What's the most effective way to stop chilli from burning a hole in your taste-buds? 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. On today's menu: bread and milk.
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. In other words, it can really slap you about and has been known to reduce grown men into blubbering wrecks.
So what's the most effective way to stop this spicy assault once it's started? That's precisely what the Lifehacker Chilli Challenge aims to find out. Each day this week, I'll be testing the cooling ability of various foods and liquids after munching an entire chilli. The things we do for our readers.
For each experiment, I've endeavored to use chillies that are roughly the same size and shape. They're also from the same in-store batch and I'll be chewing them an even number of times. While it's impossible to ensure an identical capsaicin volume/heat rating across each chilli, any difference should be fairly negligible.
Some cooling remedies are supposed to be ingested before eating spicy food, while others are more effective directly after. To make things fair, I'll be tasting each solution twice -- ten seconds before I eat the chilli and ten seconds after. We've also tried to focus on feasible, meal-friendly options that are easy to get hold of.
Each day I'll be testing not one, but two different solutions -- to give my mouth time to recover, I've spaced these about an hour apart.
Full Cream Milk
Milk is widely regarded to be the best beverage to combat spicy food with. The milk protein casein has a detergent effect on capsaicin, which causes the burning sensation to dissipate. Full cream milk also contains fat which can help to dissolve the capsaicin. I decided I might as well start the experiment at the top of the food chain, so to speak. Here's how I fared:
Click on the audio icon if you want to enjoy my suffering.
While the milk definitely helped, it wasn't nearly as effective as I'd hoped for. It only provided a brief respite while filling my mouth -- as soon as I swallowed the fire reignited with no noticeable drop in intensity. If you're lactose intolerant, take solace in the fact that you're only missing out on very limited protection.
Effectiveness rating: 6/10
Some people claim that bread is a better alternative to milk due to it being a non-liquid. Like any beverage, milk causes the capsaicin to envelop the entire mouth which can lead to further discomfort. Bread, on the other hand, creates a starchy barrier between your taste buds and the chilli's oils without spreading the damage. In addition, the sugars in the bread can counteract against capsaicin which helps to lesson the burn.
Okay, whoever came up with this bread crap needs to be kicked in the bollocks. Despite thoroughly coating my tongue before biting the chilli, it didn't relieve the burning in the slightest. I ended up rushing back for the rest of the milk, to the vast amusement of my co-workers. If you're looking for a quick way to stop the burning, forget bread.
Effectiveness rating: 2/10
Stay tuned for tomorrow's Chilli Challenge where I test white wine and carrots!