No matter how much you may or may not like spicy food, the degree of the perceived “heat” can be rather subjective. What can be agreed upon is that spicy peppers are a wonderful way to add a delicious kick to your cooking. We love ’em and have used them in a variety of products.
Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your tastes) not all peppers are created equal. Ranging from a tangy Italian Pepperoncini to a near toxic Carolina Reaper, peppers are available in a wide variety of strengths in a myriad of products.
So how do you know what peppers are the hottest? Well, luckily there is something called the Scoville Heat Unit Scale or Scoville Scale. Named after its creator, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, it’s a method he devised in 1912 that rates the pungency or heat of peppers.
Based on capsaicin, the chemical compound that stimulates receptor nerves in the skin, the original method used a solution containing a pepper extract that was then diluted in a sugar syrup until the heat was no longer detectable to a group of tasters. The amount of dilution (pepper & sugar syrup) required to eliminate the heat provided the measure on the Scoville Scale. For example, a habanero pepper could have a rating of 200,000 or higher because its extract has to be diluted 200,000 times before the capsaicin heat is undetectable.
Keep in mind that this scale is far from precise with many variables including a pepper’s growing conditions, environment and the fact that multiple peppers on the same plant can have different readings and the subjectivity of the tasters themselves.
However, to give you a sense of hot certain peppers stack up, here are some current gradings for the Scoville Scale, rated by Scoville Heat Units or “SHU.”
- Police Grade Pepper Spray – 5,300,000
- Carolina Reaper – 2,200,000
- Common Pepper Spray – 2,000,000
- Naga Viper Pepper – 1,382,118
- Infinity Chili – 1,250,000
- New Mexico Scorpion Pepper – 1,191,595
- Red Savina Habanero – 580,000
- Caribbean Red Habanero – 400,000
- Habanero – Ranges from 100,000 to 350,000
- Red Thai Pepper – 150,000
- Carolina Cayenne Pepper – Ranges from 100,000 to 125,000
- Peri-Peri Chili – 100,000
- Cayenne Pepper – Ranges from 30,000 to 50,000
- Serrano Pepper – 23,000
- Jalapeno Pepper – Ranges from 5,000 to 10,000
- TABASCO® brand Habanero Pepper Sauce – Ranges from 7,000 to 8,000
- Chipotle Pepper – 8,000
- Italian Sweet Pepper – 3,000
- Pepperoncini – 900
- Cherry Pepper – 500
- Italian Pepperoncini – 500
- Bell Pepper – 0
Like a little zesty heat in your food? We’ve got you covered. We recommend: