My worst cooking mishap involved chili peppers. I was heading to a pool party and had just finished preparing Peruvian style chicken with a spicy green dipping sauce. The recipe required several diced jalapeño peppers, which I diligently hand sliced before adding to the food processor.
Once I had finished preparing the meal, I washed my hands and went to put in my contact lenses. As soon as the first lens touched my eye, I knew I had made a horrible mistake. A searing pain bolted though my eyeball and within seconds I was a teary, floundering mess unable to see and in utter agony. Needless to say, my day was pretty much ruined. I had discovered, as many home cooks do, that soap and water won’t remove the pepper oils from your fingers.
Since that day I’ve been particularly vigilant about avoiding touching my eyes after cutting up chilis. I’ve also picked up a few methods for removing the offending oils from your fingers. Here’s how to remove hot pepper oils form your hands:
Of course, the best way to keep your hands free from hot oils is to not even come in contact with the pepper in the first place. Food prep gloves are a great way to keep your hands free from all manner of offending oils. Vinyl gloves are your best bet as latex gloves can affect those with allergies.
Supposing you don’t like the idea of generating more waste with disposable gloves, there are a few methods for removing hot pepper oils from your hands. Rinsing your hands with a tiny amount of olive or vegetable oil can help to dissolve some the pepper oils. Alternately, try coating your hands with a thin layer of oil before cutting the peppers.
Dish soap is able to cut through oils far more effectively than regular hand soap. Wash your hands with warm water and some dish soap after cutting up peppers to wash away the oils.
Pepper oils are soluble in alcohol so a dab of the stuff can help to remove the burn. Ideally, try rinsing your hands in rubbing alcohol to remove any pepper reside. If you don’t have rubbing alcohol, a high strength liquor like vodka can be used in an emergency, although it won’t be as effective.
Baking soda can absorb some of the pepper oils and is a pretty effective — and affordable — way to clean residue from your hands. Simply combine water and baking soda to make a thick paste. Coat your hands in the paste and leave it to dry. Once it’s dry, rinse it off your hands and most of the oils should be gone.