Why are habaneros hotter than jalapeños? Conventional wisdom points to the Scoville Scale —the standard measurement of spicy chemicals in food. By Scoville's laws, heat is just a number, and since habanero peppers have more Scoville units than jalapeño peppers, habaneros are hotter.
But Scoville units only tell part of the story behind hot foods. What’s the mechanism that makes food feel hot in the first place? And why does crushed red pepper hot, sprinkled atop your pizza to tickle your tongue, differ so much from wasabi hot, sprinkled on your sushi to irrigate your nose?
This animated explanation by journalist Rose Eveleth will not only set you straight; its charming cartoon visualizations will leave you with a fundamentally different view of all of those spicy foods that you stick in your mouth. After watching once, try it again with a little Tabasco sprinkled on top. I promise it’s just more delicious.