The world’s hottest peppers are known for their outrageous ratings on the Scoville Scale; but what does that mean to us? How is heat measured and what is it based on?
__________A Little History__________
Capsaicin is a component of a pepper and the causes the irritation and sensation that is “heat.” The Scoville scale is a measure of a pepper’s capsaicin concentration in Scoville Heat Units (SHUs).
The Scoville Scale was invented in 1912 by a pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville, who was out to discover how he could formulate a heat-producing ointment. Scoville used a dilution method to discern how much time it took for a pepper to lose its heat, according to a group of taste testers. From that, he then placed a unit of measure on each pepper. This test is known as the Scoville Organoleptic Test.
SHUs ratings are given in multiples of 100. The highest SHU to have been recorded at 2,200,000 was given to the Carolina Reaper from Puckerbutt Pepper Company in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Since 2013, the Carolina Reaper has held the world record for the hottest chile pepper from Guinness World Records. Bell peppers and sweet peppers (capsicum annuum) are rated lowest on the scale with a rating of zero.
__________Is The Scoville Scale Accurate? __________
Over the years, the Scoville Organoleptic Test has continued to be used to define the heat scale for the world’s chile peppers. However, it has been noted that this test is not the most precise way to measure heat due to its reliance on taste testers. Humans have varying sensitivities to capsaicin, and therefore give varying results. Taste testers can also lose their sensitivity to capsaicins when testing peppers repetitively.
Would you want to be a pepper taste tester? Hmmm…didn’t think so.
Let’s put SHUs in perspective for a moment. Imagine if each SHU represented one glass of water:
- You wouldn’t need a glass of water to wash down a bell pepper because they have an SHU rating of zero.
- You would need 1,000 – 4,000 glasses of water to wash down a jalapeno pepper.
- The Trinidad Scorpion pepper would take approximately 1,463,700 glasses of water to wash down!
This mental image may make you shudder just a bit. But don’t worry! Our Scorpion Pepper Sea Salt has a FRACTION of the heat found in an actual Scorpion Pepper, and it wouldn’t actually take that many glasses of water to wash it down (we’re talking in metaphors here). Although, if you ate a whole one I’m sure it may seem like it…
__________So, How Do Our Peppers Rank?__________
At The Spice & Tea Exchange®, we carry a number of peppers, pepper powders, and seasonings that contain these varieties. Here are where a few of them lie:
Scorpion Pepper – 800,000 – 2,000,000 SHU
Used in: Scorpion Pepper Sea Salt
Datil Pepper (native to St. Augustine, FL) – 100,000 – 300,000 SHU
Used in: Pirate’s Bite Spice Blend, Chile Lime Sea Salt, Crazy Chicken Spice Blend, Signature Spice Blend, Spiced Cocoa Mix Spice Blend, Sweet Heat Spice Blend, Tailgater’s Spice Blend
Bird’s Eye Chile Pepper – 100,000 – 225,000 SHU
Used in: Bird’s Eye Chile Pepper
Cayenne Pepper – 30,000 – 50,000 SHU
Used in: Adobo Spice Blend, Berbere Spice Blend, Cajun Spice Blend, Gourmet Pepper Spice Blend, Herb Sesame Spice Blend, Indian Yellow Curry Spice Blend, Jamaican Jerk Spice Blend, Matanzas Chili Spice Blend, Seafood Blackening Spice Blend, Spicy Tuna Rub, Tandoori Roasting Spice Blend, Togarashi Spice Blend, Pirate’s Bite Spice Blend
Aleppo Pepper (aka Halaby pepper) – 10,000 SHU
Used in: World Festival Spice Blend
Chipotle Pepper (smoked jalapeno) – 5,000 – 8,000 SHU
Used in: Adobo Spice Blend, Chile Lime Sea Salt, Chipotle Smoked Sea Salt, Cinnabar Smoke Spice Blend, Gourmet Pepper Spice Blend, Matanzas Chili Spice Blend, Pirate’s Bite Spice Blend, Smoked BBQ Rub, Southwest Spice Blend
Jalapeno – 2,500 – 8,000 SHU
Used in: Matanzas Chili Spice Blend
Bell Pepper – 0 SHU
Used in: Cajun Spice Blend, California Spice Blend, Chef Donna’s Adoro Spice Blend, Crazy Chicken Spice Blend, Gourmet Pepper Spice Blend, Herb Turkey Rub, Herbal Garden Spice Blend, Italian Street Fair Spice Blend, Jamaican Jerk Spice Blend, Mariner’s Chowder Spice Blend, Matanzas Chili Spice Blend, Seafood Blackening Spice Blend, Signature Spice Blend, Sweet Heat Spice Blend, Tailgater’s Spice Blend, TSTE® Select Steak Spice Blend, Tuscany Spice Blend