Kitchn Love Letters

The One Condiment That Deserves a Permanent Invite to Your Cookout

published Jul 19, 2023
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Grilling for a crowd can be tough for many reasons, but chief among them are the regional and personal preferences for different kinds of sauce. Two-time champion of Food Network’s Chopped competition Chef David Thomas has the fix. He’s the executive chef of H3irloom Food Group, whose trio of sauces is made in small batches and represents a wide range of flavor profiles. 

The first time I tried the three sauces, I dipped a chicken nugget in each one to get a sense of their spice level and overall taste. It wasn’t the most sophisticated approach, but, as it turns out, the simply seasoned nuggets allowed each sauce’s unique flavor to shine. Chef Thomas’s sauces might be sold as a set, but they couldn’t be more distinct.

Credit: Bold Xchange

What’s So Great About the H3 HotSauce Trio?

SWEAT is a traditional American-style hot sauce made with vinegar and heirloom tomatoes. SMOK’D has a unique, earthy flavor derived from Worcestershire and charcoal. And nationally recognized SOSU is West African-inspired, made with scotch bonnet and habañero peppers. All three deserve an invite to the cookout this summer.

Beyond providing home cooks with unforgettable dabs of flavor, Chef Thomas and his team are offering a window into the rich culinary significance of pepper sauces in many African cuisines. “There are so many different things you can do with pepper sauces,” he said. “And that’s how we refer to them as Africans — pepper sauces, not hot sauces.” These pepper sauces can serve not only as a condiment, but also as the base for other dishes in many African cuisines.

Credit: Bold Xchange

What’s the Best Way to Use the H3 HotSauce Trio?

The simplest sauce to tag into your condiment collection is SWEAT. I grew up on Frank’s Red Hot sauce — and still keep a bottle of it in my pantry — and SWEAT has all the components of a great American-style hot sauce. You can’t go wrong with low-grade heat and a distinct tang of vinegar. It’s exactly the kind of add-in I need to bring depth to potato salad or sweet heat to baked beans.

When I spoke with Chef Thomas, he told me that SWEAT was probably the simplest to incorporate, but SMOK’D might throw home cooks for a loop — at first. “With SMOK’D, I wanted to do something really unique,” he said. “That’s one of the first all-black hot sauces on the market. Getting the mbongo spice — the alligator pepper — from the continent [of Africa] to create these really floral but really smoky flavors at the same time.”

He has a brilliant use for SMOK’D, and it happens to be a perfect side for barbecue: collard greens. Smoked turkey is a popular addition to a pot of greens — especially when it’s served alongside other smoked meats like chicken or ribs. “If you want to introduce a little smoke, acidity, and heat to it, rather than cutting up peppers and having to add this or add that, SMOK’D has all the components you need in one application, ” advises Chef Thomas.

Last but not least comes the bestselling SOSU: Chef Thomas’s homage to the African pepper sauces he tried and loved on trips to Senegal and Gambia. It was named runner-up in Garden & Gun‘s 2021 Made in the South Awards. 

“The ingredients and even the water [are] different in Africa, so recreating that exact flavor has eluded me,” he said. Make no mistake, though: This sauce is well worth a taste, and you’ll be searching for ways to add dashes of it to your food.

The most foolproof way to incorporate its unique flavors? In an aioli. It could be a dip for french fries and fried pickles, a spread on loaded burgers, or a flavor punch to fried fish. Mix SOSU into your go-to aioli recipe and it’ll be the highlight of the meal.

Buy: H3irloom Food Group H3 HotSauce Trio, $33 for 3 (5-ounce) bottles at H3irloom Food Group

What condiment has a permanent invite to your cookout? Tell us about it in the comments below.