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Using Chillies - chiles, chilis, chillis

(The chile pepper, chili pepper, or chilli pepper or simply chile, is the fruit of the plant Capsicum from the nightshade family, Solanaceae. The name comes from Nahuatl via the Spanish word chile.)

Understanding chillies is a must. The following will help you anytime you have to prepare them, cook them or add them to dishes.

Firstly, it must be understood there is more than one type of chilli, in fact there are hundreds of them, all with their own flavours, heats and nuances. There are hot ones, mild ones, sweet ones, green ones, red ones and they come in all shapes and sizes.

It is said that the smaller and greener they are the hotter they will be. A useful guide but these days not always the case! With so many hybrids and new varieties there are also large hot ones, very hot red ones and very sweet green ones! So buyer beware!

Try to get to know the names of the chillies, this is a far better way of knowing what you are buying and letting yourself in for.

There are to start with five main groups, in alphabetical order these are:

  • Annumn
  • Baccatum
  • Chinense
  • Frutescens
  • Pubescens

From there, there are many, many types of chillies.

The heat intensity of these are measured on what is known as the Scoville scale.

Scoville scale

Chile (not complete list) Scoville Units Scoville Number
Cherry, Mexi-Bells, Peperoncini 100 - 500 1
Anaheim, Big Jim, Mulato, New Mexico 500 - 1000 2
Ancho, Espanola, Negro, Pasilla, Poblano 1000 - 1,500 3
Cascabel, Rocotillo, Sandia 1,500 - 2,500 4
Guajillo, Jalapeno, Mirasol 2,500 - 5,000 5
Chipolte, Serrano, Yellow Wax 5,000 - 15,000 6
De Arbol 15,000 - 30,000 7
Aji, Cayenne, Pequin, Tabasco 30,000 - 50,000 8
Santaka, Tepin 50,000 - 100,000 9
Thai 100,000 - 200,000 10
Habanero, Scotch Bonnet 200,000 - 300,000 10
Habanero, Scotch Bonnet 350,000 - 570,000 10

Using Fresh Chillies - chiles, chilis, chillis

  • During and after preparing chillies, great care must be taken with hands and any equipment used. The chemical capsiacin, that gives it its heat, will remain on hands and equipment for hours afterwards and not only taint other food but when left on the hands can be very painful if the eyes, ears, nose, mouth or private body parts are touched.

  • During and after use, hands and equipment must be thoroughly scrubbed in cold water first and then hot water.

  • A common mistake with chillies is that the seeds are the hottest part - NOT SO. While they are hot, the worst part is the white placenta that holds the seeds to the inside of the pod. So both the seeds and placenta must be removed to decrease the heat.

Preparing Fresh Chillies - chiles, chilis, chillis

  • Cut the chillies in half down the centre lengthways.

  • With a small sharp knife run the knife along the inside, removing the seeds and the placenta and discard.

Cooking with Fresh Chillies - chiles, chilis, chillis

  • Remember chillies have a flavour as well as adding heat to a dish.

  • Add fresh chillies, chilli powder, etc at the start of the cooking process, this allows it to cook out, the flavour to develop and the heat to diffuse.

  • Add chillies sparingly, remember you can always add more later and if it is the fierce heat you want you can always add that with a little tabasco sauce or similar at the end or allow your guests to do so at the table.

  • The Thai people when cooking with chilli will always add a little sugar and vinegar as they stir fry them. This chemical combination reacts with the capsiacin and decreases the chillies heat.

  • It must be understood there is a raw chilli heat and a cooked chilli heat. When raw the capsiacin will burn on contact with the lips, tongue, etc. However when cooked the chemical reacts more when eaten and swallowed, thus giving the nice heat sensation.

  • If the cooked intensity is still too high as you eat, DO NOT drink watery fluids. The water only reacts with the chemical and makes it worse. Drink plain milk or a milky drink, the dairy fat has a soothing effect on the chemical. This is why most cultures that use a lot of chillies in their cuisine automatically serve a dairy side dish with it such as the lasse drink with Indian meals or foods bound in yoghurt, etc or sour cream on top of nachos, etc.



Food and Cooking Tips
from professional
Chef Tallyrand


Born and raised in Plymouth, Tallyrand started his initial training as a chef at Plymouth College of Further Education. It was here that he was to learn his love, his passion for food and the culinary arts. From here he headed to Germany to complete his apprenticeship as Commis de Gardemanger.

Germany gave him his first taste of cooking for the rich and famous, as half way through his first year, along with the Sous Chef and a Chef de Partie, he was whisked off to Cologne to help prepare meals for a political conference, where amongst other dignitaries they cooked for Mr Brehznev, the then powerful Russian leader. This was to prove to be just one of the many celebrities he was to cook for or get to know over the years . . .

If you would like to find out more why not visit Tallyrand's own web site www.tallyrand.info (link in main menu)

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