Chilli Challenge: What's The Most Effective Way To Stop The Burning?

What liquid offers the fastest and most effective relief from scorching-hot food? In a bid to find out, I'll be sticking an entire chilli into my mouth each day this week, followed by a popular cooling remedy such as milk and hot water. (We're also taking suggestions!)

Chilli picture from Shutterstock

We've all been in the situation before: you gingerly try a mouthful of spicy food at an exotic restaurant or bohemian dinner party, only to realise -- too late! -- that it's way too fiery for your palate. The next ten minutes are usually spent in an embarrassing blur of coughing, sweating and spluttering into your napkin. Even chilli aficionados have been known to bite off more than they can chew, as our "Ultra Death" Chilli Sauce taste-test video will attest.

According to scientific research, the sensation caused by certain hot peppers is similar to being rudely groped at the equivalent of 50 taps to the skin every second. So how do you stop this spice-assault once it's started?

Most people realise that water is a poor salve for chilli burn -- in fact, it can spread the oils around in your mouth which makes things even more unpleasant. Likewise, the bubbles in carbonated soft drinks and beers have been known to exacerbate the problem. If you enjoy spicy food but would prefer to keep the inferno down to a pleasant smolder, you're going to need a less conventional beverage.

For the rest of the week, I'll be testing the cooling ability of various foods and liquids after eating a bird's eye chilli (aka Thai chilli). Bird's eye chillies were chosen due to their above-average heat level (up to 100,000 Scoville units) and predominance in Asian cooking. There are certainly hotter chillies available, but this is at the upper end of the scale for most cuisines and restaurants.

We've tried to stick to feasible options that are readily available in most homes and restaurants, which excludes Slurpees and sorbets. We're also avoiding ingredients that would deter from the actual meal, so proven remedies like ice cream, chocolate and spoons of vegetable oil are out.

Our short-list currently comprises of cow's milk (a well known salve that counteracts pepper oil via casein protein), coconut milk (a folk remedy), white wine (alcohol is a known solvent to capsaicin), hot water (a dubious remedy spotted online), lemon juice (citric acid counteracts capsaicin) and sugar water (ditto). I'll also be trying a few solid remedies, including bread, carrot and cucumber. Naturally, we'll be recording the whole thing on Vine so you can point and laugh at my discomfort.

Our Chilli Challenge kicks off at noon tomorrow with milk and bread. Let the self-inflicted torture in the name of science/reader amusement begin!

Do you know of any additional heat remedies not mentioned in the list above? Let us know in the comments section below and we'll add them to the experiment.

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Comments

    Hey Chris,

    Curious to see the effects of Soy Milk!

      The effects of drinking soy "milk" are well known. You lose the ability to change a flat tyre, begin wearing jumpers draped over your shoulder with the arms down the front and start to prefer watching Ellen over the footy. Please, oh please don't drink the soy "milk".

    I've always sworn by yoghurt, but it will be interesting to see how your choices fare.

    Ummm.. occupational health and safety aspects of this? I hope Lifehacker has good insurance!

    Another one ripped of from the Mythbusters.

    The answer of course is to grow a pair.

      I've not seen the Mythbusters episode. And my chilli balls are awesome.

        How awsome?
        Jalapenos on your sub awsome?
        Shot of Tobasco as a dare awsome?
        Tablespoon of Jolokia pepper paste with your vegimite aswome?
        A Handful of Trinidad Scorpion Butch Taylor Chilli blended into your morning protien shake Awsome?
        Or Homer Sympson Guatemalan Insanity Pepper Awsome?

      Piss off, I just ate a ghost pepper (over 1,000,000 on the scoville chart) and I cannot even feel my face. Sometimes you need to do something

    I think you had to drink the milk before you consume the chilli so there's a layer of milk on your tongue before the chilli gets to break a fiery hell all over your tongue. Don't know how well it works though.

    I've eaten the Bhut Jolokia, and from experience cold Yogurt is best. Take a spoonful and hold it in your mouth, don't swallow. You don't feel any burning! Consume the yogurt after a few minutes and if there is still burning, repeat until gone.

    Nothing will stop it burning its way through your intestinal tract though and the ring of fire! That's the real suffering from eating too much really hot chili.

    Lassi - north Indian (often salty) yoghurt drink. Perfect thing to counteract the pleasure and pain dealt out by a killer Phall

      Was just going to write this. Mango lassi FTW!

    Milk. Have a drink after you eat. If it's bad, hold the milk in your mouth for a while. If it's really bad, swallow the milk and have some more milk. Repeat as necessary.

    Chris, haven't you eaten Thai before? That is what the fried egg is for, to save you from the chilli.

    Chinese Tea does the trick!!!

    Thai Chilli is a good test. I do find that dairy almost always works however the hot death chilli in American food is harder to get rid of.

    A waitress (American) said that salt always works and she is right. Salt and carbs FTW

    Last edited 25/02/14 12:47 am

    Yoghurt or icecream. The fat closes down the pain receptors. I know this from 8 years running Fireworks Foods, Australia's first and longest running chilli purveyor. (Sold the business in 2004)

    Hot black tea. Fight fire with fire. Burns like a mother for a split second and then "relief". Have used this a many a time when trying really hot sauces (Like blairs megadeath & 3am sauces).
    Also, make sure you chew the seeds for maximum effect. That's where the real heat is.

    yogurt works so does cucumber and water, never coke , I took out a woman to an Indian restaurant I told her that I'll order for her meal she said I'll have what your having (vindaloo) I said
    its way too hot for you she no it'll be fine haha it wasn't ! she began to sweat then cry then her makeup ran all over her face the guys in the restaurant couldn't help but laugh LOL

    I'm curious to see if Full Fat Cream would work. In Mythbusters episode they claimed that milk worked because of the fat content neutralizing the capsaicin, so by that logic having something with a higher fat content may indeed work better.

    The other interesting one would be a raw or sous vide egg at say 60 degrees c for one hour to kill off some of the nasty bacteria. For the purposes of helping heal actual burns the egg white works well http://thespicedoc.blogspot.com.au/2011/03/burn-salve-egg-whites.html so potentailly drawing a really long bow here, maybe aid the healing of chilli burns too?

    I'm not sure if anyone had already suggested this, but keeping an ice cube in the mouth (without biting or crunching it) works for me. If the first had melted before the heat goes away, just stick a second one in till you're done.

    At QuakerSteak & Lube I. Sharon, PA., USA the atomic wings require a waiver to attempt to eat they are that incredibly hot (habanero based) . The cure is salty French fries covered in vinegar according to the bartender ... Worked for me.

    I have a mexican co-worker. I asked him how to combat the intense inferno inside my mouth when i eat a Carolina Reaper pepper. He said take sugar. I assume swallowing a spoonful would do the trick. I will try it soon, as i am about to purchase a bottle of The Source, which measures a whopping 7,000,000 Scoville Heat Units. If i don't get cancer from it burning the lining of my esophagus, then i will hopefully take a spoonful of sugar and let the medicine go down (thanks, Mary Poppins!)

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