If you love to crank up the heat when it comes to the spiciness of your food, today is your day. January 22 is National Hot Sauce Day, and now is the time to celebrate.
From Tabasco and Cholula, to sauces with Ghost Peppers and Carolina Reaper, we enjoy good, spicy food (even though traditional Italian food is still our favorite!). And although heat lovers don’t need any excuse to eat fiery foods, today might be a good day to expand your hot sauce collection and try something new.
Scoville’s Scale of Heat
Hot Sauce Day officially celebrates the 1865 birth of Wilbur Scoville, an American chemist who in 1912 created the method to determine a pepper’s spiciness that we still use today. His system measures the concentration of capsaicin, the component that gives chilies their spicy taste, using Scoville Heat Units (SHU). Ratings go from 0 (for a bell pepper, which has no spiciness) to 16,000,000 units for pure capsaicin.
Capsaicin content causes a burning sensation when it touches any tissue, and the units are measured by extract a pepper’s capsaicin oil, then diluting the oil in sugar water. Heat level is measured by how many dilutions are needed until three of five panels of testers cannot discern any hotness. The hottest chilies must be diluted many times for no heat to be detected.
Peppers Create Different Heat Levels
Hot sauce is made by crushing or pureeing raw, cooked, smoked or pickled chili peppers, and then mixing them with other spices, vegetables, oils or vinegar. Hot sauces from Mexico typically use chipotle or jalapeño peppers, but Jamaican cuisine uses scotch bonnet peppers and Asian food frequently uses Thai chili peppers or Sichuan peppers.
The hottest chili pepper is the Carolina Reaper, which is a cross between a ghost pepper and a red habanero. The Reaper has an official heat level of 1,569,300 SHU. By comparison, Tabasco Brand Original Pepper Sauce has a level between 2,500 to 5,000 SHU. A serrano pepper measures between 6,000 and 23,000 on the scale. And U.S.-grade police pepper spray is between 2,500,000 and 5,300,000 SHU.
Other pepper-related facts:
- Chili peppers were used for cooking as early as 6,000 years ago, but did not reach Europe until the 16th century.
- Pepper are native to the Americas, but chili peppers were spread around the world by Spanish and Portuguese traders.
- India is the world’s largest producer and consumer of chili peppers.
- The first hot sauce sold in a bottle was in Massachusetts in 1807.
Order our Suicidal Flavor (Bone-In) wings today to measure the level of our highest SHU!