Hot Sauce Expert Guesses Cheap vs Expensive Hot Sauce | Price Points

In this episode of 'Price Points', Epicurious challenges hot sauce expert Noah Chaimberg of Heatonist to guess which one of two hot sauces is more expensive.

Released on 9/13/2018

Credits

Starring: Noah Chaimberg

Transcript

00:00
I'm Noah Chaimberg and I'm a hot sauce expert.
00:03
(playful music)
00:06
Ooh, yeah.
00:07
(coughs)
00:10
(playful music)
00:14
(bottles sliding)
00:15
Let's take a look at what we got here.
00:17
Ruddy brown color, very consistent.
00:20
Some hot sauces, you'll have more chunks,
00:22
you'll have more body to 'em.
00:23
This looks like it's been blended thoroughly.
00:25
Little seeds here and there, but pretty sparse.
00:29
Seeds would be coming from the chili peppers themselves.
00:32
This guy here, little bit of flecks that could be
00:35
some spice or maybe some black pepper.
00:38
But looks very consistent and uniform.
00:42
Let's see what they smell like.
00:43
(smells sauce)
00:45
Oh. Lots of aroma here.
00:48
Definitely cumin and little hints of chili pepper.
00:52
On this guy,
00:55
not as much going on.
00:56
Smells a little bit like a michelada.
00:58
It seems like the type of thing you'd mix
01:00
with a beer to make a michelada.
01:02
Let's give these a taste.
01:04
(playful music)
01:04
Nice speckling throughout.
01:06
Guessing a bigger variety of ingredients here.
01:09
(playful music)
01:12
Lot's of flavor right off the bat.
01:14
Definitely tasting that cumin, getting onion.
01:18
Nice heat right away at the front of the mouth.
01:20
Pretty mild, but slowly building in heat so I'm guessing
01:24
more than one type of chili pepper in there.
01:26
Different types of pepper is what
01:27
different heat profiles.
01:29
So some might get you right at the tip of your tongue
01:31
and fade quickly.
01:33
Some, like a habanero, will get you at the back
01:35
of the throat.
01:36
And some, like a ghost pepper, take a little bit
01:38
of time to build.
01:39
So I'm guessing there's probably some ghost pepper in here.
01:42
Let's give this guy a try.
01:43
Looks perfectly uniform; it's all one color.
01:46
Seeing very little variation in there.
01:49
(playful music)
01:50
That's very simple and straightforward,
01:52
arrives in one way and it leaves the same way.
01:54
It doesn't stick around for too long.
01:56
When you're buying hot sauce, you're paying for
01:58
two things: the flavor and the heat.
02:00
The capsaicin that's in chili peppers triggers
02:03
this reaction in your brain that actually makes
02:06
your body think that your mouth is on fire.
02:08
So your brain releases all these great chemicals
02:11
and compounds and adrenaline to help you deal
02:13
with the situation it perceives
02:14
as being really dangerous.
02:16
And all that stuff makes you feel great.
02:17
So if I had to guess which one was more expensive
02:20
I would definitely go with the one that has a lot more
02:22
complexity, a lot more depth of flavor, different
02:25
ingredients, and the more expensive chili peppers.
02:28
These ghost peppers tend to be pricier, which is what
02:31
I'm guessing is in there.
02:32
My guess is definitely that A is some more expensive.
02:35
Let's take a look.
02:36
(thrilling music)
02:38
Yep.
02:39
Without a doubt.
02:40
So when you're shopping for a Mexican style sauce,
02:42
definitely check the labels.
02:44
For one, is water an ingredient?
02:46
And water can be okay, but is it right at the top
02:48
of the ingredients list?
02:49
Also, be on the lookout for salt.
02:51
Sometimes with Mexican sauces, they'll use a lot
02:54
of salt to replace some of the other flavors that you
02:56
could otherwise get, and that sodium can add up
02:59
really quickly.
03:00
So just be sure to check the label.
03:01
In terms of color, nice bright color can be really
03:03
attractive, but is it filled with stabilizers
03:06
and artificial preservatives that are
03:08
keeping the color that way?
03:09
For me, I'd prefer something that looks a little
03:11
more natural 'cause it's probably gonna taste
03:13
a little more natural.
