How hot is hot? The Scoville scale is a measurement of the spicy heat (or piquance) of a chili pepper. The number of Scoville heat units (SHU) measures the amount of capsaicin in food. Capsaicin is a chemical compound that stimulates chemoreceptor nerve endings in the skin, especially the mucous membranes.
Named after, American pharmacist Wilbur Scoville, the method was created in 1912 and is known as the Scoville Organoleptic Test. The modern test uses high pressure liquid chromatography, making it possible to directly measure capsaicinoid content.
Food items on the Scoville Scale (Scoville Heat Units) include:
Pure capsaicin – 15,000,000–16,000,000 units
Law enforcement grade pepper spray – 500,000–5,300,000 units
Indian Bhut Jolokia chili pepper – 855,000–1,463,700 units
Spanish Habanero chili – 100,000–350,000 units
Cayenne pepper – 30,000–50,000 units
Jalapeño pepper – 3,500–8,000 units
Pimento – 100–900 units