Chilli Challenge #1: Fighting Fire With Bread And Milk

Chilli Challenge #1: Fighting Fire With Bread And Milk

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.

Testing Methodology

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!


  • I found if you gargle and keep the milk I your mouth for about 30 seconds it is more effective than just drinking it.

    • Yep – hold milk it in your mouth for a while before swallowing. Repeat. Makes the milk last a lot longer too.

      Also, sour cream works pretty well too (full-fat the best I’d assume). I made some guacamole with a ghost chilli last month and even the *light* sour cream significantly neutralised the burn (almost too much!).

  • I suggest eating or taste testing chilli’s be done with a meal with rice or something, much less painful.
    Asian’s have sliced cucumber or other similar cold foods to take the heat away, I tried cucumber last night, it worked very well.
    I think yoghurt can help to.
    Perhaps you can test those in the future.

  • My father has always advocated eating cooked plain rice to help with the spice.

    I eat spicy stuff on a daily basis and I favour drinking regular water and eating refrigerated fresh cucumbers to wash down the heat.

  • Definitely redder in the face after that first chilli. That has to be about an objective measurement as you can get.

  • Look, to take this seriously – you need to research the exact type of chilli your using. Then you try it with different chilli’s each day. First thing’s first, the smaller the chilli is usually the hotter the chilli. You should do some research on scorchville ratings, and start off each day with a lesser, mild chilli and work your way up to the hot Indian and thai chillis. I say this because when you put this into your mouth, we have no way to tell what the actual chilli heat is and therefore, the method of removing the heat needs to be considered in each individual case. Furthermore, it would be really fucking great to see you eat one of those Indian chillis that contain enough heat (from one chilli) to provide heat for a 100kg of curry.

    • I’d argue it’s more important to keep the heat constant throughout testing — otherwise it’s impossible to gauge which remedy works best. That said, I will be partaking in a Bhut Jolokia ghost pepper for the final round which has a Scoville rating of 1.5 million units. (Next I’ll be testing colostomy bags.)

      • You might want to try the whole ordeal – i mean experiment – with ghost chillis because it will allow you to figure out the relationship between methods of stoking the heat and the type of heat you are eating. Of course, this is just an excuse for you to test all those colostomy bags you mentioned…

    • The best way to cut the chilli heat is to eat an even hotter chilli. Its counterintuitive, sure, but eventually, your tastebuds won’t be able to feel the heat. Trust me…*looks around nervously* it definitely works better than any of the methods here.

  • The more times you try chilli the less the lasting hotness seems to hang around.
    You get used to it.
    Don’t touch it and then touch your eyes,

  • Once was offered a chilli sauce called ultra death (should have guessed). Anyway the heat kept building to the point where I went scrounging around my friends fridge looking for milk. I found it and skulled from the carton only to discover it was 2 weeks out of date!!

Show more comments

Comments are closed.

Log in to comment on this story!