While you can blindly taste a pepper to determine its heat, that’s not a recommended method—ouch! Instead, use the Scoville scale. Pepper heat is measured in Scoville Heat Units, with the hottest peppers having the highest numbers. You’ll see these numbers listed for all our hot peppers.
The ranges of Scoville Heat Units typically used to call a pepper mild, medium, hot, or extra hot are:
- Mild (100 to 2,500)
- Medium (2,500 to 30,000)
- Hot (30,000 to 100,000)
- Extra Hot (100,000 to 300,000+)
Here’s a glance at heat levels for some popular hot peppers, according to the Scoville scale:
How does the Scoville test work?
Devised by Wilbur L. Scoville in 1912, the Scoville test was the first lab approach to measure heat in peppers. In this method, which was widely used until recently, human subjects taste a pepper sample and record the heat level. The samples are then diluted in the lab until heat is no longer detected by the tasters. This dilution is called the Scoville Heat Unit. The method, though, is subjective, as it depends on the taster’s palate and sensitivity. Many now believe that a process developed by scientists to determine a pepper’s Scoville scale rating by measuring the presence of alkaloids, which cause the heat, is a more accurate assessment.
What’s the hottest pepper?
Pepper breeders are trying all the time to surpass the hottest levels and claim the title of World’s Hottest Pepper. Recently, a pepper originating from India called Bhut Jolokia was believed to be the hottest pepper, with a Scoville rating of 855,000 to 1,300,000+, but other peppers may have inched beyond this one now. The hottest pepper we sell is the Habanero. It’s plenty hot, with a rating of 100,000 to 300,000 Scoville Heat Units.
Plant genetics determines pepper heat levels, but environment also plays a role. Hot peppers grow hottest during drought and high temperatures. Allow hot peppers to ripen fully on the vine to obtain their greatest heat potential.