This seems like the easiest trick in the world to find out if a chilli is spicy or not, and I can’t believe I’m just discovering it. If there was ever a perfect moment to say duh, this would be it.
There are chillies you know are going to be spicy and chillies you know are not, but then there are the chillies that could be mild, hot, or “please remove my tongue from my mouth and place it in a glass of ice milk”. Luckily, there is an easy way to predict the spicy outcome, and it was right under our noses all along.
Photo: Katherine Lenhart
As Justin Chapple explained on this episode of Cookery by the Book, all you have to do to estimate a chilli’s spiciness is give it a sniff:
I actually learned this trick from my friend Melissa Clark who works for The New York Times. She said, what you do is you cut the jalapeno or the chilli in half, and then you smell it. If it smells like a bell pepper [capsicum], then it’s sweeter. But if it smells really spicy then you know it’s going to be a really hot chilli, and you should maybe start with less before you add more. She taught me that, and I was like, why have I not ever known that? It’s such a brilliant trick.
Like Justin, I am also a little disappointed I didn’t already know that. It is as plain as the nose on my face, and I have kind of a big nose.
#96 | Just Cook It! [Cookery by the Book]
This article has been updated since its original publication.