Award-Winning Chili Recipe to Try This Fall + 6 Tips to Chili Greatness

Plus, an award-winning beef chili recipe that’s perfect for fall

September 28, 2023 6:37 am
texas chili
This is all we can think about right now.
Jody Horton

As the air turns crisp and weekend beach days morph into game day cookouts, our cravings also shift from light summery fare to heartier food with warming flavors. And with that comes the desire to make the ultimate fall weather staple: chili. Whether you’re a seasoned home cook or just someone who knows how to appreciate an amazing stew, there’s nothing quite like it. 

Maybe you’re just trying to perfect your homemade recipe, but you could also be thinking about entering a chili cook off, one of the greatest food competitions in existence. But to rise to the occasion and claim that coveted chili champion title, you need more than just spices and meat. These six tips are the secret weapon to take your chili game to the next level and simmer your way to chili greatness. Plus, I’ve included a recipe for my own award-winning chili recipe so you can try it at home. 

Use Fresh Spices (No, Really)

Did the bottle of chili powder sitting in your cabinet come from a now-defunct grocery store? Is the “best by” date from a time when bitcoin was still a fad? If so, it’s time for a new batch. The problem is, even if you purchase a new bottle, it still may not be at peak freshness. The commercial grinding, processing and shipping operation saps the spices of their essential oils and flavors. The easiest way to combat this is to make your own chili powder, which is not only shockingly easy but much cheaper as well. By using individual and whole spices and grinding right before use, you can ensure peak flavors in the dish to come.

Toast Your Spices

No cuisine embraces spices like Indian food. Complex curry mixtures create unrivaled, intensely bold flavors, qualities well served in chili. Most curry powders are fried in oil, which toasts the spices and marries the flavors within the dish. Doing the same with chili powder will release aromas and flavors from the chiles and spices to elevate your dish tremendously.

Use Homemade Beef Stock

Most chili recipes, like the one below, use beef stock or broth as a key ingredient. Homemade beef stock excels in flavor and texture because of the slow simmering process, which allows gelatin from the bones to dissolve, imparting a rich, velvety mouthfeel. This natural gelatin infusion provides a luscious, silky consistency and a depth of flavor that elevates dishes. If making homemade stock isn’t an option, spike the chili with a packet of bloomed unflavored gelatin and a tablespoon of cornstarch slurry for similar results.

Turn to the Paste

Every ingredient in chili matters, but tomatoes are the unsung hero of the dish — their fruity, sweet essence is the essential counterpoint to the spicy and meaty flavors of the chili. Instead of using crushed, diced or any other canned tomato, consider tomato paste. It’s concentrated to be sweeter and fruitier than tomatoes alone, which are the exact properties we want to bring into the pot. 

Deglaze With Beer

Borrowing inspiration from another classic dish, we turn to one of the most complex Italian pasta sauces, vodka sauce, where tomato sauce is spiked with vodka before cream is added. While vodka, bourbon and the like can be used in the same way to bring out flavors from our chili, beer is the clear choice. The malty, sweeter notes from a stout or lager complement the toasted chili powder perfectly, yet still bring out the best in tomatoes.

Beef, Two Ways

Texture matters in every dish, and chili is no exception. Combining ground and larger cuts of beef (like cubed chuck roast) in chili offers a texture and flavor symphony. Ground beef provides a classic flavor and texture, while chuck roast’s slow-cooked, tender chunks bring depth and richness. The blend also balances fat content, ensuring a moist, flavorful chili with a luscious mouthfeel. It also maintains the chili’s consistency, with ground beef thickening the base and chuck roast adding body. This duo enhances visual appeal and caters to diverse preferences, making your chili a crowd-pleaser.

Award Winning Chili

Servings: 8

  • 2 lbs. beef chuck roast
  • 1 lb. ground sirloin
  • 1/3 cup tomato paste
  • 1 cup beer (stout or lager)
  • 1 medium onion
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 serrano peppers
  • 2 cups homemade beef stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 3 Tbsp. guajillo powder
  • 3 Tbsp. ancho chile powder
  • 3 Tbsp. sweet paprika
  • 1 Tbsp. whole black peppercorns
  • 1 Tbsp. whole cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp. salt
    1. Grind the black peppercorns and cumin seeds until fine. Place a small saucepan over very low heat. Add the vegetable oil, guajillo powder, ancho powder, sweet paprika, black pepper and cumin and let steep for 5 minutes. Once steeped, turn heat to high for 1 minute, stirring constantly, then remove from heat. Set aside.

    2. Cut chuck roast into 1-inch cubes and season with 1 tsp. of the salt. Place a large sauté pan over high heat and sear meat on all sides in 2 to 3 batches. Once meat is cooked, set into a slow cooker set on high. As the meat cooks, finely dice the onion, mince the garlic and seed/mince the serranos.

    3. Once the chuck roast is cooked, repeat the process with the ground sirloin, cooking on high for 6 to 7 minutes. Season with remaining salt and chili powder/oil mixture. Once cooked, add to the slow cooker.

    4. Return pan to the heat, now set to medium. Sauté onions with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes, adding in a bit of oil if the pan is dry. Add in the garlic and serrano, stirring as to not burn either. Cook for 1 more minute. Turn heat to low. Add in the tomato paste and stir constantly for 3 minutes (tomato paste can burn quickly). Add in the beer and beef stock and stir until a sauce is formed. Add to the slow cooker, along with the bay leaves.

    5. Slow cook for 4 to 6 hours on high or until beef is tender.


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