Fail Proof Chili

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I am not necessarily a chili purist. By that, I mean, I'll allow for things like tomatoes (diced, chopped) and celery to go into my chilies that I make. I draw the line, personally, at the addition of beans. I love bean stew, but I do not call that chili. However, I am content to let those who wanna call that chili, call that chili. There will be ribbing about it, however.

Anyway . . . I think that the generic guidelines below generally give a fail proof process that will help anyone who has the time, inclination, ingredients, and equipment make a delicious chili. Maybe it won't win a contest, but I would not be surprised if it wins plenty of contests. Either way, most people will enjoy it. You can tweak as you like, but I don't think you'll go wrong, even if you take the bare bones approach listed below.

Equipment Needs:

- slow cooker
- smoker, or oven
- food processor (this comes in handy, but is not essential)​


1. Stew meat, ground meat, bacon.

A. I usually buy one of the bigger cuts of beef round or rump roast a day or two before the "Sell By" date, and the chop it up into stew meat size. This tends to be cheaper/discounted, and better than the pre-chopped stew meat.

B. The ground meat acts as a nice filler, along with your chiles and other veggies you will be putting into the mix.

C. The bacon is mostly going to be used for its grease rendered. You can mince up the cooked pieces and add to the chili, if you like, but I generally eat that while cooking.
2. Chili powder/Chili paste.

A. This is not to be confused with a pre-prepped chili mix (i.e. Williams', etc.), but pure chili powder. Also, I am not a snob when it comes to this. I have often used the $0.99 chili powder from Wally world.

B. Even better, however, is to purchase some of the dried ancho chili peppers. You want to pick some that are more "raisiny" in their feel, than crackly. This delivers more complex flavor than chili powder, but either will do.
3. Other spices: Cumin (very important), Garlic Powder (or you can buy garlic and mince it up, but that's a lot more time invested), Paprika, Salt.

4. Chiles

A. For Flavor: Poblanos are unbeatable. Anaheims are also good. A combination of these two works. Do not be afraid to use 20+ of these per 5lbs of meat used. This may seem excessive, but trust me. This is where you'll knock the chili out of the park. These chiles are not hot. They are just delicious flavor.

B. For Heat: Jalapenos ("hot") or Serranos (hotter). I prefer Serranos because they have a more naturally smokier profile (In my humble opinion). If you want a chili for the mildly palated, just stick with the chiles mentioned in A above. Seeds are not the source of heat for chiles. Rather, it is the membrane. I do not de-seed my chiles, as I find the seeds in the finished product visually appealing. I also do not de-membrane them, because I love the heat.
5. Tomatoes (diced, chopped, maybe even pureed). For 5lbs of meat, I'll usually have 1 or 2 regular sized (11 oz each, maybe?) cans of dice tomatoes.

6. Optional - Other veggies: Celery, yellow onion (diced).

The Process:

1. Cook the bacon, and set it aside, leaving the grease in the pan. Add your celery and onions, if used, and sautee them in the bacon fat. Drain most, but not all of the bacon fat, and transfer the browned veggies, as well as your diced tomatoes to the slow cooker, on "Warm" or "Low" setting.

A. If you have the option, it's hard to beat smoking the meat and the chiles over indirect heat (around 225) for 2-3 hrs with some hickory or oak. You will want to have a food processor, if you do it this way. But don't worry, if you don't have a smoker, or the inclination, you can . . .

B. Broil the chiles in the oven until somewhat blackened on each side. While these are broiling, and in between flips, brown your meat.
2. After broiling chiles and browning your meat (or after smoking the chiles and meat), you're ready to do the hard work, maybe.
A. Here is where a food processor comes in handy. With a food processor, you do not have to go through the drudgery of peeling the chiles. These will be hot (temp wise), so you may want some BBQ gloves on, or some kind of protection. Just put 'em in the food processor and puree them until they're of salsa consistency. Include the juices left in the pan that you broiled them on. If no food processor, then . . .
B. After broiling them to the condition mentioned above, set aside in a bowl, covered (I usually plop them in an aluminum mixing bowl, and cover with foil). After about 20-30 minutes, these will be ready to peel, and they should fairly easily come off. These may still be warm, so be careful. Sometimes, you can hold these under running water, and the peel will come off easily.
3. Transfer all this to the slow cooker, leaving on "Low" or "Warm" setting. On of two things. Either:

A. If you have a food processor, fill a pot with water and bring it to a low boil, then add your dried ancho chile peppers to the water, bring the temp of the water down, and let them soften up 10-15 minutes. Throw them in the food processor and WALA, there's your chili paste. Add this, and all your other spices to the slow cooker, and stir it up.


B. Add your chili powder and other spices to the slow cooker.
4. Cook on low for 8-10 hours. You'll probably be spooning some fat off the top when it's ready.

In summary:

1. Lots of meat.
2. Lots of chiles (roasted & peeled, or pureed and stirred).
3. Slow cooked with spices.​


Staff member
This really is a great method :) Last time, I tossed garlic cloves on top of the meat where they roasted and could be easily mashed by fork.
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