Day: January 12, 2017

The Scoville Scale

The Scoville Scale is something that most people who love spicy food are acquainted with. It is used to measure the spiciness or heat levels that are produced by hot peppers. It is the safest way to assess how spicy a dish may be prior to ingesting it short of taste testing.

Who invented the scale?

A man named Wilbur Scoville who was a pharmacist in 1912, wanted to test the heat level of hot peppers and devised a plan that included human testers and experiments that involved determining how much water it would take to dilute the heat produced by certain peppers. The concoction that he used would require up to five thousand cups of water to dilute the pepper extract so humans would no longer feel the heat. Modern testing methods can bypass the use of human taste buds and assess the presence of certain chemical compounds within the peppers to give an accurate reading of their heat levels. These compounds are known as capsaicinoids. The units that describe heat levels are referred to as pungency units. These are multiplied by fifteen and the resulting number is the heat score. This is a less painful method for judging the heat of a hot pepper.

Which peppers are the hottest?

The hottest known chili as of now is the Carolina Reaper, which sounds scary, and it should. It measured 1,569,300 in Scoville units of heat. Careful cultivation yielded one pepper of this variety that reached the height of 2.2 million units, which is rare but it happens. Before this monster pepper, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion was the hottest on record followed by the Naga King or Ghost Pepper. Jalapeno peppers come in at around 5,000 on the Scoville scale which makes them seem like a bowl of ice cream when compared with a few of the others.

Why do people enjoy excessively spicy foods?

This has been a popular question that food science experts explored in depth. They arrived at a theory that is known as dynamic contrast. It purports that the human tongue is predisposed to favoring a variety of flavors and sensations and when a surprise is thrown into the mix, it becomes an addiction for some. Another explanation is that some people are just naturally risk-takers. They get a thrill out of the prospect of becoming the person who ate the world’s hottest pepper.

A Few of the Hottest Peppers and Their Scoville Ranking

After the 2.2 million record of the Carolina Reaper, there are peppers that come close but are quite a ways behind. Here are the Scoville rankings for the next hottest peppers in the world

  • Naga Jolokia – This pepper tests between 855,000 to 1,050,000. The pain inflicted from eating a single seed can last for up to a half an hour.
  • Red Savina- 350,000 to 580,000. This variety was created in California but the majority of growers can’t seem to reach its’ maximum heat potential.
  • Habaneros – The scale is 100,000 to 350,000. These peppers come from the Yucatan region of Mexico and while they don’t really compare with the heat of the heat of the Naga Jolokia, they are capable of causing extreme discomfort.
  • Datil Peppers – From the habanero variety, this version has a sweeter taste but still packs a wallop with 100,000 to 300,000 Scoville units. It originated in the Florida area.

These are the helpful numbers that we now enjoy because of the Scoville scale. Those who want the prestige of having eaten the hottest pepper in the world generally consult them. The average spice lover just knows what they like and are satisfied with that.