Chef Andy’s Classroom: Working with Chili Peppers
Andy Anderson !
Let’s take a look at the man that gave us the Scoville rating system, and how it relates to some of the more popular chili peppers, and we’ll talk about working with one of our favorite ingredients in the kitchen… the humble chili pepper.
So, you ready… let’s go.
How to Make Chef Andy’s Classroom: Working with Chili Peppers
- The original method called the Scoville Organoleptic Test (try saying that 3 times quickly). The test went something like this: A solution of the pepper extract would be diluted in sugar water until the heat was no longer detectable to a panel of tasters; the degree of dilution gives its measure on the Scoville scale.
- For example, a sweet pepper, containing no capsaicin at all, would have a Scoville rating of zero, indicating no heat was detectable; even if undiluted. The hottest chilies, such as habaneros, have a rating of 300,000 or more, indicating that their extract has to be diluted 300,000-fold before the capsaicin present is undetectable. The dilution ratio was measured in drops. Therefore, it would take 300,000 drops of sugar water, before a drop of habanero extract was no longer detectable.
- Where does the chili store its heat?
It's often said that seeds are the source of the heat in chili peppers, but while the seeds are hot, they don't cause the heat. The membrane, called the placenta, stores the heat. The seeds are attached to the membrane, but the heat is transferred to the seeds, not stored in them. To reduce the heat level of a pepper, scrape the inside of the pepper with a spoon to remove the seeds and the membrane.
- Do we taste the heat of a chili?
The mouth's pain receptors, not the taste buds, transmit the heat sensation. A runny nose and watery eyes often follow the immediate wave of fire, and some people perspire profusely. Capsaicin also releases endorphins in the body, causing some people to feel exhilarated Plus the capsaicin triggers thermo-genesis, a fat-burning process.
- Once eaten, how to you tame the heat?
You might reach for a glass of ice water to douse the flames, but don’t. The compounds in peppers are fat soluble, so drinking a glass of water would be like throwing gas on the fire. To counteract the chilies heat, chew on a piece of bread, eat some chocolate, or drink some milk or other dairy products.
- Working with chilies
Many people are sensitive to chilies, and after cutting into them, develop a rash, or their skin itches where it came in contact with the chilies. Many people will wear protective gloves that they use only for the purpose of handling chilies. It goes without saying that after handling chilies you should keep you hands away from your face; especially your eyes.
- Dried versus Fresh
A dried pepper contains more heat than its fresh equivalent because the lack of moisture concentrates the flavors. If you substitute dry peppers for fresh ones, be sure to adjust portions according to taste. It’s to be noted that the longer a chili is allowed to ripen, the hotter it will get
- Roasting a Pepper
To roast peppers, place them on a baking sheet in an oven heated to 375f (190c). Check the peppers every 15 to 20 minutes, and turn them when the top has charred and blistered. Repeat until all sides are charred. Place the peppers in a brown paper bag and close it to allow the steam to loosen the skin. . After 15 minutes, remove the peppers from the bag, and peel away the blistered skin.
- Poblano: 1,000-2,000 SHUs
Popular in Mexican cuisine, this wide, deep-green chile is most likely the one you get in your chile relleno. It has a fairly mild and fresh taste. The dried version of the poblano is called an ancho chile, which has a sweeter, almost raisin-like taste and is a common component in mole.
- Tabasco: 30,000-50,000 SHUs
A little hot sauce company from Avery Island, La., may just be responsible for making this pepper well-known. However, the famous condiment is not nearly as hot as the actual pepper itself. Tabasco sauce checks in at about 2,500 to 5,000 SHUs, but the chile itself is far higher.
- Bhut Jolokia (Ghost Pepper): 500,000-1 million SHUs
Poor ghost pepper. It once held the title for spiciest pepper, but was unseated by the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and, most recently, the Carolina Reaper. This pepper, which hails from Nagaland in northeast India, is said to have a slow, building heat.