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Thursday, December 15, 2005

A One-Way Ticket to Scoville - The Hottest Town This Side of the Pecos

When was the last time you ate someone’s famous three-alarm chili, which happened to be spiked with a secret ingredient that made your mouth turn into a mini blast furnace? Have you ever wondered why your mouth burns and what the specific mechanism behind the whole phenomenon was? Today is your day. I’m about to drop the science on you about culinary seasoning heat. Since it is Chili season, I thought that it would be appropriate and informative to explain the science of hot seasonings and how it is measured.

The Scoville Heat Scale
Columbus may have discovered chiles in the West Indies, but Wilbur Scoville is the name most closely linked with peppers today. Scoville, a pharmacist, was the first to develop a scale that defined the relative heat produced by different types of peppers back in 1912. His initial system was very subjective, akin to you and your friends sitting around the table and voting. Today, heat testing of peppers is done by complex machinery, but Scoville remains the scale's founder and namesake, worshiped by "chile-heads" worldwide. You can find Scoville heat unit ratings on jars of salsa or bottled hot sauce.

The Big "C"

What makes a chile hot is actually the amount of Capsaicin it contains. Capsaicin is said to be addictive because when it comes in contact with the nerves in your mouth, pain signals are sent to your brain. Your brain responds by releasing endorphins, natural painkillers, that create a sense of euphoria. The more spicy food you eat, the more endorphins entering your system, and the better you feel -- even if your mouth is on fire. That's why chile-heads say 'the hotter the better.'

Just for your enlightenment I have included an official Scoville Heat Units chart below.

If you are into trying different kinds of hot sauces, visit to Hot Sauce World.
It will be well worth it. Enjoy!


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