The Scoville scale measures the hotness or piquancy of a chilli pepper, as defined by the amount of capsaicin (a chemical compound that stimulates nerve endings in the skin) present.

Some hot sauces use their Scoville rating in advertising as a selling point.

The scale is named after its creator, American chemist Wilbur Scoville, who developed a test for rating the pungency of chilli peppers. His method, which he devised in 1912,[1] is known as the Scoville Organoleptic Test. An alternative method for quantitative analysis uses high-performance liquid chromatography, making it possible to directly measure capsaicinoid content.

Chilli peppers, fruits of the Capsicum genus, contain capsaicin, a chemical compound which stimulates chemoreceptor nerve endings in the skin, especially the mucous membranes. The number of Scoville heat units (SHU) indicates the amount of capsaicin present.

In Scoville's method, a solution of the pepper extract is diluted in sugar syrup until the "heat" is no longer detectable to a panel of (usually five) tasters; the degree of dilution gives its measure on the Scoville scale. Thus a sweet pepper or a bell pepper, containing no capsaicin at all, has a Scoville rating of zero, meaning no heat detectable, even undiluted.

Conversely, the hottest chillies, such as habaneros, have a rating of 200,000 or more, indicating that their extract has to be diluted 200,000 times before the capsaicin presence is undetectable. The greatest weakness of the Scoville Organoleptic Test is its imprecision, because it relies on human subjectivity.

Sweet bell pepper: 0 Scovilles. The typical green bell pepper, about the size of a large fist. Very mild.

Pimento (or Pimiento) chili pepper: 100 - 500 Scovilles. Not just for stuffing olives. Pimiento is the Spanish word for "pepper".

Pepperoncini chilli pepper: 100-500 Scovilles: Also known as Tuscan Peppers. These sweet, mild chilli peppers are found in Italy and Greece.

Paprika chilli pepper: 250 - 1000 Scovilles. A large, cone-shaped chilli pepper. It is dried and ground to make the more familiar powdered spice.

Santa Fe Grande chilli pepper: 500 - 700 Scovilles. Also known as the yellow hot chille and the guero chille. Approximately 5 inches long and ripen from greenish-yellow, to orange-yellow to red.

Anaheim chilli pepper: 500 - 1,000 Scovilles. Also known as the yellow hot chille and the guero chile. Approximately 5 incheslong and ripen from greenish-yellow, to orange-yellow to red.

Poblano chilli pepper: 1,000 - 2,000 Scovilles. The poblano is an extremly popular chilli peppers. 4 inches long, very dark green in color, ripening to dark red or brown

Ancho chilli pepper: 1,000 - 2,000 Scovilles. An Ancho pepper is dried form of the poblano chilli pepper.

Jalapeno Pepper: 2,500 - 8,000 Scovilles. The world's most popular chilli pepper! Harvested when they are green or red if allowed to ripen, about 4-6 inches long. A chipotle is a smoked jalapeno chilli pepper.

Serrano pepper: 5,000 - 23,000 Scovilles. A smaller version of the jalapeno, similar in color, but smaller, about 1 to 2 inches long, 1/2 inch wide. Dark green to redish in color. Getting spicier!

Tabasco pepper: 30,000 - 50,000 Scovilles. Yep, this is the chilli pepper used in Tabasco sauce. The fruit is tapered and under 2 inches long. The color is usually creamy yellow to red.

Cayenne pepper: 30,000 - 50,000 Scovilles. A thin chille pepper, green to red in color, about 2 to 3 inches long. The "cayenne pepper" spice you use is the dried, ground version of this pepper.

Tien Tsin Pepper: 50,000 - 75,000 Scovilles. Popular in Asian fare. Very hot, bright red in color, 1 to 2 inch Chinese pods. You'll find these in Kung Pao chicken.

Rocoto Pepper: 50,000 - 100,000 Scovilles. AKA the Manzano pepper. This chilli pepper is normally found in South America. It is among the oldest of domesticated chilli peppers, and was grown up to as much as 5000 years ago. It is probably related to undomesticated chilli peppers that still grow in South America.

Thai chilli pepper: 50,000 - 100,000 Scovilles. These chilli peppers seldom grow larger than 1 to 3 inches long. They are normally less than 1/2 inch wide, but pack a heck of a punch! These chili peppers are bright red or deep green, and end in a sharp point.

Scotch bonnet: 100,000 - 325,000 Scovilles. This is probably the cultivar of chili pepper that Christopher Columbus tried. Tam-shaped and found in the Caribbean. Other names for these chilli peppers include booney peppers, bonney peppers, and goat peppers. They are usually red or yellow at maturity

Habanero chilli pepper: 100,000 - 350,000 Scovilles. Related to the Scotch Bonnet. This one is the granddaddy of all the hot peppers in terms of heat level. Grown mainly on the Yucatan Peninsula in Mexico, its coloring is yellow-orange, orange or bright red.

Red Savina Habanero: 350,000 - 580,000 Scovilles. The hottest chilli pepper on record, until the Bhut Jolokia came along!


Bhut Jolokia: 1,001,304 Scovilles. Was, truly the hottest chilli pepper around. Use the Bhut Jolokia as you'd use a habanero, but remember that they are much hotter, up to 5 times the heat level. Use caution when cooking with them. Wear gloves and protect your eyes.


Infinity Chilli: 1,176,182 Scovilles. Experts have pronounced a chilli grown in the market town of Grantham, Lincs, as the hottest in the world, hotter than chilli reportedly used in hand grenades by the Indian military.