Good leaders eat last. Any military leader worth their weight knows this, but they unfortunately also know that this often translates to “good leaders eat worst” — and nowhere is this more true than in the wonderful world of Meals, Ready-To-Eat, or MREs.
As a platoon leader and young lieutenant, I tried to live by the “good leaders eat last” mentality, but found it exceptionally hard during field exercises. Before each exercise, our platoon would be allotted several boxes of MREs and each section leader would divvy out the meals to their soldiers. The remaining meals would come back to the platoon Sergeant and then finally to me, so I could “choose” from what remained. I put “choose” in quotations because I never got to choose: I just got what was left. And what was always left? The goddamned Cheese & Veggie Omelet MRE, every single time.
If you’re familiar with MREs, you know the Cheese & Veggie Omelet meal is just hermetically sealed trash. Maybe it’s changed in the decade I’ve been out, but probably not. The omelet itself is most comparable to a used yellow sponge harvested from an Applebee’s dish-room floor after a rigorous Saturday night dinner shift, while the “Shredded Potatoes With Bacon” that accompany it was no better, having a smell roughly akin to wet dog food and, somehow, a worse taste.
In every MRE, troops are afforded two avenues to “doctor up” their meals: an iodized salt packet and an uber-miniature bottle of Tabasco brand hot sauce (which is essentially just spicy vinegar). But what if it didn’t have to be like that? What if, instead of opening your MRE to find a comically inadequate Tabasco taster, you found a hand grenade? And what if that hand grenade was full of hot sauce? And not just any hot sauce, but a hot sauce made of 86 percent peppers with big enough flavor to cover even the most rancid Applebee’s-dish-sponge-dinner?
For the last several years, my friends and I have been seeking out the best hot sauces we can find, so when my editor offered me the opportunity to review veteran-owned hot sauce company, The General’s Hot Sauce, I immediately texted the boys to stock up on Tums and quilted toilet paper, cause we were going to be doing some taste testing.
The General’s Hot Sauce is a product of Smoke Hall Foods and comes in six signature flavors: Hooah Jalapeno, Grunt Green, Maple Mayhem, Dead Red, Danger Close, and Shock & Awe. These six flavors make up the so-called ‘Super 6 Pack’ which is available on Amazon for $64.99. This price may seem steep at first glance, but it breaks down to about $10.83 per bottle which puts it at a fairly middle-of-the-road price when compared to other craft hot sauces, and with The General’s Hot Sauce, you get some sweet packaging to boot.
Is The General’s Hot Sauce spicy enough to make even the least-appetizing MRE a deployment delicacy? Let’s find out.
The General’s Hot Sauce Super 6 Pack arrived in a standard brown box, with not-so-standard tape. Packaging tape, printed with “The General’s Hot Sauce” name, and a “Super 6” sticker adorned the box top, getting me all amped up before I even got the box in the door. Inside the box were camouflage tissue paper, a product guide, and even a promotional sticker. The box was packed with styrofoam, which had six holes cut in it, each one holding a hot sauce hand grenade. When I first saw the pictures of the pineapple hand grenade bottles online, I assumed they would be made of sturdy plastic, but much to my surprise and delight they are all made of thick glass. The caps on the bottles are plastic and made to look like the top of a grenade, each one with a sticker label designating the hot sauce and it’s heat rating out of five stars. Each bottle is also fixed with a small chain and dog tag with The General’s Hot Sauce name on one side and product details on the other.
How we tested The General’s Hot Sauce Super 6 Pack
Naturally, after receiving a combined 36 fluid ounces of hot sauce, I felt compelled to share the wealth, which I’m sure my body appreciated. So I arranged a small tasting party of six individuals (three women and three men) and we made an evening of it.
Sitting around a dining room table, with six hand grenades in the center, we conducted three separate tests: a smell test, a spoon test, and a food test. Starting with the least heat-rated sauce (didn’t want to blow out the taste buds too quickly), we passed the bottles clockwise around the table. Each person first smelled the hot sauce and then placed some on a spoon. Once each person had a spoonful, we all tasted the sauces simultaneously and reported our thoughts. We then used crackers and potato skins to cleanse the palate between trials. (Note: As the heat ramped up, the feedback degraded into a chorus of muffled gasps and then finally full-blown lamentations).
