or emulsifiers avoid it.
- Type of sauce
- When most people talk about hot sauce they are talking about the West, sauces from Mexico or the Caribbean or the USA. But there is another whole branch of hot sauce used by those in the East although most of these are used to season food rather than as table sauces.
- Go into any large supermarket and there are perhaps 20 different hot sauces from £1.50 to £5 a bottle. Why such huge variation? Well a lot is to do with processing. if you are making huge quantity of sauce, bottling as soon as you blend, and churning them out then you can sell cheap. But my wife and I who hand check every single pepper for quality wonder what goes into those bottles. We find peppers that are going bad, we find peppers that look great on the outside but when cut are rotten inside and we wonder. If you are pouring a million peppers into a hopper how do you manage that?
- As far as we know only Tabasco and Ooft! age all hot sauce. There are one or two speciality brands in the US that also age but they are sold as the companies top of the line products. All Ooft! sauces are aged. Our experience is that when you blend the raw ingredients they taste just that, raw. After a year or two aging and developing, the difference is quite remarkable.
- The aging process also eliminate the need for any chemicals. When you blend raw ingredients you immediately have separation. So most companies add emulsifiers and chemical to keep the sauce consistent. Aging removes this need as time blend the ingredients naturally.