Scoville Heat Unit (SHU)

Originally called the Scoville Organoleptic Test and named after the developer, Wilbur Scoville, the Scoville Heat Unit (SHU) is common lingo in the world of hot sauce and hot peppers. The original test, back in 1912, was very subjective. It consisted of a panel of testers tasting diluted mixtures of ground chilies and a sugar water. The idea was to isolate the amount of sugar water necessary to cancel the heat of the pepper. They called this the Scoville Heat Unit.

The hottest recorded score was 577,000 SHU, which means that is would take 577,000 cups of sugar water to neutralize the heat in cup of that pepper. The accuracy was, of course, limited to the panel of testers, but became the recognized standard around the country.

The test still bears the Scoville name but has changed quite a bit. Today in test utilizes High Pressure Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) testing. In this process the capsaicino, the chemicals that are responsible for the “heat” are extracted and analyzed. This data is then converted into the, better known, Scoville Heat Unit.


Cayenne Pepper – Tobasco Pepper30,000 to 50,000 SHU
Jalapeno 2,500 to 8,000 SHU
Habanero Chile 100,000 to 350,000 SHU
Bell Pepper 0 SHU

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