Experienced cooks know people’s tastes for hot sauce brands can be very personal. As in, “Let-me-tell-you-sumpin’,“ poke in the chest personal. This is the reason why it’s a good idea to have an assortment of popular hot sauces in your kitchen. It won’t shut up the snobs, but they’ll quiet down a little.

It’s not unusual for people to list a few obscure hot sauces made from exotic plants available only on the other side of the world (from wherever you are) or on mountain peaks that are too treacherous for mountain goats or American Ninja Warrior contestants to climb.

The one hot sauce topic people seem to be constantly obsessed with is the hottest hot sauce ever in the world. Hot sauce aficionados (yes, they exist) will bicker about what sauce is the hottest. They will speak in tongues, using words like “capsaicin” and “Scoville scale.”

Every kitchen needs these six sauces on hand, all the time

So, to keep everybody happy, here is a list of the 6 hot sauces every cook needs in their kitchen. With these selections, I am referring to their original flavors, not the fancy-pants flavors they added to their lineups.

And, if I didn’t mention your favorite sauce, it’s because I hate you. So, take it really, really personally.

  1. Tabasco from Louisiana. This is the original hot sauce in the United States. Started in the 1830’s, Tabasco is the old stand-by for any kitchen. You must have this in your kitchen, no excuses.

  2. Frank’s RedHot Sauce is another iconic brand and dates back to the 1920’s. It’s not going to impress your gourmand aunt, but it will make your hipster relatives happy because it’s standard, blue collar-ish and, therefore, trendy.

  3. Tapatio sauce is the quintessential Mexican hot sauce of eggs. Parents will reach for Tapatio just as quickly as their kids will grab the ketchup.

  4. Sriracha is also known as the “rooster sauce” or “chicken sauce.” You can’t miss the bottle, it will have a large rooster on the bottle.

  5. Cholula was named after the oldest city in North America, Cholula, Mexico.

  6. Nam Prik is the new kid on the block. The cool thing about this sauce is it’s so new, you will look cool as you tell people about its amazing powers. They will be equally impressed with the story about how you discovered it at a beer festival in Southern California. Before you know it, you’ll be known as the hipster in the family.

How to use the hot sauce, remember it’s a sauce, not a food group

Hot sauce should be added sparingly to food.

Adding the sauce is supposed to enhance the taste of the food, not kill it. Add a little and taste it, try to get it to the point where you can barely make out the small difference in the food. Stop when you can taste the difference. If people want more they can add it on their own.

Spicing up the holidays

Incorporating hot sauces into the cooking of foods allows the spices to meld with the food and give the meal a persistent spiciness.

Here are a few ways you can add the hot sauces to your food.

  • When cooking a turkey, add the sauce on top the turkey. As the bird cooks, the juices will mix with the sauce in the bottom of the pan. When you baste the turkey, the sauces will be evenly mixed.
  • Add a drop or two into side dishes, especially potato salad or casserole type food.
  • Mix it in with any dishes made with eggs.
  • Split gravy into two dishes and create a spicy gravy for the turkey.
  • Add the spice to butter for a little extra zip to baked or mashed potatoes.
  • Add a few drops to your holiday meatball appetizers, then have a sweet sauce for dipping. The sweet of the sauce and the spiciness play well together.

Remember, hot sauces are about livening up food, not chasing people away. Use the sauce sparingly and leave the bottle out for your more adventurous guests.