I'm developing something with whole green peppercorns in it. I've done a test that began with cooking up veggies in 1 liter of water, no fats, with 2 teaspoons of pepper. The dried corns had been watered for softening (though ended up way too soft after cooking) and the water had become spicy hot. In cooking they gave off flavor but only the slightest hint of heat, while the corns themselves remained pretty hot.

Yet I got my idea when I ate a supermarket meat spread with green pepper that is still somewhat aromatic but not hot at all, nor is the spread ostensibly hot. I've eaten other sausages with the same properties but that I tend to trust hadn't treated the pepper with its own flavoring or anything.

Though I do not intend to buy brined pepper but use what I have, would it do the trick? Now, should I squeeze the peppercorns first, or would that allow all aroma to leave them along with the heat during long cooking? What are the home and the industrial processes here?

1 Answer 1


Piperine, the most important compound in black/green pepper, is only weakly soluble in water. It is quite soluble in alcohol.

A lot of traditional peppercorn sauces cook the peppercorns in something like brandy, which will extract piperine into the liquid, i.e. this takes heat from the peppercorns themselves and puts it in the sauce. The further addition of cream to many sauces dilutes the heat; fat acts to reduce the sensation as it does with capsaicin.

Cooking directly in oil should have a similar effect, but the heat of cooking also reduces the spicy heat. That's also true of simmering in water, but the higher temperatures in oil accelerate the process.

I reckon you need to gently cook the pepper in a little oil, or simmer it in a little alcohol before adding it. Oil especially should allow it to keep more texture. You might just get away with a longer simmer in water than your veg needs, but that might lead to too much softening.

  • Thank you. When using alcohol, when it ccoks off during further work, what happens to the piperine?
    – ariola
    Aug 4, 2023 at 12:27
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    The alcohol won't cook off completely unless you boil it dry, so the piperine might stay dissolved in what's left. If you cook off all the alcohol and the water, it will precipitate and end up on the bottom of the pan, along with sugars etc. from your alcohol.
    – Chris H
    Aug 4, 2023 at 12:54
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    So are you suggesting the OP dissolve some of the piperine into alcohol and then pour off the alcohol, or that they keep it in so the dish as a whole becomes suffused with piperine?
    – Sneftel
    Aug 4, 2023 at 14:56
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    @Sneftel I'd keep it in. But it depends on how much flavour they want and how dilute it's going to be. A more specific recipe might lead to more specific suggestions. There's a third option of course - drain off the alcohol, reserve it, and add back to taste.
    – Chris H
    Aug 4, 2023 at 15:01
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    @quarague yes on the solubility, but not so fast when it comes to alcohol boiling off. This has come up before and it takes a surprisingly long time to get a significant reduction in alcohol concentration. You can't just take the different boiling points of the isolated compounds and draw such conclusions about a mixture cooking.stackexchange.com/q/659/20413 "No alcohol left in [boiled dishes]" is flat out wrong, and a dangerous myth for dishes that started with a lot of alcohol.
    – Chris H
    Aug 5, 2023 at 16:32

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