Once the spoon tests were complete for all six, we brought out a variety of foods to pair with the sauces, which included naked chicken wings, cheddar cornbread waffles, loaded potato skins, and the classic freezer-section favorite, taquitos. I later did my own round of taste testing using breakfast tacos as the vehicle, which included scrambled eggs, breakfast sausage, and cheese.
We started with the Hooah Jalapeno, as the bottle showed it had the lowest heat rating at 2-stars. The smell test produced a similar result around the table, as everyone agreed it had an almost soy sauce aroma. Speculation is that it was the garlic in the sauce giving it this characteristic and all of the remaining sauces (except the Maple Mayhem) had a similar smell. The Hooah Jalapeno, made with jalapenos, white vinegar, garlic, and salt, had a pleasant flavor and a nice salty bite. It wasn’t until I tried this sauce on breakfast tacos though, that the jalapeno profile really came through. It should be noted that after we completed the taste tests, everyone agreed this sauce was deserving of a higher heat rating. Perhaps it was because it was our first one, but it definitely had a kick.
The Grunt Green was next up, which has a 2.5-star heat rating, though everyone seemed to feel it was milder than the Hooah Jalapeno. We were all surprised to learn the Grunt Green was made almost entirely from green cayenne peppers. Normally when you think of cayenne, you think red peppers and red sauce, but the peppers for Grunt Green are harvested just before the peppers turn red, giving them a different and unique flavor profile. The Grunt Green paired well with the chicken wings and the breakfast tacos, but I’d be willing to bet it would be pretty awesome on pulled pork as well.
Our first 3-star sauce was the Dead Red. Like the Grunt Green, the Dead Read is made almost entirely of cayenne peppers, except the peppers used in this sauce were picked when fully ripe, giving it the bright red color you’d expect from cayennes. The Dead Red is The General’s classic signature sauce and it’s easy to tell why. This sauce was probably the closest to a traditional hot sauce you’d find in the grocery store, except way better. Most sauces you buy off the shelf are cut with tons of vinegar, making them watery and sharp. The Dead Red is 90% peppers, giving the sauce a nice thick texture and robust taste. By this point, the burn was starting to build and the Dead Red offered a steady but mild heat on the back of the mouth. This was probably the most versatile of the sauces and paired well with just about everything.
The Maple Mayhem was definitely the most unique of the Super 6 and was a fan favorite among the taste testers. Made from habanero-infused Vermont maple syrup, this sauce offers a sweet heat with a late burn that gets you at the end. Though it had a 3-star heat rating as well, the consensus at the table was that the Maple Mayhem wasn’t quite as hot as the Dead Red, which is probably due to the sweetness taking the edge off. The Maple Mayhem paired best with the chicken wings and the waffles (no surprise there). While this won’t be the most versatile sauce, it was definitely the most fun.
The Danger Close was my personal favorite and, at 3.5-stars, hit that perfect heat balance where it’s strong enough to be noticeable but not so strong it ruins the food experience or makes you want to go cry in the corner (that comes later). With a blend of cayenne peppers and habanero peppers, I felt this was the smoothest of the sauces with the richest pepper flavor. The burn hits you on the tongue, lips, and throat, and lasts a bit longer than the other sauces, so be prepared for that. The Danger Close was particularly good on the chicken wings and the loaded potato skins.
Finally, we got to the Shock & Awe, which definitely lived up to its name. By this point, everyone at the table was feeling the burn and a few testers were apprehensive about taking the heat up again. To my surprise, everyone stayed in the game. At 4-stars for heat, the spoon test of the Shock & Awe left most of the taste testers gasping (and occasionally cursing) the long, sustained burn that followed. Even the most “hot sauce tolerant” member of the group broke into a visible sweat at the other end of the table. The Shock & Awe was a bit salty, but also had a nice sweetness given by the habanero peppers it’s derived from. Unfortunately, I couldn’t eat too much of this one straight, as the burn mounted too quickly. The General’s website recommends using The Shock & Awe to “spike” some of the other sauces, which I found to be an excellent recommendation.
