Well Hello,

It is cold outside.

I would like something to warm me up. I keep seeing (mainly in books) characters having a bowl of chili – but in my searches so far I can only manage to find a bewildering mixture of said dishes; vegetarian, seafood, beef, pork, chicken and what have you.

As I am not a citizen of the US of A, and also because it looks like this is something that your country’s great men (and women) have been discussing for eons, I humbly ask you:

How do I make a Chili?

And to keep it somewhat simple, while also satisfying my carnivorous traits, lets make it a meaty one.

Do I need crusty bread on the side?

My chili is pretty easy to make and deliciously filling.

Ground beef
chopped onion
minced garlic
chopped red and green pepper
canned tomatoes
tomato soup
kidney beans
package of chili mix (okay, this sucks but since I can never seem to get the seasoning right it works best for me)

Simply fry up the ground beef, drain and add the onion garlic and peppers until the onions are clear. Dump in two cans of diced tomatoes (the largest ones), one of kidney beans and one of tomato soup and the spice mix (or spices as I’m sure others will be along to share, which I will them attempt myself to see if I can get it to work).

Mix it up, let it simmer for about an hour and serve up with grated cheese and some sort of bread on the side. At the least we just use sliced bread, but prefer crusty buns or french bread, or even garlic bread.

Tastes even better the next day when the seasonings have had time to really get into it. I just had some for lunch.

At its most basic, chili is just a meat stew with chili peppers and beef, though onions, capsicums, beans, tomatoes, are all pretty pervasive. It’s also usually pretty heavily flavored with cumin, oregano, and garlic, which are the chief ingredients in chili powder.

I’m not much of a cook and have never tried my hand at chili (though there’s currently a pot of it on my stove that my mom made) so I can’t really vouch for any particular recipe or give many tips but this looks really good to me.


Unfortunately I don’t think I can get “chili-mix” here…

I do agree however that second-day-helpings taste so much better.

A very simple and versatile version is this:

A pound (kilo, in your case) or so of ground beef (or if you prefer, beef cut into small chunks.)
A couple of cans of kidney beans (undrained)
A couple of cans of stewed tomatoes (undrained)
A medium sized onion, diced
Chili powder and/or Tabasco sauce to suit your taste

Brown the meat in a large pot. Add the other ingredients and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat for at least an hour but even longer gives the flavors even more time to blend.

You can add more meat or cans of beans and tomatoes depending on how many people you are cooking for. Make more than you plan to eat in one sitting because chili is tastes even better the second day. I prefer corn bread with my chili but good, crusty bread or crackers are just fine too.

Rule #1 - NO BEANS!

Rule #2 - Use lots of garlic and cumin. No, more than that.

Rule #3 - Use beer as a cooking liquid.

Rule #4 - I prefer chunked meat, but ground is ok as long as it isn’t too finely ground. You wants some heft to it.

Rule #5 - The only vegetation that belongs in chili is peppers. Put the rest of the garden on it, not in it.

Rule #6 - Thicken with masa. The easiest source of this is crushed tortilla chips. (Thank you, Alton!)

Rule #7 - While chili can never be too hot, know your audience. My Nuclear Chili would be wasted on most people not used to gargling with Tabasco.

Rule #8 - All rules about chili are bullshit. Make it the way you like it, and to Perdition with the purists! (like me!) :smiley:

One little gimicky tradition is to serve the Chili in bread. A nice little Sourdough Boule hallowed out and the chili poured in. I call it Gimicky, but I like it.

Also a crock-pot is the best to make chili in my opinion. A nice 8 hour simmer is the perfect thing to bring all the flavors together.

That’s part of the trick. The seasonings tend to be the heart of the dish, much like you need curry powder to make a good curry. You can usually find decent homemade “chili powder” which is really just a mix of fairly common spices (onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, paprika, cumin, etc.) but it’s probably be more cost effective and reliable to seek out a mail order company that can ship you some or to find a local market that might stock common American ingredients. I wager chili powder is common enough that any mediocre dedicated spice house would have it even in Europe.

