Selecting chiles and cooking tips for working with chiles.
When selecting chiles, always buy fresh from the grower when possible. Fresh chiles from your local farmers market will bring the best flavor in the meals you cook and also help support your local economy. Look for bright, smooth, shiny skin and only purchase enough for what you are going to cook in a weeks time. Always rinse chiles to remove dirt.
Whenever handling, be prepared or think ahead and try to avoid skin irritation by wearing rubber gloves and DO NOT RUB YOUR EYES AFTER HANDLING PEPPERS. ALways store fresh chiles in the the refrigerator. Click here to learn how to cut a chile pepper properly.
Chile pepper heat is based on Scoville Units. Chile varieties range from mild to super hot. The degree of heat depends on several things; a) variety b) time of harvest and c) handling techniques. In general the variety pretty much is the determining factor, but also, as a general rule, red chiles are riper and will taste sweeter and hotter than green chiles. A good rule for predicting the flavor and heat of a chile is the smaller the chile, the hotter the heat.
When cooking with chiles, remember to strive for flavor not just heat. Cooking with chiles is not about being “Mr. Hot Stuff“, but rather about making an ordinary meal extraordiany with just a little bit of spice for flavor. Add fresh chiles at the beginning of cooking to “steep in” the flavor allow the chile heat to diffuse. Remember you can always add more chiles later so start adding chiles sparingly at first. Also remember there is a raw chile heat and a cooked chile heat. Raw chiles contain more capsiacin which can be felt with the lips, tongue, but when cooked the capsiacin lessens and is felt more in the belly.
If you happen to have added too many chiles, and need to calm the storm, DO NOT DRINK WATER. Water reacts with the capsiacin and makes it worse. Drink milk or some kind of dairy product like yogurt.