While a pepper's seeds and membranes (or ribs that the seeds are attached to) are edible, they are not always preferable. How to remove them depends on the pepper shape or variety and how you plan to use the pepper. The seeds in a sweet pepper are often slightly bitter tasting, and those in a chile pepper are the hottest part of the pepper. If you like maximum heat from a chile pepper, use the seeds and membranes.
Purchasing, Storing, and Washing Peppers
- No matter what kind of pepper you are purchasing, look for one with glossy, bright skin and a shape that is normal for the variety. If a pepper is bruised, shriveled, or has soft spots, it is past its prime.
- Store sweet peppers, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. Store chile peppers in the refrigerator, unwashed and wrapped in paper towels in a plastic bag, for up to 10 days. The exception is the serrano chile, which should be stored in the crisper drawer instead of in plastic.
- Just before using peppers, scrub them clean with a produce brush and rinse thoroughly.
Hold the whole pepper upright (stem up) on a cutting surface. With a sharp knife, slice the pepper as close to the stem as possible from top to bottom into four large, flat pieces. The stem, membranes, and seeds should all be left in one unit. Trim any usable pepper from the stem unit before discarding. The flat pepper pieces are now ready to use or to slice or chop.
This method works best for chile peppers that don't stand upright, but it also works for sweet peppers that have been cut into pieces. For a whole pepper, lay the pepper on its side on a cutting surface and cut off the stem, if desired. Cut the pepper in half from top to bottom or into quarters. Starting with one pepper half or quarter, slide the tip of a small knife under the attached seeds and membranes to cut them out. If any of the seeds remain, turn the pepper piece over and tap lightly until the seeds tumble out.
Chile Pepper Precaution
Because fresh chile peppers contain volatile oils that can burn your skin and eyes, wear disposable plastic or rubber gloves when working with them. Avoid direct contact with the peppers as much as possible, and if your bare hands do touch the peppers, wash your hands and nails well with soap and water.
For a side dish or light entree, cut peppers in half vertically as described above and stuff each half. Or, for heartier portions, stuff one pepper per serving. Start by cutting the top from each pepper so it looks like a thin lid. Working over a bowl, use the tip of a small knife to cut out the membrane or rib and attached seeds. Turn the pepper over and tap it lightly until any remaining seeds tumble out. Before stuffing a pepper, slightly trim the bottom, without cutting through to the inside, so it will stand evenly.