To many cooks, fresh chiles are something of a mystery. You know they’re spicy…or maybe very spicy…or even incendiary. But telling one from another—let alone how to use them—is another story. Learning how to coax that uniquely satisfying combination of heat and flavor out of fresh chiles will bring a bold new bravado to your cooking style, and it’s well worth it.
Fresh chiles are usually harvested in the green stage. Fully ripened red ones are most often used for drying, but they also turn up fresh in the market for a brief period in the fall. Before shopping, it’s always a good idea to look at a photo of the chile your recipe calls for—just in case your grocer calls it by another name.