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What Is A Scoville Heat Unit?

The Scoville Organoleptic Test is a refined, systematic approach. With this method, human subjects taste a chile sample and record its heat level. Samples are then diluted until heat can no longer be detected by the taster, this dilution is called the Scoville Heat Unit, named for the man who invented it, Wilbur Scoville. A more technologically advanced test is an HPLC test, or High Performance Liquid Chromatography. An HPLC ‘sees' the heat compounds and records the amount in parts per million (ppm). A quick conversion from HPLC to Scoville is to multiply the ppm by 15 to get the Scoville Heat Unit.

The Scoville Heat Unit is the closest thing to a standard for measuring the heat in a pepper. It is a measurement that involves adding sugar to a solution until one can no longer taste the pepper. The more sugar, the higher the spice, the greater measurement in Scoville units. Created in 1912, there are now more scientific measurements, but they generally use the Scoville units.

The generally accepted Scoville Heat Unit ratings are:

Mild:   0 - 5,000

Medium:  5,000 - 20,000

Hot:  20,000 - 70,000
(Our Ground Red Pepper is Rated at 20,000)

Extreme: 70,000 - 300,000


[According to the Guinness Book of World Records, the Red Savina Habanero is the hottest pepper on Earth. It has garnered a rating of 570,000 Scoville Heat Units.]

The following chart is an approximation of heat, used to compare
the relative spiciness of peppers.

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Pepper TypeHeat rating (in Scoville heat units)
Red Amazon75,000
Chiltecepin70,000 - 75,000
Tabasco30,000 - 50,000
Smoked Jalapeno (Chipotle)10,000
Serrano7,000 - 25,000
Jalapeno3,500 - 4,500
Poblano2,500 - 3,000
TAM Mild Jalapeno1,000 - 1,500
Anaheim1,000 - 1,400
New Mexican1,000
Bell & Pimento0

Mr. Scoville's test has become the industry standard for determining just how hot hot really is. Today, you will often find the Scoville Heat Unit rating on a jar of salsa or a bag of seasoning. A jalapeno falls in at roughly 4000 heat units while the habanero rates an easy 250,000.


Last Updated:  Friday, July 19, 2013 02:36 PM

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