After spying this brilliant Sriracha hot-chili-sauce spray-bottle hack by reddit user aoisenshi, we just had to try it for ourselves. Would it work? Could the spray-top achieve a more perfect sauce distribution than traditional squirt-tops? What other sauces and dressings could (and should) we adapt this to? What are the best spray bottles to use? Armed with a pantry full of sauces and dressings, we set out to find the answers. Here are the results of this awesome, sometimes messy experiment.
Why Squirt When You Can Spray?
The spray cap has an obvious application advantage over pouring or dousing your food out of the bottle: You get more even distribution of the sauce or dressing over the dish. This is ideal for large one-pan dishes like paella or for things like salads (which is why a lot of salad dressings now have spray caps; with your own spray bottles, however, you can make your own version, with much more versatility).
A spray bottle gives you more control over saucing too. I don't really like heavily soaked teriyaki dishes, for example, but a light spray of teriyaki sauce over vegetables or grilled chicken suits my tastes.
And, finally, the spray bottle has turned out to be a great tool in the kitchen for adding a quick boost of flavour and moisture after cooking: add Worcestershire sauce on steak, for example, or a layer of lemon juice on fish.
Depending on the bottle, you may be able to fine tune whether you've got a strong, focused spray (good, perhaps, for coating specific parts of a dish, like the cavity of a turkey) or a very fine mist, for a more gentle flavour enhancement.
Ideal Spray Sauces
As expected, thin sauces with a watery consistency work perfectly with said bottles. These include:
- lemon juice
- lime juice
- soy sauce
- fish sauce
- balsamic vinegar
- red wine vinegar
- teriyaki sauce (without seeds)
- worcestershire sauce
The large bottle of lemon juice and the Sriracha bottle were the only ones, however, on which a spray bottle cap fit. All the others I had to pour the sauces into the other containers.
Dishes to Start Spraying Sauces On
Once you know that a sauce can be sprayed, you'll be spraying it on everything and anything that has even the slightest possibility of being sauced. You can spray: eggs, noodles, salads, potatoes, rice dishes, seafoods, pizza, meats, vegetables, soups, and so on.
More Difficult Sauces to Try to Spray
Really thick or syrupy sauces are hard, if not impossible, to use in the spray bottles. The triggers just aren't strong enough. You could water down some sauces or condiments, but many (like ketchup or taco sauce) don't really make sense when watered down.
Hoisin Sauce Hoisin sauce is one exception. This thick sauce, usually used as a dipping sauce for pork or duck in Chinese food dishes, has such a strong flavour that you can water it down with about half as much water and it will still taste about the same. So you can get that flavour without the thickness of the sauce by spraying it onto your meats.
Sriracha and Cholula Hot Sauce
These hot chilli sauces were the inspiration of this post. I don't know where aoisenshi got his water bottle spray, but the little seeds in the sriracha sauce killed five different spray bottles I tried. I even tried straining the sriracha sauce through a nylon stocking through a funnel into one of the bottles, but to no avail. I managed just a few sprays before the spray bottle trigger exploded, remnants of rooster sauce coating my kitchen counters. (This was less dangerous, however, than Lifehacker intern John Verive's experiment involving putting the sauce in a whipped cream bottle with an N202 cartridge, the seeds clogging the system, and sriracha bursting everywhere.)
So while it's probably possible to spray sriracha -- and an idea we obviously thought worth trying -- just beware that it might not work out unless you have a bottle with uncloggable triggers. Sriracha in the air can also cause a bit of sneezing (be careful when attempting this, as you don't want hot sauce in your eyes either).
Oil in a spray bottle? Both trigger and pump bottle sprays work surprisingly well with oils. If you want just a touch of sesame oil, for example, in your salad or fried rice, a little spray bottle is lots better than trying to gingerly pour the oil on.
I have the Misto, a gourmet oil sprayer, which is about $US10 on Amazon, but a spray bottle is much cheaper and doesn't require the pumping action to start working. (Either, however, are better alternatives to aerosal cans.)
What Kinds of Bottles to Use
Most spray bottles are not intended for spraying sriracha. Because we're dealing with food and plastics, we did, however, look out specifically for BPA-free bottles, just to be on the safe side and avoid any possible chemicals leaching into our condiments.
What to Look for in the Spray Spray adjustment: The large cleaning-bottle-type of spray head (think Fantastik) that switches between spraying and streaming offered the most control.
Spring: Also look for a large, strong spring, because when you're testing thick sauces like sriracha you'll need a strong sprayer.
Feel: It's best to shop in person if you can and test the trigger. Even with the same model/size of bottle, some bottles differed in how loose or tight they were to squeeze. Yeah, they're cheap bottles, but we're talking about hacking your food here!
Straw dimension: The straw dimension really didn't make any difference when it came to clogging (see sriracha section below). You'd think wider straws and larger bottles would resist clogging more, but, nope. From the bottom of the bottle to the exit point, there are multiple places for sauces to get stuck.
Keep in mind also that some sauce bottles, such as Kikkoman soy sauce, have custom pourers or don't have tops that can be easily removed, so you'll have to pour them into the spray bottle. So choose your bottle size based on the amount of sauce or dressing you'd be storing in the bottle.
Despite the sriracha disappointment, putting the sauces, dressings and oils in spray bottles that do work with them is absolutely a worthwhile endeavour. Beware, though. Once you start, you may soon realise you need yet another trip to a discount store to cover the rest of your dressings. The possibilities -- seeds aside -- are almost endless.