Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hot Stuff: The Scoville Scale

We love hot stuff here at The Devilish Dish.  An entire shelf in our pantry is devoted to dried chiles and chile powders.  The shelves on the door of one our refrigerators is full of nothing but bottles of hot sauce.  I think it would be safe to label us Chile Heads.  For those of you that may not think a dream vacation is Hatch, New Mexico, or discussing the merits of spicy chili is pillow talk, I thought I would share some general information on peppers and hot sauces in general. 
The Scoville Scale measures the hotness or piquancy of a chili pepper.  The scale is named after its creator, Wilbur Scoville who developed a test for rating the pungency of chili peppers.  Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which is a chemical compound that stimulates nerve endings in the skin, especially the ones in your mouth!  The number of Scoville heat units indicates the level of capsaicin present in the pepper.  With that in mind, here is a small sampling of heat levels based on the Scoville Scale:
 15,000,000-16,000,000    Pure Capsaicin
     2,000,000-5,300,000    Standard US Grade Pepper Spray
        855,000-1,050,000    Naga Jolokia (Said to be the World's Hottest Pepper)
           350,000-580,000    Red Savina Pepper
           100,000-350,000    Habanero, Scotch Bonnet, Jamaican Hot Pepper
             50,000-100,000    Thai Pepper, Pequin Pepper
               30,000-50,000    Cayenne Pepper, Tabsco Pepper, Chipotle Pepper
               10,000-23,000    Serrano Pepper
                   2,500-8,000    Jalapeno, Guajillo, New Mexican, Anaheim, Hungarian Wax
                         100-500    Pimiento, Pepperoncini Pepper
                     No Heat 0    Bell Pepper
By looking at the scale, if you think those jalapenos on your nachos are hot, then you probably don't want anything to do with the habanero pepper!  We have a framed poster of the Scoville Scale, conveniently hanging by one of our pantries.  Incidently it's the pantry that contains all of the hot peppers.  Not only is the poster decorative, it makes a great reference guide!



And here's the answer to the (pardon the pun) BURNING QUESTION OF THE DAY:

Q:  What is best to drink to cool the burning sensation of capsaicin?

A:  Milk products cools you off after eating chilies because the casein in the milk is a protein breaks the bond between pain receptors and the capsaicin.





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