03:14
(playful music)
03:16
(bottles sliding)
03:17
All right.
03:18
Lets see what we have here.
03:19
I'm seeing some nice separation here.
03:22
Got a little bit of oils floated to the surface.
03:25
So lots of seeds settled at the bottom.
03:28
Little flecks here and there of something.
03:30
No settling or separation.
03:32
Let's see what they smell like.
03:34
So, gonna shake it up.
03:36
(shakes bottle)
03:37
Especially with these vinegar based sauces where
03:40
you're gonna get some settling, so when you see it
03:41
at the grocery store it might be a little
03:43
clear on the top.
03:45
Totally natural.
03:47
Just know to shake it.
03:50
So aroma wise, it's a vinegar based sauce so you
03:52
definitely pick that up right away.
03:54
But you don't get the burn in the nostrils that you'll get
03:57
with the standard distilled vinegar.
03:58
This has a little more of warmth to it.
04:00
A little more pungency.
04:02
Some types of natural vinegars where it's a little closer
04:05
to the fermentation, you'll get a little bit of that
04:08
funkiness to it, which I think makes it really interesting.
04:12
Let's take a look at this guy here.
04:14
Give it a shake too.
04:15
I'm not sure as necessary here.
04:18
(smells bottle)
04:19
Ummm.
04:20
Sweet aroma. Definitely.
04:23
Getting, yeah, lots of chili pepper smell.
04:27
Smells almost faintly like strawberries.
04:29
I'm curious about the type of pepper in there.
04:31
Let's give these a try.
04:33
(playful music)
04:37
Ummm.
04:38
I love that.
04:39
So taste wise, these vinegar sauces, picking it up
04:42
in the cheeks right away.
04:44
Heat wise, not super hot, not picking up a ton of heat.
04:48
Sweet on the back of the tongue though,
04:50
so that's interesting.
04:52
It's hard to put the finger on exactly what type
04:55
of pepper is in there.
04:55
But nice vinegar tones.
04:57
You can tell it's a quality vinegar in there.
04:59
Let's give this other guy a try.
05:00
(playful music)
05:03
Definitely a lot more saltiness right off the bat.
05:05
You get salt on the tip of the tongue.
05:07
Nice chili peppers though.
05:09
I'm thinking cayenne or anaheim pepper.
05:12
Overall though, the salt kind of dominates the flavor.
05:16
So guessing which of these is more expensive, I'd have
05:19
to go with A on this one.
05:21
Just based on the look of it, I'm guessing it's a smaller
05:23
batch process that went into making this product.
05:26
I can see the ingredients, I see the seeds from the peppers
05:29
that are in there.
05:30
Definitely more nuance tasting the vinegar.
05:33
It's not standard distilled white vinegar.
05:35
It's something with a little more interest to it
05:37
in fermentation that's a little more active.
05:40
The sauce over here, while still really tasty,
05:43
had a lot of salt to it and that always makes me
05:46
a little bit questioning, when I taste a lot of salt
05:49
in a product.
05:50
What's that salt covering up?
05:51
Also, the consistency that we see here, perfectly
05:54
uniform throughout.
05:56
Tells me there's a very commercialized process
05:58
of the types of machinery that they used to make
06:00
a sauce with that type of consistency on the shelf,
06:03
is not something that's really gonna have
06:05
a lot of involvement by hand.
06:07
My guess is that A is more expensive.
06:09
Let's take a look.
06:10
Yep.
06:11
That makes sense.
06:12
So when you're shopping for a vinegar based sauce
06:14
at the grocery store, look at the type of vinegar
06:16
that they're using.
06:17
The most common that we see is distilled white vinegar
06:20
and that's been used for a long time and people use it for
06:22
cleaning around the house and for cooking and preserving.
06:25
Apple cinder vinegar, which I suspect is what's in here,
06:28
has become really popular in the last few years.
06:30
People like it for its supposed health benefits, but I
06:34
really like it for its flavor.
06:35
It has a little more pungency to it.
06:37
A little more funk.
06:38
But vinegar can be fermented from
06:40
all kinds of different things.
06:41
So as you travel around the world, in China they have
06:44
a black vinegar fermented from rice, and in
06:47
South Korea they have persimmon vinegar.
