Chile Connoisseur’s Guide

04 Sep 2005

Use these tips to enhance chile flavor and, if desired, reduce heat.

  • If you prefer peppers with less heat, purchase large, heavy fruits that have more flesh to disperse the peppers’ heat-producing capsaicin compound. If you like it hot, purchase lighter, smaller fruits.
  • Peppers have different flavors that the heat often masks. The flavor is in the flesh, but the skin and seeds are bitter, and the veins holding the seeds carry most of the heat. To capture a pepper’s true flavor, roast it to remove the skin, and then remove the veins and seeds. Because they’re smaller and less fleshy, hot peppers, like habañeros and serranos, are rarely roasted or skinned. To reduce their heat, slit them open, remove the veins and seeds, and finely mince the flesh before adding to foods.
  • The flavor of whole roasted chiles quickly deteriorates when refrigerated, so freeze them instead. The heavier the freezer bag, the better your peppers will fare.
  • Roast individual peppers on a stovetop by putting the heat on high and turning the peppers with tongs until the skin blackens. Place roasted chiles in a paper bag for 10 minutes to sweat off the skin. Wearing disposable gloves, split the chiles open over a bowl to catch the juices, scrape off the skin and remove the seeds, if desired. Don’t run water over roasted chiles; it removes the flavor.
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