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What's the Hottest Pepper that You Cook With

A response post re. tilapia recipes on the HomeCooking board by Cristina prompted me to write this.

Though I love to play with hot sauces on food, I rarely cook with fresh hot peppers. I know this is illogical, but it's due to the fact that once at a Mexican place I ate some type of raw hot peppers that were so searingly hot that they ruined my meal. Nothing could abate that heat, and I have a darn good tolerance for spicy heat.

So, what do you use? Jalapenos? Habaneros?

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  1. on my tongue (and the scofield scale), jalapenos are not that hot. i eat and cook those on a regular basis. i do cook with habaneros and thai bird peppers often. i've been experimenting with a cream sauce for the former which is interesting because it's cooling, kinda sweet, but also knocks your head off. they're both easy to get fresh here. i also keep a jar home-pickled habaneros in the fridge.

    the more often you eat this stuff, the easier it gets.

    and remember, it's the seeds that hold the heat. removing those (all or some) will abate the cowabunga factor considerably.

    4 Replies
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      That's really interesting...and I have heard that about pepper seeds. I think that was my problem. The pepper that I consumed raw was just sliced whole, seeds and all and I scarfed it down. In recent years the markets near where I live (NE Massachusetts) have been carrying a better selection of peppers (habaneros! scotch bonnets! malaguetas!) because of more South American/Carribbean Hispanic/Mexican folks moving to the area. Before, you'd see a few waxy green peppers and once in a while, a sad looking chile.

      1. re: hotoynoodle

        I don't think the heat is in the seeds; I think it is technically in the membrane that holds the seeds in place. In removing the seeds, you thus remove the membrane, so the pepper isn't as hot.

        1. re: Hungry Celeste

          technically correct, although the seeds being in such close (and attached) proximity to the membrane do absorb heat.

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            Try this test.
            Slpit a Jalapeno pepper in half lengthwise
            Carefully remove seeds from membranes--reserve in a samll bowl
            With the tip of a sharp knife remove membranes for flesh of pepper
            Now taste ---in this order ---a piece of flesh, then some seeds and then the membrane
            You will soon discover where the heat lies.

      2. I use serranos for chili and guacamole and will go as far up the Scoville scale as Scotch bonnets when making jerk pork/chicken.

        1. Serranos is my choice for heat factor. I have gradually brought the family up to the serrano. They notice 2 and like that level, I just cut the top up and finely chop the entire little guys.I will usuually just add more jalapenos for guacamole, and some pico de gallos.
          But for Thai, Mexican and some Chinese, chili, or beans serranos is preferred chile.
          I have never tried the habanero to cook with myself, a little timid with that one.

          1. I use serranos or jalopenos.

            Where I am (Canada), I find jalopenos to be SO inconsistent. Sometimes, I'll add 2-3 to a recipe, and there is nothing. Another time, I made pico de gallo and added one, and it was so hot that it was unpleasant. Very irksome, because I was making the pico for a crowd and only a few people could take the heat.

            1 Reply
            1. re: mrbunsrocks

              I got into the habit of tasting each pepper before it goes into the pot because of the sometimes huge variation in "hot".
              I've also noticed this variation in dried and ground "batches" of chile pepper. Bags from the same provider, same chili type, different heat levels.

            2. This is an odd phenomenon that I've found, too, in a different setting. I like to keep whole, jarred pepperoncini on hand for sandwiches, antipasto, etc. They've got a relatively mild kick but once in a while in a jar of regular zippiness I'll get a wicked, wicked wickedly hot one. This is not all the time, but once in a while. Weird.

              2 Replies
              1. re: thegolferbitch

                Not weird at all...botanically speaking, most peppers come from one or two principal species (c. annum and c. frutescens). Most common peppers are c. annum--so they frequently show variability in heat depending on the weather & soil composition. I have several volunteer plants that have sprung up from the compost heap--they're clearly crosses between jalapenos & cayennes...beautiful red color and long & slightly curvy like cayennes, but thick-walled & chunky like jalapenos.

                1. re: Hungry Celeste

                  I've grown seedlings from the same 6-pack in 2 different places (different soil, water, weather) with very different results. Then the markets all too often have those huge tasteless jalapenos, curse whoever bred those things.