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Know About Scoville Scale for Peppers to Measure Their Hotness

Scoville Scale for Peppers
In the last five years alone, we have had four varieties of pepper battle it out to become the hottest pepper in the world, and the Scoville scale has played an important role in determining the winner.
Abhijit Naik
Last Updated: Mar 26, 2018
In February 2007, Bhut jôlôkia or Naga morich replaced the Red Savina pepper to become the 'hottest pepper in the world'. In March 2011, Naga bhut jôlôkia was replaced by the Trinidad Scorpion Butch T pepper, and in February 2012, Trinidad Scorpion was replaced by the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper for the numero uno position. With its piquancy ranging between 1.2 to 2 million units on the Scoville scale, the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion variety is the world's hottest pepper as of today. But how is the piquancy of pepper measured, and what is this Scoville scale?
Scoville Scale for Different Varieties of Pepper
Named after the renowned American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, the Scoville scale is one of the three different scales used to determine the hotness or heat in a given variety of pepper. (The Official Chile Heat Scale and the high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) are the other two methods used to determine the heat quotient of pepper.) Basically, the amount of capsaicin - a chemical compound present in plants belonging to Genus Capsicum, is measured to determine how hot the particular pepper variety is.

In Scoville Organoleptic Test, the alcohol extract of capsaicin oil is derived from dried pepper and added to sugar solution in small amounts in a gradual manner until the hotness or heat of the same is detectable. It is followed by the process of tasting wherein a stipulated number of tasters, usually five, taste the same and come to a conclusion about the hotness of pepper variety. This hotness is depicted in Scoville Heat Units (SHU) or Scoville Ratings (SR) based on the degree of dilution. Though widely used, the Scoville scale method is not considered perfect as it relies on human subjectivity.
Scoville Scale Chart (with Examples)
Scoville scale chart
If the researchers at the New Mexico State University's Chile Pepper Institute are to be believed, the Scoville ratings for Trinidad Moruga Scorpion pepper can reach as high as 2,009,231 SHU on the Scoville scale. It may come as a surprise for many, but there do exist products which surpass the hottest pepper variety in terms of Scoville Heat Units. For instance, the Scoville scale ratings for pepper spray (law enforcement grade) ranges between 5,000,000-5,300,000 SHU. On the other hand, the same for common pepper spray ranges between 1,150,000-2,000,000.

Similarly, the Scoville scale ratings for hot sauce produced using pepper varieties like the Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and Ghost chili pepper will surpass the 1,000,000 SHU mark with great ease. And lastly, the Scoville scale ratings for pure capsaicin range between 15,000,000-16,000,000 SHU thus making it a lot hotter than any of the pepper varieties enlisted in the Scoville scale chart given above.