Habanero vs. serrano vs. jalapeno
If heat equals strength and this is the World's Strongest Man Contest, the habanero chile can lift an 18-wheeler. The serrano can lift a VW van. The jalapeño can lift a Vespa, which is still pretty powerful compared to the pepperoncini lifting a Big Wheel way down at the bottom of the Scoville scale.
But there is much more to a chile pepper than its brawn. Different varieties have different flavors, colors and shapes and play different roles in cooking. Here’s a breakdown of three popular varieties.
|The habanero: Lantern-shaped and bright yellow or orange, the habanero is the hottest chile that is readily available in U.S. groceries. You can seed habaneros to lower the heat, but when working with them, wear gloves and keep your hands away from your face. Wash anything that touches the chile's seeds or juices. The habanero's floral, tangy flavor works well as the focal point of a dip.|
|The serrano: Looks like a slender jalapeño. As it ages, it turns from green to red to yellow. Rich and potentially blistering (though sometimes fairly mild), serranos show up most often in salsas, marinades, sauces and chilis. Its size and shape make the serrano difficult to core and seed, so the best way to temper it is by using less of it.|
|The jalapeño: A workhorse pepper that is easy to find in most grocery stores. It's easy to work with, too. If you have a moderate tolerance for heat, you should be able to handle a jalapeño without removing the seeds and ribs. (If you're less tolerant of heat, try taking out the seeds and ribs.) Jalapeños are dark green (red when extra ripe) and have a sweet flavor that is similar to a bell pepper with a kick.|