Harlem, New York
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New York, NY 10027
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What Makes Hot Wings Spicy? June 12, 2019

Harlem, Manhattan
What Makes Hot Wings Spicy?, Manhattan, New York

If you’re a fan of hot wings and sauces, you may wonder about the science behind the heat. From active ingredients in peppers to ratios of sugar and fat, many factors play into the spiciness of your favorite dishes. For more on this topic, consult the information below. 

Your Guide to the Science of Spicy Foods


Spicy foods contain capsaicin, which is an organic compound found in chili peppers. When you eat hot wings, for instance, capsaicin molecules activate the pain receptors on your tongue, causing that familiar burning sensation. When you overestimate your tolerance for spicy foods, you may notice that drinking water doesn’t do much to ease the pain. This is because capsaicin is an oil, and rather than absorbing it, water causes it to spread.

Spice Protection Factors

Fat and sugar are considered “spice protection factors,” since capsaicin is soluble in them. In other words, the higher the fat and sugar content in a particular dish, the less spicy it will taste. Fats and sugars coat the mouth to prevent capsaicin molecules from binding with your tongue’s pain receptors. If you’re a bona fide hot wings fanatic, choose sauces that are less sweet and creamy. 

Scoville Scale

wingsThe Scoville scale measures the concentration of capsaicin in chili peppers and provides a helpful roadmap for determining the heat levels of dishes. Scoville units are based on how many times capsaicin would have to be diluted to be undetectable. For instance, sweet bell peppers have 0 Scoville units since they so do not contain enough capsaicin to register as hot on the tongue. Habaneros have a Scoville rating of 300,000, which means they would need to be diluted that many times in order for capsaicin to have no effect. Meanwhile, Buffalo Wild Wings Blazin’ Sauce has a Scoville rating of up to 350,000.


The next time you’re in the mood for hot wings, burgers, and beers, head to your local Buffalo Wild Wings®. This bar and restaurant offers American food classics at several locations throughout the Northeast, including Brooklyn and Forest Hills, NY, and Stamford and Danbury, CT. Call to make a reservation for your party, and visit them online to view menus of hot wings and sauces.

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