Heating Things Up: The Scoville Heat Scale

Published on
May 2, 2024 at 10:39:59 AM PDT May 2, 2024 at 10:39:59 AM PDTnd, May 2, 2024 at 10:39:59 AM PDT

The world’s hottest peppers are known for their outrageous ratings on the Scoville Scale; but what does that mean to us? How is heat measured and what is it based on?

__________A Little History__________

Capsaicin is a component of a pepper and the causes the irritation and sensation that is “heat.” The Scoville scale is a measure of a pepper's capsaicin concentration in Scoville Heat Units (SHUs).


The Scoville Scale was invented in 1912 by a pharmacist named Wilbur Scoville, who was out to discover how he could formulate a heat-producing ointment. Scoville used a dilution method to discern how much time it took for a pepper to lose its heat, according to a group of taste testers. From that, he then placed a unit of measure on each pepper. This test is known as the Scoville Organoleptic Test.

SHUs ratings are given in multiples of 100. The highest SHU to have been recorded at 2,200,000 was given to the Carolina Reaper from Puckerbutt Pepper Company in Fort Mill, South Carolina. Since 2013, the Carolina Reaper has held the world record for the hottest chile pepper from Guinness World Records. Bell peppers and sweet peppers (capsicum annuum) are rated lowest on the scale with a rating of zero.

__________Is The Scoville Scale Accurate? __________

Over the years, the Scoville Organoleptic Test has continued to be used to define the heat scale for the world’s chile peppers. However, it has been noted that this test is not the most precise way to measure heat due to its reliance on taste testers.

Humans have varying sensitivities to capsaicin, and therefore give varying results. Taste testers can also lose their sensitivity to capsaicins when testing peppers repetitively. Would you want to be a pepper taste tester? Hmmm…didn’t think so. Let’s put SHUs in perspective for a moment. Imagine if each SHU represented one glass of water:

  • You wouldn’t need a glass of water to wash down a bell pepper because they have an SHU rating of zero.
  • You would need 1,000 – 4,000 glasses of water to wash down a jalapeno pepper.
  • The Trinidad Scorpion pepper would take approximately 1,463,700 glasses of water to wash down!

This mental image may make you shudder just a bit. But don’t worry! Our Scorpion Pepper Sea Salt has a FRACTION of the heat found in an actual Scorpion Pepper, and it wouldn’t actually take that many glasses of water to wash it down (we’re talking in metaphors here). Although, if you ate a whole one I’m sure it may seem like it…

__________So, How Do Our Peppers Rank?__________

At The Spice & Tea Exchange®, we carry a number of peppers, pepper powders, spicy sea salts, and spicy seasonings that contain these varieties. Here are where a few of them lie:


Scorpion Pepper – 800,000 – 2,000,000 SHU

Used in: Scorpion Pepper Sea Salt

Ghost Pepper – 800,000 – 1,200,000 SHU

Used in: Ghost Pepper Sea Salt

Habanero Pepper – 150,000 – 577,000 – Several varieties and heat indexes

Used in: Mango Habanero SugarMatanzas Chili Spice BlendPirate’s Bite Spice BlendSriracha Sea Salt

Datil Pepper (native to St. Augustine, FL) – 100,000 – 300,000 SHU

Used in: Pirate’s Bite Spice BlendChile Lime Sea SaltCrazy Chicken Spice BlendSignature Spice BlendSpiced Cocoa Mix Spice BlendSweet Heat Spice BlendTailgater’s Spice Blend

Bird’s Eye Chile Pepper – 100,000 – 225,000 SHU

Used in: Bird’s Eye Chile Pepper

Cayenne Pepper – 30,000 – 50,000 SHU

Used in: Adobo Spice BlendBerbere Spice BlendCajun Spice BlendGourmet Pepper Spice Blend, Indian Yellow Curry Spice BlendJamaican Jerk Spice BlendMatanzas Chili Spice BlendSeafood Blackening Spice BlendSpicy Tuna RubTandoori Roasting Spice BlendTogarashi Spice BlendPirate’s Bite Spice Blend

Aji Amarillo Pepper Powder – 30,000- 50,000 SHU

Used in: Gourmet Pepper Spice BlendScorpion Pepper Sea SaltSouthwest Spice BlendTuscany Spice Blend

Aleppo Pepper (aka Halaby pepper) – 10,000 SHU

Used in: Aleppo Pepper

Chipotle Pepper (smoked jalapeno) – 5,000 – 8,000 SHU

Used in: Adobo Spice BlendChile Lime Sea Salt, Cinnabar Smoke Spice BlendGourmet Pepper Spice BlendMatanzas Chili Spice BlendPirate’s Bite Spice BlendSmoked BBQ RubSouthwest Spice Blend

Jalapeno – 2,500 – 8,000 SHU

Used in: Matanzas Chili Spice Blend

Ancho Pepper (dried poblano pepper) – 1,000 – 2,000 SHU

Used in: Espresso Steak RubMexican Mole Spice BlendSouthwest Spice Blend

Bell Pepper – 0 SHU

Used in: Cajun Spice BlendCalifornia Spice BlendCrazy Chicken Spice BlendGourmet Pepper Spice BlendPork & Poultry Spice Blend, Italian Street Fair Spice BlendJamaican Jerk Spice Blend, Matanzas Chili Spice BlendSeafood Blackening Spice BlendSignature Spice BlendSweet Heat Spice BlendTailgater’s Spice BlendTSTE® Select Steak Spice BlendTuscany Spice Blend