What makes a pepper hot? Capsaicin.
Some of you may be scratching your heads right now wondering “Caps-what?”
Well, capsaicin is a chemical compound found in peppers that stimulates chemoreceptor nerve endings in skin and mucous membranes. This compound is responsible for that spicy heat you experience when eating peppers or using pepper sauce.
For much of the past century, spicy heat has been measured on the Scoville Scale, which indicates the amount of capsaicin present in the pepper. This process has been challenged in recent times, however, because it was partly reliant on human taste tests.
It has been replaced by a more quantitative method that uses high-performance liquid chromatography.
Technical jargon aside, the scale gives a numerical heat unit for all peppers. For example, bell peppers and banana peppers have 0 units, while jalapeño peppers have 8,000 units.
Tabasco and cayenne pepper have 50,000 units, and habañero chilis have 350,000 units. (As a point of comparison, law enforcement-grade pepper spray has 5,000,000 units, and pure Capsaicin has 15,000,000.)
With football season around the corner, I have the perfect item to spice up any tailgate party: Stuffed Jalapeños. This recipe will sure put the Scoville Scale to the test.