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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.

              2. I love hot peppers! I grow habaneros, scotch bonnets, and chocolate habaneros. And so I don't scorch spice-fearing guests mouth's I also grow jalapenos, serranos, and occasionally anaheims. I'm always on the hunt for something hotter.

                What do I use them in? Gazpacho, chili, pasta, cookies, salsa, burrito fillings, souffles, casseroles, breads, basically anything!

                1. Another hot pepper lover here. I routinely buy habaneros, birds eyes, piquins, serranos and use them in everything. I make my own chili oil to add to anything that needs a little heat. I cook a lot of Asian foods so our peppers get used up very quickly.

                  1. I use scotch bonnets if I have guests that can stand it. They seem the hottest to me.

                    1. Interesting tidbit I just learned:

                      Peppers get hotter if their are grown under stress (I don't know why, but I've heard this multiple places), so peppers grown in dry, hot environments are hotter.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: bklyngrl

                        Yes! I'm not as kind to my pepper plants as my other vegetables. They get lots of sun, not as nice of soil, and a good bit less water. If only we'd have a REALLY hot summer this year! The results are fabulous.

                        1. re: bklyngrl

                          As I understand it, capsaicin is a protection mechanism for the seeds, so the animals don't eat them (little did they expect crazies like us). If the pepper plant is stressed, that may indicate a harsher growing season, so the seeds need even more protection (more capsaicin). This is all rank speculation, mind you.

                        2. A friend who had a wonderful truck farm gave me a gallon bag of Scotch bonnets one year. I put on my heavy rubber gloves and stemmed and seeded all the peppers, then carefully washed my gloved hands, took the gloves off and washed my hands again. An hour or two later I absent-mindedly picked at an eye-boogie, and it was like I'd stuck a lit match in there...

                          One of those guys will warm up a whole pot of beans; two or three will give it a serious kick. If you can discern it through the heat, they have a nice flavor, too.

                          4 Replies
                          1. re: Will Owen

                            That's the first time I heard the term "eye-boogie" outside my house. Wow.

                            So--Will or anyone-- beyond jalapeno can you not safely eat hot peppers raw?

                            1. re: thegolferbitch

                              some people can eat any pepper raw, some can't. never met one i didn't love; raw or cooked.

                              for me, a habanero or two and a couple of good strong margaritas combine to create a loopy endorphin rush that, while much shorter in duration, rivals an acid trip. i don't recommend it for the weak of stomach.

                              1. re: thegolferbitch

                                Why not? I do.

                                I put habaneros, scotch bonnets, chocolate habaneros (aka chocolate congo and the prime ingredient in black mamba) in salsa (uncooked) and gazpacho all the time. They've also made their way into salad dressings, dips, alcoholic drinks, and lots of other uncooked mediums. I _like_ spice.

                                1. re: thegolferbitch

                                  Sure in the guacamole, salsa, or pico de gallo. I always add them raw but only one serrano, and maybe two jalapenos, chopped small tiny dice. I don't want to kill anyone!

                              2. honestly I wouldnt eat anything stronger thanan anaheim chile raw but i "burn easy"

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: onlytwomuses

                                  It's funny how widely this varies. I have had people taste food that I feel are mildly spicy and exclaim about how terribly hot it is. And others pour a quarter cup of hot pepper sauce over eggs and munch blithely away.

                                  There was an interview on TV the other night where a woman said she didn't eat ketchup because she didn't like spicy food. I hope she was joking.

                                2. i use datil peppers a lot. grew up eating shrimp / chicken pilau (perlow) and it wouldn't taste right without datils in it.

                                  if you like scotch bonnets, you'll love datils. (same family, along with habanero)

                                  i also use chipotles quite frequently, but obviously not fresh - i get them from a local mexican grocery store.

                                  i smoked some habaneros on the grill once and tried to make habanero honey. but i chickened out after while and was afraid to use it. i know honey doesn't spoil, but i wasn't sure if my adding the smoked habs was creating a botulism breeding ground or not......

