When it comes to heat, not all peppers are created equal. Bell peppers are decidedly more sweet than spicy, jalapenos offer a bit more fire, and habaneros are seriously hot. Just how much heat a pepper packs can be subjective, but those looking for a more scientific approach turn to the Scoville scale.
Invented by American chemist Wilbur Scoville in 1912, the scale measures a pepper’s capsaicin, which is the source of its heat. Scoville ratings range from zero to 16 million and indicate how many times the capsaicin must be diluted to be neutralized. Jalapenos range from 2,500 to 8,000, habaneros from 100,000 to 350,000, and bell peppers—because they contain only trace amounts of capsaicin—have a Scoville rating of zero.
But Scoville ratings in the thousands are chili pepper child’s play. The real deal heat comes when the Scoville scale goes into the millions. And since the hottest peppers get so much attention, farmers are constantly trying to beat the competition, which means every year or so a new pepper is deemed the hottest in the world. If all this talk of heat has you fired up for peppers, we’ve rounded up 7 of the world’s most scorching varieties. Taste at your own risk!
1. Dragon’s Breath Chili
With a 2.4 million Scoville rating, the newly introduced Dragon’s Breath Chili is considered the hottest in the world. In fact, experts believe consuming it carries risk of anaphylactic shock (in other words, this pepper can kill you). Despite its record-breaking heat, the Dragon’s Breath was created by accident. Welsh horticulturalist Mike Smith was shocked to discover the potency of his pepper. He’s not even a fan of spicy food.
2. Carolina Reaper Chili
Though it was recently knocked from its pedestal by the Dragon’s Breath, the Carolina Reaper is no slouch in the spice department. This pepper averages 1.5 million on the Scoville scale, but has been known to peak as high as 2.2 million. Some hot peppers are just hot, but the Carolina Reaper was bred to have sweetness, and is often used to make hot sauce.
3. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion
Like the Dragon’s Breath and the Carolina Reaper, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion was once considered the hottest in the world. At first bite, this Caribbean pepper tastes sweet, but its spice soon becomes unbearable. The average Trinidad Moruga Scorpion measures 1.2 million on the Scoville scale, but some peppers have topped 2 million.
4. Seven Pot Peppers
Seven pot peppers, also known as seven pod peppers, originated in the Caribbean and earned their name because they’re said to be hot enough to spice seven pots of stew. There are a number of different varieties, including Seven Pot Jonah, Seven Pot Chocolate, and Seven Pot Primo. Seven pot peppers often surpass 1 million on the Scoville scale, but they’re also prized for their fruity, nutty flavor.
5. Ghost Pepper
Though it has a relatively tame Scoville rating of just over 1 million, the Ghost Pepper is perhaps the most notorious hot pepper. YouTube is filled with ghost pepper challenge videos and consuming this pepper has been known to send folks to the emergency room. Originally from India, ghost peppers are also called Bhut Jolokia and are commonly used in curries, chutneys, and hot sauces.
6. Trinidad Scorpion 'Butch T'
Named for its scorpion-like tail and Zydeco Hot Sauce’s Butch Taylor, who was involved in its creation, the Trinidad Scorpion “Butch T” surpasses 1.4 million on the Scoville scale. That doesn’t make it the hottest pepper on the planet, but when it was being cultivated at Australia’s Chili Factory, the team had to wear protective gear just to handle these shockingly spicy peppers.
7. Komodo Dragon
The Komodo Dragon, developed by Salvatore Genovese, the UK’s largest producer of chili peppers, measures a searing 1.4 million on the Scoville scale. While its name makes its potency fairly obvious, the Komodo Dragon has a sneaky side. Those brave enough to take a bite report that its heat is delayed but quickly builds to scorching.
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