What Makes Chillies Hot

There’s a kind of machismo attached to eating the spiciest food known to man, and there’s a reason so many people enjoy the powerful flavours associated with chilli peppers.

The tingling sensation on the tongue when you try a chilli is caused by a substance called capsaicin, which tricks the brain into thinking you’re burning. The body then secretes natural painkilling chemicals called endorphins, which send out a rush of pleasure. The heat of a chilli, also referred to as its piquancy, is measured in Scoville heat units (SHU), after Wilbur Scoville who developed a hotness test for chillies in 1912. His scale measured the concentration of capsaicin found in a chilli by taking chilli extract and diluting it in water until a human taste test panel could no longer detect any heat from the solution.

The problem with Scoville’s scale was that it relied on subjectivity, so today hotness is calculated using liquid chromatography to identify the concentration of heat-producing chemicals in chillies.

Which are the hotest chillies

What Makes Chillies Hot1. Dorset Naga

Heat rating: 923,000 SHU Facts: Related to the Scotch bonnet, this devilishly hot chilli is grown in polytunnels by a couple in Dorset.

2. Red Savina habanero

Heat rating: 577,000 SHU Facts: According to the Guinness Book Of World Records, this was the world’s hottest chilli until 2006.

3. Scotch bonnet

Heat rating: 100,000-325,000 SHU Facts: Used mainly in Caribbean cuisine, the Scotch bonnet is a small chilli similar to the habanero.