What is the Scoville Scale and How Is It Used?

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Determining the spiciness of foods is a tricky prospect, and it often is difficult to quantify how spicy a particular food is. Different people have different spice tolerances, meaning what is spicy to one person may not be spicy for someone else. Thankfully, the Scoville scale exists to quantify how spicy a particular food is. With the Scoville scale, you’ll be able to see how spicy a food is when you shop for peppers at a farmers market or buy habanero jelly online. There still are, however, a lot of questions surrounding the Scoville scale. Many people may have heard of the Scoville scale before, but few actually know how the scale is calculated. So what exactly is the Scoville scale, and how is it used? Here’s everything you need to know about the Scoville scale.

Scoville Defined

The Scoville scale is a way to measure the spiciness of chili peppers. The scale was originally created in 1912 and gets its name from its creator, Wilbur Scoville. This scale measures the amount of capsaicin in a pepper. Capsaicin is the chemical component that gives peppers their heat, so as your might expect more capsaicin means more spice. The Scoville scale is measured in something known as Scoville heat units (SHU), with foods having more SHU being spicier than foods that have lower SHU.

Scoville Units

As mentioned before, Scoville units are the primary form of measuring on the Scoville scale. To find a food’s Scoville unit the capsaicin from a pepper is diluted with water and sugar and given

to a person. When the taste tester can’t distinguish the spice of pepper anymore the test stops. Therefore, Scoville units are determined by the amount of sugar and water required to fully dilute the pepper’s spice.

Scoville Accuracy

Although the Scoville scale is one of the most widely used measurements of spiciness, it isn’t always the most accurate way to measure the amount of spice in a food. Human taste buds vary from person to person, so right off the bat, the Scoville scale has a problem with accuracy. Additionally, different peppers of the same type may have different spice levels due to how they were grown. Although these problems may make the Scoville scale a little inaccurate, it still gives a decent gauge of how spicy a food is.

High Scoville Foods

As you might have guessed, high Scoville foods are extremely spicy with very few people being able to tolerate their spiciness. Unless you are extremely familiar with spicy foods, you probably shouldn’t try dabbling with foods high on the Scoville scale. A couple of the hottest foods on the Scoville scale include the ghost pepper and Carolina reaper pepper. These foods have Scoville levels that rank in the millions, blowing most other foods completely out of the water. These foods are so spicy they can be dangerous and cause you great physical pain when eaten, so only try them if you’re absolutely prepared too.