06:49
So all kinds of fun stuff going on.
06:51
So there's a big variety and we're seeing more and more
06:53
hot sauce makers leveraging that variety.
06:56
(playful music)
06:59
(sauce sliding)
07:00
All right.
07:01
Let's take a look at what we have here.
07:03
Rich red color.
07:04
Not a lot of movement at all.
07:06
I can tun it totally upside down
07:08
and it's really taking its time.
07:11
Very uniform consistency throughout.
07:13
Not seeing much of
07:16
anything
07:18
colored here.
07:18
Little flecks of pepper flesh here and there.
07:21
Whereas over here, definitely faster movement.
07:25
And sometimes that can be related to the content
07:28
of the sauce and sometimes also, a lot of hot sauces that
07:31
are out there, you're gonna see artificial thickeners
07:33
or things like xanthan gum, designed to make them
07:36
not more around as much.
07:37
So usually if something is moving pretty easy that
07:40
could be a good sign that it's natural.
07:41
To me, it looks almost creamy.
07:44
And normally when we see that in a hot sauce it's usually
07:46
because there's oil in there and when the oil is whipped
07:50
or blended as part of the sauce making process it'll
07:53
emulsify a little bit and give it this almost creamy
07:56
look to it, that almost always is not dairy.
08:01
Let's see how they smell.
08:03
Definitely getting healthy notes of garlic in there.
08:07
(smells bottle)
08:08
And a little bit of funk.
08:10
Maybe something like a fish sauce,
08:12
or some type of fermentation.
08:15
Almost a little bit of a pickle-y smell.
08:17
Appealing though.
08:19
Whoa. That's different.
08:22
Smells (smells bottle) definitely like peppercorns.
08:27
So not chili peppers themselves, but peppercorns like
08:30
black pepper that we think of that'll have a much
08:31
more floral aroma.
08:33
(smells bottle)
08:34
But really appealing and nice too.
08:36
Let's give them a try.
08:38
(playful music)
08:43
Okay.
08:44
That's sriracha.
08:45
Would know it anywhere.
08:46
(laughs)
08:47
Really tasty.
08:48
So anybody's free to call their sauces sriracha
08:51
and some people will do it as an homage
08:54
to some original sauce.
08:56
Some people do it referencing a place in Thailand.
09:00
And some people do it because that term has become
09:03
so synonymous with hot sauce where they are that they
09:05
thought that that's just what you call hot sauce.
09:07
The classic elements that I picked up in here told me
09:10
right away what this is.
09:11
There's a little bit of pickled flavor paired with the
09:14
overt sweetness and that medium heat, really indicates
09:19
to me that this is sriracha.
09:22
So let's give this other one a try.
09:24
(playful music)
09:27
Ummm.
09:28
Right away, super bright upfront.
09:32
The front...
09:33
Whoa.
09:34
(coughs)
09:35
The front of the mouth getting flavors of lemon and ginger.
09:40
Super floral, this is loaded with those peppercorns.
09:44
And then
09:45
just a hint
09:46
of sweetness towards the back
09:49
and now a heat that is slowly building and building.
09:53
This is actually a pretty hot sauce.
09:55
Really tasty though.
09:57
This is for people who are well-versed in hot sauce
09:59
and who like it at the spicier end of things.
10:02
I might actually have some more of this
10:03
one just to cool off.
10:04
(laughs)
10:05
Hot sauce to cool down.
10:07
I'm thinking Asian for these sauces because of the
10:10
sriracha flavors, the garlic that's in there,
10:13
the pickled flavors, it's a strong indicator.
10:16
And in this sauce, the ginger
10:19
and the very floral
10:20
peppercorns that are in there really give a strong
10:24
Asian vibe to it.
10:25
So definitely considering the amount of heat that
10:28
was in this one.
10:29
The mouth feel, the different types
10:31
of ingredients and aroma.
10:32
Definitely gonna guess that his is the more expensive sauce.
10:35
This one tastes really high quality,
10:38
but a lot of sugar in there.
10:39
It's a little more day-to-day and pedestrian.
10:41
You could use a lot of it so I don't imagine it would be
10:43
too pricey.
