spicy chicken edit

Spicy Chicken

Heat is added to your meals with spices – making this article all about: spice and everything nice with chicken!

By: Kelly Atyeo-Fick, B.A.Sc., M.H.Sc., P.H.Ec.

Whether or not you enjoy what you’re eating tends to depend on one major thing…its taste!  Everyone has different preferences – some people enjoy foods that are sour while others prefer sweet. 

Then, there are people who LOVE the tingling feeling on their tongue and maybe even some sweat on their forehead when heat is brought into the equation.  Heat is added to your meals with spices – making this article all about: spice and everything nice with chicken!    

Different types of spices

When someone says something is spicy, they tend to be referring to the level of heat they perceive a food to have so - how much it makes their mouth burn or whether they even break a sweat!

If you really like the fire feeling in your mouth, you need to turn to the most common ingredients that give you heat: hot peppers. 

The spicy heat level of a hot pepper is measured on a scale called the Scoville Heat Unit.1 This scale measures the concentration of capsaicin, which is the plant chemical largely responsible for the hot sensations felt when you eat a hot pepper.1,2 When there is more capsaicin in a pepper, the hotter it will be.1,2 Also, there is typically more capsaicin found in the seeds of a pepper – so you can remove these to make your peppers less hot.1,2

Here are some examples of hot peppers from lowest to highest on the Scoville scale.1,2

Mild: 

  • Pablano
  • Seña
  • Chilaca

 Medium:

  • Jalapeno
  • Anaheim
  • Serrano
  • Hungarian Hot Wax/Hot Banana Pepper

High:

  • Scotch Bonnet
  • Habanero
  • Bird’s Eye

When cooking with heat, you can choose to make your dish mild or hotter depending on your preference.  You can use mild chili powders, chili peppers or curry powders as ingredients for specific recipes if you prefer less heat.  Also, wear gloves when handling hot peppers and don’t touch your eyes or face before you wash your hands thoroughly!

Here are some examples of chicken recipes that can easily have their level of heat adjusted to suit individual preferences.

Oven Jerk Chicken

This recipe uses Scotch Bonnet Peppers, but if you prefer less heat, use a jalapeno pepper instead!

Chicken and Shrimp Curry Pad Thai

You can adjust the amount of chili flakes you put in the recipe – as well as if you want to use a spicy or mild curry powder.

Chicken Legs with Scrumptious Spicy Sauce

This recipe isn’t necessarily “hot” but it is spicy with the addition of allspice.  You can add more heat by offering people chili flakes to sprinkle into the sauce.

More than just for the thrill

Sure, there are some people out there who like to eat spicy or hot foods almost to challenge themselves – and see if they can tolerate the heat.  However, the thrill of eating overly spicy food goes away quite quickly once you reach your limit!

Finding the perfect amount of heat you can tolerate is beneficial – because eating foods that contain ingredients like hot peppers have health benefits.

The phytochemical capsaicin has been researched for its contribution to health and wellness. 

Some research suggests that capsaicin may be beneficial in the following areas3,4:

  • weight management
  • boosting metabolism
  • providing a boost of antioxidants

There are also several other benefits to eating hot peppers.  They are low in calories and contain a lot of micronutrients like vitamin A, C, E and potassium.3,4

Making a meal for everyone!

Ease your family into the idea of spicy meals!  You can’t assume that everyone in your family or all your dinner guests will love the same level of heat as you.  If only it were that easy!  The best option for making meals that are meant for more than 1 person and involve heat is to offer a base dish and let people add their own heat.

For example, if you’re making chicken tacos…cut up some jalapenos for people to put onto their taco as an option.

Or if you are making chicken chilli, use a mild chilli powder and offer hot sauce to add:

For people newly experimenting with heat, it’s always best to assume that they would prefer mild; then simply allow them to add a bit more heat, rather than have tears at the dinner table.  Unless they are tears of joy because you are such a magnificent cook!  Have fun experimenting being more of a Spicy Chicken!  

References:

  1. Walliser, J. (2010). Peppers: From Mild to Wild. Retrieved October 22, 2016, from http://www.rodalesorganiclife.com/peppers-mild-wild
  2. Gallary, C. (2014). A Guide to Common Hot Peppers. Retrieved October 22, 2016, from http://www.thekitchn.com/a-guide-to-common-hot-peppers-ingredient-intelligence-206412
  3. Ware, M. (2016). Cayenne Pepper: Health Benefits, Nutritional Information. Retrieved October 22, 2016, from http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267248.php
  4. WebMD. (2016). Pepper Power: Nutrition and Other Benefits. Retrieved October 22, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/diet/peppers-health-benefits#1

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