This is a common question asked as customers try to choose a product from our large selection of hot sauces. The answer is not that simple, yet at the same time is not complicated. The perception of heat is based on the threshold limit of the person eating the sauce. To some, popular grocery store products are very hot, but generally these are found at the bottom of the heat scale. On the other extreme, some people can easily consume a liberal amount of the hottest peppers known to the chili head community. Their tolerance has been built to such a level. So, basically, the heat level is fairly subjective. Keeping that in mind, there are many ways of comparing the heat between products. The most commonly used scale ranks sauces from 0 to 10, with 10 being the hottest. You will usually see the extreme sauces rate as “off the scale” or 10+++. I have found these ratings to be pretty reliable both within a product line and even, in most cases, between product lines.
There is a more scientific scale used, referred to the Scoville Scale created about one hundred years ago by Wilbur Scoville. This scale runs from 0 to 16 000 000 – from not spicy at all to pure capsaicin (the actual extract from chili that creates the heat). The number refers to the amount of dilution needed to essentially neutralize the heat.
Your own tolerance level increases the more you use these sauces. It is important to start at an intensity you can handle, and ratchet up the heat as you become accustomed to that level. It is probably best to avoid overstepping your comfort level; going too fast tends to ruin your meal and might keep you from wanting to progress. However, I have personally found the old adage, “no pain, no gain’, applicable to the learning art of chili appreciation.
At the shop, we carry a wide range of products, from beginners “Sauce for Sissies” to extreme sauces such as Dave’s limited Ghost Pepper reserve, Blair’s 3am and Black Mamba. Keep in mind that the sauce not only adds piquant to the meal, it also adds flavour. The type of pepper used as well as the blend of other ingredients creates a condiment that becomes integral to the tastes you are adding to your menu.