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Tuesday, January 20, 2015

A Guide to Chilies: Heat Things Up This Winter

A chili powder will always add another level to your favorite dishes, adding not only heat but flavor. The best part about chilies is that you don't have to be a spice aficionado to enjoy the complexity and richness a chile can offer. There's a wide range of heat to choose from. 

The Scoville scale, created by pharmacist Wilbur Scoville in 1912, measures the heat of a pepper by the concentration of a chemical compound called capsaicin. This compound gives that burning/spicy sensation that many of us know and love. The Scoville heat units (SHU) provides a better understanding of the heat of a substance. The scale ranges from 0-16,000,000 (SHU) with pure capsaicin being the highest. 

Not the biggest fan of spicy food? Good news, there are even chilies for folks who like more mild flavors. Pasilla and Ancho are not only within the 1,000-4,000 SHU range, but they have a slight smokiness to them (ancho is a little sweeter, though). Green chili and Aji Panca (a staple pepper in Peruvian cuisine) are also mild chilies. Both will even add a slight fruitiness to dishes. If you want something a little hotter, the popular Mexican Chipotle peppers, smoke-dried jalepeƱos, are a great option ranging from 5,000-10,000 SHU. And Chili de Arbol (in store) is the perfect in-the-middle pepper ranging from 15,000-30,000 SHU.

For the heat lovers out there, the classic Cayenne is always a great choice, ranging from 30,000-50,000 SHU. If you wanted to step up, HabaƱero ranges 50,000-100,000 SHU, and even hotter than that is African bird pepper which is 75,000-150,000 SHU. The hottest pepper we've got on our shelves is also one of the hottest in the world. That pepper is Bhut Jolokia aka Ghost Pepper (in store), with a Scoville level of 855,000-1,041,427 SHU (a chili not for the faint hearted). 

Now that you've started your journey towards becoming a chili connoisseur, you can check out the rest of our selection online or better yet, stop by and chat with one of us. We'll help you choose chilies that suit your individual taste!

This post is part of our series on chilies. For others in the series check out:
A Guide to Chilies: Heat Things Up This Winter
Basic Chili, With Endless Variations

Sara is currently studying romance languages at the University of Maryland, College Park. As a student and a team member of Bazaar Spices, she is able to fuel her interest in understanding different cultures. For Sara, understanding different cultures is key to connecting with people, and there is nothing more gratifying to her than that.  

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