Anyone who likes their food hot and spicy will be completely familiar with the role that chilies play in cooking. The chili is a fruit of the capsicum plant and is well known for enhancing the flavor of foods and providing a ‘kick’ to a variety of dishes worldwide.
Chillies come in a variety of shapes and sizes from the small birds’ eye chili to the larger bell pepper. In general, the smaller the chili the hotter the flavor.
The Scoville Scale
The Scoville Scale is used to measure the heat level of a chili. It was developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912 and has been refined in more recent years to provide a more accurate reading.
Each chili contains a chemical compound called capsaicin which is actually what produces the hot sensation we all know and love. The greater the concentration of capsaicin in the chili, the higher the rating on the Scoville Scale which is rated from 0 to 16,000,000.
The Habenero chili has always been considered to be the hottest of chili varieties with the Red Sabina Habenero having a Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) value between 3520,000 and 577,000. This makes it 100 times hotter that the Jalapeno. However, the title of the hottest chili goes to the Naga Morich with an SHU of between 970,000 and 1,040,000 making it more than 300 times HOTTER than the Jalapeno
One thing to note is that the heat level within different varieties can vary greatly and even chilies found on the same plant can have a different intensity level.
• Chilies are a fruit.
• In some South American countries, crushed and ground chilies are used to treat spider bites and bee stings.
• Chilies were used as a weapon by Mayan warriors who would throw chili powder in the enemy’s eyes.
• Capsaicin survives both heating through the cooking process and freezing.
• Capsaicin triggers the brain to produce endorphins which are natural pain killers.
• Red Chilies are generally hotter than green.
• Low in Saturated Fat, Cholesterol, and Sodium
• High in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, Potassium, Copper, Manganese, Dietary Fiber, Thiamin, Riboflavin, Niacin, Folate, Iron, Magnesium and Phosphorus .
Tips for Using Chili
• Ensure you wash your hands thoroughly using soap and water after cutting and using chili. Keep fingers away from your face to avoid burning your mouth and eyes.
• Most of the ‘heat’ of a chili is found in the seeds and membrane – remove these and your chili will not be as hot.
• If you find that the heat of a chili dish is just too much for you then drink a glass of milk, have some yoghurt or eat a piece of bread. Drinking water will only intensify the heat.
Some Common Chili Types
|Name||Description||Common Uses||Scoville Rating
|Pure Capsaicin||Capsaicin is the compound in chilies that give them its hotness||Found in chili||16,000,000|
|Habanero||Rated as one the hottest chilies at over 50 times hotter than the jalapeno
|Serrano||Originated in Mexico.||Salsas||10,000-23,000|
|Jalapeno||One of the most common chili consumed in the United States.||Pizza, Nachos, Salsa||2,500-8,000|
|Chipotle||Is a dried version of the jalapeno and has a smoky sweet flavor.||Stews, sauces, egg dishes||2,500-8,000|
|Anaheim||Is one of the more common varieties of chili available in the US. Also Know as New Mexican Chili.||Salsas, stuffed peppers||500-2,500|
|Poblano||Is one of the more popular chilies grown in Mexico
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Chili, or Cayenne, pepper stands out as one of the most recognized of the red peppers. It’s red hot, and delicious.
The Heat Level of Chili Pepper is measured on the Scoville scale in ‘Heat Units’. Two common ground varieties are 30M & 90M Heat Units, (30,000 & 90,000 respectively). The 30M pepper is comparable to the canned ‘Red Pepper’ that you find in at the Supermarket.
Just about anyone can tolerate 30m (also called 30k) Cayenne.
On the other hand, 90m Chili is incredibly hot. So watch out when you eat it.