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: white wine and raw carrot.
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.
Raw carrot is something of a 'folk remedy' that we've seen mentioned on numerous forums and websites. There's no real trick to it; you just take intermittent bites while eating your spicy meal. A bit like this:
Click on the audio icon if you want to enjoy my suffering.
Much like yesterday's bread experiment, this really didn't do a damn thing to alleviate the pain. Bizarrely, it also caused me to hiccup uncontrollably in a way I've never experienced; I'm talking a hiccup every second. Thanks for nothing, Bugs.
Effectiveness rating: 3/10
This "remedy" looks suspiciously like an excuse for me to go all Mad Men at work — but it truly is a tried-and-tested method. Capsaicin is alcohol soluble, which makes the drink more effective at dissolving the spicy taste in your mouth than water.
White wines are especially recommended, presumably because the colder temperature helps to alleviate the burn. However, some people claim that alcohol is a poor choice, as it spreads the oil around and exacerbates the damage. Let's find out, shall we?
This actually worked better than I was anticipating. The chilled liquid provided immediate relief and seemed to dull the intensity of the burning. Unlike the other cooling remedies we've tried, the effectiveness of wine also improves the more you drink it — for obvious reasons. (In related news, I'm totally having a lay down this arvo. If it's good enough for Don Draper, it's good enough for me.)
Effectiveness rating: 7/10
Stay tuned for tomorrow’s Chilli Challenge where I test hot water and sugar!