In the world of grilling and cooking, there is nothing better than the perfect sauce to complement a meat or vegetable. Brown, white, tomato-based, and herbal sauces, have been around since the Middle Ages, when people figured out a way to infuse flavors in mixtures of olive oil and salt. However, the history of man’s most feisty condiment, hot sauce, is quite different. Dating back to the 8th century Mayans, hot sauce has been man’s spiciest companion for longer than any other sauce ever made.
What makes a hot sauce “hot”
The ingredient that makes hot sauces different from one another is the type of pepper used for the sauce. There may be add-ons that some cooks like to use, such as oil and laced vinegar, but these are secondary ingredients that should not take away the natural essence that the pepper brings to the table.
The measurement tool that determines the level of hotness or spiciness in a pepper is called the Scoville Heat Unit scale. The higher the SHU rating, the hotter the sauce. So, get ready to hear about the godfather of the Scoville rating: The Carolina Reaper sauce.
Meet the King of Heat: The Carolina Reaper
Look no further than the Carolina Reaper sauce when searching for the hottest sauce on the planet. The South Carolina native is a hybrid that surpassed the Moruga Scorpion as the world’s hottest chili pepper.
It is known to reach over 2,200,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) -yes, 2.2 million of them- and it is produced as a hot sauce by the PuckerButt Pepper Company. This sauce comes from the hottest peppers of the bunch as per the Guinness World Record in 2012, so it is certifiably going to burn your insides if you are not careful.
The Carolina Reaper chili pepper does not occur naturally. It is a hybrid, which means that it is a cross between two varietals. The Reaper is a combination of the Red Habanero from the West Indies and the Pakistani Naga, or Naga Morish, which can also be found in India and Bangladesh. The “naga viper” as it is also known, is notorious in popular culture among those who compete in tolerance competitions. As of 2011, it was considered the hottest pepper on the planet.
Why even create a Reaper pepper?
Grower Ed Currie, from South Carolina, did not just wake up one day with a child-like curiosity to cross-breed two chili peppers. His goal was more serious than that, and it was done with every intention of breaking a world record.
The hybridization was tested in Winthrop University, and it bore the scientific name of HP22B. Coming out at 2.2 million heat (Scoville) units, it became an easy contender for the title of hottest pepper on earth. The record breaking title was official in 2012 and, to this day, no other hot pepper comes close in terms of Scoville Heat Units. This pepper’s name is even registered and can only be used in full by the growers: The Smokin’ Ed’s Carolina Reaper®.
Compared to the jalapeno pepper, which is more universally known and consumed, the Carolina Reaper would be up to 850 times hotter. However, there is no way to confuse these peppers. The Carolina Reaper is bright red, stumpy, round, and small. It features bumpy skin texture and a peculiar “tail” that resembles that of a scorpion pepper, which is a close relative of it.
When reaping the peppers, be sure to have gloves on, as well as a good holding dish to keep the peppers contained and separated from other people in your kitchen. The level of spice is quite high, and it can penetrate the skin.
This type of sauce is for the true spice aficionado. It has a clean finish and a lingering burn. Expect your typical Reaper sauce to be a bright red color with seeds showing. Unless it has been laced with extra flavors to enhance it or make it more marketable, just wait for a thicker, red, spicy all-around sauce.
The sauce also shows a trace of sweetness that is typical of all kinds of peppers. Do not expect a “sugary” type of sweetness, but a bold detour from the pure heat that may soften the blow for a fragment of a second, allowing you to appreciate the taste of the pepper in its normal form.
The Carolina Reaper Sauce Recipe
Now that you are familiar with how to measure their level of heat, let’s go ahead and make the hottest hot sauce there is: the Carolina Reaper sauce.
- A cooking space with ventilation, preferably an open window! The Reaper fumes are real, so be very careful not to come in contact with them.
- 3 pair gloves. I recommend the plastic, school cafeteria gloves for food handling because they slide out easily and won’t splatter trying to take them off.
- Face mask
- Eye wear (preferably goggles)
- Food processor
- Paring knife, or a sharp cutting knife (dull knives may run the risk of splattering the pepper while cutting.
- Sterilized bottles, or just glass bottles
All of these are items are necessary for the production of Reaper sauce. Do not take this hot sauce for granted, nor compare it to other sauces. It is much hotter and If this is your first time, please protect yourself from potential allergies.
Ingredients for the sauce:
- 6-8 Carolina Reaper peppers
- 1 cup vinegar of choice
- ½ cup olive oil
- Pink Himalayan salt to taste
- 1 garlic clove, crushed
- ¼ onion, finely chopped
Preparing the peppers:
Use 6-8 peppers, for around 6 to 8 ounces total. Cut out the top of the peppers. Leave the seeds. Spray the peppers lightly with spray butter. Poke holes on the peppers using a pin-sized needle. You can also opt to slice them or cut them in halves.
Preparing the other items:
You may use olive oil to sauté garlic and onions until they are lightly charred or transparent. Transfer them to a container and pat them dry from oil. Add salt to taste.
Set the oven to 300 degrees. Bake the peppers for about 15 minutes until lightly charred. Keep windows open and continue to protect yourself from fumes. Add all ingredients to your food processor and process until you reach the texture (chunky, crushed) that you want. Drain out any extra liquid.
To pulp or not to pulp?
If you want a very chunky sauce that you can scoop out, leave the pulp. You can still keep a high level of spice if you drain the pulp and leave the juice and seeds in the mixture. Let the flavors combine.
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Carolina Reaper Sauce Recipe
What do I eat this with?
Reaper sauce is so hot, that one of the best ways to enjoy it is with a cheesy, milky dish that will ease the process of digestion.
I have tried it on:
- Fettuccini Alfredo
- mac and cheese
- baked potatoes
- clam chowder
- chicken and dumplings
- broccoli cheese soup
- black beans – this is by far the best combination ever
- Mixed with hickory BBQ sauce for an extra kick
And, yes, I have added a dash of it to sweet potato pie. It is interesting.
Mainly, if you are going to incorporate Carolina Reaper peppers in a dish, the best way to do it is by small batches, and tasting it along the way. You do not want a sauce so spicy that nobody can enjoy.
However, if you are a heavy-duty consumer of heat, go ahead and pour the sauce away on hot wings, chicken, burgers, steaks and ribs. Just be sure to not touch your eyes or other parts of your body while you are eating. Another good practice is to consistently wipe off your fingers if you are holding chicken wings or ribs, to avoid any accidents caused by the level of heat of the sauce.
So, making the sauce is the easy part. The hard part is understanding what hot sauces are made with, and how hot they can get, is the part that requires practice in order to get experience.
As cooks, we are the go-to source to people who ask us how to pair up dishes with sauces, and whatnot. Be sure to experiment and be willing to get burned a couple of times to get the true experience. Have a recipe you want to share? Sound off in the comments section!