What is it that makes spicy-food lovers — or chili heads, as they're affectionately called — relish in the agonizing pleasure of turning their lips into fiery, near-comatose mush?
Is it flavor? Pain? Ego? We may never know.
What we do know, though, are the peppers that can fast-track us to fiery bliss, as demonstrated by this periodic table of chili peppers. It's science, after all, that gets us sweating. Here's how to read it.
So what am I looking at?
Basically, a taxonomy of 54 of the most common peppers on earth hierarchized in table format based on their heat level by the Scoville Food Institute. And yes, that’s a 100% legit institute.
Uh, WTF is a Scoville?
It's a unit of measurement denoting the pungency (aka spice level) of a chile pepper based on the amount of capsaicin it contains. For example, a jalapeno has 2,500- 8,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU) whereas a sweet bell pepper contains zero.
Who came up with that?
A guy named Wilbur Scoville created the Scoville Organoleptic Test to rank the pungency of chile peppers while working as chemist for the Parke Davis Pharmaceutical Company in 1912.
How does the test work?
It’s a little confusing, but basically a dried pepper is dissolved in alcohol to extract its capsaicin. Then, decreasing concentrations of the extracted capsaicin components are diluted in a solution of sugar water and given to a panel of five tasters. Once at least three of the testers can no longer taste the heat, the test is over and the pepper’s SHU is assigned based on the number of times the sugar water solution needed to be diluted before the heat was no longer detectable. With a Scoville rank of 2.2m, Carolina Reaper extract would need to be diluted 2,200,000 times.
Alright, enough learning for the day. Can I just play with the table already?
Go ahead (but if you’re on mobile flip your phone horizontally for optimum results).