Have you ever done something crazy that you were really excited about right up until the moment you were about to do it? At the last second the absurdity of your forthcoming action hits you and you realize, “This might be really stupid. Why the heck am I doing this?!?”
That was me Saturday night as I stared down 10 bottles of hot sauce ranging from mild to hot enough to singe one’s skin.
The idea was inspired by the popular YouTube show Hot Ones. The premise: the interviewer, Sean Evans, brings in a celebrity (ranging from athletes to rappers to actors to TV stars, etc.) and asks him or her 10 questions. Before each question, both he and the guest eat a wing covered in a hot sauce. Each sauce gets progressively hotter, and by the last few the guest is typically sweating, crying and/or cursing. The interviews are captivating, but it’s the reaction to the sauces that makes the show such a hit.
A few weeks ago, it became a goal of mine to take on the challenge myself. I wanted to experience what those brave guests did. And I love spicy food. It couldn’t be that bad, right?
The problem was acquiring the sauces. Ordering all 10 off Amazon would be expensive. A few, like Sriracha and Tabasco, are readily available at local grocery stores, but finding the hotter sauces could be problematic.
But fate finds a way. To celebrate the channel reaching 1,000,000 subscribers, Hot Ones flew out super fan and Lincoln native Brett Baker to turn the tables on Sean and interview him. The episode was fantastic, and I tweeted to Brett that he did a great job. That sparked a conversation that led to Brett telling me he had all the sauces and would be happy to lend them to me.
The dream was really going to happen.
I grabbed a dozen naked wings from N Zone (and kudos to them for some massive, tasty wings), borrowed the sauces from Brett (who couldn’t be a nicer guy) and tried to mentally prepare myself for the fiery assault that would soon raging through my insides. This was either going to be a great experience or a night of painful regret.
Naked N Zone Wings
There were warning signs. The reactions of the celebrities on YouTube showed me what was coming. I texted a few friends about joining me and got some, “Are you insane? NOPE” replies. But I wouldn’t be deterred. This was happening.
Pain level: 0
Things started off quite peacefully. I love Sriracha and already put it on a lot of stuff I eat already. In fact, I’ve been playfully ribbed at the office about the gigantic bottle I keep on my desk for lunch. I might have a problem. Regardless, this was an easy introduction and made for a great wing.
Pain level: 0
Like Sriracha, there’s nothing new here. I’ve had Tabasco plenty of times and find it to be a great pizza topping. I was always confused why the show went with Sriracha first because I think it’s hotter than Tabasco, but that’s beside the point. No issues so far.
Pain level: 2
This was one of my least favorite sauces. It actually surprised me with the amount of heat it brought, but it still wasn’t too bad. The flavor is basically your run-of-the-mill green salsa served at any Mexican restaurant.
This is where the effects start to take hold. The heat is lingering in my mouth, although it’s just a pleasant burn at this point. My nose is starting to run pretty good. Still in good shape, though.
Queen Majesty Red Habanero & Black Coffee Sauce
Pain level: 3
I think this was my favorite of all the sauces. There’s definitely heat present, but it’s not overpowering. And the flavor is fantastic – the coffee notes are immediately pleasant, and it pairs nicely with the vinegar. There are ground-up onions, red peppers, ginger roots and habaneros in here. Reading the back label is like taking a trip through a garden.
At this point, I’m thoroughly enjoying myself. This is fun.
Hot Ones Spicy Chipotle
Pain level: 3
Another great sauce. The heat doesn’t overwhelm the Chipotle flavor. I had to order 12 wings from N Zone and used only 10 for this exercise. Once the challenge was complete, I covered the final two with this sauce and the Queen Majesty because they were the most enjoyable.
I’m at that point now that so many guests reach on the show. I’m getting cocky. I’m halfway through and I feel great. I’m gonna rock this challenge, no problem.
This overconfidence isn’t going to serve me well.
