Grate Frozen Chili Peppers Directly Into Your Food

Photo:  David Pimborough (Shutterstock)
Photo: David Pimborough (Shutterstock)

Eating spicy food can be exhilarating and fun, but when you get a surprise, half-inch hunk of pure, fiery chili pepper, well that’s when the dish can become a terrifying fight for survival. For a dish that uses chili to build powerful, flavorful heat instead of jump-scares, finely grate frozen chiles directly into your dish for a piquant pepper dust that doesn’t devastate your taste buds.

Thai food often incorporates hunks of roughly chopped Thai chiles (also called bird’s-eye chiles). Growing up on the stuff made me love peppery food, and the chili pepper sweats are a part of the ride, but too many large nubs of chili and I have to bow out. So at home, I’ve stopped chopping chilis and started grating them. It saves me from having to walk away from half-finished food, and I can actually appreciate the flavor of the pepper.

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I buy bulk Thai chilis and freeze them. Since they’re extremely spicy, I only use a few at a time while the rest hang out in the deep freeze, where they will keep for at least six months. When I’m ready, I grab a few and use a microplane to grate them into dishes as I’m cooking. Freezing the chiles solid makes both the flesh and the seeds firm enough to run across the sharp teeth of a microplane without gumming things up. Fine, frozen pepper shreds drop directly into the hot dish and melt, distributing their flavors and powerful capsaicin.

Grating frozen hot peppers into a dish can give you control over the spice in your dish by distributing it evenly throughout the dish. Grate chiles into dishes early on while cooking so you can taste how the heat is developing, and build from there. You can do this with any variety of chili pepper you like, but grating is easiest with peppers about a half-inch in diameter or smaller. Try this method in curries, stir-fries, chilis, soups, or even scrambled eggs. This technique can also bring relief for family members who all have different spice tolerance levels. Those who appreciate gentle heat can enjoy a milder base level of spice, and anyone who wants to work on their upper lip sweat can grab the microplane and grate an extra pepper into their bowl.

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