Ingredients: ancho chile, de arbol chile, pasilla chile, garlic, smoked sweet paprika, guajillo chile, red bell pepper, onion, serrano chile, coriander, chipotle chile, coffee, cumin, cacao, cinnamon, clove, allspice
Have you ever wanted to compete at one of the hundreds of sanctioned chili competitions across the country, or maybe just win a local chili cook off? In order to even place at a sanctioned event you need to have a pretty good idea as to what the judges are looking for. If you are aiming for some local chili cook off fame instead, these events tend to be much less strict. Here is some insider information to help you improve your chances of a high placement no matter which venue you are competing in.
Several of our customers have won national chili championships, and in talking to them we have been able to gain some great insight. Here are some of the things they say inexperienced chili contestants miss the boat on, as well as what these champions have learned along the way. Now of course they would never divulge all of their secrets, but they were more than willing to share their overall philosophies.
You have to understand that Competition Chili has some stringent rules, most importantly you stand no chance if you use beans, chickpeas, macaroni, rice or spaghetti as a “filler” (a local chili cook off will not be near as strict here). Competition chili will be judged on flavor (tasty and no single spice should dominate), consistency (the “gravy liquid” should be thick, even and not runny) and color (should be a deep reddish color).
While in general Americans have become much more enamored about “spicy hot” and “burn your face off heat” in the last 10 years, at a sanctioned event the judges are looking for nuanced flavor. The heat should be used to add a subtle flavor layer and should not be playing a leading role. The best chili seasonings are more of an ensemble cast that blend perfectly together.
The day of the competition is not when you should be experimenting or overly tweak your chili recipes. On this day, our champions say, you should be using a chili recipe that has been perfected over time and you have each ingredient and step planned perfectly.
Keep your vegetable cuts small. Larger chunks of garlic, onion and tomato that are floating will detract from the chili gravy’s appearance. Think mincing your vegetables instead.
Often newbies will go for an exotic or expensive cut of meat to try and “impress” the judges. Stick to the classics – beef or small amounts of pork – these have been used for decades and there is no sense in reinventing the wheel. Experienced cooks are more likely to go with a cut of meat that is flavorful and not too tender. Think more along the lines of lean tri-tip beef cut into cubes.
Stay away from excessive boiling and over-stirring. Too much of these and you’ll break down the chili meat and be left with a thick, soft mass where the chunks of meat are unrecognizable.
The greatest piece of advice our experts gave was that to deliver consistent chili winners, they have relied on relatively simple recipes and strived for the shortest amount of cooking time needed.
This is where the rubber hits the road. As mentioned earlier, you want to keep it simple, cook no longer than absolutely necessary and know exactly when to add your seasoning.
The basics of timing are pretty straightforward. Start with browning the meat in oil. Once your meat has browned (but not cooked all the way through) add your broth (some prefer beef broth, some chicken and still others use both) and bring to a boil for about ½ hour. At this point add your first round of chili seasoning.
Turn the heat down and let simmer for about 45 minutes, until the meat is tender.
Now it is time to add your tomato sauce and 2nd batch of seasoning and let simmer for another 45 minutes to an hour. Stir only occasionally.
That is it. About two hours total – simple but not necessarily easy.
In this country, the terms “chili” and “chile” are often used interchangeably, but they are certainly not the same thing. Chili powder (chili with an "i") is a blend of ground chile peppers that is mixed with other spices and herbs that may include cumin, oregano, garlic, onion and salt. The chile peppers used in a chili powder are often cayenne chiles or another species of Capsicum annuum such as ancho, jalapeño, New Mexico and pasilla. As a result of the various heat levels of the different chiles that may be used, the spiciness and heat of any given chili powder will vary greatly from supplier to supplier.
If you see a Chile powder (chile with an "e") for sale this will be referring to a pure ground chile pod with no additional ingredients. To be sure which is which you should check the ingredient label.
In most other countries, chile powder is just ground red chiles, usually just one cultivar (often cayenne), but may contain several chiles. These tend to be much hotter than American chili powders.
We generally recommend about ¾ cup of Championship Chili Seasoning per 2-1/2 to 3 lbs of meat. Use ½ this amount (about ¼ cup + 2 tablespoons) after the meat is browned and the rest should be added just prior to the final simmer.
This is a very flavorful chili powder that is at first earthy, with a mild, warm heat and spicy sweet undertones.
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