“Think of the cooking of the Southwest: Arizona, anything on the border of Mexico, the rich chili culture, the unbelievable stews”

-Mario Batali

The Scoville Scale

When you’re cooking, you need to know the preferences of those that you are serving. Some people enjoy really spicy foods and others (myself included) would rather have something on the mild side.  The Scoville Scale can help you determine the amount of heat contained within various pepper varieties.

There are a lot of different kinds of peppers. Some can be very spicy while others have very little or no heat. The heat in peppers is caused by a chemical called capsaicin. In 1912, a man named Wilbur Scoville created a scale based on the amount capsaicin found in different pepper varieties. On this scale, a sweet green bell pepper, which has no capsaicin would have a score of 0 heat units. Hot chili peppers like habaneros would have a score of 200000 or more heat units.

How is the Scoville Scale Calculated?

The original method used by Scoville was to dilute the capsaicin oil extracted from peppers with sugar water. A panel of tasters would determine when the heat was just barely detectable, and the amount of dilution at that point was measured. This method of using human testers has now been replaced with more scientific methods. Still, there are inaccuracies. The amount of capsaicin present in a pepper can be affected by growing conditions such as soil and humidity.

You can still use the basic principle in your own kitchen. For example, if you find that your chili is too spicy for your taste, try adding a bit of sugar to balance the heat. This sweet chili recipe is a result of doing just that.

Scoville Scale Scores for Popular Pepper Varieties

The following Scoville Scale lists the score of some common pepper varieties.

Scoville Heat Units Variety
0 Sweet Bell Pepper
100-500 Pimento
100-1000 Cubanelle
1000-2000 Ancho
2500-5000 Jalapeño
5000-10000 Chipotle, a Jalapeño pepper that has been smoked
6000-23000 Serrano
30000-50000 Cayenne Pepper
50000-100000 Thai Pepper
100000-325000 Scotch Bonnet
100000-350000 Habanero

So, what kind of peppers do you like? Do you like hot or mild?

Please leave a comment and let us know.

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