Of course all that said, “chili mix” is a bit different than “chili powder”. Chili mixes can be pretty varied and range for awful to outstanding. Chili powder is one of the ingredients in a chili mix and is slightly more universal, though there are still preferred varieties.

In short, see if you can locate some chili powder before you get started.

Chili Mix is available mail-order. Try Wick Fowler’s. Or Carroll Shelby’s. Or Morton’s.

At it’s most basic level, chili is just some meat stewed up in some kind of liquid with chili powder (and usually some fresh / canned chiles for flavor and heat), some cumin, and other stuff.

It’s the “other stuff” that’s probably causing the plethora of recipes you’ve come across. I’ve seen some pretty heated arguments about “beans vs. no beans”, “tomatos vs. no tomatos”, what kind of chiles to use, what kind of meat, etc.

I like this Good Eats recipe as a starting point. The recipe gives instructions using a pressure cooker, if you don’t have one just use a big pot and simmer for a while. “A while” can be anywhere from an hour (although this will give you a pretty “soupy” chili) to all day. Sometimes I like to make it, let it simmer for an afternoon, let it cool, put it in the fridge, and heat it up to serve the next day. Second-day chili is almost always better: the flavors have mixed, the meats broken down more if you use cubes rather than ground, and the broth thickens up nicely.

I like my chili with cubed stew meat (usually equal parts pork and beef), a bottle of beer, onions, garlic, and a couple of sliced fresh jalapenos. Top with some grated chedder, maybe some sour cream (especially useful to cut the heat for guests with differing spice tolerances) and either cornbread or sourdough rolls on the side.

And it looks like a bunch of chili afficianados have jumped in with most of what I’ve said already. Oh well.

Hey WOW!

I don’t know if people check for replies every 3 seconds, if that is the case then I must humbly admit that I had not expected so many tips in such a short time-frame.

This place is quite amazing.

I thank you for all your tips; although they leave me with even more questions I’m afraid…
Tikki: Thanks! So is Chili generally made from chunks of beef (as opposed to minced)?

silenus: Crusted tortilla chips is something that I quite frankly would never had dreamed off – I will definitely try that. I will however stick to silenus’ rule #8 – seems to make life so much easier. I will try to locate some ‘chili-mix’ though; your links are much appreciated.

Wolfman: Sourdough Boule and crock-pot are terms that make me wish I had paid more attention in School – what on earth are they? (I know I could ‘google’ the answer, but it seems these things mean different things to different people and I wouldn’t want to trust google on this one).

Omniscient: I know for sure I can get chili powder here – but that is just that – chili powder…Seems I miss part of the spice mixture (which I guess was the point of me asking in the first place – although I am also genuinely curious as to what ‘chili’ means to different people)

sciguy: Thanks! That sounds rather delicious.

Now: Do I add mushrooms? Diced potatoes? Or is it simply meat, chili (mixture) and beans (and crusty bread, or garlic bread or even some Sourdough Boule (do I serve that warm or cold?))…

If you do a search of the SDMB you will probably find close to 300 threads on chili, with about 3 million recipes. Have fun!

A quick google comes up with several homemade chili mixes (maybe I should try that, I’ve been making my own italian seasoning and thinking of doing my own poultry seasoning from recipes found online so I can leave out the sage and savoury for my mom) so if you can’t find the mix itself or don’t want to mail order it you could easily make your own mix and adjust for heat.

You could add whatever you want I say. I don’t do mushrooms (in chili, I love them in spaghetti), potatoes would absorb more of the heat from the rest of the chili I’d think.

It is kinda soupy if you don’t let it simmer for very long, but that’s the best part of eating it with bread. To sop up the spicy sauce.

A sourdough Boule is just a loaf of sourdough in a ball shape. Actually usually more of a semi circle. Normal ones are about 12 inches in Diameter and much too much for a single serving bowl, but mini ones about 5 inches or so are pretty cool for chili.
Here’s and example I found.

