Chili is a very personal meal that is often inspired by regional flavors. For all the Texans reading this, we know that you define Chili in very different terms and we advise you to take a deep breath before you continue reading. However, I think we can all agree that the majority of American dishes have come from the lack of resources and the need to stretch out the volume of food. BBQ, chili, stews, sausages, etcetera... are simply regional byproducts to feed more mouths in order to get the job done.
The chili we're discussing here is a basic fall chili made with meat, tomatoes, and beans. Yes, these tips can also be applied to vegetarian and white chili.
1. Use the right meat
Let us be honest, making a pot of chili takes a fair bit of time to cook. So you need a meat that will stand up to long cook times. A quality cut of tri-tip steak, pork butt, and pork ribs do extremely well with long cooking times. Regardless of the meat you choose, ensure the meat has fat marbling. If you do decide to use lean meat, know that you are reducing flavor and the meat will likely burn on the bottom of your pot.
2. Start with a few strips of bacon
Just a few strips of bacon can add a rich depth of flavor. Before you start your recipe, cook 4 to 5 strips of thick. Set the strips aside on a paper towel. Using the rendered bacon fat cook and blend all your ingredients. When you're ready to serve, crumble the strips of cooked bacon over the chili.
3. Cut meat and other ingredients evenly
Ensuring the meat and other ingredients are cut evenly allows for a consistency in texture and a nicely blended ratio of ingredients on your spoon.
4. Cook the meat and the onions separately
Many chili recipes call for cooking the beef and onion together to save time, but this crowds the pan; the ingredients steam instead of browning and you miss out on a flavor-building opportunity. If you have a few extra minutes, it's worth your while to cook them separately.
5. Use real garlic
Garlic powder has its uses, however, it does not belong in your chili. If your recipe calls for garlic powder, sub in 2 to 3 whole cloves garlic instead. Do not burn your garlic if cooking it with your meat. Burnt garlic gives a very bitter taste and will make the best chili recipe taste like hot garbage.
6. Salvage an over-salted pot with a potato
If you over-salt the chili, don't worry. Float a peeled potato around the pot for a few minutes to absorb some of the salt. Watch the potato as the starch from the potato could affect the flavor and color of the chili. You can repeat this technique a few times to aborb excess salt.
7. Add a secret ingredient
We have tried a variety of ingredients and have had great results. Don't over do it and slowly work the new ingredient into your existing recipe. Pick any of the following: 1 - teaspoon of ground cinnamon, 1 -teaspoon of molasses, a shot of espresso, a small cup of your favorite beer or whiskey, 2 - tablespoons cocoa powder, or a few squares of good-quality dark chocolate. Before you add any ingredients, consider doing a small test in a separate bowl to understand what this ingredient does for your chili flavor.
8. Add heat from real peppers
A few diced jalapeños will add a bright, fresh spiciness, while minced chipotles in adobo give chili more of a smoky, slow-burning character. Just make sure you do your homework on how to work with the specific peppers you have chosen. Last thing you want is a pepper filled gas billowing through your house. We have seen the simplest of cayenne peppers clear a commercial kitchen.
9. My chili is too spicy
Don't sweat it... this is easier to fix than over-salting. First, don't add additional water to the chili. Capsaicin is an oil and everyone knows oil and water do not mix. Second, don't add anything carbonated like beer. The bubbly sensation that comes from carbonated beverages will only increase the burning feeling in your mouth. Before you add any ingredients, consider doing a small test in a separate bowl to understand what this ingredient does for your chili flavor.
Sweetener - granulated sugar, brown sugar, honey, syrup, or molasses
Fat - avocados or peanut butter
Acid - lime juice, lemon juice, vinegar (red, white, or apple cider), wine, tomato juice
10: Over the top chili
Over the Top Chili is 100% a technique and is extremely simple. It is simply the technique of smoking meat over the chili sauce that you have created. Once the meat is cooked, simply pull apart, crumble, or cut up the meat to be placed in the chili sauce to finish cooking at a low temperature. This near effortless technique will render an amazing smoke kissed chili that everyone will enjoy.
I prefer to smoke one rack of pork ribs over my dutch oven filled with my chili recipe minues the meat. I allow all the drippings to go into the dutch oven and I maintain the water line in the chili druing the smoke. Once the ribs are cooked, I simply shred the pork ribs into the chili and allow them to blend for 45 more minutes. Below is the link to the technique for those interested.
Click Image for Recipe:
Smoked Bros Chili Mix:
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