Posted on Apr 21, 2012 in Food & drink
I’d like to know more about various hot peppers before I start cooking with them. How can I tell how hot certain varieties are?
Peppers are pretty amazing things. They come in all shapes, colors, and sizes as well as each having their own flavor characteristics. Of course, one of the most important traits of a pepper is how “hot” it is.
Peppers get their heat from capsaicin, a chemical compound that stimulates nerve receptors and produces a burning sensation in any tissue it comes in contact with — and I do mean any. Tip: Don’t chop jalapenos and then go to the bathroom without washing your hands first. Do not ask how I know this.
Since the heat level of a pepper is tied to the amount of capsaicin it contains, it’s actually possible to quantify how hot a pepper actually is. This is where the Scoville scale comes in to play. The higher the number of Scoville heat units a pepper is rated at, the more capsaicin it contains, and the hotter it is. Simple, no?
Here’s a list of some of the more commonly known peppers (and pepper defense sprays, for reference) in order from least hot to most, with their Scoville scale score:
This is, of course, only a partial list. Peppers can vary in heat due to variations in growing conditions, soil, and weather — but generally tend to fall between the values listed. That means it’s entirely possible to eat a habenero and say, “Hey, this isn’t too bad,” then have a different one later and state, “Oh my god, my sinuses are melting — help!”
For a more complete listing of peppers and their Scoville rating, check out the list at Uncle Steve’s Hot Stuff.
Photo by Donnaphoto
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