How to Pick the Perfect Jalapeño Pepper Every Time, According to Rachael Ray

Look for *this* sign if you like your peppers to pack a spicy punch (or not).

rachael ray pepper
Photo: Getty / Tyrel Stendahl

From party-starting air-fryer poppers to cheese balls to spiced-up fruit snacks, here at EatingWell, we love to perk up recipes with jalapeño peppers. Whether you pick them fresh from the vegetable garden or from the supermarket produce shelves, these vegetables pack a pleasant amount of kick.

That's because jalapeños fall fairly low on the Scoville Scale, the rating system that scores each variety of peppers based on quantity of capsaicin (the chemical compound that causes the h-o-t sensation). Compared to Carolina Reaper peppers, which clock in at a scorching 2,200,000 Scoville heat units (SHUs), Scotch bonnets at 350,000 SHUs and Tabasco at 50,000 SHUs, jalapeños average a reasonable 10,000 SHUs. They fall just above chipotles, poblanos and pepperoncini at the mild end of the spectrum.

Still, jalapeños are fiery to scorch your skin (ICYMI, here's how to prevent and treat the burning pain of "jalapeño hands"), and some specific peppers—yes, even of the same species—can be much more spicy than others.

Here's where Rachael Ray's brilliant pepper-picking trick comes into play.

It comes from an episode of her new Facebook Watch series RR:MM, which airs on the FreeFoodStudios Facebook page. (MM, BTW, stands for "meals in minutes," according to the host.) For Ray's grown-up grilled cheese featured on the show, she calls for blitzing up a chili-herb paste with cilantro and/or parsley, scallions, shallots, lime and jalapeño.

As Ray discusses how to pick the perfect pepper for this next-level sandwich, she shares a tip we'll be taking with us next time we go shopping: "When you buy a jalapeño pepper, if it has lines on it—literally lines that look like erosion—those are called 'heat streaks.' That means that's an especially spicy jalapeño pepper."

Chalk us up as officially today years old when we discovered that those lines are more than just a fluke!

If you end up growing or purchasing a pepper that's too hot for your liking, Ray has advice for this, too. "Most of the heat lives in the middle, so if you want to dial that heat back, cut the middle out," she says, referring to the seeds and ribs inside the pepper.

Now that you, too, know how to pick a spicy (or mild) jalapeño and how to adjust it for your palate, stock up and put them to good use in these recipes for spicy foods that boost your metabolism.

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