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This recipe is a really good starting point for someone new to making chili. Chili is as old as the cowboys riding on the plains and as varied as the cooks that make it. It can be a sophisticated process and mix of ingredients like what happens on the chili cook off circuit in Texas or as simple as throwing some ingredients in a pot on a Sunday afternoon for a bowl of chili during the game.
Chili with Cheddar Cheese and Fritos
Chili with Cheddar Cheese and Fritos
There are some common themes to keep in mind but by no means be bound by them. What we are discussing here is a beef based red chili, the kind you would order in a diner or use as the base for making Frito pie or chili cheese dogs. All chilis in this recipe class will contain ground beef, chopped onion, chopped peppers, chili powder, some blend of other spices, chicken and/or beef stock, water and tomatoes of some sort. And this recipe is deliberately pretty mild, i.e. there are no really hot peppers, powders or sauces included. See the Make It Mine section for more on that.
If you want to get a sense of how many variations you can come up with, just take a quick look at the Mild Bill's Spices website and remember that each combination of chili peppers you use creates a new version of chili. Take a moment and look at the Championship recipes and you come away with the understanding that people spend a lot of time on chili. We're not recommending that here but if you get hooked, good luck!
One note on chili cookoffs, they never use solids like onion or garlic. It is always powders. We are not bound by that here so when you look at those recipes the only solid in the chili is meat. That's a judging thing. The other thing to remember is their goal is to have someone take one taste of their chili, not eat a bowl of it so those recipes tend to be very intense. Again, not what we are after here.
So let's get going. All the ingredients here are designed to be readily available at your local grocery store. Above all have fun and please share with us your comments and we will add your suggestions to the Make It Mine section at the end of the recipe. Enjoy!
Ingredients
  • 3 T vegetable oil, separated
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • Note - Ground beef is always better when you grind it yourself. When I do that I use either round steak or roast, tri-tip roast or sirloin tips or steak, all of which are relatively lean cuts of beef.
  • 1 lg onion, chopped fine (about 2 cups)
  • 1 poblano pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 4 T chili powder
  • Note - See the Make It Mine section below for more discussion on the subject of what chili powder to use. I use Cowtown Light from Mild Bill's but you can get started with the chili powder you find at your local grocery store.
  • 2 1/2 t salt
  • 1 T cumin
  • 1 t smoked paprika
  • 1 t brown sugar
  • 2 c beef and/or chicken broth
  • 1 c water
  • 1 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 can red kidney beans, rinsed, (optional) (See Make It Mine)
Instructions
1.  First, mix the chili powders, salt, cumin, smoked paprika and brown sugar together in a bowl. You will be adding them all at once so you don't want to be measuring as you are cooking.
Spices Ready to Go
Spices Ready to Go
2.  If you are grinding your own beef, it is best to cut it in strips to go into the grinder and then put it in the freezer for 20-30 minutes to firm it up. It tends to grind better rather than just mashing up which it can do when it is warm. Also, I like to grind it through a 3/8" grinding plate which is what is commonly used for sausage making, rather than the smaller plate which is used for hamburger. But that is merely a preference.
Sirloin Tip Steak Ready for Grinding
Sirloin Tip Steak Ready for Grinding
3/8
3/8" Sausage Grinding Plate
Fresh Ground Beef
Fresh Ground Beef
3.  In a dutch oven, saute the meat in 1 T vegetable oil until just cooked, about 4-5 minutes. Do not brown the meat, we want to cook it just until there is no more red in the meat. In chili speak this is called graying the meat. Drain the meat into a colander and set it aside.
Beef Cooking
Beef Cooking
Beef Cooked
Beef Cooked
Cooked Beef in the Colander
Cooked Beef in the Colander
4.  Wipe out the dutch oven with some paper towels.
5.  Heat the dutch oven over medium heat and add 2 T of vegetable oil. When the oil is hot, add the onions and the poblano and jalapeno peppers and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are soft, about 3-4 minutes. Again, we don't want any browning here.
Add Onions and Peppers
Add Onions and Peppers
Onions and Peppers Cooked
Onions and Peppers Cooked
6.  Stir in the spice mix and cook, stirring constantly for about 20-30 seconds.
Add Spices
Add Spices
7.  Add the beef/chicken broth, water and the tomato sauce and stir to thoroughly mix everything and remove any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.
8.  Bring the mixture to a rolling boil and boil for 3 minutes.
Add Liquids and Boil
Add Liquids and Boil
9.  Add the cooked beef to the boiling mix in the dutch oven.
10.  Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 1 1/4 hours, partially covered, stirring occasionally to make sure it doesn't stick.
