If you’re not already plotting total domination at your first hot sauce eating competition, take a moment to ask yourself what you’re doing with your life. Hot sauce is not for the faint of heart—especially in large and fast quantities. Lucky for you (and your tastebuds), we’re here to help you train.
TIP 1: Make sure there’s food in your stomach
The easiest rookie mistake to avoid is going all in on an empty stomach. Capsaicin, the active heat component and chemical compound of chili peppers, will put you on your hot sau-ass if you’re not careful.
James Beck, owner of Houston’s iBurn says, “My number one rule for eating ultra-hots is to make sure there’s food in your stomach. Preferably something that digests slowly like meat or even a small bowl of oatmeal. Eating something really spicy on an empty stomach will gut bomb most people almost every time. If you’ve never been gut bombed, you don’t want to experience that—trust me.”
Pasta, rice, milk, potatoes and bread are all solid choices to pre-beat the heat.
TIP 2: Dairy is your best friend—before, during, and after
Forget water. Milk is your secret weapon when all that hot sauce you just pounded is not so secretly pounding your taste buds into fiery submission.
When the capsaicin in chilies begin their pummeling, your tastebuds—aka neural sensors—send an immediate SOS to your brain. Milk contains casein, a protein compound that binds with hellfire capsaicin oil, and helps to neutralize the burn.
You may have heard water or beer will do the trick to ease the heat, but because water and oil don’t mix, water-based drinks will spread the oily capsaicin instead of minimizing it.
Not a fan of milk? Ice cream is also a solid option.
TIP 3: Build your tolerance
You’ve never seen a wannabe bodybuilder strut up to a 300-lb. dumbbell and deadlift it in a single shot, have you? Those muscleheads train with progressively heavier and heavier weights for months to get where they’re going. The same goes for you, Obi-Wan Hotnobi.
Different peppers contain different concentrations of capsaicin. The intensity is measured in Scoville heat units and ranked on the Scoville Scale. Practice preparing different dishes with varying peppers at home to ease yourself into what to expect while simultaneously building your tolerance.
SPICING IT UP AT HOME:
Always start small by dousing your food with an extra helping of black pepper or crushed red pepper flakes. When this feels doable, add seeded diced chilies to your dishes. Start mild with poblanos and cubanelles, then plow ahead with jalapenos and serranos.
“A great tip is to have spicy food with something that is a natural coolant for the body. For example, Thai food tends to be spicy, but they use a lot coconut milk, which is cooling. You will also find that Indian and Mexican food tends to have cilantro or lime, which are both cooling and help to ease the powerful effect of spicy food,” says Seema Vora, an Integrative Health Practitioner in NYC.