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What is the hottest pepper in the world? Pepper X, Carolina Reaper ranked on the spice scale

You may like spicy foods, but do you think you could handle the hottest pepper in the world? In the world of record-breaking hot ones, there's a new sheriff in town – the Guinness World Records crowned the new winner in October 2023.

While we may willingly eat spicy peppers, scientists believe their capsaicinoids the compound that makes them hot evolved to scare off animals trying to take a bite. Birds, on the other hand, don't have the same heat-sensing receptors in their mouths, so they can handle peppers without the same heat we feel. Their pepper-snacking may have helped disperse seeds on a wider geographical scale, according to New Mexico State University.

Here's the one that ranks as the world’s hottest pepper.

What is the hottest pepper in the world?

The world's hottest pepper is the Pepper X, grown by Ed Currie of the PuckerButt Pepper Company in South Carolina. The Pepper X dethroned the Caroline Reaper (also created by Currie) in October 2023 and now holds the Guinness World Record title. It clocked in at just under 2.7 million Scoville Heat Units, the scale used to rank how spicy peppers are. The Reaper averaged 1.64 million SHU and peaked at about 2.2 million SHU.

For comparison, a jalapeño registers about 2,500 to 8,000 SHU and cayenne pepper is 30,000 to 50,000 SHU.

According to Guinness World Records, Currie crossbreeds over 100 peppers each year in the hopes that, over a 10-year process, it'll yield a new spicy pepper or two.

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Can you eat the world’s hottest pepper?

"Hot Ones" host Sean Evans and guests were left in tears after eating Currie's new Pepper X. When Currie unveiled it in October, he told the Associated Press he was only one of five people to eat an entire Pepper X so far.

“I was feeling the heat for three-and-a-half hours. Then the cramps came,” Currie told AP. “Those cramps are horrible. I was laid out flat on a marble wall for approximately an hour in the rain, groaning in pain.”

In 2018, a 34-year-old man went to the emergency room complaining of severe headaches just days after eating a Carolina Reaper. Newsweek reported that brain scans revealed constricted arteries that eventually returned to their normal state five weeks later. In 2020, the National Center for Biotechnological Information reported an incident of a 15-year-old boy who ate a Carolina Reaper and had an acute cerebellar stroke two days later after being hospitalized because of headaches.

Still, the world's hottest peppers continue to be eaten. League of Fire ranks chili-eating champions with a specific set of rules they need the details of the official event, the credentials of the witnesses present and no more than 200 Carolina Reapers can be consumed.

The title is held by Gregory “Iron Guts” Barlow of Melbourne, Australia, who ate 160 Reapers in one sitting. In second place is Duston "Atomik Menace" Johnson of Las Vegas, who ate 122 peppers.

What are the top five hottest peppers?

According to PepperHead and based on the new world record, here are the five peppers that pack the most heat:

  1. Pepper X: 2,693,000 SHU

  2. Carolina Reaper: 2,200,000 SHU

  3. Trinidad Moruga Scorpion: 2,009,231 SHU

  4. 7 Pot Douglah: 1,853,936 SHU

  5. 7 Pot Primo: 1,469,000 SHU

How do you measure how hot a pepper is?

Pharmacist Wilbur Scoville invented the Scoville scale in 1912 to measure a pepper’s heat. According to Masterclass, Scoville tested peppers by mixing sugar water with an alcohol-based extract of capsaicin oil the chemical compound in chili peppers that makes them hot. Scoville placed the solution with water on the taste testers’ tongues and diluted it with water to rank how spicy the testers thought it was.

Now, scientists use a more high-tech method instead of tongue testing. High-Performance Liquid Chromatography determines the concentration of capsaicin in a pepper using the same Scoville ranking system.

Pure capsaicin ranks at 16 million SHU.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: What is the hottest pepper in the world? A look at the Scoville scale