Sauce plays a crucial role in most cuisines. While some, like the French mother sauces, have long been considered fundamental, others, like Tabasco and Worcestershire are also an essential part of a chef’s arsenal. 

Over a decade ago, Malcolm Gladwell wrote about the rise of a humble kitchen condiment – tomato sauce. In the article, titled ‘The Ketchup Conundrum’, Gladwell outlined the ubiquitous condiment’s evolution at the hands of Henry J Heinz. Heinz, now a household name, made ketchup, or tomato sauce, what it is today; a perfect blend of salty, sweet, sour, bitter, and umami.

When it comes to the mind of chef, Tabasco and Worcestershire are to many commercial kitchens as ketchup is to many diners’ hot chips – an absolute necessity. So what is about these two bottled weapons that chefs can’t help but love?


“Tabasco has a bright acidity, a bright heat,” said Victor Leong, owner and chef of Lee Ho Fook in Melbourne. “I like to add it into sauces or into any dish that I want to have a background heat.”

Leong swears by the McIlhenny Tabasco, saying the bottled version is all he needs.

“I’m all for using it out of the bottle. If you have a good understanding of the flavour profile, techniques, and what you want to achieve, then sometimes it’s quite interesting what you can do with things that are quite common.”

Morgan McGlone, owner and chef at Belle’s Hot Chicken and currently in charge of the Harpoon Harry’s kitchen, is also a fan of the 140 year old McIlhenny family recipe. 

“I use the Green Jalapeo Pepper Sauce with oysters. All you need is nice, chilled oysters, cracked black pepper and then green Tabasco,” McGlone said.

However, given the quantities that he goes through between the two venues, McGlone finds it most efficient to make his own.

“I make a Tabasco style hot sauce, with a recipe very similar to the McIlhenny family one. There’s nothing wrong with the bottle version, it’s a wonderful thing. That recipe has been in their family for years, it’s perfection. It’s just easier for us to make our own because of the amount we use,” said McGlone.

Tabasco might be the most iconic and well-recognised hot sauce, but in the past decade a number of variations have made their way to Australia.

“I terms of hot sauce, I really enjoy the Tabasco style. I like the fermentation process. Tabasco is made with a lot vinegar during the fermentation process, so it’s actually quite acidic, which I really dig,” said McGlone.

“I use it to pick up the flavourings in things. Hot sauce brings out the more savoury characters. I add it right at the end, instead of adding lemon juice. A couple of splashes of hot sauce smooths out the flavour.

“It’s more about putting an acidic kick in, a little bit of acid and little bit of heat. Tabasco isn’t really that hot, it’s more of a rounding heat. There’s more flavour in Tabasco than there is in a lot of the other hot sauces. It it’s too hot it’s going to fuck up your palate.”

morgan-mcglone-1.jpgMorgan McGlone. Image:

McGlone’s not lying when he says he sticks fairly closely to the Tabasco family’s recipe, which is made using aged red chillies, salt from Avery Island, Louisiana, and distilled vinegar.

“We blend chillies and salt and then we allow that ferment for eight weeks. After that we add a balance of white vinegar and apple cider vinegar and allow them to ferment for another three weeks. Then we pass that, push out all the juice and blend with a touch of xantham gum to thicken. It’s not complicated; it just takes a little bit of time,” he said.

“We make a batch of two 20 litre buckets at a time, and we rotate that every two to three weeks to start new 40 litre batch.”

While the sauce is served out of the bottle on request at Belle’s Hot Chicken, McGlone uses it more during the process of cooking at Harpoon Harry’s.

“At Harpoon we have a dish called Hoppin’ John, which is rice, beans and braised greens. One of the most important things in that dish is the Tabasco style hot sauce,” he said.

For other dishes, it becomes a key component of a more complex sauce.

“I also make a Tabasco hot butter sauce, which I serve with fish and then shelled rice and beans. Basically all I do is make up onion and garlic, loads of white wine, then I put a whole bottle of hot sauce in there, and a little bit of fish stock, blend in cold butter so it emulsifies, then put in a pinch of xantham gum to stabilise it.”

And of course, it’s an important ingredient in the Southern staple, remoulade, along with Worcestershire.


As with Tabasco, both Leong and McGlone stand by the bottled version, available in supermarkets. In particular, both are a fan of Lea & Perrins, the brand that orginated the sauce in the 1830s.

In McGlone’s words: “You can’t beat Lea & Perrins. They’re the OG, they’re the best”.

 “Worcestershire has a mellow acidity, and it amplifies the flavour of soy sauce, so we use it a lot in marinades,” said Leong. “It’s my secret weapon in Caesar salad. Because it’s made with anchovies, so it’s a bit salty, plus it has a savoury background and that mellow acidity. When I make Caesar dressing I tend to use two acids, so the Worcestershire and lemon juice.”

In many ways Worcestershire can be compared to fish sauce. In fact, Leong likes to refer to it as the fish sauce of the West.

“Fish sauce is salty sweet umami, whereas Worcestershire is slightly funky, big umami, and it’s a bit more acidic, it’s a bit more complex. The umami and salty characteristics are quite similar; it’s the fruity funkiness that sets them apart.

“It’s probably my favourite sauce, I use it a lot. It just isn’t trending at the moment. It’s funny because Worcestershire is a traditional accompaniment to salt and pepper pigeon. The pigeon is so rich and heavy, the sauce cuts through all of that, it’s such a good combination. It’s a key ingredient in Macanese cooking,” said Leong.

“It is quite strong, but it always amplifies whatever you pair it with; I just never mention it. Then people will ask ‘how do you that?’”

lee-ho-fook-1.jpgVictor Leong. 

It’s this secret sauce attribute that makes it so appealing to McGlone. “When you use that move, it really surprises people. At Husk [in South Carolina] we used to call it the ‘ace in the hole’,” he said.

In fact, along with hot sauce, Worcestershire was one of the staples in the Husk kitchen.

“We would have a bottle of hot sauce and a bottle of Worcestershire [on hand]; add a drop or two of either of those to a dish and you’ve taken it to the next level.”

So how does McGlone make use of the staple?

“We use Worcestershire a lot in our dressings and sauces at Belle’s and Harpoon’s. It’s in our ranch dressing, it’s in our blue cheese dressing. It’s pretty common in Sourthern cuisine, things like remoulade.  

“Then we also use it in our devilled eggs at Harpoon’s and the oysters Kilpatrick. I use it to round off falvours and get that sweet and sour thing without using sugar and vinegar.

“One of my favourite sauces in the world is reduced beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, beef fat – Worcestershire and beef fat go really well together – a knob of butter and some thyme leaves. Over a steak that is the best sauce ever.

“You gotta have it in the kitchen, it’s a master sauce.”

For Leong it’s not too much of a stretch to imagine Worcestershire as the mother of condiments across the globe; it’s the original fruit and vegetable sauce.

“It’s like you have mother sauces, so maybe you can look at it like Worcestershire is the mother sauce of HP and tonkatsu,” said Leong.

Looking at the recipes, it’s hard to argue; both HP, another British export, and tonkatsu, a Japanese sauce the most famous brand of which is called Bulldog (a tribute to the British origins), are clearly derived from a Worcestershire base, although with some notable changes.

“It’s a very interesting thing to explore, especially in the West with table condiments. It adds to a better understanding of how to use them.”


Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *