The Quick 10: Ranking 10 Peppers on the Scoville Scale

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I like hot stuff, to a certain extent. I can't tell you what my tolerance on the Scoville scale is or anything, but I'm usually down with some spice. My theory is that because I have no sense of smell, I like things with extreme tastes, whether that be extreme sour, extreme sweet, extreme bitter"¦ you get the point. That being said, I know I can't handle Habaneros other than a little sample, which means I definitely couldn't deal with the #1 pepper on our list. Could you??

naga1. Naga Jolokia (or Bhut Jolokia) is about as hot as a pepper gets at 855,000 to 1,050,000 Scoville units (a scientific measure of how hot the pepper is). It's not at the very top of the scale because that spot is reserved for pure capsaicin, the component in hot peppers that make them have that "burn." At the time the pepper was tested for the Scoville scale, the Red Savina was the hottest pepper in the world, and the Bhut Jolokia was found to be nearly twice as hot as that. Yikes! It's reported that just eating just one seed from this scorcher can make your mouth hurt for up to 30 minutes after you consume it. And you had better not get it in your eyes. Just a few weeks ago, an Indian woman set a new Guinness Record (we think"¦ it hasn't officially been recorded yet) by eating 51 of these things in a mere two minutes. No word on if her stomach lining survived or not.

2. The Red Savina was specifically grown to be a super-hot chili. Frank Garcia of GNS Spices in Walnut, California invented it (or bred it, I guess, would be more accurate), but people have been having trouble growing the Red Savina up to the level of hotness Garcia did, even when they have a certified Red Savina seed. Even so, you can find most Red Savinas somewhere between 350,000 and 580,000 on the Scoville.

3. Habaneros are as about as hot and I'll go, and even then, I don't enjoy them; I can just tolerate them. They're believed to have originated in the Yucatan and have a bit of a citrus flavor to them. The Bhut Jolokia is often mistaken for a habanero, but you would know the difference as soon as you bit into one, I think "“ the habanero is only (only) 100,000 to 350,000 Scoville units.

4. The Datil pepper can be called a sweeter, fruitier version of the habanero. But just because it's sweeter doesn't mean it packs less punch "“ it can go up to 300,000 units on the Scoville just like the Habanero can. But it can also be milder, going all the way down to 100,000 units. You can find lots of Datil peppers in the St. Augustine, Florida, area.

rocoto5. The Rocoto (also locoto) pepper isn't really found in the U.S. too much "“ it's common in South American countries and used in their cooking quite a bit. And it's so pretty! It can be a fairly mild pepper "“ 50,000 Scoville units, which is the equivalent of a really spicy Cayenne pepper, but they can take you by surprise at 250,000 units as well. 6. The Chiltepin pepper grows in Central America, Mexico and the southwestern U.S. They're just little guys "“ the pepper is also known as the chile tepin, tepin being a Nahuatl word that means "flea." But don't let their little size fool you "“ their heat is intense, measuring between 50,000 and 100,000 Scoville units. But if you can get through the first minute or so, you'll probably be OK "“ the heat is super strong but subsides quickly.
7. You know the Pequin pepper, but you may not realize it "“ it's one of the main ingredients in the Cholula sauce you'll often find at Mexican restaurants. It's not too bad; comparable in heat to the Cayenne at 30,000 to 60,000 Scoville units. But the taste is much different "“ it's supposed to have a smoky, nutty flavor.

8. The Cayenne pepper is a bit milder, rating at 30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units. They're named after the French Guiana city of Cayenne. I'm sure you're familiar with the Cayenne pepper; it's ground and sold as a pretty common spice. Although it's only halfway down on the scale, it's definitely has some kick to it and is too hot for some people.

9. The Serrano pepper has just a little more kick than a Jalapeño "“ 10,000 to 20,000 Scoville units. Not bad at all. You can also put some Chipotle peppers in this category, which is really just a Jalapeño that has been dried and treated.

10. Finally, the little old Jalapeño. At 2,500 to 10,000 Scoville units, it's pretty mild compared to the rest of these guys.

So what's your limit?

April 29, 2009 - 11:28am
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