There are as many chili recipes as there are Texans. To say that this recipe is the world's best may be a little difficult to prove, but it's pretty darn good!
The secret to great chili is using the right ingredients and taking your time. You've got to let it bubble away for several hours to get the real experience.
I'm going to give a recipe for a Texas-style chili. Now, a lot of Texans might say that true chili should never include beans, and I can't help but agree with them—but this is pretty good, and using black beans makes the recipe a whole lot healthier, not to mention a lot cheaper!
It may seem like this recipe has a lot of directions, but it's really quite simple, and most of what you see is my effort to explain the hows and whys of what you're doing as you prepare the dish.
This makes enough for a big family meal, with lots of leftovers!
- 2 onions
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 5 green or red peppers (a mixture of the two works well)
- 2 pounds beef chuck, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 10 big (or 15 medium or 20 small) tomatoes, all coarsely chopped up. (Use fresh tomatoes if they are in season and local tomatoes are flooding the market. Fresh tomatoes in season can't be beat! If they are not in season, you might be better off using a large can of tomatoes.)
- 2 tablespoons chili powder
- 1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
- 3 cups cooked black beans (A common mistake is adding uncooked beans into the chili figuring that they'll cook in the chili liquid as it simmers. They will, but the acidity from the tomatoes will keep the beans kind of crunchy no matter how long you boil them for, and I think that the beans are better when they almost disappear into the mixture.)
- Salt, to taste
- Sugar, to taste
- Chili powder, to taste (see recipe below)
Homemade Chili Powder
I think another often-overlooked secret to this dish is homemade chili powder. Store-bought chili powder is too aggressive, and I don't much care for the taste. Make your own by combing three spices, and see how much better your chili tastes!
- 2 tablespoons dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons ground cumin seed
- 2 tablespoons hot chile powder or flakes
That's it. Just mix it up and you've got a great homemade seasoning that's going to make a big difference in your next batch of chili.
- Add a couple tablespoons of oil to a large, heavy-bottomed sauce pot on medium heat.
- Add the onions and peppers and sauté until slightly softened, for about ten minutes.
- Add the chili powder and stir for about a minute. Then add the garlic and stir for an additional 30 seconds.
- You don't want the garlic to start burning, so after the garlic is ready, immediately add in your chopped tomatoes.
- Transfer everything out of the pot into another pot or bowl as you get the beef ready.
- Now, add a couple more tablespoons of oil to your saucepan on medium heat, sprinkle salt and pepper onto the beef, and add about half of it to the pot to brown.
- This is one of the most critical steps on the road to great chili. You want to take your time and get that beef nice and brown all over. You want it brown, not just grey-cooked looking, as that deep brown gives a lot of beefy flavor to your chili. Keep the heat moderate and just keep at it. The rest of the chili cooking is effortless, so it's worth it to spend the time here. Repeat with the second half of the beef.
- As long as the bottom of the pan has not burnt (By cooking at medium you should be fine. That crusty stuff on the bottom is like chili gold!) add all the stuff you just put into a second pot or bowl back into the cooking pot.
- Add about a quart of water to the pot and set the heat down to low. You want to see the chili just barely simmering away. You want to get beef so tender that it literally just melts apart into the chili, and the secret to that is "low and slow!"
- You'll want to keep this simmering slowly away for about 6 hours total, but there's really little effort required. Every hour or so, check to see that there is enough water to just cover all the ingredients. And what's better than a Sunday afternoon spent watching football with the smell of your chili perfuming the house?
- After you've been simmering for about 4 hours, add the cooked beans into the chili, and keep that the pot trucking away for another couple of hours, stirring occasionally.
- You'll know it's done when it looks like real Texas chili! It should have a uniform mixture. You won't see bits of beef and bits of tomatoes and bits of beans. You'll just see your reddish-brown masterpiece!
- Now you're ready to season! Add about 2 teaspoons of salt, black pepper, and as much extra chili powder as you'd like. Keep tasting it and adding more salt until it tastes like it should. You can also add a tablespoon or two of sugar if you think it's too sour. If you think it needs more of a chili kick, add more chili powder by the teaspoon until it's where you like it.
Great chili is all about harmony and balance. You want a perfect union of flavors, so nothing should be too dominant.
This chili recipe is a great basic chili, and once you make it once, it might become your family's new favorite!