Hot sauces are there when you need them most. Lunch looking pallid and sad? Leftover pizza in need of some excitement? Just grab the closest hot sauce bottle and begin drizzling.
Thanks to the natural preservative properties of chiles, vinegar, and salt — three ingredients nearly all hot sauces contain — hot sauces are usually shelf stable, and thus ready for action at any time.
What follows is not a ranking of which ones we think are best, but a breakdown of what you can expect from each and their heat, because they all have different roles to play. Some have vinegar-forward profiles, while others prefer to hang back and let the chile heat build slowly.