Hell Fire Detroit Habanero Hot Sauce is aptly named. There’s a lot of burn here – both in overall heat and fire-smoked habanero flavor. But does it fall into the heat trap that happens with some high heat sauces – too much spiciness without a bold enough flavor to match? How balanced is it? And how versatile in the kitchen? Let’s see how Hell Fire stacks up.
Hell Fire Detroit Habanero Hot Sauce has one of the easier to digest (no pun intended) ingredient lists out there: Fire-roasted habanero peppers, apple cider vinegar, sea salt, distilled water, and olive oil. That’s a tasty list without any five-syllable strange-word surprises. And it points immediately to the star in this hot sauce – those fire-roasted habanero peppers.
They come first on that ingredient list and their sweet earthiness is what drives the flavor of this sauce. In fact, the fire-roasting really brings the apricot scent out of those habaneros. Hell Fire Detroit says they fire roast in small batches with love, and I can attest that it sure smells and tastes like it.
On first bite you get that earthy sweet heat from those fire-roasted habs, but then the slightly sweet tang from the apple cider vinegar kicks in and really enhances the overall flavor. The sea salt adds just the right amount of pizazz without going too crazy in the sodium department (70 mg per serving, 3% of the daily allowance.)
Overall, this is a pepper-forward sauce in all the right ways. Fiery, thick, and chunky – earthy, sweet, and lightly tangy. It’s surprising by how much flavor it packs with so few ingredients, but that’s the magic of fire-roasting and the habanero’s natural fruity-sweet taste.
From the moment you taste Hell Fire Detroit Habanero Hot Sauce you’ll be struck with the heat it brings. And it shouldn’t come as a surprise. They list the Scoville heat units front and center on the label: 100,000 to 300,000 SHU.
What IS surprising (in the best of ways) is that Scoville range maps very closely to the habanero pepper’s natural heat (100,000 to 350,000 SHU.) This is a true habanero sauce – not one that markets the habanero name without a bold spiciness. To get heat this high in a habanero sauce, there’s very little dilution between the pepper mash and the other ingredients.
So this is a high heat sauce, and it builds as you go. It’s strong enough that as it builds you may be wishing you had mixed it with a base. Hell Fire Detroit is excellent when you want to add a kick to pico de gallo or your regular old wing sauce, especially when looking for an earthy fire-roasted taste. It also works solo, you just have to be careful with your ratios, because this came to play the devil’s game.
The heat balance works as that sunburnt earthiness and natural hab taste are all the predominant experiences. And they map right to the hab heat you expect.
Because of its simple ingredients list, Hellfire Detroit Habanero Sauce can actually work in a lot of ways in the kitchen. That is, as long as you can take the heat. It works just as well on eggs as it does on wings. I think it’s a perfect sauce for tacos, burritos, chicken and even as an addition to your salad dressing when you want to add a bold warmth. Remember start small. This heat builds and builds up fast.
Since the heat in this sauce builds, you can actually use a little at a time and not shock anyone out of their socks. Everyone can try a taste and wouldn’t be upset by the burn. So go ahead and sneak it into that mezcal cocktail. Your guests will probably just end up asking for five more.
This bottle does not come with a stopper, so you’ve got to be extra careful. I’ve been pouring it onto a spoon first, then onto my plate or into my mixing bowl. You’ve got to play around with the ratio here to get things just right.
What’s interesting about the Hell Fire label is its functional take on the eating experience. It uses color blocking to alert you to the pepper and the overall Scoville units (and uses typewriter font in a non-cheesy way to add impact.) It’s simple, just like its ingredients list. But does it jump out at you amid a hot sauce lineup? Not so much. It’s fun in its functionality, but it’s not one I’d call collectible.
Hell Fire Detroit Habanero Hot Sauce rocks the natural flavor of fire-roasted habaneros in all the right ways. This is a bold sauce: high heat and a delicious natural earthy sweetness. (Amazon)