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Heat and Scoville Rating

A warning about chillies:

For the uninitiated, chillies should be handled with caution.

Use gloves, especially when working with a large quantity of chillies. Chilli can produce a nasty burn if you have sensitive skin. Wash your hands with a detergent and warm or cold water – hot water seems to ‘cook’ the chilli residue into the skin.

Sensitivity to a chilli’s heat differs from person to person, so, it is important to exercise some caution, gradually experimenting with the many types and building up your personal tolerance level. Either that or go crazy, feel the burn and do it anyway!


What does the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) rating mean?

The ‘Scoville Organoleptic Test’ was developed in the early nineteenth century by Wilbur Scoville to measure the heat level of chilli peppers. Pure ground chillies were mixed with sugar water, and a group of testers would taste the solution. The solution was diluted in equal increments until the “hotness or piquancy” was no longer detected.

For example, lets say you have a chilli rated 10,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU’s). This means if you used 1 tablespoon of this chilli, you would have to combine it with 10,000 tablespoons of sugar water to dilute the concoction to where you no longer feel the heat!

Below is an example table illustrating the Scoville Heat Unit Rating for various types of common chillies:


Chilli Name Scoville Heat Rating
Bell Pepper 0
Cherry / Pepperoncini 100
New Mexico 500
Poblano / Ancho / Pasilla 1,000
Rocotillo / Numex Big Jim 1,500
Jalapeno / Mirasol 2,500
Chipotle / Yellow Wax / Serrano 5,000
Manzano / De Arbol 15,000
Cayenne / Tabasco 30,000
Thai / Piquin 50,000
Habanero / Scotch Bonnet / Birds Eye 100,000
Red Savina Habanero 350,000
Naga / Bhut Jolokia 855,000
Infinity Chilli 1,176,182
Pure Capsaicin 16,000,000


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