How To Reduce the Heat of a Hot Sauce or Hot Pepper

Hot sauces provide a spicy kick and a unique flavoring to many meals. For some consumers, like me, some of these peppers and sauces provide too much heat and negatively affect your eating experience. So, I ponder this question: Do the ingredients used in sauce reduce the SHU of a Pepper?

The typical ingredients used in making a hot sauce do not reduce the heat or SHU of a hot pepper. In some cases, the elements most often used in hot sauces can make the peppers become even hotter. However, there are ways to reduce the SHU of a pepper and the heat of a hot sauce.

Does cooking a pepper reduce the SHU?

The SHU is the Scoville Heat Unit given to a pepper to classify its level of heat. Cooking a hot pepper does not necessarily reduce the heat but if they are used in a recipe it can be disbursed throughout the other ingredients, so the heat is not as concentrated.

Cooking peppers, for some varieties, reduces the heat but also makes it hotter for others. In either case the amount of capsaicin is not increased or decreased by much. Also, the method in which they are cooked can determine if the level of heat will change or not. I have noticed personally that if I finely chop up a jalapeño and fry it with some vegetable oil until they are crispy brown, the heat is greatly reduced.

What is hotter fresh or dried peppers?

I tested cooked, fresh and dried from the same pepper to see which one may be the hottest. A dried pepper and especially a concentrated pepper powder will be hotter that fresh. Whole dried peppers will have the water evaporated therefore making the heat in them concentrated as well. Cooked hot peppers had the least amount of heat compared to fresh or dried pf the same pepper variety.

How do you measure the heat of a hot sauce?

Tasting a sauce in very small amounts on your fingertip is probably the most logical and easiest way to test a hot sauce for the heat level. I also like to use the regular food I enjoy with hot sauce; eggs, potatoes and chicken wings, as a way to gauge the level of heat but there are more sophisticated methods of measuring.

What is the Scoville Scale?

Named after Wilbur Scoville the Scoville scale measures the concentration of capsaicin in a pepper. First developed in 1912 under a different name his scale was originally used by diluting the pepper in sugar water until the heat was no longer detectable. The Scoville Scale measures the hotness of a pepper and not necessarily the heat of a sauce, although this same scale can be applied to a sauce if you know what peppers are in it. Most sauce manufacturers will tell you and even boast about the heat level of their sauce. There have been some studies to give hot sauce brands a Scoville rating, but they are not typically on the hot sauce label.

Today’s methods of measuring the heat of a hot pepper

HPLC or High-Performance Liquid Chromatography is used to measure the amount of different capsaicinoids found in each pepper variety. There is a lot of science behind the way the SHU level is measured in a hot sauce so it may take another blog post to completely cover this topic. There has recently been a handheld Scoville meter introduced from ZPChilligroup that can be used to measure the SHU of a hot sauce!

How to reduce the amount of heat in a hot sauce?

You cannot reduce the amount of heat that comes right from a bottle of hot sauce. However, there are ways to dilute the level of heat. There are so many recipes using hot sauce and hot peppers and these dishes really require the hot sauce or pepper to complete it’s palate of flavoring. The easiest way to reduce the heat in these dishes is to reduce the amount used in the recipe. A good sauce can still offer its flavor throughout the dish without making it inedible because of the level of heat. A watered-down sauce may be undesirable to consume, although I often do it to my salad dressing.

The two most obvious ways to reduce the heat of hot sauce are eat less of it or water it down. You can, however, reduce the heat or SHU of a hot pepper before you use it to make hot sauce. Here are 10 ways.

1. Blanch or boiling

Blanch or boil the peppers for 2 – 3 minutes and then soak them in an ice water bath for several minutes. Cut off the stems and cut them in half lengthwise. Remove the seeds (this is also step No. 8 below).

2. Vinegar

Soaking peppers in a one to one vinegar / water solution will help reduce the heat of a pepper. If you plan on making sauce using vinegar as an ingredient than skip this step. Cut them lengthwise like the step above.

3. Lemon juice

The acidity of the lemon juice, like the vinegar, cuts through the heat and also compliments the flavor of the pepper. Lime juice works similarly and is also a great additive to hot sauce. Too much will increase the acidity of the sauce.

4. Sugar

The sugar will absorb the oils from the pepper when they are cut up and mixed with it. This same substance can be used directly in the mouth if a pepper is too hot also. Use it sparingly in a hot sauce because it can drastically change the taste.

5. Sour Cream

Mixing it with sour cream will still give a great flavor but will remove some of the heat and it makes a great dip. This works great on tacos, enchiladas or almost any Mexican dish. I am not sure how it could be used in a sauce.

6. Rinsing in Cold Water

Rinsing a sliced open jalapeno in cold water or soaking it in ice water for ½ hour can reduce the heat. Unfortunately, this will reduce much of the peppers flavor as well. Like most of the methods the peppers should be cut up.

7. Lemon Lime Soda

Soaking a cut up pepper in lemon lime soda for just under an hour can reduce ALL of the heat. You may want to experiment with this one slightly. You want to make HOT sauce instead of NOT sauce.

8. Removing the seeds

Removing all of the seeds to include the white membrane they are attached to, called the pith or ribs, will reduce the heat of a pepper. I have heard people say that this is ALL the heat, but this is not necessarily true. I have tested this by just eating seeds. Yup…they are hot!

9. Olive Oil

Rub olive oil and the fleshy part for a few minutes and rinse any remaining oil off. I always thought that an oil enhanced a vegetable but I tried this one as well. Use a de-greasing soap to wash the oil off the pepper.

10. Alcohol

Rub with alcohol and rinse the remaining off. For hotter peppers soak them for at least three hours. Using a strong alcohol of at least 80 percent can reduce the heat but be careful of having any remain on the peppers before you make sauce with it. Unless you want alcohol in your sauce.

It seems ridiculous to reduce the heat of a hot pepper as this is kind of the reason for using them. I prefer the flavor over the heat. The richness of a tabasco or cayenne just can’t be matched. Taming the spiciness of a sauce or dish is easily done by simply reducing the amount of hot peppers used. So, keep these tips in mind the next time you decide NOT to use hot peppers or hot sauces in your recipe.

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