The first time I cut up a bunch of hot peppers for a recipe, I woke up later in the middle of the night because my hands were on fire! Hot peppers have essential oils containing capsaicin. It causes a burning sensation, not only in your mouth, but on your skin as well. When chopping hot peppers, it's important to protect your hands. Trust me, if you skip this step, you'll later regret it.
Prophylactic gloves will prevent capsaicin from getting on your hands. You can find them in any store that has a pharmacy department, in the first aid section. There are many kinds available, with or without latex.
Once your hands are protected, it's time to decide whether or not you want to seed your peppers.
The majority of spiciness in peppers comes from the seeds and pith. If you have a lower spice tolerance, you'll want to remove those parts of the pepper. Since the heat in peppers can vary, not only between different kinds of peppers, but between peppers of the same kind, I usually try just a tiny bite of the pepper first to see what I'm dealing with. I cut off a sliver near the stem end because that's where the hottest part of the pepper will be.
If you decide you want to seed your peppers, the first thing to do is chop off the stems and cut them open lengthwise, like you see above.
The seeds and pith can be easily scraped out with your gloved fingers and discarded (or you can use a paring knife if you prefer). Now it's time to get chopping!
If the recipe calls for minced peppers, I find the easiest thing to do is cut them into strips first.
Important: Once you're done cutting the peppers, you're not out of the danger zone. I learned this the hard way too. Be sure to thoroughly wash your knife and cutting board before touching them again with your bare hands.
Click here to see recipes that use hot peppers.