How is Hot Sauce Spice Measured?

Buffalo wings from Atomic Wings
July 31, 2023

Chicken wings are a universally beloved dish, pleasing both mild and wild palettes alike. However, every wing enthusiast knows that not all wing sauces are created equal in terms of heat. So what makes one chicken wing sauce spicier than another? Believe it or not, the sensation of spice is not magic, but simple science. Let's find out what's happening in your mouth when you feel that tongue-tingling heat after biting into your favorite spicy wings.

Science Behind Spicy Chicken Wings

Chili peppers are widely known as the primary ingredient in many hot sauces. However, the lesser-known fact is what causes the spiciness of these commonly used ingredients. It turns out that the secret to the peppers' spiciness is an oil-like compound called capsaicin, which can be found near the seeds of the pepper. Contrary to popular belief, capsaicin is not found inside the seeds themselves but only in the membrane surrounding it.

What causes the spicy sensation you feel when your body comes into contact with capsaicin? Surprisingly, the sensation has nothing to do with taste. When capsaicin comes into contact with specific parts of your body, it tricks the brain into thinking that it's overheating. This leads to the brain initiating its cooling process, which can cause sweating or tingling sensations. So next time you hear something spicy referred to as hot you know there is some truth behind it.

Levels of Chicken Wing Spice

What makes certain peppers spicier than others? It's the level of capsaicin contained within certain peppers that makes them taste spicier. Many refer to the classification of how hot a pepper is by the Scoville metric. This scale goes from 0 (not spicy), to 16 million (highest amount of spice). Here’s an easy guide to understanding how spicy something is based on Scoville units. 

A bell pepper is on the lowest end being 0 Scoville making it not spicy at all, while a jalapeño contains 8,000 Scoville units. Currently, the hottest pepper known to man is the Carolina reaper at 2,500,000 Scoville units. This is a great way to get a reasonable idea when looking at a chicken wing sauce’s heat level by looking at its Scoville level.

Chicken wing flats and sauce from Atomic Wings

What's the Best Way to Cool Off From Spicy Wings?

Have you ever tried a chicken wing sauce that was just too spicy? Many people mistakenly reach for a glass of water after consuming something too hot, but this only makes matters worse. Water intensifies the effects of capsaicin, causing more discomfort. Instead, the best way to reduce the heat level is with milk. Milk and cream contain agents that remove capsaicin molecules from the tongue, providing the most effective relief from extremely hot sauces. This is why milk-based dressings like ranch and blue cheese are often paired with spicy wings – they not only add flavor to the experience but also help to cool down your mouth. The next time you encounter a wing sauce that's too hot, try sipping on a cold glass of milk or enjoy it with our delicious ranch and blue cheese dressings!

What are the Spiciest Hot Sauces at Atomic Wings?

At Atomic Wings our sauces range from insanely spicy to mild. Here’s a list of our chicken wing sauces ranked by their heat level so you can find the flavor perfect for you based on your heat sensitivity.

Scale of Atomic Wins hot sauces

Check out our menu today and explore our endless flavor combinations and possibilities! Want a quick and easy way to order your favorite chicken wings? Download our mobile app for easy ordering and great deals.