Becoming that next creator of the Hottest Pepper in the World can mean big business. Many home growers swear their peppers are hotter than the Reaper. It’s actually not that difficult or expensive to find out for sure.
I wanted to share with you how hot peppers can be officially tested and how you can go about getting your peppers tested if you wish to do so.
I recently had a reader email me (shout out to Bob!) asking how he could get his hot peppers tested to see how they might rank on the Scoville scale. His questions were (1) Where is testing is done? (2) When is it done? (3) Is testing open to the public? (4) How to package & transport peppers for testing and (5) What are the costs involved in testing?
I honestly wasn’t clear on the entire process myself, but I knew the perfect person that could help. I contacted my friend Troy Primeaux, owner of Primo’s Peppers, a horticulturist from Louisiana. Primo is the creator of the 7 Pot Primo. I knew Troy had submitted his peppers to a few labs to be tested because years prior he sent me his official testing results, to ensure that I had his Primo pepper correctly ranked on my Big List of Hot Peppers! Now, I’ll be honest, when Primo emailed me, and included the official testing documentation about where the Primo pepper should be ranked on my Big List of Hot Peppers, I was like “wow, how cool is that?”
So I knew Primo, who is always willing to help out and provide information, would be the perfect person to shed light on this subject.
Where is testing done?
There are several labs that can perform tests to determine how many parts per million of heat-causing alkaloids are present in a given chile pepper using high performance liquid chromatography.
Primo recommends Southwest Bio Labs in Las Cruces, New Mexico. Primo has been testing with them for years and they test for New Mexico Chili Pepper Institute. Your results are confidential unless you allow your records to be publicly accessible.
When is testing done?
There are no special time windows to request testing. Depending on how busy the lab is, you may get results within a week or two.
Is testing open to the public?
Yes! Anyone can get their peppers (and food products) tested.
How to package & transport peppers for testing
You can either send fresh peppers for analysis in priority mail boxes or you can ship fresh ground pepper powder. Primo prefers to ship his peppers ground. To dehydrate your peppers, cut them in half, seeds in all, no stems, in a food dehydrator such as a Nesco Food Dehydrator, at about 125 to 135 degrees for about six hours until the peppers are brittle. Then grind them in a coffee grinder or magic bullet which will make them a very fine powder. The finer the powder the better the results.
What are the costs involved in testing?
The all important question. What does it cost to get your peppers tested? Surprisingly, it’s far more affordable than I thought. Primo recalled it being $65 about a year ago at Southwest Bio Labs. Contact them directly to find out current pricing.
So what about Guinness World Records?
If you want anything to be recognized by Guinness World Records, there are a few more hoops to jump through. You’ll want to contact them directly and get their Guidelines Pack. Some of their requirements may have changed, but here are a few to give you an idea of what they require. Here’s a quick link to their Guide to Your Evidence documents.
- A signed statement of authentication must be submitted by a suitably qualified person, such as a horticulturalist, including contact address and phone number. The species and/or variety of plant must be correctly identified and stated in all cases.
- SHU and American Spicy Trade Association pungency units must be determined using high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC), which must be performed by a certified laboratory.
- Details of the growth of the plant(s) must be provided.
- Every record attempt requires 2 witness statements. Witness statements are statements of authentication that must be filled out by independent individuals who verify all relevant details of a record attempt.
So I hope this clears up some of the mystery around how hot peppers are tested, and gives you some places to start in the quest of developing the next hottest pepper! Or if you simply want to know how spicy your food product really is, you can also have that tested.