You’ve been there, right?
Your ego got the best of you and you said, “Sure, bring me the hottest wings on your menu.” I mean, how bad can it be?
Peppers contain a chemical called capsaicin which activates receptors on your lips, mouth and tongue creating the burning heat sensation. Different peppers have higher levels of capsaicin and chicken wing mad scientists have been playing around in the lab for years and coming up with new ways to light your intestines on fire. From the hottest peppers on the planet to pure capsaicin oils, these mixologists have been tap dancing around on the Scoville Heat Unit Scale for years trying to create the hottest sauces possible.
In addition to what it does in your mouth while consuming your favorite hot wings, capsaicin also irritates pain receptors throughout your entire digestive system. Depending upon your tolerance levels, your body goes into 911 mode and speeds up digestion in an effort to flush the capsaicin quickly. This is why diarrhea occurs (and hurts).
It’s entertaining to watch famous celebrities sweating and squirming on the YouTube hit show, Hot One’s, but I mostly appreciate the amazing interview style of Sean Evans who smashes those wings right along with them and still maintains perfect composure to ask his questions. That, by the way, is because, like with anything, the body builds up a tolerance to capsaicin with continued consumption.
I’ve observed different guests showing up on the set with milk, smoothies, fruits, breads, cheeses, you name it. Chef Gordon Ramsay brought along squeezable lemon and lime juice. But what, actually, is the best way to put out the fire?
Drinking cold water or even reaching for ice cubes is a rookie mistake. Water actually helps spread the capsaicin on your mouth and lips, making it even worse!
So what then?
For starters, the reason blue cheese was initially served with buffalo wings was because of its cooling nature. In fact, full-fat dairy products are the most effective way to turn down the heat and slow down the burn. Products like milk, sour cream and yogurt work super well.
Alcohol is great for putting out the fire, BUT NOT BEER! Beer contains mostly water (see above) but whiskey, bourbon, vodka, tequila, and especially rum are excellent fire extinguishers. During a Wingaddicts video episode at Bonfire Grille in Milford (aptly named) we were served a “frozen sangria” after their “Bonfire Blaze” wings and the combination of frozen apple cider and bourbon was amazing! A frozen orange creamsicle or a creamsicle cocktail is also excellent.
Sugar is another great solution (one of the reasons why rum is so effective) because it bonds to capsaicin oil. So ice cream, a mixture of dairy, cold, and sugar works well. Chocolate is also a combination of dairy and sugar and serves to reduce the sting.
Bread is another remedy commonly used to soak up the pain, but since you eat it (as opposed to drinking it) it requires more effort and takes a little bit longer to soothe. You can also employ the citric acid in certain fruits like oranges, lemons, grapefruit and limes (Chef Ramsay was right on) to battle that spicy mouth or even chew up some almonds or coconut.
Acetic acid acts to neutralizes the alkalinity of capsaicin. Though it would be gross, you can rinse your mouth with vinegar to get relief but this is a double-edged sword as vinegar also opens up your plate making you more susceptible to the fire to begin with.
By the way, please don’t touch your eyes! Even hours after eating those wings, if you don’t wash your hands the capsaicin will still be there and is quite unpleasant in your eyes. (Have you heard of mace and pepper spray?) If you do, however, reach for saline solution or eye wash. It’s not recommended to pour milk or alcohol or fruit or vinegar into your eyes!
So there you go. If you’re going to fire up some hot wings, at least you should understand the science of cooling just in case the going gets tough! As for the day after . . . (queue up the frozen toilet paper jokes), neuroscience suggests that the punishment needs to be logical and immediate in order to be effective. So don’t worry. Even though its going to hurt, you’ll get right back out there an do it again!
Tommy Wyatt is co-founder of Wingaddicts and writes this weekly blog “Under the Wingfluence” for Wingaddicts.com.
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