Today is Actually the Hottest Day of the Year

January 22, 2016

A century ago, a brave Connecticut-based pharmacist, Wilbur Scoville, dared to eat every hot pepper in order to create a scale that measured their pungency (level of spicy-hot).

Photo by James Ransom

After eating a hot pepper, he would analyze how the pepper had made him feel—would it make him tear up? Make his tongue burn for hours? And then he would write it all down and assign it a number, or Scoville heat unit (SHU). Like we said: brave.

Make it Hot, Hot, Hot:

Today's Scoville Scale ranges from the bell pepper at 0 to the Carolina Reaper, which can have an SHU of 2,200,000 (that's up to twice as hot as a Ghost Pepper!).

Scoville Heat Units

  • 1,600,000 – 2,200,000: Carolina Reaper
  • 855,000 – 2,200,000: Bhut Jolokia (ghost pepper)
  • 100,000 – 350,000: Habanero
  • 100,000 – 225,000: Bird's eye
  • 30,000 – 50,000: Cayenne
  • 10,000 – 23,000: Serrano pepper
  • 3,500 – 10,000: Jalapeño
  • 100 – 900: Banana pepper and Peperoncini, Pimento
  • 0: Bell pepper

And, as Google's doodle celebrated today, it's also his 151st birthday! Add to that NPR's report this morning that Hillary Clinton attributes her health on the campaign trail to eating a fresh hot pepper every day and you have the perfect excuse to pack on the spice. If there were ever a day to add an extra shake of Tabasco sauce (SHU of 30,000), today would be it.

Join The Conversation

Top Comment:
“Did not know it was Dr. Scoville's bday today! I have a packet of dried Carolina Reapers....so hot but sooooo good! ”
— Catonei11

Do you love spicy food or avoid it at all costs? Tell us in the comments below!

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • Richard Harrison
    Richard Harrison
  • Annada Rathi
    Annada Rathi
  • Catonei11
  • Amanda Sims
    Amanda Sims
I eat everything.


Richard H. January 24, 2016
That's nowhere near the method he actually used to develop the Scoville scale. Cute story though.
Annada R. January 22, 2016
Thank you for the information on Wilbur Scoville, Leslie. Did not know that he tried all kinds of peppers to come up with a scale. I absolutely love exploring different kinds of peppers! when I first came to the US, I loved the flavor of jalapenos so much that in my excitement I packed and sent off some to my family in India. Suffice to say that those peppers were never heard of again.
Catonei11 January 22, 2016
Did not know it was Dr. Scoville's bday today! I have a packet of dried Carolina Reapers....so hot but sooooo good!
Amanda S. January 22, 2016
Headline!! Aces.