What we like about The General’s Hot Sauce Super 6 Pack:
There were a lot of things to like about The General’s Hot Sauce that goes beyond just the taste. For me, one of the best things is the use of all-natural ingredients. I make it a habit to read food labels in the grocery store (call me crazy, but I like to know what I’m ingesting) and it’s always a bit of a turn-off when a product’s ingredient label has a laundry list of items I can’t pronounce or look like they belong in a college chemistry textbook. Comparatively, almost every ingredient list on The General’s bottles had only four ingredients: peppers, white vinegar, salt, and garlic (with the exception of the Maple Mayhem, which contains Vermont maple syrup). If you like eating real food, The General’s Hot Sauce is a good choice. If you like eating real food, grown right here in America, The General’s Hot Sauce is a great choice. All peppers used in the General’s Hot Sauce are sourced right here in America from American farmers.
As a veteran-owned business, The General’s Hot Sauce supports veterans through employment opportunities and by donating a portion of their profits to respected veterans charities. A list of the organizations they support can be found on their website, so even when your mouth is on fire, you can still feel good about supporting a good cause.
Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t say that I really enjoyed the packaging efforts. The hand grenade bottles are a stellar touch, making this product a great conversation piece and gift idea for anyone who likes to mix explosives and casual dining. I have no doubt I’ll be saving the bottles and repurposing them in some manner. Perhaps Christmas tree ornaments?
What we don’t like about The General’s Hot Sauce Super 6 Pack
The only thing I didn’t care for was that a few of the earlier hot sauces in our test seemed to have a very similar flavor profile, in that there wasn’t much distinction between the types of peppers. Perhaps this is just due to my unsophisticated palate, but I was expecting a more pronounced and varying taste for each of the earlier sauces. This isn’t the worst problem to have though, considering all the sauces were good.
The General’s Hot Sauce is a quality product and the Super 6 Pack is a worthy investment for anyone who likes to add some heat to their plate. It’s an especially worthy investment if you like foods with all-natural ingredients from a company that values supporting American farmers and providing support for veterans and troops in need. If you’re averse to the hotter sauces, your best bets are the Grunt Green and the Maple Mayhem. If you’re a sucker for punishment, hit up the Danger Close and the Shock & Awe. But if you’d like a more middle-of-the-road, versatile hot sauce, the Dead Red definitely fits that bill. Whatever you choose, you really can’t lose and I’d be willing to bet you’ll all keep those hand grenade bottles for some DIY home decor projects that are sure to get some eye-rolls from irritated spouses.
I dabbled around with mixing some of the sauces and I can report that mixing the Maple Mayhem and the Danger Close produces a damn good concoction. Throw in a couple of drops of Shock & Awe if you want to make your forehead glisten.
FAQs about The General’s Hot Sauce Super 6 Pack
More questions? Here’s Task & Purposes’s additional brief.
Q. How much does The General’s Hot Sauce Super 6 Pack cost?
Q. Do you have to buy the Super 6 Pack or can you buy individual bottles?
A. The company website features several three packs and a few singles in a larger bottle size, but it doesn’t appear the smaller bottles can be ordered individually, probably due to shipping costs.
Q. Are there any other flavors besides what is in the Super 6 Pack?
A. There’s a new flavor called Sergeant Major which is rated at 3.5-stars and is available for single order in a 750ML bottle.
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Brett Allen is a humor writer and former U.S. Army Cavalry Officer who served from 2006 to 2010, largely with the 3rd Squadron, 71st Cavalry Regiment of the 10th Mountain Division. The events of his 2009 deployment to the Logar Province of Afghanistan became the inspiration for his recently published debut novel, Kilroy Was Here, which is a dark comedy highlighting the absurdities of war. Brett resides in Ada, Michigan with his wife and kids and is currently working on his next novel. He enjoys all things outdoors to include backwoods camping, backwoods cooking, hiking, and boating, but can more regularly be found mowing, weed whacking, or performing some other form of backbreaking yardwork.
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