It takes a special kind of monkey to find a plant that has developed a chemical that has no other purpose than to cause pain and decide “I’m gonna eat that”. I am one of those monkeys and I’m proud of it. Like many other dudes, I love hot sauces and I am a self-proclaimed pepper head, but there is more to the world of capsicums than many realize. Sit down, class. It’s time for your hot pepper primer.
Firstly, there are just too many different varieties of chili in the world for me to go over in a single article, so I am just going to go over some of the ones that you are likely to encounter on your quest into the land of capsaicin.
A contender for the most common pepper in the world is likely the cayenne. You aren’t likely to see this one used in its raw form very often, but it’s used as the base for many chili powders and sauces. If you’ve ever ordered food delivery that came with little packets of hot sauce, it was probably a cayenne based sauce. These are not super-hot sauces by any means, but they have a great balance of heat and flavor.
Jalapenos are probably the most well-known chili pepper in the world, but they are not given the respect they deserve. Most often used in their green form, jalapenos have a distinct flavor and a surprising level of heat when eaten raw. Don’t get tricked into thinking that these are weak peppers because the sauces made with them are low in heat. Green jalapenos are a mainstay of mid-west cooking and if you order food delivery out there, expect to eat them.
Next we have a category of peppers that I would reserve for the moderate pepper heads because they are about 100 times hotter than a jalapeno. That’s not an exaggeration. Scotch bonnets and habaneros have scoville ratings between 100k and 500k where the jalapeno comes in at 2500. If you’ve ever been floored by a jalapeno, avoid anything with these two peppers.
Lastly, we have the exotic super-hots. You may have heard of the ghost pepper recently and it’s a beast. Coming in at around 1,000,000 scoville, the different peppers that bear this name are not to be trifled with. Naga jalokia and bhut jalokia peppers are both referred to as ghost peppers and anything that bears that name is going to be a wild ride.
Sadly, that’s not the top of the crop anymore. You’re not likely to see these peppers on the menu for any Minnesota restaurant delivery anytime soon, but if you see their names on anything, you should probably steer clear. The Trinidad Scorpion and the 7 Pot are two varieties of pepper that can range between 1,200,000 scoville to a whopping 2,000,000. I’m serious. If you see these names on a sauce or menus, avoid them unless you absolutely love the burn. It’s got nothing to do with flavor at this level.
That’s my basic primer to help you enjoy hot food just a little more while avoiding knocking yourself out with pain. Some of us like the level of heat a 7 Pot brown can provide. Not me.