Short Order Investigates: Could You Actually Cook With Pepper Spray?

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Last Thanksgiving you might have seen the Tonight Show parody of Martha Stewart donning a face shield then spraying a turkey with what appears to be a canister of pepper spray.

Despite the fact that the video appears to be fake -- and despite Fox News' Megyn Kelly's claims that Occupy protesters should settle down since pepper spray is essentially "a food product" -- we kind of wondered if such an ingredient could ever actually be used for cooking. Fresh ground pepper spray on that salad?

We hit the web and called up a local chef to try to figure out whether pepper spray might spice up your holidays.

There is such a thing as cooking mace, which is made from the ground outer shells of nutmeg seeds and makes for a sweet-spicy flavor when used with food. But that's not to say that pepper spray itself can't be used to make your holiday dishes a bit more tastier.

Here are some things to consider about cooking with pepper spray:

Pepper-spray, also known as OC (oleoresin capsicum) spray, is a less-than-lethal and non-toxic self-defense weapon commonly used by law enforcement for crowd control and security-minded citizens.

It contains an active ingredient called capsaicin that is derived from chili peppers and used effectively in an aerosol form.

Capsaicin is an inflammatory agent that causes difficultly breathing, temporary blindness, runny nose and coughing, among other symptoms.

The intensity of heat in peppers is measured by Scoville Heat Units (SHUs), and pepper spray contains about 2 million SHUs. Pure capsaicin measures at 15 million SHUs.

Compare that to a Trinidad Butch Taylor pepper, which holds the record for being the world's hottest chili, maxing out at almost 1.5 million SHUs.

So with that kind of Scovill rating, could pepper spray be used to spice up a Christmas turkey? Sure, says chef Stuart Shaw. Spraying the turkey with pepper spray might turn into a spicy rub -- that is, if you're crazy enough to use it.

"The spiciness gets mitigated from all of the juices and the oils from the turkey meat and skin," says Shaw, adding that he doesn't recommend such a preparation. "What you're left with is a spicy pepper rub. But what are you going to do next? Beat the turkey with a billy club to tenderize the meat?"

Also, understand that pepper spray is not a benign substance and very dangerous to handle, so you'd have to take extra precautions when using it.

To adequately protect yourself, wear gloves and a face shield while spraying down that turkey. If you happen to get any spray on your fingers, don't touch your eyes, and thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water.

And if you get any in your eyes, you're a bit out of luck as you just have to wait out the pain, although flushing the eyes with large amounts of water helps shorten the time in recovering your vision.

Sound crazy? Of course, but then again deep-frying and cooking turkeys in brown paper bags were once thought of as kooky ideas, too.

Plus, if your drunk uncle gets out of control during Christmas Eve dinner, you'll have pepper spray handy.

If anybody has a great pepper spray recipe, feel free to share. Happy Holidays and be careful.

Follow Short Order on Facebook and Twitter @Short_Order.


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