If you live in any of the 49 states besides Texas, the word
"chili" usually conjures up images of a thick stew with ground beef,
beans, tomatoes, possibly some other vegetables and a brown sauce made
from a packet of grocery store chili seasoning, containing mainly
cumin. There are certain other forms that chili takes as well, such as
white chili (using any white meat and beans), Cincinnati style chili (a
Mediterranean-spiced meat sauce used as a topping for spaghetti)
and vegeterian chili (blasphemy).
In Texas, it's a whole different dish, and they call it by its
historical name, Chili Con Carne. This translates as "chili with meat"
and it literally just that: chili peppers and meat. Texans keep the
tradition of the old west alive as the first chili was made by cowboys
on cattle drives using the
dried beef they brought along, pounded into blocks with dried peppers
and suet... These could easily be boiled in a pot for a meal.
Lets get something out of the way right now. The original chili never
included beans. As chili grew in popularity and people started
experimenting with it, things like beans and rice were sometimes added
as filler to extend the dish and make it last longer. In the 60s,
people started having cookoffs to determine who could make the best
bowl of chili. Out of these cookoffs, two socities were formed. The
International Chili Society (ICS),
and the Chili Appreciation Society International (CASI). Both of these
orginizations have made rules to be followed in the making of all
contest chilis and both strongly stand by traditionalism and the "no
Traditional Red Chili is
defined by the International Chili Society as any kind of meat or
combination of meats, cooked with red chili
peppers, various spices and other ingredients, with the exception of BEANS and PASTA which are strictly forbidden.
No garnish is allowed.
must: a. Be cooked on site
the day of the cook off. b. Be prepared from scratch
(no commercial chili mixes). c. Contain no fillers (beans, macaroni,
rice, hominy, etc.) d. Be prepared in as sanitary
a manner as possible. 1) You must be willing
to taste your own chili. 2) Cooking conditions
are subject to inspection. e. Be prepared in the open (no
motor homes, closed tents, etc.).
y My recipe:
2 1/2 Lbs Tri-Tip Beef
1 8oz can of Hunts tomato sauce
1 14.5oz can of Swansons beef broth
1/2 can of Swansons chicken broth
1 beef bouillon cube
1 chicken bouillon cube
3 Tbsp Gebhardt chili powder
1 Tbsp New Mexico pepper powder
1 Tbsp Chipotle pepper powder
1/2 Tbsp Serrano pepper powder
1/2 Tbsp Ancho pepper powder
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp Mexican oregano
1 Tbsp brown sugar
The reason you see pepper powder in most Texas recipes is that you can
have consistent results every time you make a batch. Fresh peppers
differ in ripeness, taste etc. Plus, the original cowboys didn't have
room for a ton of fresh vegetables that would just dry out on the trail
in a few days anyway!
If your store doesnt carry a selection of finely ground peppers, you
can make your own using a coffee grinder and dried pepper pods found in
just about any grocery store, usually with the Hispanic foods. Be sure
that you will never want to use this grinder for anything else again
because it will taste like peppers forever.
The first thing you want to do to remove the stems from the peppers.
peppers lengthwise and remove all the seeds. Cut
the skins up into little pieces that will fit in the coffee grinder.
Grind into a fine powder. It sometimes takes a couple passes to get it
really fine. If your peppers are still relatively pliable, you can dry
them out more by putting them on a baking sheet in the oven for a few
minutes, but watch them carefully!
These powders can be stored for a while but keep in mind they do lose
their flavor and spice level if left too long. I will talk about types
of peppers in a minute.
selection is very important for Texas style chili. You will find that
out of all the winning recipes dating back decades, very rarely do they
use any form of ground beef. What you want is a stew meat like chuck.
Many competition chili cooks have found that tri-tip is a very good
meat to use as well, based on its texture and taste. You can get any
meat you want ground, but request that it be 3/8 inch "coarse" grind,
which is actually also known as "chili" grind. Depending on the grocery
store, it may already be available in the meat coolers.
When meat is ground, it
shortens the connecting fibers and it requires lesss time to break down
and make it more tender. True Texas chili is cooked for a few hours and
small tender meat will become mush.
I use tri-tip, which is very hard to find, but Trader joe's has it
You ideally want to cut the meat into 1/4 to 1/2 inch cubes. I go even
smaller for my recipe based on personal preference.
Put all the meat
into a large frying pan and begin cooking it on low heat. If it gets
too hot too quick, the connective fibers contract too much and it
creates really tough meat.
meat starts to grey, drain as much liquid as you can from it and coat
the pieces with the onion powder.
/ sear until the pieces start getting little its of almost-burned brown
spots on them.
the meat into a large pot.
There is an insane amount of different peppers one can use for chili,
but the most favored and often used in Texas chili is the New Mexico.
The others are where it all comes to personally pereference.
Experiment. There is more to hot peppers than just Habanero and Ghost.
I use a combination of New Mexico, Ancho for its fruitiness, Serrano
for its spice level and Chipotle for its slight smokiness.
I also use Gebhardt chili powder bcause it was one of the first
commercially available chili powders, first sold in 1896, and out of
the 40 or so chili recipes on the ICS site itself, there only about 5
that don't use Gebhardt's. It's both a tradition and a delicious
ingredient that blows all other commercially available chili powders
it comes to oregano, look specifically for Mexican oregano. There is a
big difference between the Mexican stuff and the stuff you use for
I throw one chicken and one beef bouillon cube into the pot both for
flavor and as an MSG additive. It's a sneaky trick for competiton chili
chefs to get the judges craving more of their batch.
You cant have chili with cumin, and garlic powder is self explanitory.
Put all the spices besides the bouillon cubes and brown sugar into a
small bowl and mix it up.
Back to the pot. Add the broths, tomato sauce and bouillon cubs to
Take HALF of the spices from the seperate bowl and add them.
Stir everything around and make sure the meat is mostly submersed.
Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to a simmer, enough to create
small bubbles on surface, but not a rolling boil.
Cook for one and a half hours, stirring occasionally.
Add the other half of the spices. This is done
because the fiest half was meant to cook into the meat, this second
half will be the initial contact flavor that stays with the sauce and
hits your tongue first. A lot of competition chefs go even further and
divide their spice dumps into 3, leaving the last one until just before
turning in their sample to the judges.
for another hour and a half, stirring occasionally.
This is the point where you see the sauce start to thicken a bit.
The consistency of the perfect bowl of Texas chili should be enough to
stand a spoon in the pot and have it slowly fall over. You don't want a
soup, but you also don't want a paste.
When there is about 30 minutes remaining, add a tablespoon of brown
The sugar is the final thickener but it also pulls all of the flavors
together, adds another flavor level (sweet) and gets rid of any
bitterness caused by the peppers or cumin.
Cook for the last half hour and then congrats, IT'S DONE!!!!