The Jalapeño Cutting Tip To Prevent Pepper Oil From Burning Your Skin

We've all been there: You're whipping up a batch of delicious jalapeño poppers on a Sunday afternoon, but after heedlessly going in with bare hands, that unpleasant and familiar feeling is suddenly upon you and your fingers. You've got chili oil burns, and you'll probably be feeling them the rest of the day. Chili burns are no joke, and if you know, you know. Luckily, there's a simple trick to making sure you never have to feel that burn again.

If you don't have kitchen gloves — and let's face it, not everybody has a box of disposable rubber gloves lying around — you can oil your fingers on the hand you're not holding the knife with to prevent the chili's juices from sticking to your skin. But be careful: An oil coating will make your pepper harder to hold, and you don't want to trade burning fingers for sliced ones (or worse, burning after you've accidentally cut yourself). Stabilize your pepper by slicing it in half lengthwise first and holding the halves flat side down to make sure they don't slip out of your hands. And of course, when you're finished, you'll still want to thoroughly wash your hands before touching anything else — you don't want to spread the chili oil anywhere else for a surprise burn later.

Protect your hands from sick burns

Still, accidents happen, and if you've skipped the gloves or missed a spot with your protective oil coating, you'll know it. Jalapeños generally have a Scoville rating of anywhere between 2,500 and 8,000 Scoville Heat Units. The heat of any one pepper really depends on its age — the younger the pepper, the hotter it will be; if you ever see red on your jalapeño, you can also know that you're in for a kick. Regardless of its heat profile, you're still at risk of chili oil burns no matter how spicy your pepper is. We all make mistakes, so if you're feeling a burn coming on, what can you do?

Even after the fact, oil can be used to help remove the fiery pepper oil from your hands. Rub some oil all over your hands and between your fingers, before washing with soap and water. This action will actually cause the capsaicin in the peppers to mix with the oil and therefore feel less concentrated on your hands. 

If you don't have enough oil to get the job done, there are other options as well. Rubbing alcohol or even high proof spirits can help to dissolve any capsaicin on your hands, but you have to act quickly. Some people swear by rinsing with yogurt or milk because chili oil is more soluble in fat than water, though according to a 2019 study published in Physiology & Behavior, this might be more urban legend than fact. Your best protection against chili oil burns is prevention, so lather up the cooking oil, wash your hands after you've finished, and whatever you do — if you're cooking with jalapeños, don't touch your eyes!