10:44
But let's take a look.
10:45
(thrilling music)
10:49
Yeah.
10:49
Definitely more expensive over here.
10:51
Important to keep in mind when evaluating the price
10:53
differences with different things,
10:55
that they each have their place.
10:56
If you wanna go nuts and use a ton of sauce, something
10:58
like this might be a better bet.
11:00
That being said, I imagine that this bottle for $18
11:03
is gonna last you a lot longer than this one over here.
11:05
Because with this sauce you're really only gonna be using
11:07
a small amount at a time.
11:09
When we talk about Asian sauces, we're talking about
11:10
a big geographic area, a lot of different cuisines.
11:13
A lot of different cultures.
11:14
So when you read that ingredients list, there might
11:16
be some things on there that you've never heard of before,
11:18
but it's a really fun area to experiment with.
11:21
(playful music)
11:23
(bottles sliding)
11:25
All right.
11:25
Let's see what we got here.
11:27
This rich brown color and strong consistency tells me
11:30
that we're looking at barbecue hot sauces.
11:33
So taking a look at this one, we see it really is
11:36
sticking in its place.
11:38
Nice and thick.
11:39
Not a bad trait when it comes to
11:41
a barbecue-type sauce like this.
11:43
Pretty even, rich chocolatey brown color throughout.
11:47
Little bits of chili pepper seeds here and there.
11:50
Taking a look at B, some flecks and some
11:53
different coloration.
11:54
Got some different things going on
11:55
so that'll be interesting.
11:56
Body wise, let's see, similar.
11:59
Color wise, it's got kind of a more caramel-y color
12:02
than the other one.
12:04
Getting smoke right away.
12:05
Which is a good sign, that's what you want
12:06
in barbecue.
12:08
Getting almost a bit of a citrus note.
12:10
So maybe something like lime in here, which would
12:13
be nice for a barbecue sauce.
12:15
Nice amount of complexity.
12:17
It smells like there's interesting things going on.
12:20
(playful music)
12:25
That doesn't smell great.
12:27
This one has an interesting smell.
12:29
Can't pick out anything too particular.
12:33
Something faintly
12:36
chemical about it.
12:37
Almost like a room that was painted a couple of weeks ago
12:40
and you walked in there.
12:42
(smells bottle)
12:43
Not the most appetizing smell, but we won't hold that
12:46
against it just yet.
12:47
We'll see what it tastes like.
12:48
But first let's do this A.
12:50
(playful music)
12:55
Wow.
12:57
Lot of flavor going on there.
12:59
Definitely some type of citrus.
13:01
I'm thinking lime.
13:03
Healthy sweetness, almost tamarind type of flavors.
13:07
And then in the back you get the smoke.
13:10
Not a lot of heat.
13:11
Little bit of heat.
13:13
So I'm guessing something like maybe chipotle
13:17
or an ancho chili, something like that.
13:20
Definitely smoked pepper.
13:22
But that citrusy sweet, fruit flavor is a really nice
13:25
balance, a really nice tasting sauce.
13:27
(playful music)
13:29
Let's move on to B here.
13:30
So B,
13:32
you can see,
13:33
kept the shape
13:34
of a droplet.
13:36
Maybe even a bit more stiffness than we want.
13:38
And yeah, it's not going anywhere.
13:41
So that suggests to me, possibly there's
13:44
some additives in here.
13:46
Not due to the process of cooking it down over a long
13:48
period of time like if you made barbecue sauce at home,
13:51
but just more of a chemical way of achieving that effect.
13:55
Let's give it a try.
13:57
(playful music)
14:01
It's like a sweet bomb right away in the mouth.
14:03
It's not feeling quite like natural sugar.
14:05
It feels to me like some type of processed sugar.
14:07
Like the corn syrup or something like that, you can feel
14:11
it a little more towards the back of your throat
14:13
as it's going down.
14:15
Not a ton of flavor overall though, passed pretty quickly.
14:18
In terms of which one I think would be more expensive,
14:20
I'm gonna have to go with the one
14:21
that tasted a lot better.
14:23
I can tell from the taste of it that this one took more
14:27
time, that his one had higher quality ingredients,
14:30
and that a little more care was put into
14:32
the production of it.