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: hitachino

                                    Sad for you - no bacteria could survive in honey -even after adding the habanero.

                                  2. I once bought a jar of habanero jelly in Napa. The guy that was showing it, poured it over cream cheese just like the red and green chile jellies. It actually was very good, I did buy it and we used it as part of a glaze for bbq chicken.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: chef chicklet

                                      pepper jelly and cream cheese is a fairly common appetizer here in the south. reminds me of all the kitschy 'white trash' cookbooks of a few years ago.

                                      usually it'd be just some generic "red" or "green" pepper jelly, but i use datil pepper jelly myself.

                                      check this out: http://www.kraftfoods.com/recipes/App...

                                      something else that's really good with cream cheese, although not hot, is guava jelly or guava paste.

                                      1. re: hitachino

                                        Another good use for pepper jelly & cream cheese: use it to fill small pastry cases for a pick-up appetizer. I like PJ in salad dressings, as a glaze for grilled pork or chicken, and on a ham sandwich.

                                    2. I've been using a lot of the Thai bird chilis lately. I like spicy, but not enough to lose sensation, lol. A recipe I recently made called for 12-20 Thai chilis, and the eight I used were plenty for me.

                                      1. From a scientific standpoint, Red Savina habaneros are the hottest.

                                        I grow tons of habs in my garden and love their fruity taste as well as their heat. Thinking myself bold, one year I grew Red Savinas. When lovely and ripe I ventured a taste of a tiny piece. Within seconds my lips had blistered such that it looked like I had a case of herpes (gross I know, but it happened) and I was soooooooooooo uncomfortable that I was literally unable to function for maybe half an hour.

                                        They could not be used in their raw state safely, IMO.

                                        I ended up using them in jelly and in hot sauce.

                                        Pepper jelly is delicious and sinfully easy to make.

                                        8 Replies
                                        1. re: C. Hamster

                                          It looks like Red Savinas have been eclipsed by a pepper named Bih Jolokia (goes by a bunch of other names as well). These guys pack over 1 million Scoville units compared with 577k for Red Savinas.

                                          Either one of them could literally put your eye out.

                                          1. re: CDouglas

                                            Bhut Jolokia (or Naga) used to be the hottest coming in, as you say, at around 1 million Scovilles. In England (of all places) they have bred the Dorset Naga and recorded almost 1.6 million Scovilles(peak?). In 2011, the Naga Viper was crowned hottest at 1.38 megaScos. In 2012 the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion took the heat title. Finally, (not!) the Carolina Reaper was anointed supreme last week by the Guinness Book of Records at 1.57 MegaScos (that's average and some plants peaked at 2.2.MegaScos).

                                            There is apparently quite a lot of variation among individual plants.Also, heat level depends on the season of the year and many other factors. Among naturally (?) grown Bhut Jolokias, the ones grown in Assam are reported to be the hottest.

                                            1. re: kagemusha49

                                              It doesn't surprise me that it comes from England--it's a land of chiliheads. I read an article saying that the guy who grew this hottest pepper in the Lake District felt that the climate (rainy and cloudy) was perfect for cultivating extremely hot peppers. Really, though, I don't quite see the point of doing this, except for saying: we have the world record!

                                              1. re: Wawsanham

                                                Hmm - I'm originally from England. I remember having to down many beers before attempting to eat a Phal curry. At the time it was the only way I could eat one. Now, I am much more tolerant of extreme spice. I also have allergies and, on bad days, I'll munch through a couple of peppers from the local market - serranos or habaneros.

                                                1. re: kagemusha49

                                                  I think you sort of prove my point. I don't think ANYONE in Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Uruguay, or most of Latin America (probably the exception is Mexico, maybe Peru) would ever even eat a Phal curry AT ALL... They are much more spice averse than the English--of course this is a generalization.

