Introduction: Chopping Hot Peppers Safely
An easy way to de-seed and chop hot peppers without getting spice in your eye.
Step 1: Procure Pepper(s) and Knife
Find yourself a nice, hot pepper or ten and a sharp chef's knife.
While you can use a paring knife, your fingers will be much closer to the peppers and will be more likely to pick up capsaicin. I'm using a 10inch chef's knife in these pictures.
Hot peppers have a nice, non-spicy external skin, so you want to hold it by the stem and the skin and avoid touching the seeds, cut surfaces, or internal flesh. The hotter the pepper the more relevant this separation becomes.
Step 2: Slice Pepper
Holding the stem end, cut slices off the side of your pepper.
Keep turning the pepper in order to place a flat side against the cutting board, then cut another slice off the side of the pepper. At the end of this process you should be holding a stem with the seeds still attached, and have a pile of pepper chunks sitting on your cutting board.
Step 3: Wipe Knife
Use the stem end to wipe any remaining seeds off of the knife blade into the trash. This will keep your fingers safely out of trouble.
Step 4: Flip and Slice Segments
Use the knife to flip all of the pepper chunks over and into a pile so the skin is facing up, then use a couple of fingers to lightly hold them down. Take care to only touch the outside of the skin, and stay away from the cut edges.
Cut thin strips with the chef's knife, cutting through several layers at once in the pile. You will likely need to scrape stuck slices off the side of the knife; that's what the stem end is for. Whack off the seeded bits into the trash, then use your little handled scraper to shove any over-eager bits of pepper back onto the cutting board.
Step 5: Cross-cut
Now turn your knife 90 degrees and cut across the slices you just made. Keep your fingers out of it this time: rock the knife back and forth, making small cubes of pepper. Having a nice long, heavy chef's knife makes this operation much easier. Here I'm using a 10inch Wusthof chef's knife.
Again, you can use the stem end to wipe your knife clean as needed during the mincing process. The frequency will depend on your technique and the target size for your pepper chunks.
Step 6: Mince & Use
Rotate your knife as necessary to completely mince the peppers. Rock the knife, with one hand on the handle and one on the back of the blade, and rotate around the circle to make sure you mice all the chunks evenly. Scrape the knife as necessary.
Now you've got a big pile of hot peppery goodness, and haven't exposed your fingers to the really dangerous parts. Use the knife to scrape your peppers into the necessary pot or bowl, then drop the cutting board safely into the dishwasher. Rinse the knife then wash thoroughly with soap and water, keeping your fingers clear until the knife is safely clean.
Wash your hands with soap to make sure any potential splatters are gone, then feel free to pick your nose or take out your contacts with impunity.