14:35
But let's find out.
14:36
(thrilling music)
14:37
Yeah.
14:38
So,
14:39
makes sense to me.
14:41
And if you're going to the trouble of doing something
14:43
like barbecue, let's say you're gonna be smoking some
14:46
ribs or something like that.
14:47
To me it's worthwhile to spend a little bit extra
14:49
to complement that with some amazing flavors
14:52
that your guests are definitely gonna appreciate.
14:54
First with something like this, which feels a lot more
14:57
fast food, almost store bought, whereas this tastes
15:01
like the quality of homemade.
15:02
This sauce seems really reminiscent of
15:04
a Texas style barbecue and they share a lot of the same
15:08
chili's that we'll see from Mexico.
15:10
So,
15:11
jalapenos,
15:12
serranos,
15:14
poblanos,
15:15
a natural wood smoke is always gonna be the best.
15:17
Some less expensive products, you'll see with the
15:19
artificial smoke.
15:20
I suspect that's what's happening here.
15:22
And that's where a smoke distillate, just like from
15:25
a jar, little liquid smoke is added to give it
15:29
the flavor, but it never comes across the same way
15:31
as when the chili's themselves are smoked using
15:34
real hardwood.
15:36
(playful music)
15:39
(sliding bottles)
15:40
Let's see here.
15:42
Dark color, seeing a couple of seeds.
15:45
Otherwise, pretty uniform throughout.
15:48
Let's take a look at this guy.
15:50
So, this one is what we'd call pepper dense.
15:53
You can really see that there's a lot of pepper in here.
15:55
I'd expect that pepper would be the number one ingredient.
15:59
This looks like somebody just mashed up some peppers
16:01
and put them in a bottle.
16:02
Let's see how they smell.
16:04
(playful music)
16:05
Getting some nice nostril burn.
16:08
(smells bottle)
16:08
Mild sweetness almost.
16:10
Definitely smells very hot.
16:13
When you're smelling a super hot sauce, which I'm expecting
16:17
this is, you'll get that
16:19
feeling in the nostrils right away.
16:21
The nose tells you that the pepper wants to warn you
16:23
that it's hot.
16:24
(smells bottle)
16:26
Peppers develop capsaicin as a defense mechanism
16:29
so that animals wouldn't eat them.
16:30
Specifically mammals, because mammals have teeth and molars
16:35
and will chew up the seed.
16:36
So peppers don't wanna be eaten up by mammals because
16:39
then their seeds are destroyed.
16:40
Interestingly birds aren't affected by the heat in
16:43
chili peppers at all because peppers actually wanna
16:46
be eaten by birds because birds don't have teeth
16:48
so they'll ingest the seeds.
16:50
And then they'll fly away, crap them out somewhere
16:52
into a nice little pile of fertilizer and the pepper
16:55
then spread its domain that way and its offspring.
16:59
So the capsaicin in the chili peppers
17:01
is a natural defense mechanism.
17:04
So let's take a look at B.
17:06
(smells bottle)
17:07
Ooh yeah.
17:09
So that has just chili pepper scent up-and-down.
17:13
This smells like somebody just cut open a super hot pepper.
17:16
It's a really distinct, nostril burning,
17:20
kind of acerbic type of smell.
17:23
(smells bottle)
17:24
Almost a citrus undertone to it.
17:26
Interesting.
17:27
A bit scared to try these two, but glad we saved
17:30
them for last.
17:31
I'm only gonna take a little bit so don't judge me.
17:34
(playful music)
17:37
(coughs)
17:40
That's...
17:43
That does not taste good.
17:45
Tastes like a car just did a burn out and you took
17:49
a bite of the tire.
17:51
The heat's spreading on the tongue.
17:53
This is a really, very hot sauce.
17:56
(breathes)
17:58
Can I yell cut or...
18:00
(laughs)
18:02
That water made it worse.
18:06
I should have known.
18:07
Yeah.
18:08
Flavor wise, leaves a lot to be desired.
18:11
This is kind of what I would call a prank sauce.
18:14
It's what you'd use to pull a trick on a buddy when
18:18
you're in college.
18:19
Not really food.
18:21
Nobody would (breathes) buy this for (breathes)
18:24
nutrition or sustenance or flavor.