                                                  1. re: Wawsanham

                                                    My buddy from Uruguay- who is a very good cook- is extremely adverse to chili heat, but he overspices everything else- currys, dry rubs. Paella is OK because saffron is so costly!

                                                    1. re: Veggo

                                                      I know a woman from Chile who is overcome by the spiciness of Vanilla Ovaltine.

                                          1. I've tried most of the chiles on this thread. I've used a lot of them over the years in cooking.
                                            My favorite would have to be the Serrano. I think the combination of heat and flavor makes
                                            it a terrific choice. These meaty little bullets are my go to chile pepper.

                                            I grow them from seedlings under black plastic in the full sun on a 4'x10' raised bed. Here in the Boston area the summers can vary widely, duh. I've never gotten less than very good to excellent heat and well flavored Serranos using this method.

                                            1. I don't much like the flavor of habaneros and can't stand jalapeños (they taste like soap to me, the way some people react to cilantro) but the small Indian/Asian chiles are pretty close to run-of-the-mill habaneros unless you clean them out carefully. (They're bigger than true "bird chiles", but they're usually pretty hot.) When I don't need a specific flavor profile, the green chile I tend to reach for most is serranos, usually a bit hotter than regular jalapeños, though not nearly as hot as the little ones or habaneros. Heat aside, I think I like their flavor the most among the different varieties. (But then, while I have a high tolerance for chile heat so can stand almost anything, I don't particularly enjoy searingly hot food.) Second to serranos would be the small Asian/Indian types, again more for the flavor than the heat level per se.

                                              One thing to consider is that, however it works chemically, the heat from some chiles dissipates with prolonged cooking; apparently this is the case with.jalapeños though, needless to say, I have no personal experience with that.

                                              5 Replies
                                              1. re: MikeG

                                                Could agree more MikeG, I too can eat just about anything, regardless of the Scoville units. But what's the point? If it hasn't got good flavor and is all fire, then we're just talking silly macho posturing. To make a generalization; people like that tend to drink Corona with the silly lime wedge. Ooh wee!

                                                1. re: Harp00n

                                                  or put oranges in their hefeweizens.

                                                  if the brewer had meant to make a german ale taste like orange, he/she'd have made a belgian wit. ;)

                                                  1. re: hitachino

                                                    Well that's a far greater crime hitachino, because hefeweizens actually have taste, range and character. Where as; Corona is just, basically, a bad German brew via Mexico. Hell, it's more popular in the States than in it's country of origin :-)

                                                    1. re: Harp00n

                                                      It has been my personal philosophy for many years that fruit does not belong in my beer. While I am not Miller Lite drinker, I agree with the ads that invoke the "Man Law" "Don't Fruit the Beer."

                                                      1. re: Captain

                                                        Aw shucks Captain, and all this time I had you pegged as a Lambic straight-up kinda guy :-)

                                              2. Thanks for the feedback & link, MiL, I didn't realize The King Phillip's War extended all the way to La La Land :-)

                                                1. It's one thing if it's well incorporated into the overall flavor - as in Indian and Thai cooking - but when it's extra hot just because someone threw in handfuls of super hot chiles (like some people I've known do in chile), that I can live without.

                                                  Everyone always talks about the endorphin rush but if it's really there, I barely notice it and there are much pleasanter ways to achieve one worth mentioning. (g,d&r)

                                                  1. It depends on what I'm making. Usually I like to use 'meatier' Chiles like Jalapenos for Salsas and Guacs. For cooking with my rice, I use Serranos. They are meaty enough o really enhance flavors. My "cooking" chile is Habanero. Just drop one in a 'guisado' and it flavors and add heat without being to crazy. For garnish, which requires a dried chile, we use chiltecpins, they are tiny little round FIRE BOMBS!


                                                    2 Replies
                                                    1. re: Dommy

                                                      Having never had or heard of a chiltecpins, I just Googled it. I got some hits but as Google does, I get "Do you mean Chiltepins?" and got a lot more hits. Are they one in the same and is there an online source for them? Thanks

                                                      1. re: Harp00n

                                                        Yes, we do mean Chiltepines. I discovered them while visiting a place in New Mexico called Native Seeds


                                                        A couple of small ones in a pot of beans and your set.

