To put it simply, Chili is a pot of satisfaction. What’s not to love about hearty beef simmered in a tangy, smoky tomato-based sauce with warming spices, floral herbs, flavors and tender beans, if you like? There’s a lot of debate as to whether or not there should be beans in chili, but it’s pretty tasty either way.
Scoop it into bowls, scoop it over nachos, scoop it out of bread bowls or baked potatoes, or scoop it over hot dogs. Beef chili can be enjoyed in countless ways, and there are many additions and toppings.
The recipe below is a classic, with caramelized beef, soft and plump beans, and a thick, rich sauce to tie it all together.
What type of meat should you use for chili?
Use lean beef, but not super lean meat. The best ground beef for chili has some fat, so 85% lean meat is ideal. Don’t be tempted to use extra-lean beef or skim off the fat after the meat has browned. The fat bastes the meat as it cooks, adding richness to the sauce and keeping the meat moist.
Ground beef isn’t your only option for this recipe, you can also use ground beef, ground turkey or diced roast, brisket, venison, chicken breast or thighs. However, opt for higher-fat options whenever possible.
It’s autumn, y’all: Lamb’s Lettuce with Garlic Chicken is the perfect meal to transition from summer to fall
How to Brown Beef for Chili
Adding baking powder to beef before browning ensures tender meat and a caramelized crust on every tasty bite.
Brown the beef before adding the remaining ingredients. Browning creates caramelization that adds an insane amount of flavor. Caramelized beef is slightly sweet and pairs beautifully with the smoky spices, tangy tomatoes, and tart limes in this recipe.
Time-saving tip: While the beef is cooking, chop the vegetables.
Can a Roast Chicken Recipe be “Wonderfully Simple”?:This Michelin-starred chef thinks so
How Long Should Chili Cook?
Cook your chili for a long time. The Ultimate Beef Chili isn’t a busy weeknight meal. Meat, vegetables, herbs and spices need time to bloom and meld. So don’t rush anything.
Also, ground beef is high in collagen, which means it does better when cooked for at least 90 minutes. This gives the meat time to break up and become ultra-tender. Perhaps John Steele Gordon put it best: “Chili gets so much better when you’ve had a day to contemplate your destiny”.
How to season chili
Don’t blast your chili with heat. If you like your chili hot, start with a slightly hot stew and add hot sauce or fresh jalapenos.
If you make your chili too fiery, you won’t be able to see all the nuances of the dish.
Taste your chili often. Herbs, spices, and saltiness evolve as your chili simmers.
Taste the chili after it has simmered for about 20 minutes, and every 15 to 20 minutes thereafter. Flavors will change and spices may need to be adjusted. You may need a little more chilli powder. Or cumin (I always add more cumin). And of course taste again just before serving.
Remember: It’s easier to add salt at the end than it is to deal with an overly salty stew.
And don’t be afraid to add a few “secret” ingredients to enhance the flavor without being discovered yourself.
I used brown sugar, smoked paprika, and cinnamon, but feel free to add a splash of bourbon, red wine, some beer, or a teaspoon of espresso or unsweetened cocoa.
Some people use a tablespoon or two of peanut butter for sweetness, earthiness, and to thicken the sauce.
Also, do not replace the broth with water. Adding water to your chili simply dilutes each component. That’s right, all those ingredients you added on purpose for their sturdiness. Use beef broth, beef stock, or bone broth instead.
I’m not against beef broth either. Anything but water.
Finally, add sweetness to counteract the acidity of the tomatoes. In the recipe below, I added brown sugar, but you can also use molasses, granulated sugar, or — if you’re a fan of sweet veggies — 1 cup diced carrots.
Add the carrots as you add the onions, peppers, and garlic to the pot.
Speaking of delicious:Guy Fieri says these tequila turkey fettuccini are one of his “all time favorites.”
How to serve chili
Add a freshness kick to your chili just before serving to enliven all the flavors. Your chili has been cooking for hours, so something fresh at the end catapults those long-cooked vibes.
I used lime juice here, but you can also use about 1 tablespoon of vinegar (I suggest apple cider vinegar or sherry vinegar). That little tug at the end brings back all the layers you added at the beginning.
And be robust with your side dishes. It seems there are endless ways to serve chili. My boys and I like cilantro, cheddar cheese and green onions. My mother piles up sour cream and pepperoni. Some people add more lime and avocado. Have lots of options on hand so everyone can build their own bowl.
Make chili ahead of time
Don’t be afraid to cook the chili a day in advance. As mentioned above, chili should simmer for eons and evolve over time.
If you choose to make your chili the day before, wait to serve with the lime juice. And have extra shredded tomatoes and beef broth on hand in case your stew has thickened and needs thinning.
Can chili be frozen well?
Don’t halve this recipe. If you only have four people to serve, make the whole batch and store leftovers in an airtight container in your fridge or freezer.
Stews thrive best when prepared in large batches. Plus, next time you’re craving chili, you won’t have to wait so long.
Store leftovers in individual containers. It’s much easier to thaw and reheat individual portions. For best results, heat your thawed chili in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Add more broth as needed.
Your leftover chili will last three days in the fridge and three months in the freezer. Label and date the containers so you don’t forget them.
Recipe: The Ultimate Beef Chili
Makes: 6 to 8 servings
- 2 pounds ground beef, preferably 85% lean
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- ¾ teaspoon baking soda
- 1 white onion, chopped
- 1 bell pepper, any color, seeded and chopped
- 3-4 cloves of garlic, chopped or 2 teaspoons of pre-chopped garlic
- 2 tablespoons chilli powder
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika, sweet or smoked (note that smoked paprika changes the flavor to a strong, smoky chili), I used smoked
- 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups beef broth
- 6-ounce can of tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar, granulated sugar, or molasses
- 2 (15-ounce) cans red kidney beans, rinsed and drained (optional)
- 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
To serve (recommendation):
- Fresh coriander
- lime wedges
- Cheddar cheese
- Chopped spring onions
- tortilla chips
- Hot sauce
- sour cream
- Mexican cheese
- Hot peppers
- Diced avocado
- In a large plate (or large bowl), combine beef, salt, baking soda, and 1 tablespoon water. Mix with hands until combined. Let the beef sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes.
- In a large saucepan or stockpot, sear the beef over medium-high heat, shredding the meat as it cooks. Don’t drain the fat. Add the onion, peppers, and garlic and cook 3 to 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft.
- Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, paprika, cinnamon, and ¼ teaspoon black pepper and stir to coat. Cook 1 minute, or until spices are fragrant.
- Add the tomato passata, broth, tomato paste and brown sugar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 90 minutes.
- Add the beans if using, cover and cook for another 30 minutes. If your chili seems thinner than you’d like at this point, simmer uncovered until you get your desired consistency (this won’t take long). If the chili is thicker than desired, add more broth.
- Add the fresh lime juice and season with more salt and black pepper. Fill the chili into small bowls and serve with the garnish.