With hundreds of varieties to choose from, peppers are the perfect produce for cooking. You can use these delicious accompaniments to sweeten your meal or turn up the heat. All peppers, from sweet to smouldering, are part of the same family. They are indigenous to South America, but are now grown and used all around the world. Here are some Kraft Kitchens pepper pointers on selection, storage and preparation so you, too, can enjoy them.
*Scoville units measure the heat intensity of peppers.
They're measured in multiples of 100, beginning with bell peppers, which register 0 to 100, and ending with habanero peppers, which can have more than 300,000 units.
Green Bell Pepper
0 to 100 Scoville units.* The most commonly used pepper is green, waxy and bell-shaped. When the green pepper is allowed to ripen on the vine, it turns various shades of yellow-green to bright red and becomes sweeter. Its mild flavour makes it a tasty addition to salads and stuffing.
Red, Orange and Yellow Bell Peppers
0 to 100 Scoville units. These are green peppers that have been left to ripen on the vine. They're plump and sweet, with the red variety boasting the sweetest flavour. They're often used for roasting and stir-frying, but also add colour and taste to other dishes.
0 to 100 Scoville units. Cubanelle peppers are usually yellow to pale green (red varieties are simply ripe yellow ones) and look like elongated bell peppers. Also called Italian frying peppers, cubanelles are sweet and tender. They're often baked with the stem and seeds intact, as they contain most of the sweet taste.
1,000 to 1,500 Scoville units. Among the mildest of all chillies, poblano peppers are heart-shaped and blackish-green in colour. With their thick, tough skin, poblanos are best when charred, steamed and peeled. They are great for stuffing with any mixture.
2,500 to 5,000 Scoville units. One of the most popular chillies, these cone-shaped peppers can be green or red, and measure two inches in length. They're smooth-skinned, thick-fleshed and range from hot to very hot. Jalapeños are commonly used in salsas or as a meat accompaniment.
30,000 to 50,000 Scoville units. These pungent peppers are also known as finger chillies for their unique shape. Finely chopped fresh cayenne heats up sauces and stews in a flash. It's also commonly dried and ground into red pepper.
80,000 to 300,000 Scoville units. Don't let their small size fool you — Thai chillies really turn up the heat. Available in green and ripe red, they are often used in Asian cooking and add spice to stir-fries. But be careful: their intense heat lingers.
300,000 or more Scoville units. One of the hottest peppers in the world, these one to two-inch spicy numbers range in colour from green to orange to yellow to white. They are usually reserved to make hot sauces and very spicy salsas.
- Choose peppers that are firm and glossy, with fresh green stems. Always select ones that feel heavy for their size. Avoid peppers with soft spots, cracks, sunken areas, slashes or black marks.
- When selecting unwrapped hot peppers, use a produce store plastic bag over your hand or bring plastic gloves for handling, discarding the bag or gloves after use.
- Place peppers in the vegetable drawer, unwashed and wrapped in plastic wrap or in an untied plastic bag. Store in fridge up to 10 days.
- Wash and remove any labels on peppers before use. Some bell peppers may have been waxed, so scrub well before eating.
- Capsaicin in chilli peppers can irritate and burn. Always wear disposable rubber gloves when working with chillies. Discard gloves after use and wash hands. Keep washed hands away from eyes, lips and other sensitive areas for a while. If hands do come in contact with hot chillies, water alone won't help, as capsaicin isn't water-soluble. Mix a solution of five parts water and one part bleach. Quickly dip your fingers into this solution and rinse hands thoroughly to aid in relieving the burning sensation.
- Preheat oven to 450°F. Place cleaned whole peppers in a single layer on foil-lined baking sheet. Bake about 45 minutes, turning every 20 minutes, or until skin blisters and chars evenly. Remove pan from oven. Using tongs, place and seal peppers in a heavy-duty plastic bag or bowl covered tightly with plastic wrap. Let cool about 30 minutes without unsealing the bag or lifting the cover. This allows the steam to condense and makes peeling easier. Once cooled, pull out stem with seeds, cut pepper in half and remove charred skin with a paring knife. Discard charred skin, rinse under cold water and pat dry. Store covered in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.
- While wearing disposable rubber gloves, pull off the stem of the chilli pepper. Then cut in half lengthwise and remove the seeds under cold running water. Place on cutting board and slice to desired shape and size. Be sure to dispose of gloves and wash hands thoroughly after cutting.
- Bell peppers make a great edible dip-serving container. Cut off the top and clean out the inside of the pepper by removing the seeds and spongy, white interior ribbing. Fill hollowed-out pepper with your favorite cold dip.
- Chilli peppers are fiery because of a pungent substance called capsaicin. The hotter the pepper, the more capsaicin it contains. The highest concentration of capsaicin can be found at the ribs of the pepper, not the seeds. Why do people enjoy eating these very hot vegetables? The capsaicin in chilli peppers causes the body to release endorphins, which can give a person a feeling of well-being or pleasure.