I would like to use habenero pepper in a chili, but would like to know how many fresh peppers / pound of chili should I use to maintain an edible chili or another what amount is safe to start with. I know there's probably not a cut/dry amount, but any experience in the matter would be greatly appreciated. I planned on pureeing the pepper(s) and slowly adding it in and testing, but a suggested amount would be good to know since I would like to 'marinade' my meat ahead of time.

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    How spicy is inedible? A pepper may kill some taste buds or cause indigestion but I don't think any reasonable quantity would be unsafe. This seems like it is going to be subjective enough that you will have to figure it out for yourself. – Sobachatina Jan 18 '12 at 19:48
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    I agree with @Sobachantina. I personally know people who eat food that most people who consider inedibly spicy. The best thing you can do is use a small amount in the marinade and later use more if its not spicy enough. Spiciness generally do not make much of a difference if it isn't "marinaded" into the meat and is okay as an external flavor. – Jay Jan 18 '12 at 19:54
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    so going for the bare minimum, is 1 pepper/lb too much or is that a reasonable starting point – pyInTheSky Jan 18 '12 at 19:58
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    Do you or the target eaters normally eat/enjoy spicy food on a regular basis? you have to remember that Habernero is one of the spicies chilis you can find in a regular grocery store. If you are not used to it, i would even recommend less than 1 pepper/lb. – Jay Jan 18 '12 at 20:02
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    It depends what else is in the chili. Meat has a lot of fat and the capsaicin dissolves into it nicely. Chili- especially without beans- doesn't have much to temper the heat so it can get spicy fast. In my chili I think a single habanero would be tasty (especially after it aged for a day) but it would likely be too hot already for my kids. – Sobachatina Jan 18 '12 at 20:08

One habanero per six quarts of chili, containing approximately one quart meat, provides a solid heat that an average palate can handle. I have cooked chili on numerous occasions for groups of people and found this formula works for most people. Typically I stack it with other, lower-Scoville peppers to produce a well-bodied heat.

Other things to bear in mind:

  • one habanero per six quarts will not really showcase the subtler flavors of the habanero, only bring out its heat.
  • capsaicin is fat soluble, more fats in the chili gives you more wiggle room to add more heat. Up the meat or oil (bacon fat), up the peppers
  • browning your meat in the diced peppers will lock away some flavor in the meat as long as you don't stew it forever
  • using the bulb's flesh, rather than up by the stem will lower the capsaicin in the pepper, discard seeds and pith as well; this will allow more pepper flavor without overwhelming spiciness
  • some habanero peppers are weaker than others, you might seek out some that are less spicy if trying to add heat
  • If all you're looking for is heat, a plurality of pepper types/cultivars will yield better heat; single pepper chili can be hotter, but have a thin kind of heat as opposed to a whole-bodied punch in the jaw kind of heat
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    nice follow-up, I appreciate it. I really want to get as much sweet habenaero flavor without overpowering the chili. Given your bullets, I think I shall cube my chorizo heat it up to draw out some of the fat add the pureed habenaero(minus seeds and white flesh) and add that mixture into my browned cubed chuck : ) – pyInTheSky Jan 18 '12 at 21:59
  • @pyi chorizo, like any sausage, is quite ideal sure to its variable fat content. Also, if you select for smokey and sweet chorizo, and double down on paprika you should be able to nail it. Personally, smokey and sweet make for a great one-two – mfg Jan 18 '12 at 22:51
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    for anyone interested, With 5-6lbs of meat, 2 cans 14oz tomato sauce, and some water; it took 10 pureed habanero peppers to get a nice, non-burning heat (which seems like a lot but I think the chorizo fat really did tone it down). That is in addition to fresh home made chili powder via Alton Brown's recipe. – pyInTheSky Jan 19 '12 at 15:10
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    @pyInTheSky how did it go in terms of the flavor being expressed relative to the heat? – mfg Jan 19 '12 at 15:42
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    the chili came out delicious, but the actual sweetness of the habanero just didn't come out. Perhaps they weren't fresh enough or came from a different region during this time of year, but both the heat/flavor from the peppers was pretty unsubstantial. – pyInTheSky Jan 19 '12 at 21:20

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