When it comes to heat, how hot is hot? And what factors may contribute to how hot a product is? No matter how much you may or may not like spice and heat, the degree of perceived “heat” can be more than a little subjective. What can be agreed upon is that spicy peppers can be a wonderful way to add a delicious kick to your cooking. We love ’em and use them in a variety of products – most recently our Spicy Margarita Mixer, Ghost Pepper Salsa and Spicy Chili Bacon Jam.
Fortunately (or unfortunately depending on your taste preference) not all peppers are created equal. Ranging from a tangy Italian Pepperoncini to a nearly toxic Carolina Reaper, peppers are available in a wide variety of strengths and in a myriad of products. So how do you know what peppers are the hottest? Luckily, there is a handle unit of measure referred to as 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 and diluted it in sugar syrup until the heat was no longer detectable to a group of testers. 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.
Some common range ratings for peppers we use include:
Poblano Peppers – 1,000 to 2,000
Jalapeno Peppers – 2,500 to 8,000
Chipotle Peppers – 5,000 to 8,000
Serrano Peppers – 6,000 to 23,000
Crushed Red Peppers – 15,000 to 35,000
Cayenne Peppers – 45,000 to 55,000
Ghost Peppers – 1,041,427
That said, the 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 in addition to the subjectivity of the tasters themselves. The heat of a pepper can be different during one time of year as opposed to another and rainfall can also affect it’s heat level. To make things really complicated, when it comes to using the pepper within a product with other ingredients involved, determining the level of heat is even trickier. For example, when vinegar is added to a product containing spicy peppers, the heat level is accentuated. If sugar or fruit is added, it cools the heat level down.
In spite of all the odds, when it comes to pin pointing heat levels, we’ve been working on developing our own scale that will be represented on our jars of salsa in the future to let guests know how hot they can expect a salsa to be. Our product developers researched most commonly found relative values of Scoville Units, and then compared those units to each salsa and what peppers that particular salsa had for ingredients, paying close attention to the percentage by weight that the pepper was used.
Check out how they rate! Rated from most mild to most spicy according to the weight of peppers found in the recipe.
- Mild Tomato Salsa (Jalapeno) – Mild
- Pineapple Chipotle (Chipotle Powder) – Mild
- Fire Roasted Salsa (Jalapeno) – Medium
- Raspberry Salsa (Jalapeno) – Medium
- Peach Salsa (Poblano, Jalapeno and Crushed Red Peppers) – Medium
- Spicy Corn Relish (Jalapeno, Cayenne and Green Chiles) – Medium
- Mango Lime Salsa (Jalapeno and Cayenne) – Medium
- Black Bean Salsa (Jalapeno) – Medium/Hot
- Salsa Verde (Serrano Pepper Puree, Jalapeno and Green Chiles) – Medium/Hot
- Spicy Tomato Salsa (Jalapeno and Crushed Red Peppers) – Hot
- Ghost Pepper Salsa (Ghost Peppers and Green Chile Peppers) – Wicked Hot
To date, you can find our new heat scale on our Ghost Pepper Salsa – check it out!
And when we say “wicked hot,” we mean “wicked hot!” Ice water not included.
Our Nashua Company Store getting in the Ghost Pepper Salsa spirit! Captured by Instagram user @tanukiduck. Try it out in our Creamy Corn and Salsa Dip below!
Creamy Corn and Salsa Dip
- 2 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 cup Mexican blend cheese
- 1 avocado, peeled and diced
- 1 cup fresh, canned or frozen (and thawed) corn kernels
- 1/4 cup red bell pepper, minced
- 1/4 cup Stonewall Kitchen Ghost Pepper Salsa
- 1 cup cooked lobster or shrimp, coarsely chopped (optional)
- 2 Tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
- Tortilla Chips
- Combine the cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream in a medium bowl. Mix until smooth and combined.
- Add cheese, avocado, corn, bell pepper, Ghost Pepper Salsa and lobster or shrimp (if desired). Mix and serve with tortilla chips.