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What Are Scoville Units?

Updated on February 2, 2012
Chili Peppers
Chili Peppers | Source

Scoville Units and the Scoville Scale have been around for 100 years, but have you ever heard of them? If you have, do you know what they mean? In this hub you will read about Scoville Heat Units, the Scoville Scale, and how hot certain peppers are. You may even read about peppers you've never heard of! You may be surprised at how hot some peppers really are.

What are Scoville Units & The Scoville Scale?

Scoville Units are the unit of measure in which a peppers hotness is defined. The Scoville Units are determined by measuring the amount of capsaicin in a pepper. The more capsaicin, the higher the pepper goes on the Scoville Scale. The higher it is on the Scoville Scale, the hotter the pepper is. For example, the bell pepper has no heat so it's Scoville Unit would be 0. On the other hand, a Jalapeño pepper ranges from 2,500-8,000 Scoville Units, which is rather low on the scale.

The Scoville Scale is named after pharmacist Wilbur Scoville. He created the scale in 1912 by having people taste the peppers and measure the amount of heat present. This of course, was very inaccurate because it relied on human observation and nothing really scientific. Nowadays we have a more technologically advanced approach to measure the amount of Scoville Units in peppers called liquid chromatography.

Types of Chili Peppers & Their Scoville Units

As it was mentioned above, peppers are measured in Scoville Units that gradually progress up the Scoville Scale. There are many types of Chili Peppers out there, some of which you may never have even heard of. The hottest Chili Pepper measures in at 855,000 - 1,463,700 Scoville Units. That is outrageously hot! Read on to see what those peppers are, as well as where some of the common peppers that you eat fall on the scale.

Scoville Units
Type of Pepper/Examples
15,000,000 - 16,000,000
Pure Capsaicin
8,600,000 - 9,100,000
Various Casaicinoids
500,000 - 2,000,000
Law Enforcement Pepper Spray
855,000 - 1,463,700
Naga Viper Pepper, Infinity Chili, Bhut Jolokia Pepper, Trinidad Scorpion Butch T Pepper
350,000 - 580,000
Red Savina Habanero
100,000 - 350,000
Habanero Chili, Scotch Bonnet Pepper, Jamaican Hot Pepper, Datil Pepper, Peruvian White Habanero, Datil Pepper, Madame Jeanette, Rocoto
50,000 - 100,000
Thai Pepper, Penguin Pepper, Byadgi Chili, Malagueta Pepper, Piri Piri, Bird's Eye Chili, Chiltepin Pepper
30,000 - 50,000
Tabasco Pepper, Cayene Pepper, Aji Pepper, Guntur Chili, Cumari Pepper
10,000 - 23,000
Serrano Pepper, Aleppo Pepper, Peter Pepper
3,500 - 8,000
Jalapeno Pepper, Anaheim Pepper, Tabasco Sauce, Guajilo Pepper, Hungarian Wax Pepper, Espelette Pepper, Chipotle
1,000 - 2,500
Peppadew, Poblano Pepper, Anaheim Pepper, Rocotillo Pepper
100 - 900
Banana Pepper, Peperoncini, Pimento
0
Bell Pepper, Cubanelle, Aji Dulce
Naga Viper Pepper
Naga Viper Pepper | Source

Naga Viper Pepper - 1,382,118 Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

On February 25, 2011, the Naga Viper Pepper was named the hottest pepper in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records, measuring in at 1,382,118 Scoville Heat Units. It passed out the Infinity Chili and Trinidad Scorpion Butch T Pepper.

The Naga Viper Pepper was produced in England by combining 3 of the world's hottest peppers: The Bhut Jolokia, Naga Morich, and the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T Pepper.

When compared to the Jalapeno Pepper, the Naga Viper would be like eating 500 Jalapenos at the same time! 