11.  Add the beans and stir them in.
Kidney Beans Washed
Kidney Beans Washed
12.  Bring the chili back up to a gentle boil and cook uncovered for an additional 10-15 minutes or until the desired consistency is reached. If you find it is starting to stick to the bottom you can add a little more water. If you add more water to your chili, just be sure to add it 1/4 cup at a time so as not to make it too watery.
13.  Remove from the heat and let it sit for 10-15 minutes before serving.
Summary
In Texas, it is quite common to serve chili in a manner known as Frito Pie by putting Fritos corn chips in a bowl and ladling the chili on top. Personally I prefer the Fritos on top of the chili but to each their own. Also make sure to put out some diced onion, grated cheddar cheese, hot sauce and even diced chilis if you want some real up front flavor.
Chili with Cheddar Cheese and Fritos
Chili with Cheddar Cheese and Fritos
And if you want to be a real Texan, get a small bag of Fritos, cut it open and ladle the chili over the Fritos and eat it right out of the bag. No matter how people choose to eat it, if you spend time making this recipe your own, it will truly be one of a kind. Have fun and enjoy!
Make It Mine
  • Regarding chili powder you have a lot of choices here. You can be real simple and just buy a commercial chili powder like Gebhardt or McCormick. Or get much more sophisticated by combining custom chili powders from a source like Mild Bill's Spices in Texas. And if you spend a little time reading the championship chili recipes on that site you will learn a few things about competition chili also. Personally I don't care for competition recipes for a Sunday afternoon bowl of chili, but give it a try and see what you think. Whatever you decide, it will give you some ideas. I like Cowtown Light chili powder and find it to be a great starting point.
  • One more thing to keep in mind regarding chili powders as you get more into this, there are single pepper powders, such as ancho chili powder, and there are blends, which are a mix of chili powder(s) and other spices like garlic powder, salt, etc. The latter would be what you would get if you bought McCormick's Chili Powder at your grocery store.
  • Many in Texas add Masa Harina to their chile to thicken it and give it a slight corn flavor. Masa Harina is corn flour treated with lime and it is what corn tortillas are made from. It acts as a thickener when sprinkled into the chili. It also imparts a mild but distinctive flavor and can temper the heat slightly so if you don't like it leave it out. Try Bob's Red Mill Masa Harina. If you are adding it, add it toward the end of the cooking process and be sure to sprinkle it in so it doesn't clump up.
  • Beans are an optional item in chili. In Texas, beans are not typically added to chili. In Cincinnati chili, beans are added as a condiment. And red kidney beans would be considered the standard, but don’t be afraid to use different kinds of beans, such as Cannellini beans. Also, beans can be added with the juice from the can, drained and not rinsed, or drained and rinsed with cold or hot running water. As in this recipe, I prefer them rinsed so as not to introduce any taste from the can or the liquid.
  • As i said earlier, this recipe is deliberately mild. Feel free to add cayenne pepper or other hot chili powders like ancho or chipotle or even a mix like Terlingua Dust from Mild Bill's Spices which is a blend of cayenne, jalapeno and habanero peppers. You can also add your favorite hot sauce or serve it on the side.
  • If you want to make sure you get a very evenly grained meat texture in your chili, you can boil 3 quarts of water with 1 t salt and when the water is boiling add the ground meat and stir vigorously for about 30 seconds to separate the ground strands. Pour the meat into a colander and set aside. This produces a very even texture in terms of the individual ground pieces like you would expect for a hot dog chili or Cincinatti chili.
Recipe Yield: Serves 4-8 Servings
Prep Time - Active: 20 Minutes
Cooking Time: 90 Minutes
Category: The Big Game, Meat & Game, Comfort Food, Entrees
Cooking Techniques: Simmering, Sauteeing, Chopping
Cuisine: American
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Recent Comments
So happy to know how to properly cook bacon and make my own blue cheese dressing. Sounds yummy. Thank you
Eileen S -- 8/12/18
Tommy, walnuts can go rancid and lose flavor and texture and chopped nuts are probably more susceptible to that. Not sure if you used pine nuts and wa...
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I did this "general" recipe with thin spaghetti and brought in some seared scallops and jumbo gulf shrimp. It was unreal! I need to do it agai...
Gulf Coast Texas Tommy -- 7/12/18
Eileen, if you don't have a food processor or a mortar and pestle or a blender I suppose you could chop the basil real fine and then use the back ...
Bob -- 7/6/18
This sounds fabulous. What does one use if they do not have a food processor? Also, can this recipe be frozen?
Eileen -- 7/5/18