Classic Texas Chili - A Method, Not a Madness
Traditional Texas Chili
In Texas, we don’t have to wait until fall for this dish because every season is Chili Season! And honestly if we sat around waiting for cool weather in SETX to break out the chili and the gumbo pots we’d never eat. OKAY so, CHILI y'all.. Chili making is an art made up of part recipe and part throw in the pot whatever sings your soul at the moment.. like an instinct. Everyone’s recipe and method is a different, some are closely guarded family secrets.. this is why chili cookoffs exist y’all. I will cover the traditional broad strokes here and how I make it but it’s the subtle differences that will set your pot apart! From the type of peppers, the beer or liquid choice, desired final texture even your cooking method and time. One point that is generally agreed on by chili cookers everywhere is that the flavor develops with time, whether you cook it a long time or just make it the day before serving.
The Key Points
Layers!! The best way to get a dynamic, complex flavor in a relatively simple dish is to layer your ingredients in stages and season as you go.
Texture! I like to combine our traditional grind and our coarse chili grind for a variety in texture. As it cooks it will break down just right. The course grind is intended to cook at least 2 hours, if you don’t have that kind of time opt for our traditional 80/20 grind.
Slow and low cooking for flavor development and remember that chili is even better the next day! You can’t rush a good thing.
Personally, I like my chock full of veggies, medium heat, fine to medium texture, and fully developed deep flavors.
Beans or No Beans? Traditional Texas chili does not have beans and personally I don’t prefer them. I like mine all meat, veg, and spice! On a practical note, if you plan on freezer your chili the cooked beans don’t reconstitute as well,
The course ground chili meat really needs to cook down at least 2 hours. The beauty of the course grind is that it CAN hold up to the long slow cooking time while the flavors develop with out breaking down overly much.
While chili making is a longer slower process, if you’re determined to move things along. Use just the traditional 80/20 grind and it will break down faster.
Crock Pot: As you go through the roasting and browning steps, simply add everything to the crock pot. Reduce the liquid by ½ Cup. Set on low for 5 hours or until it reached the desired texture.
Instant Pot: I have never made chili in the Instant Pot, BUT I am a big fan of dinner in a hurry. Reduce the liquid to 3/4 Cup, and layer the steps just as you would for the stovetop method. Seal and pressure cook for 20 minutes and naturally decompress. If you're adding beans, waiting until after the cook and stir in.
The Supply List
- 2 lbs Wild Earth Chili Grind
- 2lbs Ground Beef 80/20 traditional grind
- 2 teaspoon olive oil
- 2 Medium Yellow Onion, chopped
- 2 Bell Pepper, chopped
- 2 Pablano Peppers, chopped
- 1 Head Garlic, cloves smashed
- 1-2 Jalapenos, split and seeded
- 1 can (20 oz) Fire Roasted Tomatoes, crushed or diced – I use the no salt added, so I can add salt as I go
- 1 can (8 oz) of tomato sauce, El Pato Hot Tomato Sauce is my favorite
- 1 1/2 cups liquid, dark beer, beef stock, or water in a pinch
- 3 T TexJoy chili powder
- 1 T Ground Cumin
- 1 tsp Garlic Powder
- 1 tsp Onion Powder
- ¼- ½ teaspoon cayenne, or more to taste
- 2 T masa harina or cornmeal
- Salt to taste , at least a teaspoon added throughout the cooking process.
Serve with chopped onion and cheese! You can eat it by itself or enjoy it over rice or fritos!
Pre-heat the oven to 450* while you chop your onion and bell peppers, smash the garlic. Halve and seed the poblanos and the jalapenos. Place everything on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper. For the halved peppers make sure the skin side is up. We’re going to blister and peel the poblanos and throw the jalapenos in the chili as halves. Place in the oven for 5 minutes or until it starts to become fragrant. Turn the oven off and switch it to Broil HIGH. We’re going to get a little char on the edges of the veg and pepper skin. Don’t burn them but let them get some color on the edges. If you need to take the onions out before the peppers, carefully pull out and set aside. Place the poblanos in a plastic zip bag and seal while you’re browning the meat. PRO TIP don’t stick your face directly near the oven while opening it whilst roasting the peppers and onions.. trust me on that one.
Heat your heavy bottom pot to high and brown the ground meat, breaking it up a bit and stirring as you go. When the beef is about halfway cooked, add the onion powder, garlic powder, 1T of chili powder, cumin, and a large pinch of salt. Continue until meat is cooked just through. Personally, I don’t drain the pan after cooking the meat. With our beef I just don’t see a whole bunch of drippings when it’s started on high. Now, depending on the diameter of your stock pot (surface area of the bottom) you may want to brown in batches. Just eyeball it and if your beef will be more than 2” thick in the pan you may want to brown in batches. I found that 3lbs did great in my standard stock pot.
Turn the heat to Medium. During this time you can remove the poblanos from their bag. They should have steamed enough where the majority of the charred skin comes off fairly easily. Chop the peppers and add to the other vegetables.
Add the vegetables to the pot and stir well to combine with another 1 T of chili powder. Heat on medium-medium low until the thick mixture begins to bubble (3 minutes or more). We’re developing the flavors in this layer before moving on to the next one.
Add the fire roasted tomatoes, sauce, another pinch of salt, 1 T of chili powder, and the cayenne. Stir and bring up to a steady simmer.
Add your liquid (beer or broth) stir and bring to simmer then reduce the heat to low. I set it on 2 on the medium eye of my gas stove. You want a very light simmer.
Allow to cook, stirring and checking regularly for 2-3 hours. Testing for spice. When you stir, stir all the way down to the direct heat zone. If for whatever reason chili burns on the bottom (high heat, you forgot about it, whatever no judgement) it will affect the flavor of the whole batch. Just keep it slow if you’re making it stovetop. 30 minutes before you’re finished stir in the masa. It will thicken and cream up your chili in a way that just makes it taste like home somehow. Remember that heat will continue to develop for 24 hours after cooking so be mindful of your fiery chilies.
Chili is an art of what you feel while you’re cooking. Trust your gut and your senses.. they’ll tell you what you need to add.
Prepare the beef: Set a large dutch oven over high heat. Add half the olive oil and brown the ground beef. Work in batches if necessary to avoid overcrowding the pan and stewing the beef in it’s own juices.Remove the beef and set aside to drain.
Prepare the Veggies: Add the remaining oil, onion, Serrano, and bell pepper.. cook until translucent.
Layer the flavors: Add garlic, chili powder, cayenne, cumin and salt. Stir to combine and cook until aromatic. Add back the beef and stir to combine. Add in the beer, diced tomatoes, and tomato sauce or crushed, then bring to a low simmer.
Cook: Cover with a lid and allow to bubble and simmer so sauce reduces and thickens, and the flavors intensify, about 1- 1.5 hours. After an hour, stir in the masa, which will help to thicken the sauce. If sauce starts to get too thick, add a little water, and if it’s not yet thick enough, continue to simmer until desired consistency and flavor profile is reached. The flavor will deepen (and can become more spicy!) with time, so its great to make the day before being mindful of your spice level. Top with fresh chopped onions and cheddar cheese. ENJOY!