                                                        Take Care

                                                        - P.

                                                    2. For what it's worth, I've been buying and using Red Savina's in cooking for years. The heat tends to cook out fairly quickly and the flavor is fantastic. I am "tolerant" enough to eat them raw/whole but that's usually only after quite a few beers. I've got 6 Red Savina plants and 2 Bhut Jolokai plants growing as I'm typing this. I'll let you all know what happens when I take my first bite of a Bhut Jolokai!

                                                      1. habaneros is the hottest, although I have never used a scotch bonnet (don't know why)

                                                        which is hotter?

                                                        also, I heard of an amazingly hot new chile out of india that is supposed to be the hottest chile in the world..has anyone tried this? I would LOVE to try it

                                                        I also make sure to take out my contacts before I cut chiles. I learned my lesson the hard way

                                                        2 Replies
                                                        1. re: bitsubeats

                                                          scotch bonnets are a cultivar of habaneros, the peppers are very similar, and sometimes you can get some habaneros that are hotter than some scotch bonnets, and sometimes you can get scotch bonnets that are hotter than some habaneros, if that makes any sense! :)

                                                          1. re: bitsubeats

                                                            "Standard" Habeneros usually come in around 100,000 Scoville Units while the "trademarked" Red Savina hybrid I mentioned averages around 500,000 Scoville Units.

                                                            The Indian pepper you're talking about is the Bhut Jolokai, (various spellings), that are 1,000,000 Scoville units. I've got 6 Red Savina plants and 2 Bhut Jolokai plants growing in my backyard.

                                                            I'll let you know how the Bhut Jolokai's are when they come in around early September --- if I'm alive!

                                                          2. Recently on my quest to find limes and lemons at a reasonable price, I visited a Mexican Market here in my town. A great darling little store full of fresh produce and a fresh meat and fish counter, a wide assortment of dried chilies, and a plethera of little bags of exotic things, some with herbs and other goodies that are needed to make whatever Mexican dish one desires. This little place has a sort of what I would call a Mexican mini deli offering,there are cooked delicous carnitas and chicharrones, fried chicken, chips and few other fried things, Tthe top of the meat counter has stacks of pickled vegetables, with chilies, carrots, onions, cauliflower and something else I don't recognize. I had to have it. This stuff is crazy hot and full of good pickled flavor. Along with meat and produce, I purchased some of their salsa. Lightish orange in color, thick and to me it looked harmless enough. The guy behind the meat counter tried to warn (I think) that it was hot. Oh but nothing is too hot for me, or so I think. So I can't wait to try it and I go straight home. I don't even test it. I Get out some celery and dip it in the salsa. JEEZ Louise, this must be pure habanero salsa, my mouth, lips and tongue, the whole lower portion of my face is, ON FIRE. Great stuff. I wish I could tell you for certain what is, but unfortuanately there is a language challenge. If it is habanero which I suspect it could be? Or do they make a salsa with scotch bonnets? Are they the same thing?

                                                            1 Reply
                                                            1. re: chef chicklet

                                                              Habeneros and Scotch Bonnets are closely releated but not exact from what I found on wiki. The Scotch is a little less hot and slightly different flavor. I would bet that the salsa you had was from one of those peppers though and I'm glad you survived.

                                                              Take Care

                                                              - P.

                                                            2. When cooking with habaneros, it is incumbent on the chef to divide the pepper into uniform, diminutive pieces so that no guest is felled by a single torpedo of habanero. Unless that was the original plan.

                                                              1. Only in Thai cooking. Prik kee nu, aka bird's eye or mouse s*** chiles (I swear, that's what Kasma calls them). I sometimes make basil chicken or green curry of shrimp and eggplant. Once made basil chicken for the XBF and actually got him to admit something was hot, hah!