Bravado Spice Co. Ghost Pepper and Blueberry
Pain level: 2
This seems like a really odd flavor combination, but somehow it works. Blueberries are delicious, and that flavor is really strong here. There’s some ghost pepper heat present, but it takes a back seat to the blueberries, making for a tasty sauce.
Now I’m really getting arrogant. I’m 60 percent of the way through and by the time I apply the sauce to the next wing and take the photo, my mouth is actually cooling down. I’ve got this in the bag.
Pain level: 3
I’m wary because this is the point in the show where most of the guests start to lose it. This sauce definitely has some bite, but it’s not too bad. I actually like the tomatoe-y flavor a bit.
But this sauce is a significant step up in heat. My nose is fully engaged now, and I’m running through Kleenexes like Skip Bayless dispenses terrible sports opinions. Game on.
Da Bomb Beyond Insanity
Pain level: 10
NOPE NOPE NOPE. This is one of the worst things my taste buds have come in contact with. There is virtually no flavor. The heat just takes over everything, immediately tossing a spice grenade into the esophagus. Do not for any reason ever ingest this poison. This is your warning.
This challenge is officially not fun anymore. My tongue feels like its swollen and I’m literally panting just to try and cool down. This is the one moment where I actually start sweating, and my mouth is producing saliva at an unnatural level. I take my first swigs of water, which provides a momentary release before the fire returns with a vengeance. I hate this sauce so much.
Mad Dog 357
Pain level: 8.5
I take a good five minutes to recover from Da Bomb, and though my body is in pure agony, I know I must press on. There are two sauces hotter than that? This is troubling.
Luckily, Mad Dog 357 is not only in my opinion a slight step down in heat, but it’s delicious. The first flavor that hits your mouth is vinegar, and it works. I feel borderline crazy saying this, but I actually like this sauce. I’ll likely purchase some just to put on normal foods.
The trick with Mad Dog 357 is it’s a late-arriving burn. For the first 15 seconds, there’s not much heat. You’re lured into a fall sense of security, and then the sauce attacks, assaulting your tongue and the tip of your throat with a burning sensation. My lips have taken on a weird feeling – they oddly feel cold, and while they’re not fully numb, I don’t have full ability to use them. This needs to end soon.
Blair’s Mega Death With Liquid Rage
Pain level: 8
The final test has the most intimidating name on the roster. There’s a warning on the bottle to use sparingly and not without dilution. Three of the first four ingredients on the label are habanero peppers, cayenne peppers and pepper extract. Great.
To my pleasant surprise, the flavor is awesome. I actually think it tastes great. Then the heat assault arrives. I’ve become a full-on mouth breather at this point, as each inhale brings a momentary relief. I’m involuntary clearing my voice every 10 seconds or so, and it feels like the back of my throat has been seized by a fiery paw.
Proof that the bones were cleaned – no wasting delicious wings here.
But the challenge is complete! And I managed to do it without milk, the ultimate cooling liquid. The aftermath isn’t nearly as bad as I expected. After about five minutes, a quiet burn still exists in my mouth, but my saliva production is back to normal levels and I’m able to simply breathe through my nose again. After a final few Kleenexes meet their end, I return to equilibrium. About two hours later, my stomach experiences some intermittent pangs of pain, and I can only imagine what the battery acid I just ingested is doing to my stomach lining. But that subsides after about an hour, and then I’m (seemingly) in the clear.
For the most part, this challenge was really fun and I enjoyed it. I was exposed to some new hot sauces that I’ll probably purchase in the near future. I never contemplated quitting, though I did question my sanity after the Da Bomb wing. That sauce is seriously the devil.
Though I liked this experience and would totally do it again, I do not recommend it for the average human. I don’t mean to come across as a braggart, but my ability to handle spicy food is pretty strong. I heap hot sauce on just about anything I can find, and the end of this was a struggle for me. If you dig the heat, sure, give this a go. But if you have any trepidation about hot food, skip this. It’s not for you. Instead, just watch the show and gloat over other people’s suffering. It’s far more enjoyable than getting within 10 feet of Da Bomb sauce.