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Monday, August 16, 2010

Scoville Scale

Had a pretty great weekend visiting the family in RI, though the trip back to Denver was a little miz (NOTE: When you are trying to fly from RI to Denver, and your itinerary includes a bus ride to Boston, a flight to ATLANTA, a 3.5hr layover, and an hour long wait for a the public bus to your apartment from the airport, it most likely is NOT worth the minimal $$ savings.... LESSON LEARNED).

Anyway, I recently came across what so far is the most complete online scoville scale ranking that I have seen. Instead of trying to recreate, I figured I'll just link it here. I don't agree with a few of the ratings, but overall it gives a great sense of where things stack up. I also like the "pepper only" setting, this is def good knowledge for budding chiliheads.

I think Taco Bell sauce clocking in at 500 scovilles, just beating out the venerable Franks is my favorite part of the list.

Quick Background for the Tyros out there:
Scoville heat units (shu) are the basic unit of measurement for hot sauces. They give a (reasonably) standardized unit for comparing hot sauces, and determining how truly nooblike ZS really is. Developed by Wilbur Scoville in 1912, the units basically give the amount of dilutive agent (sugar water) required to be added to a hot sauce to get it to the point where the heat can no longer be detected. So essentially this means that 500 drops of water must be added to a drop of Taco Bell sauce in order to eliminate its FIERY taste.

As to be expected, humanity's best and brightest put their considerable talents towards productive uses(instead of less productive things like I don't know, nuclear fusion?), and have come up with a more accurate and less subjective way of determining heat content. High-Performance Liquid Chromatography (Hello High School CHEM!). Wikipedia says the attached link "contains too much jargon and may need simplification or further explanation". So in one sentence, HPLC separates the various compounds that make up a sauce, and allow direct observation of the concentration of the stuff that makes the sauce burn. (Said stuff is called Capsaicin, and it is a chemical compound that stimulates chemoreceptor nerve endings in the skin)

Pure Capsaicin is 16mm Scovilles, so this is the theoretical upper-bound of any sauce (at that point it is an extract, not a true sauce). Achieving heat over a couple hundred scoville's basically is done by adding a higher and higher concentration of pepper extract. As such, I personally think sauces in the low hundreds are the best, as they can have a reasonably strong kick, but don't have the rather grim taste that something like a Cool Million Sauce does.

That's it for now, happy (miz) monday!

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