Monday, February 28, 2011

Insane Chicken Hot Sauces -- 3 of 'Em -- Insane Chicken Fire Roasted Habanero, Cluckin' Hot, and Choke Your Chicken

Insane Chicken Fire Roasted Habanero -- 9 Wide
I have wanted to try the "Chicken" Sauces for a while, but haven't stirred myself to do it, so it was just as well that Chris McCarthy at Insane Chicken sent me 3 of these sauces recently. Got no more excuses! Requisite silly graphics aside, these are 3 fairly hot sauces representing 3 distinct flavor categories, Fire Roasted Habanero, Ghost Pepper, and Peri Peri Pepper, with some additional flavors and ingredients that set them apart. This review is especially fun since the FRH is the Scovie 1st place award winner in the Extreme Sauce with Pepper Extract Category, which is also a little intimidating considering what happened to a judge at one competition recently when he came off 2nd best in an encounter with another extract including sauce. Never fear, the FRH is hot but accessible, and it's also really, really ... well, you'll just have to read on!

You ought to check out their website -- they sell not only their own sauces but those of others as well and there are reviews and other interesting bits of info.

These 3 sauces are all hot enough so my usual straight-up, 1/8 or 1/4 TSP to the tongue method allows for a distracting kick that masks whichever sauce comes after in the tasting rotation, as you might expect of sauces that include pepper extracts, which these do. OK, they won't hurt you, much, or me anyway, but they will let you know you put something pretty hot in your mouth. But I did the straight-up, in-the-mouth with the sauce test anyway, because, hey, we're all real hot sauce guys, and, well, because I could.

Insane Chicken Choke Your Chicken -- How To Label
Regular Insane Chicken Fire Roasted Habanero has a great nose, vinegary/spicy/citrus sweet with an almost smoky roasted overlay that is very pleasant, interesting, and inviting. On the tongue, the first impression is of lime and pepper with a little oniony sweetness, fading to a classic habanero needle-like heat with just a touch of sweet and that background roasted smokiness. The texture is just a little thick with some suspended bits. Directly on the tongue, the heat overpowers the flavor, but that isn't true with food, since I am able to use more than enough for good flavor, as I did with a chicken sandwich, a big juicy pork burger with lots of stuff on it, chicken wings, deep-fried catfish and salsa. It was good with all of them. I missed having more habanero flavor, but the roasted pepper quality came through, and habanero, aside from the heat, is a very subtle and mild flavor that won't survive a lot of other strongly flavored ingredients. I like this stuff a lot and intend to keep some aroundHighly Recommended.

Choke Your Chicken ... Go Ahead! Sorry, couldn't resist! Anyway, CYC Peri Peri Sauce has a recipe similar to that of the others with vinegar being a principal ingredient, but distinguishes itself with molasses, herbs, spices, and tomato, as well as red wine, as opposed to a white or distilled vinegar.It also has a strong oregano/red wine vinegar nose that makes me think of Italian Salad Vinaigrette, and it is at first bright and a little Jalapeno-bitter to the tongue with a tomato thickness to the texture, some heat, and fading to a milder heat with some acidity. I tried it on a number of the foods I used for the Fire Roasted Habanero, and while it was OK and added some heat and flavor, it didn't work as well for me, probably because of the jalapeno bitterness and lack of assertiveness, except for the Oregano herbiness, in the other ingredients. I'm not sure I like the red wine vinegar which seems overpowering.  Can't recommend it.

Insane Chicken Cluckin' Hot
Insane Chicken's Cluckin' Hot I like better -- it's very similar in ingredients to the CYC, no Jalapeno, but Ghost Pepper instead, which gives the sauce a Habanero-like heat, no overt Oregano flavor, but still with the aroma of  the red wine vinegar. It's not gonna kill you, Ghost Pepper or not, and while it is hotter than the Peri Peri CYC, it can still be tasted out of a spoon. OK, the nose is a smoky(?)/red wine vinegary pleasant one, and the tongue confirms that with the addition of the Hab-like heat of the Ghost Pepper and pepper extract with an herby acid finish and some lingering pepper heat. Very nice. Good sweet/sour/salty/hot balance. I again tried this sauce on all of the foods mentioned above, and it did very well. Especially good on the chicken! You should be glad I just spared you a chicken joke. The ingredients for this sauce are quite similar to those for the CYC above, but the result is very different. Funny how that works. Recommended.

So my preference is in order, Fire Roasted Habanero, Cluckin' Hot, and Choke Your Chicken. I would consider them all in the greater Louisiana-style hot sauce family, with the bright acid vinegar predominance, but still more useful, complex and interesting than many such. And for me, although they are not too far apart in heat, the hottest is the Fire Roasted Habanero, after that the Ghost Pepper (Cluckin' Hot), and then the Peri Peri (Choke Your Chicken) -- odd -- you would think the Ghost Pepper would be hotter...

Did I say that I do like that Fire Roasted Habanero?

Next week I've got 2 2011 Scovie Award winning sauces from Sizzlin Sauces out of Conway, NH, the #1 finisher in the Habanero category, Spittin Fire Sauce, and the number 1 finisher in the Louisiana Style category, Papa Jack's Buffalo Hot Sauce. I can tell you that I've tried them, and ...

Stay Tuned!

Yours in Heat and Flavor,


Photo Credits: Insane Chicken,, reverse order.

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