                                                                But I confess I can't taste the subtleties of flavor--fruitiness, etc, that chile varieties are supposed to have. To me they're very hot, and distinctly bitter. All of them.

                                                                1. Just the "lowly" ají verde (a pepper somewhat less hot than a Jalapeño). I wouldn't mind occasionally using something a bit hotter--though I'm no spice fiend--but I'll probably get run out of the house for making "inedible" food as I cook for others, too--and for them the ají verde is already often seen as too hot. Too bad.

                                                                  1. Wow! Old thread!

                                                                    Hottest pepper we "cook" with? That's usually various peppers in the habanero family.

                                                                    For pepper sauce we use anything...it doesn't get too hot. We know now to temper the heat and draw out the flavor.

                                                                    1. I love when old threads re-surface. I just spent six weeks consulting with a restaurant on their bar/cocktails. The family meals were heavily spiced most days. One of the tastiest dishes was a rice or noodle dish that had whole habaneros in it. They didn't give the dish too much heat, but a lovely floral flavor. Unless you ate one, then your eyes and nose would run and at times you might be gasping for air. That was me most days because I got to the point I was eating 4-6 of these whole cooked habaneros because they tasted so good, and the endorphin rush was fantastic.

                                                                      Now I throw a whole habanero or three into many dishes I make that only cook for a short time. You get the aroma/flavor without much heat. Unless you want the burn and eat it.

                                                                      1 Reply
                                                                      1. re: JMF

                                                                        My wife is Caribbean (Trinidad & Tobago). They constantly cook meals seasoned with a whole habanero. Most times they are careful to not burst the pepper as it's meant to flavor the food and not necessarily spice it. Sometimes the pepper pops on it's own, and sometimes it's done on purpose. The cooked peppers do have good flavor, but fresh peppers have better flavor if you want to eat it as a condiment along with your meal...which is common in T&T (and in our household).

                                                                      2. Habañeros is as hot as I've gotten, having been given a gallon zip bag full of them by a friend who had a fancy truck farm. I made jerk sauce - a lot of jerk sauce - and got into the habit of throwing one or two into a pot of beans, enjoying the sneaky but somehow comforting heat they produced. I don't use fresh hot ones anymore, thanks to the proliferation of fresh-pepper sambals and sauces from the likes of Huy Fong and a taste for flavorful dried flake ones, especially Aleppo. And I'm cooking meat now only for myself, which means those beans no longer have pork in them to moderate that heat.

                                                                        1. The hab, but that's because it is the hottest pepper available in my area. I'd experiment with the jolokias, fatali and scorpions if they were available.

                                                                          1 Reply
                                                                          1. re: Perilagu Khan

                                                                            The Jolokias are ok, incredibly hot but ok. I haven't tried fatali. The scorpions aren't just hot, they're mean! Downright cruel and vicious. Not a bad burn per se, but a whole body experience. Altered mental state, feel ill, hands shaking, etc. for several minutes. But you get used to them after a few weeks of exposure. I'm just not sure the exposure is worth it.

                                                                          2. Although I grew to appreciate several Datil dishes when visiting St. Augustine, DW is not fond of muy picante preparations, so we rarely cook with anything hotter than Jalepenos. I'm willing to try another variety of approximately the same heat if anyone thinks it tastes better.

                                                                              1. Jalapeno, but I remove seeds and pith. Looking for the pepper flavor, not all the heat.

                                                                                1. I keep Caribbean Red Hots, pickled and also on the plant right now. My son grew them in his garden two Summers ago, and I wound up overwintering his plants in my greenhouse. We repeated that this year. My son pickled a couple of jars and gave me one. These are very hot and I treat them with the utmost care. One pepper, fresh or pickled spices up a whole pot of Chili or whatever I feel could use some heat. The infused pickling liquid is great in all sorts of dishes.

                                                                                  1. Serrano here. Sometimes Thai bird or other chiles if I think the guests can hack it.