A crock-pot is an long time slow cooker. “Crock-pot” is actually the trade name for the most popular brand, and slow-cooker is the general term. They’re pretty cool, cause you can safely leave them simmering at home alone all day, which I would never do with a pot on a burner.

Rule #9 - Absolutely NO BEANS!

Pshaw. Don’t listen to the self-proclaimed “purists” who insist on no beans. I use three kinds of beans - kidney, red, and black. And I’ve never used a prepared chili mix in my life: my wife does, but I consider it cheating. I just add a truckload of cumin, chili powder, and garlic. Sometimes a little cocoa powder for depth. Also canned diced tomatoes (with the juice), maybe some beer or dark ale. Usually onions; sometimes chopped peppers (hot red peppers or jalepenos - although I’ve been known to toss in finely chopped bell pepper too). Oh, and hot sauce to taste - I usually use Tobasco but Frank’s or Texas Pete will do.

I usually use ground beef (browned and a little chunky) but have added or partially subsituted sausage and/or ground turkey.

Cook in a slow cooker (crockpot) for as long as you’ve got. I usually prepare mine the night before, keep it in the fridge overnight, then cook it on Low for 8-10 hours the next day.

Oh for…

The only rule I will say is one that you must adhere to is: chili must simmer slowly for at least something like four or five hours, must have a bit of a spicy kick and is quite good served with cornbread. Beyond that, experiment and find “your” chili recipe. If you like it with beans, great. If not, awesome. But don’t let others intimidate you into not trying it either way.

This is a recipe I posted in one of those threads just a few days ago. Enjoy.

All I know how to do is wing it. Insert approximately in front of all amounts and times.

1 pound cubed sirloin
1 pound hot italian sausage meat (removed from skins if that’s how you got it)
1.5 large white onions roughly chopped
6 garlic cloves, smashed
3 chili peppers, minced (your choice for heat)
2-3 tablespoons fresh chili powder (your choice for heat)
1 tbsp ground cumin
1tbsp ground oregano
1/2 bottle dark beer
1 liter (or so - not too much) low sodium beef broth
salt pepper to taste
qwest’s secret ingredients
1/4 ounce shaved semi sweet bakers chocolate
couple of teaspoons Keen’s dry mustard

Sear sirloin in heavy pot (same one that chili will cook in)
Crumble sausage meat and cook in separate skillet
Drain fat from sausage
Add sausage to sirloin
Throw in onions and cook until translucent
You don’t want to burn anything now.
Working quickly, add spices and stir, add garlic and peppers and stir.
Quickly add liquids and bring to boil
Cover, simmer for 1.5 to 2.5 hours, stirring occasionally. Watch liquid level
Remove lid, increase heat
Adjust seasoning
Add chocolate and mustard powder
Simmer additional 30 minutes, stirring often
Serve with sharp cheddar on the side

Around where I’m at, the Midwest, generally no. It’s made from ground/minced beef. I make it with a mixture of ground beef and chunks of beef or beef and pork, personally. I believe purists would go for the chunks of beef, but I would say that most people expect it to be ground, unless you’re from Texas, maybe.

As you have surmised, your chili powder is powdered chiles, and nothing more. Our “chili powder” is powdered chiles, cumin, oregano, onion powder, garlic powder, etc. You can make your own American chili powder easily enough. I don’t use prepared spice mixes when making chili, because it’s easy enough to come up with your own. I would say the most important ingredient in chili powder, besides the ground peppers, is cumin. Cumin is part of the signature flavor of chili as I know it.

Mushrooms and potatoes have no place in what I consider chili, and I’ve never seen either ingredient in any restaurant chili. I’m sure some college kid who didn’t know any better put one or both ingredients into a stew and served it as “chili,” but those ingredients are certainly outside of the normal bounds of what constitutes that particular stew.

A “sourdough boule” is a round loaf of bread, about the diameter of an outstretched hand (“boule”) made of sourdough.

That adds a whole new layer of confusion I didn’t expect. I assumed that powdered dry chiles would make chile powder both here and in Europe. And that the “i” ending implied it was a spice blend including garlic powder, onion powder and cumin.