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)
- Extremely Hot (above 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. The current record holder is the Carolina Reaper, with a palate-scorching official rating of 1,641,300 Scoville Heat Units. Bonnie Plants is proud to be the exclusive grower of Carolina Reaper starter plants!
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—the longer you wait before harvesting, the hotter they’ll be.