I love spicy food as much as the next person, but working with spicy peppers? Not so fun. There have been many times where I've diced up serranos or habaneros for salsa or tiny little Thai chiles for a curry or stir-fry and suffer from stinging, burning fingers when they come in contact with the oils in the chile peppers. And don't even get me started on the time I accidentally rubbed my eyes!
Here are some easy remedies to soothe those stinging hands after they've encountered the effects of chili oil!
First off, remember that the best prevention for hot pepper hands is to use gloves. While they keep the chili oils and capsaicin from getting onto your hands, gloves will also be an easy reminder for you to not touch your face or worse, eyes or contacts.
But if you forgot to wear gloves or didn't have any around, here are our favorite remedies for burning fingers:
1. Oil - Oil helps dissolve the hot chili oils. Some have even claimed that rubbing your hands with just a touch of vegetable or olive oil (but not enough for your hands to become slippery) before cutting peppers will coat them enough to prevent the sting from happening in the first place.
2. Dish Soap - Many dish soaps can dissolve also oils and are more effective than regular hand soap.
3. Alcohol - Chili oil and capsaicin are more soluble in alcohol than in water, so a good splash of rubbing alcohol or even high-proof alcohol like vodka can help wash it away.
4. Whole Milk or Yogurt - The theory behind this one is that chili pepper is also more soluble in fats and oils than it is in water. While some claim this is an urban legend, others swear by it! Soak your hands in the milk or yogurt until the burning sensation stops.
5. Weak Bleach Solution - In an episode of "Good Eats," Alton Brown says, "By the way, capsaicin, the fiery compound in chilies, will stick to your fingers for hours turning your hands into chemical weapons. You can prevent this by wearing vinyl or latex gloves. Or you can occasionally dip your fingers in a 5 to 1 solution of water and bleach while you're working. The bleach will turn the capsaicin into a water-soluble salt that will then rinse away. Pretty cool, huh?"
6. Baking Soda Paste - Make a thick paste of baking soda and water and apply it directly to your hands. Leave it on until it dries before washing off.
What's your method to soothe hands that have burned with chili oil? Please share!
→ More about peppers: A Guide to Common Hot Peppers