Most of the commercial chili powders you can buy at the market contain a lot of other things besides powdered chili peppers. In addition the label rarely makes it clear just what kind of chili pepper was ground up an put in the powder. Mine store bought canister reads: chili pepper, spices, salt, silicon dioxide and garlic. I don’t mind a little extra silicon dioxide in my diet, but I want to adjust my own garlic and salt, thank you very much.
It’s not hard to fine dried chili peppers in the market and more often than not they’ll be labeled what kind of chili they are, allowing you to buy or even mix the level of hot you are interested in. And when they are not labeled, they are usually plain old New Mexico Chili Peppers which are only of modest heat.
According to Wikipedia: “The Scoville scale is the measurement of the pungency (spicy heat) of chili peppers or other spicy foods as reported in Scoville heat units (SHU), a function of capsaicin concentration.”
Your garden variety bell pepper whether green, red, yellow or orange is not even on the scale. Pimentos and banana peppers are rated a very low 100-900; Jalapeño and Chipotle (just a smoked Jalapeño) rate 3500-8000; while Habanero and Scotch bonnets (one of my favorites) are at a fiery 100,000-350,000. But the scale doesn’t top out until a gasping 1,500,000 with the aptly named Trinidad Moruga Scorpion and Carolina Reaper. Inquiring minds will want to check out the whole scale.
When I made my chicken beer chili I used ancho chili, which is actually a smoked poblano chili, rated a lowly 1000-2500, though interestingly Scoville puts it in the same category as Sriracha sauce. That’s a dried anco in the image above.
I split them with a knife down the length of the pepper. This way most of the seeds will fall right out. I do de-seed them. I break then dried pepper into small pieces and then grind them. In this case I’m using a old coffee grinder I reserve just for spices. You can always use a mortar and pestal, but I’m lazy. Do exercise caution. These anchos may not be high on the Scoville scale but if you inhale the powder, you going to know it. Just handling the peppers and transferring the powder to a jar had me sneezing like crazy.
A whole bag of peppers yielded just a spice jar full of chili powder, but the flavor is so much more intense and complex than the stuff from the store.