The quest for the hottest pepper

For thousands of years, people in the world have used chili peppers to flavor their food in some way or another.

While some peppers are mild, others are spicy hot. It wasn’t until a little over a century ago, that we had a way to rank and measure the hottest peppers in the world on a single scale. That came about with the Scoville Scale. The hot pepper scale ranking has to do with the capsaicinoid content of chili peppers. It’s represented in terms of SHU, or rather Scoville heat units. You’ still see the terminology today, even though there’s now a more reliable method for testing hot peppers than there was 100 years ago.

In recent times, some have tried to max out the capsaicin content to make even hotter peppers by selectively breeding them.

In the mid 1990s, the Red Savina pepper held a world record as the hottest in the world. It came about from the selective breeding of habanero peppers. Then came the early 2000s when a professor traveled to India and sourced several seed stocks of Ghost peppers. The result measured in at more than one-million SHU, and Guinness World Records bestowed a new honor on a pepper that was said to be considerably hotter than Tabasco sauce.

In more recent years, the pepper community grew in another way with the popularity of artisanal hot sauces.

People started tuning in online to watch thrill seekers battle it out, as they competed to eat some of the hottest peppers, and taste some of the hottest, hot sauce. This led to the Hot Ones lineup, where season after season celebrities were tasked with answering questions while eating spicier and spicier chicken wings, topped with some of the hottest, hot sauce around. There’s also been the emergence of Pepper X. While unverified by Guinness, the man behind the pepper claims he selectively bred a pepper with upwards of three-million SHU.

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