18:27
Got a little tear going.
18:30
So that's fun.
18:32
So a level of heat in there, flavor, is telling me
18:36
that's not a lot of chilies.
18:39
It's telling me there's extracts in there.
18:42
Extracts are a chemical distillation of the capsaicin
18:44
compound so it's normally a clear substance that you can
18:48
use to add to a sauce to add a lot of heat without
18:52
adding any flavor.
18:53
I'm not a big fan.
18:55
If you couldn't tell.
18:57
Let's check out the other sauce.
18:59
(suspenseful music)
19:02
Whoa.
19:04
That is
19:05
very sweet,
19:07
not sugary at all, but sweet on the tip of the tongue.
19:11
Like a fruit almost.
19:14
Keeping in mind that peppers are fruits, so confirming
19:18
what I thought,
19:19
that this is a really pepper dense sauce.
19:22
This particular sweetness and the level of heat
19:24
that I'm getting from it have heat that starts
19:27
in the center of the tongue is spreading outwards,
19:30
spreading outwards, down the shoulders.
19:33
The sweetness and the heat profile make me suspect
19:37
pretty strongly that this is a Carolina Reaper base sauce.
19:40
Carolina Reaper was bade the hottest pepper in the world
19:46
in the Guinness Book of Records in 2013.
19:48
Developed by a pepper breeder named Smokin' Ed Currie
19:52
down in South Carolina.
19:53
He named it the Carolina Reaper and often times
19:55
it will have this very sweet, fruity profile to it.
19:59
Nice flavor, but lingering burning heat.
20:01
I'm still feeling it quite hot on the tongue.
20:04
Not in a way that feels like I regret my decisions.
20:08
If I had to guess which one of these was more expensive,
20:11
I would definitely say it's the sauce that's full of
20:15
natural peppers.
20:16
Peppers cost money, and this sauce is full of them.
20:21
So, knowing what I know about peppers and the way
20:24
that sauces are made, this sauce is primarily peppers
20:27
with a density that it looks like, I'd say there's at least
20:32
20 whole peppers
20:34
in here.
20:35
Over here is definitely extract, and with that stuff,
20:39
a little goes a long way.
20:40
They used a little more than a little, so I don't think
20:43
this stuff is going free either.
20:45
Let's find out.
20:46
(suspenseful music)
20:48
Yeah.
20:50
That makes sense.
20:52
High quality, delicious chili peppers with tons of heat.
20:58
They're gonna have a certain cost.
21:00
Whatever this was is gonna have a different cost.
21:04
In my opinion, hot sauce should always
21:07
be thought of as food.
21:10
We like to say food that goes on food.
21:13
And food has to have good flavor so I'm never gonna
21:17
approach a sauce that doesn't have good flavor as
21:21
the first check mark on my list because otherwise
21:24
I'm not gonna wanna put it on my food.
21:26
So when you're at the grocery store looking for a
21:28
super hot sauce, though to be honest you're not
21:31
going to find anything like either of these two
21:32
at a normal grocery store.
21:34
When you're at a specialty hot sauce shop looking for
21:36
a super hot sauce, read the ingredients lists.
21:39
Your super hot pepper should absolutely be
21:41
the number one thing on that ingredients list.
21:45
So some super hot peppers to look for would be
21:47
things like Carolina Reaper that I think is in here.
21:52
The ghost pepper is a popular one,
21:55
the moruga scorpion pepper, Pepper X.
21:58
There's a good variety of them.
21:59
Things you wanna avoid in my opinion are gonna be
22:02
extracts, so on labels you'll see them listed as something
22:06
like oleoresin extract, capsaicin extract, things like that.
22:11
Something that suggests that it's not whole nice
22:14
peppers that are going into that bottle.
22:16
(playful music)
22:19
When you thinking about hot sauce and thinking about
22:22
spending a little more, $10 or $12 dollar on a bottle
22:24
of hot sauce, think about how much value you're going
22:25
to get out of that and if it's going to sit in your
22:28
fridge for two or three months and you might get
22:30
20 or 30 or 40 meals out of it.
22:32
So it's worth investing in some better ingredients,
22:35
some fresher, higher quality product.
22:38
(upbeat music)