What Adam Richman Says Made Heat Challenges Easier

There are people who choose to leisurely enjoy each bite of their meal, and then there's Adam Richman. The lovable TV personality has an appetite for the books, which was displayed on his popular Travel Channel show "Man v. Food." Richman took eating to the next level during his years hosting the show, bopping around the country to take on some of the nation's most intense eating competitions, and greeting audiences with his charismatic and relatable demeanor. He never pretended these competitions were a breeze, and rooting Richman on may have given viewers a sense of community and maybe even a little inspiration.

Devouring pounds of grub is difficult enough, but when some spice is added to the trough of food the challenge goes up a notch. Capsaicin, a chemical found in hot peppers, causes a protein to make your brain think "we are burning from the inside," says Very Well Health. This would slow most people down, but not the ambitious Richman. In under 25 minutes, Richman took down a hefty half-pound burger topped with a variety of hot peppers, including the ominous ghost pepper. The 4 Horsemen burger almost schooled Richman, but he powered through according to Chron.

Richman has overcome some of the hottest meals, from mouth-numbing wings that require a waiver (via YouTube) to heated curry that calls for a masked-up kitchen crew (via The Wall Street Journal)​​. Richman has thrown in the towel when the heat was too much to handle.

Seeing isn't believing when it comes to spicy dishes

Adam Richman almost didn't make it out alive after the Fire in Your Hole challenge, which consisted of wings smothered in ghost pepper extract. As Richman recalled on an episode of "Hot Ones" (via YouTube), the chef decided to use an entire bottle of extract. After two wings, Richman called it quits and soon felt his air passages closing. While this is a more extreme example, his experiences have taught him when to anticipate a spicier challenge, and pepper extract is a sure sign that the heat levels will be through the roof. 

Richman told The Guardian that when pepper extract is used as opposed to a whole pepper, the challenge reaches a new tier of torture: "With heat challenges, challenges that use the whole pepper are much, much easier than ones that use pepper extract." Dishes that are amped up with pure capsaicin extract can measure up to 16 million Scoville units, spice's unit of measurement, according to Alimentarium. That level of zing is comparable to about 3,200 jalapeño peppers, so one can only imagine how much damage even a drop could do. 

Richman preferred spicy dishes made with fresh, whole peppers as they lead with taste rather than heat. "A good spicy challenge strikes a balance between flavor and fear," he shared. While fresh peppers certainly spice up a dish, they also balance flavors whereas extract just immediately makes a dish "deathly hot" as Richman said.