The hot list

In this week's "wish we'd have  thought of that” (actually, we’re sort of glad we didn’t) comes the L.A. Times’ Spicy Snack Power Rankings. That’s right, what steamy hot summer isn’t complete without some bright orange salty snacks to set your fingertips, lips and innards aflame? Fortunately, Times food columnist Lucas Kwan Peterson did all the hard work – sweating it out until the roof of his mouth was raw – so you didn’t have to. In the end, he came up with 30 of the best-tasting spicy snacks (an oxymoron perhaps) known to humankind. And lest you think all Flamin’ Hot (insert snack name here) taste the same, Peterson begs to differ.

“There are subtle differences, which I will happily illustrate below,” he writes. “I have ranked the snacks based on 1) flavor and 2) heat, the amount of saliva-coaxing capsaicin I detected in each one.”

While space prohibits listing all 30, here are some of his hottest picks. So grab a tall glass of milk and dig in (just don’t wipe your hands on your white pants when you’re done):

1) Doritos Flamin’ Hot Nacho - “delightful” and “highly snackable,” Peterson writes. “Think regular Doritos but with a kick as strong as a Flamin’ Hot Cheeto – the perfect mix of cheesy and spicy.

2) Flamin’ Hot Cheetos Puffs - The dimples in the fried puffed corn hold the spice powder better, leading to a more intense heat and flavor, he writes. But all this flavor has a downside. “The airy, fried texture, while initially novel, can become a little nauseating as the pieces become consistently compacted in your back teeth.”

3) Pop Fuego Popcorn - Basically Takis popcorn. “I vacillated between whether this was very good or very, very bad, and I ended up deciding that I like it,” Peterson writes. “The MSG is cranked up to a 12,” adding, “your cousin from Connecticut who calls La Croix ‘spicy water’ should be able to handle them.”

4) Flamin’ Hot Cheetos” - The “standard bearer” and “spicy breadwinner,” these have it all: heat, texture, crunch and flavor. As well as an inspiring origin story. According to Peterson, Ricardo Montan?ez, who was working at Frito-Lay as a janitor, approached the CEO with an idea – what if you made spicy Cheetos? Years and many millions in sales later, Montan?ez is vice president of the company.

5) (tie) Takis Fuego Takis (or “taquis”) – Although the Taki shape isn’t Petersons favorite for flavor conveyance, he does appreciate the way Takis help solve the plastic problem by doubling as a single-use straw while making everything taste like a michelada.

5) (tie) Doritos Dinamita - Doritos creates its own cylindrical Takis-like snack with a nice balance of lime and heat. Although neck-and-neck with Takis, these aren’t as punishingly salty.

And in case you were wondering, here are a couple that came in at the bottom of the bag:

• Flaming Hot Funyons – “Not very spicy nor is it very oniony. Less fun than a regular Funyun.” • Andy Capp’s Hot Fries – “I never understood why this unfunny creation would ever have his own line of snacks ... There’s a mild heat to these, and a spice mixture that tastes unpleasantly of powdered tomatoes. Maybe they like these in northeast England?”

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