We've all been there. That moment when you're chowing down on some spicy dish and you bite into something a bit hotter than expected. The sweat beads appear almost instantaneously.
Your mouth feels like a lightning strike in the middle of a burning oil slick under a burning sun in the middle of a desert. In other words, it hurts. Bad.
You frantically scan the table and, more often than not, you spot and grab that glass of icy cold water sitting there, giving off cooling vibes.
Water is one of the worst things to reach for when trying to save your mouth from the burn. Why? Well, the spicy food gets its oomph from capsaicinoids, which are molecules found in most chili peppers. They hook up with the pain receptors in your mouth. Part of the receptors' job is detecting heat. Too many hook ups and you go from heat to regret.
Capsaicins don't dissolve in water. So if you throw a glass of water into the mix, suddenly capsaicins are swirling around your mouth spreading the pain faster than a hot tub on The Bachelor spreads unpleasantness.
They do dissolve in fat, oil and alcohol. So your best salvation will be in the cleansing power of dairy. There's a reason milk is the handy beverage at hot pepper eating contests. So whole milk, full fat sour cream, full fat yogurt, those are your best remedy.
Peanut butter, which is high in fat and oil, is another good choice. Grab a big spoonful of it and plop it in your mouth.
And despite the ability of alcohol to dissolve capsaicins, don't think shotgunning beer is a good solution. It's got more water in it than alcohol. If you're going to go the alcohol route, you want something with a high proof. Even then, it would take quite a few drinks—Mythbusters tested the theory in one episode—to successfully eliminate the capsaicins. On the bright side, if you pass out from the booze you won't feel the pain even if it's still there.
Of course, you're not always likely to have milk, yogurt or peanut butter handy. But if you're dining out there's frequently bread on the table. It won't dissolve the capsaicins, but it will soak up some of them to ease the burn. Rice can work in similar fashion, which may help explain its frequent occurrence in spicy dishes from across the globe.
So just put that glass of water down because now you're really ready to tackle the heat.