A Guy’s Guide To The Only Condiments Your Food Needs

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Food is good. Condiments make it better. But you can have too much of a good thing, and besides, a good thing isn’t a good thing when it’s on the wrong thing. You wouldn’t put PB&J on a slab of meat (probably?), but someone somewhere might, so here’s the man’s guide to condiments…

1. Steak Sauce

There’s not much out there better than a thick, pink-in-the-middle steak with a responsible drizzling of A-1. If you’ve used a marinade or a dry rub, consider a side splash and dip to taste. In an emergency, you can make your own steak sauce by combining ketchup, vinegar, lemon juice, brown sugar, soy sauce, onions and garlic. Simmer, stir, cool, strain. Extra pro tip: A-1 is also excellent in Bloody Mary’s.

2. Hot Sauce

Sriracha has taken the world by storm, and for good reason. It is a versatile additive, perfect for everything from eggs to desserts. Other manly favorites include Frank’s Red Hot, Cholula and the classic Tabasco (all colors). Some prefer the green stuff, others like it red. Either way, humans have been cracking chili peppers over their meals ever since we roasted wooly mammoth flanks over the fire pit. Also, great for Bloody Mary’s.

3. Mayo

This decadent mixture of eggs, oil and vinegar is nearly 80% fat. When garlic is added, it becomes aioli. When ketchup is added, it becomes “Special Sauce.” When mustard is added, it becomes FRENCH mayo. Looking to get super fat as fast as possible? Dip your fries in mayo. Oh, and pro tip: Not good in Bloody Mary’s.

4. Mustard

There are so many different kinds of mustard out there, it boggles the mind. That’s one of those “good problems.” The classic yellow is really only acceptable on hot dogs, as it was first introduced at the 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair. Otherwise, you gotta go spicy or honey.

Now, how long has mustard been around? Well, the Romans called it “burning must.” Shakespeare loved the stuff. Grey Poupon was established way back in 1777. So, pretty long. Mustard has a way of sticking around. It gets under the fingernails and stays there all day. And calorie-wise, it’s a steal at five per tablespoon. Pro-tip: Just okay for Bloody Mary’s.

5. Soy Sauce

Another worldwide longtime staple, first appearing in China circa the 2nd century BCE. The saltiest sauce we’re covering here today, this savory brown stuff (basically fermented soy beans) is great on fish, to kick up a salad dressing or any Asian cuisine. Pro-tip: Excellent in Bloody Mary’s.

6. Wasabi

Is this technically a condiment? Sure, why not. Wasabi is a cabbage-like plant that grows in Japanese river beds. We grind up the roots and use it on sushi. Stuffy nose? Apply a glob of wasabi directly to the tongue; you’ll be clearheaded in no time. Wasabi vapors attack the nasal passages, although it does have a pleasing taste. Pro-tip: Probably pretty good in Bloody Mary’s, but proceed with caution.

7. Ketchup

We’ll end with America’s sweetheart, the iconic ketchup bottle. Some (odd) people spell it “catsup.” Popular around the world, it didn’t take off in the U.S. until the 19th century, as many people thought tomatoes were poisonous. Fast forward 200 years and President Ronald Reagan classified it as a vegetable. The bad news: Not great in Bloody Mary’s, which is surprising because a Bloody Mary is basically ketchup-flavored vodka.

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Mike McGrath (@marcomcgrath) has A-1 on his shirt.