Bhut Jolokia Peppers
Bhut Jolokia Peppers | Source

Bhut Jolokia Pepper - 1,041,427 Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

The Bhut Jolokia Pepper (also known as the Naga Jolokia), is grown in India, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh. As noted by the Guinness Book of World Records in 2007, this chili pepper is the hottest one in the world, and is also referred to as the "ghost chili" or "ghost pepper." So if you've ever seen Adam Richmond on Man V. Food talk about a ghost chili, this is what he is talking about! Since 2007, 3 other peppers have passed out the Bhut Jolokia in Scoville Rating. They are the Infinity Chili, Naga Viper Pepper, and Trinidad Scorpion Butch T Pepper.

The Bhut Jolokia has more uses than just to add a whole heck of a lot of heat and spice to foods. Believe it or not, the people of India smear the pepper on their fences to keep wild elephants away from them. They also insert the pepper in smoke bombs to keep the elephants at a distance. There was also talk from India about using the pepper in hand grenades as a way of flushing people out of hiding and creating a pepper spray.

Habanero Pepper
Habanero Pepper | Source

Habanero Chili Pepper - 100,000 - 350,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

The Habanero was once known as the hottest chili pepper in the world. While it isn't thee hottest pepper anymore, it still packs a pretty big heat punch coming in between 100,000 and 350,000 SHU.

Habaneros are planted and grown in areas that are hot. Places like Mexico and the Caribbean are great growing grounds for this pepper. Their heat is citrus like, smelling of flowers and is used in hot sauces and making spices.

Tabasco Peppers
Tabasco Peppers | Source

Tabasco Pepper - 30,000 - 50,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

The Tabasco Pepper is known for being the star ingredient in Tabasco Sauce, and is made up of a variety of chili peppers. The Tabasco Pepper is the only peppers whose fruit isn't dry on the inside.

The Tabasco Pepper can be found in Louisiana, but the greater scale of production and growth is found in South and Central America. The reason the growth is more substantial in South and Central America is because the climate can produce more of the peppers and is more reliable.

Jalapeño Pepper
Jalapeño Pepper | Source

Jalapeño Peppers - 2,500 - 8,000 Scoville Heat Units (SHU)

Jalapeño Peppers, to many, are considered a "hot" pepper. Looking at the Scoville Scale, we can all see that Jalapeño Peppers are pretty much the low man on the totem pole.

The Jalapeño is grown in Mexico, and has a slight burning sensation when eaten. They are used in a variety of different dishes, more than likely due to their lack of heat when compared to other peppers.

Conclusion

Overall, the Scoville Scale and Scoville Units are a pretty easy concept to understand. Who would've thought that in this day and age we would have peppers so hot that when served at a restaurant, you need to sign a waiver to eat them! I can only imagine what the future has in store for chili peppers and how hot they are going to become! Make sure to follow my tips for safe eating of peppers!

Tips For Eating Peppers

  1. Don't wipe your face or any other body part with anything that the pepper has touched, unless you want that part of your body to burn as well!
  2. Don't drink water. Water actually makes the heat worse.
  3. Drink milk or other dairy products. The milk actually washes away the hot and spiciness from your mouth, tongue, and throat.
  4. Be prepared to cry. Peppers will make your eats water and your nose run from all the heat they pack in.
  5. Video tape it. Everyone needs a good laugh now and then!

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    • CWanamaker profile image

      CWanamaker 5 years ago from Arizona

      Wow, and I thought that the habanero I was dared to eat in high school was hot! I can't imagine what it would be like to try the Naga Viper Pepper.

    • KStro18 profile image
      Author

      KStro18 5 years ago from PA

      I can't imagine it either! I love hot things but I don't think i'd even consider trying that pepper!

    • cabmgmnt profile image

      Corey 5 years ago from Northfield, MA

      Nice hub and very informative. I linked this to my "How Hot Are Your Chili Peppers" hub. Thanks

    • KStro18 profile image
      Author

      KStro18 5 years ago from PA

      Thanks! Glad you liked it

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