Hello again everyone, if you like hot sauce and you’re on the internet, you may well already know what I’m going to talk about today.
Described as “The show with hot questions and even hotter wings.”, this unusually high production youtube series is becoming very popular.
It’s no surprise, either. It’s a blend of celebrity interviews and chilli challenges, which means it’s not just people suffering anymore. It’s big names. People that many secretly envy.
Of course the internet wants to see celebrities in pain. Bunch of sadists that they are.
But here’s the thing: The wings aren’t hot just to get a reaction. They’re hot to get an honest reaction. One that comes fast and from the heart, while the mind is too busy thinking about survival to consider any more “political” wording, say.
And, in that sense, the wing challenge isn’t just a gimmick. It’s a way to keep things real.
But there’s a little more to it than meets the eye.
Rather than just going straight in to the extreme heats of heavyweight extract sauces like Da Bomb’s Beyond Insanity or Blair’s Mega Death, the show starts with milder things like Sriracha, Valentina or Tabasco. Things that people know. Things that the audience can relate to. Things that provide a sense of scale as the reactions escalate.
Yet that’s not the only reason for the show’s ten wings of ascending heat.
As well as relatability, there’s also the matter of safety, in that Sean Evans, the host, knows nothing about the celebrity’s heat tolerances going in and exceeding them too drastically right away could cause more than just pain, sweat and reddening.
And then there’s the sense of comradery.
By starting his guests off mild, Sean eases them into the show, following these weaker sauces up with bold and fancy flavours for them to enjoy in the middle range. And he’s eating along with them every step of the way. Interviewer and interviewee going bite for bite the whole way up.
If you’ve ever introduced someone to a new food or shared a great meal with a friend, you know how much of a bonding experience that is. That’s what gets the star on Sean’s side. That’s why they don’t hate him by the end. And that, if you ask me, is where the show’s own heart really shines through.
But the fact that guests are in pain does, unavoidably, make the show just a little bit sweary and the uncensored honesty means that topics of violence and drug use do occassionally crop up in conversation. As such, I’m going to have to give the show an age rating of
Some might see those aspects of the show as downsides but I don’t. They don’t really bother me.
I do have a couple of little criticisms, though.
First, the network that produces it, First We Feast, may be a food network but its roots are in rap culture. Something that comes through in the guest list a little more than I’d like, even if they do also feature the odd boxer, celebrity chef, boyband member or sci-fi movie star.
Not that I have a particular issue with rappers. It’s just not my nerdy scene and, while Hot Ones makes for an amazing introduction to celebrities, I’d appreciate a broader spectrum with, hopefully, a couple more who actually mean something to me, rather than just Neil deGrasse Tyson.
And second, while they do a stunningly good job of catering to vegetarian, vegan and lactose intolerant guests without making a big deal out of it, there is one aspect of that that bothers me. The almond milk.
Milk is well documented in its chilli relief properties but water is not and water infused with nuts is still basically just water. Passing almond “milk” off as sweet salvation is just cruel.
In the end, though, it’s well worth watching and I tune in every thursday to do so.
But that’s not where you want this post to finish. If I know the chilli community, you want me to produce a list of my own. Ten sauces to fire up my wings as though I was running my very own UK version of the show, comprised almost entirely of products I’ve reviewed on this site. Here goes:
#1 – Hot Plot Chilli Co’s T.N.T. (1.5/10): It’s little known but it’s well branded, sweet and sticky, with a great balance of smoke and berry. It’s delicious and definitely deserving of some exposure. No big deal in heat but far more of one in flavour.
#2 – Frank’s Red Hot (2.5/10): Going completely the oposite direction, here’s a savoury, quite vinegary sauce that’s practically the go to for chicken wings. It’s not something I’ve reviewed due to how well known it already is but that makes it ideal as a reference point.
#3 – Chilli Pepper Pete’s Dragon’s Blood Hot Fruity Sauce (3/10): Starting to get a little hotter, this one is a slight twist on classic mango habanero sauces, adding scotch bonnet for flavour. Hot Ones loves to have something fruity in the middle and I think this fits perfectly. Expect a full review of it in a couple of months.
#4 – The Chilli Alchemist’s Smoke Potion Magnum Opus (4/10): This wing was a real toss up between The Screaming Chimp’s Original sauce and the honey bourbon barbecue one I eventually went with. Both are excellent sauces but the real tiebreaker was what came next.
#5 – Encona’s Reaper Sauce (4.5/10): Practically a ketchup, I still wanted this one in because it’s a milder introduction to superhot peppers and a mainstream brand that’ll again help viewers relate. It’s also a pretty good sauce but it couldn’t follow the equally tomatoey Screaming Chimp one.
#6 – The FBI’s Ball Breaker by The Chilli Pepper Company (5.5/10): Just like Sean himself seems to, I really appreciate something super that can incorporate fruit without becoming a sweet sauce. This one still makes the best use of bell peppers and strawberries out of anything I’ve come across.
#7 – Ashley Foods’ Mad Dog Reaper Sriracha (6/10): A sriracha that actually is a big deal, heatwise, but isn’t nearly as sweet as others. For me this marks the tipping point. The last sauce that I could enjoy on a regular basis.
#8 – CaJohn’s Hydra (8/10): Decent and a rare chilli but sadly more filler than anything. I needed an 8 heat to bridge the gap between Mad Dog and a true range topper.
#9 – Hot Headz’ Trinidad Scorpion sauce (10/10): A natural range topper on par with South Devon Chilli Farm’s Reaper sauce but significantly better tasting and easier to pour onto wings. This was the other one of the two that set my scale and its heat comes with an acidic, almost orangey chilli flavour.
#10 – Chilli Pepper Pete’s Dragon’s Blood Original (14/10): The name, the legend, often regarded as one of the UK’s hottest sauces and perfect for the final spot. Officially, this sauce is hotter than the Mega Death that rounded off Hot Ones’ platter for the first three seasons. It tastes a good bit milder than it rates, though, probably placing it around the same heat. It’s got an ok flavour to it but I chose it over the better tasting, “Ultra Hot” version just for that.