A Griller's Guide to the World's Chiles

Serves: 5



Where there’s smoke, there’s fire, goes the saying. And where there’s fire, there’s heat. Chiles are absolutely essential to barbecue: grilled on their own added to a myriad of marinades, rubs, and spice mixes served pickled or straight up as an accompaniment to grilled fare. If you have sensitive skin, don’t handle chiles directly. Instead, wear rubber or plastic gloves. Remember that the hottest parts of a chile are the seeds and veins. If you have a low tolerance for heat, remove them by cutting the chile in half and scraping out the seeds with a small spoon or a blunt knife. When working with chiles, never rub your eyes, nose, or mouth-the oils will cause a burning sensation in these sensitive areas. And always wash your hands (or gloves) thoroughly with soap and water when done.

Here’s a field guide to some of the many chiles you will encounter on the barbecue trail.

Aji Amarillo: Literally, "yellow chile." A fiery, fleshy, yellow-orangish Peruvian chile used as a flavoring for kebabs. Aji amarillo comes in three forms: powdered, paste, and pickled. Look for it in Hispanic markets or see Mail-Order Sources.

Bird Pepper: A small (about 1 inch long), cone-shaped red or reddish-orange chile related to the cayenne and found in the Bahamas and elsewhere in the Caribbean. If unable to find, substitute red serrano or jalapeño chiles.

Bull’s Horn Peppers: These chiles are popular all along the barbecue trail. The bull’s horn pepper has a pleasant bell pepper flavor. The bite can range from a bit hot to moderately hot. The long, slender shape of the bull’s horn pepper makes it popular for grilling. Simply thread the peppers crosswise on skewers and char on all sides.

Cayenne: A small (2 inches long), fiery red chile native to the Gulf of Mexico and Guyana and used mostly in powdered form. Today, cayenne is widely used throughout Africa, India, and Asia. Cayenne is very hot, but its flavor is fairly one-dimensional.

Chipotle: The jalapeño chile smoked, the chipotle is an essential ingredient in Mexican adobo (a smoked chile marinade) and many salsas. Chipotles comes in two varieties-the small red morena and large tan grande-the latter with a more complex flavor. Chipotles also come in two forms: dried and canned (the latter in a sour orange and tomato sauce). The canned has a richer flavor. Chipotles are available at Mexican markets and gourmet shops, or try one of the Mail-Order Sources.

De arbol: A long (3 to 4 inches), skinny dried red Mexican chile that’s moderately fiery. It is used in the charred tomato salsas that accompany grilled beef in northern Mexico.

Goat Pepper: A crinkly, round green chile about 1 1/2 inches long, similar in flavor and heat to the scotch bonnet. It is popular in the Bahamas.

Guajillo: A long, smooth-skinned, reddish-brown dried chile, flavorful but relatively mild, from Mexico. It is often ground into chile powder and used to marinate pork in central Mexico.

Habanero: A smooth, acorn-shaped red, green, or yellow chile similar in flavor and tongue-torturing heat to the scotch bonnet.

Jalapeno: A bullet-shaped green or red pepper available just about everywhere. Despite its reputation, the jalapeño is relatively mild as chiles go. The heat of a chile is measured in units called scovilles, and jalapeños ring in at about 5,000 scovilles. Compare that to the 200,000 scovilles of the habanero or scotch bonnet chile.

Korean chile: A hot dried red chile that’s indispensable in Korean cooking. Hungarian hot paprika makes a good substitute.

Pimenta Malagueta: A tiny, ridged red or green chile (usually pickled or dried). Adds zip to Brazilian table sauces.

Poblano: A large (up to 3 inches), dark green, tapered fresh chile from Mexico. SImilar in flavor to a green bell pepper, but hotter and more aromatic. Great for stuffing and grilling. The dried version is called ancho.

Scotch Bonnet: To call this Chinese lanternnshaped chile hot would be an understatement: The scotch bonnet is about 50 times more fiery than a jalapeño! But behind the heat, there’s a floral, almost fruity flavor that makes me think of apricots. Mexico’s habanero chile, Jamaica’s country pepper, Haiti’s dame jeanne, and Florida’s datil pepper are closely related and make satisfactory substitutes. Scotch bonnets are available at West Indian and Mexican markets, gourmet shops, and at most major supermarkets.

Serrano: A thin, tapered bright green chile smaller and slightly hotter than a jalapeño. The two are interchangeable.

Thai Chile Peppers: You need to know about two: The prik kee noo, a tiny ridged, mercilessly hot chile whose Thai name literally means "mouse dropping" and the prik kee far, a slender, horn-shaped green chile that is very hot, but milder than its little brother. Look for Thai chiles at Asian and Indian markets.

This A Griller's Guide to the World's Chiles recipe is from the The Barbecue Bible Cookbook. Download this Cookbook today.

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A Griller's Guide to the World's Chiles
A Marinating Tip
A New French Paradox
A Special Word About Ground Meat, Burgers, and Sausages
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Stuck on Sate: The Indonesian Grill
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The Argentinian Grill
The Birth of the Kettle
The Brazilian Grill
The Four Styles of American Barbecue
The Indian Grill
The Japanese Grill
The Macanese Grill
The Moroccan Grill
The Most Famous Fish House in Indonesia
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The Tale of Three Barbecues: The Thai Grill
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The Vietnamese Grill
To Render Chicken Fat
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What to look for in a Grill
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