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Cayenne Pepper

Illustration

Preparation, uses, and tips

Use caution when handling these chiles: cayenne peppers are so hot that they can instantly irritate the skin on the hands and it can be excruciating if they come in contact with the eyes. Wear thin disposable surgical gloves while working with hot chiles, and don’t touch your face until the gloves are removed. The seeds and membranes in chile peppers contain most of the capsaicin, the compound that lends them their mouth-searing qualities. Cayennes are mostly used without their seeds and veins. Finely chopped fresh cayenne imparts intense heat to sauces and stews, particularly in Cajun and Indian cooking.

Buying and Storing Tips

Fresh cayenne peppers are available in specialty stores in the produce section. Dried, ground cayenne pepper is available in most grocery stores.

As these peppers mature they turn from green to red in color. They can be used for cooking at any stage, but the red is spicier than the green. Store fresh cayenne peppers in a paper bag in the refrigerator.

Varieties

Cayenne chile peppers are extremely hot and provide the heat for many spicy dishes. When fresh, cayenne peppers appear wrinkly and may be either deep green or bright red (when mature). They can range between 5 and 10 inches (12.5–25.5cm) long and are generally about 1/2 to 1 inch (1.2–2.5cm) across. The red, mature pepper is hotter than the green. Cayenne peppers tend to be long and hooked and they terminate in a sharp point.

Cayennes are pungent peppers with heat scores that measure between 30,000 and 50,000 Scoville heat units. How high a chile pepper scores on the heat scale is determined by high-performance liquid chromatography measurement of how many parts per million capsaicin it contains. This figure is then converted into the historic Scoville heat units that signify how much dilution is necessary to drown out the chile’s heat. The heat level of a chile is given as a range because it varies with how and where the pepper was grown and how mature it is.

Nutrition Highlights

Red chile pepper (dried), 1 pepper (0.54g)
Calories: 1.7
Protein: 0.0g
Carbohydrate: 0.4g
Total Fat: 0.0g
Fiber: 0.2g

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