Naga Chillies Scoville ratings

Picture of red Naga Chillies on a tablecloth Delving into Naga Chillies Scoville ratings

When delving into the world of Naga chillies and their counterparts, understanding Scoville ratings provides invaluable insights into the sheer potency of these fiery Chillies . Take, for example, the Naga Jolokia, Dorset Naga, and Naga Morich—each renowned for their exceptional heat. These Chillies  proudly flaunt Scoville ratings that soar up to a staggering 1600 000 SHU or more, firmly establishing them among the hottest Chillies  on the planet.

Wilbur Scoville, an American pharmacist, invented the Scoville Organoleptic Test in 1912 to measure the pungency of chillies  His method involved diluting Chilli extracts in sugar water and relying on human taste testers to determine the level of heat. This pioneering work led to the development of the Scoville scale, which remains a widely used tool for quantifying the spiciness of Chillies .
Red Dorset Naga Chilli

Scoville ratings are a method of measuring the heat of Chilies. But beyond mere heat, Scoville ratings serve a crucial role in empowering cooks and aficionados to tailor their culinary creations to suit their individual preferences. For those who relish the thrill of a mild tingle, lower-rated  chillies offer a gentle introduction to the world of spice, infusing dishes with a subtle warmth that tantalizes the palate without overwhelming it. On the other hand, for those brave souls who crave the fiery inferno, higher-rated Naga chillies provide an exhilarating journey into the realm of intense heat, elevating dishes to new heights of flavour and excitement.

With Scoville ratings as their guide, cooks can skilfully navigate the vast landscape of spicy cuisine, striking the perfect balance between flavour and intensity. Whether crafting a delicate curry infused with the gentle warmth of Naga Morich or concocting a blistering hot sauce featuring the bold punch of the Naga Jolokia, each dish becomes a masterpiece of culinary artistry, tailored to satisfy even the most discerning palates.

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How Chilli heat is measured

What is Capsaicin?

Wilber Scoville

Many Chilli fans will have heard of the Scoville rating system. This system measures the pungency of Chillies in terms of what is known as Scoville heat units. The higher the number of Scoville units (SHU) a Chilli is rated at, the hotter it is. For example, Bell peppers are rated zero SHU, and the Carolina Reaper (officially the world’s hottest Chilli) is between 1500000 and 2150000 SHU.

The Scoville rating system came into existence when Wilbur Scoville, an American pharmacist, developed a method of measuring the heat levels of individual varieties of Chilli in 1912.

Image: Wilber Scoville
Wilber Scoville

The original system involved capsaicin being extracted from dried hot Chillies with alcohol. This was then diluted in sugared water. A panel of five trained men would taste progressively decreased dilutions of the extract until at least three could not detect the presence of capsaicin. Each dilution was measured as 100 SHU. The number of dilutions multiplied by 100 determined the Scoville heat rating of the variety being tested.

Today, testing for capsaicin levels has become far more precise with the use of high-performance liquid chromatography. The results achieved with this method are more reliable because they are not dependent on a subjective perception of heat, but rather on the scientific analysis of capsaicin

Most Scoville rating charts will provide a range of heat units for a Chilli variety. This is because not all Chillies are the same.  Individual pods may contain more or less capsaicin, even though they are of the same variety (and for that matter even from the same plant) . For this reason, more than one pod is tested. Pods are selected from various plants grown together in a single season .  The lowest and highest test results are then provided as the heat range of the particular variety. The middle of the range is the average SHU of the specific variety.

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