Can you see your breath in the morning now? Are you starting to sink back into the memory of what it’s like to wake up in complete darkness (reminder: it’s the worst)? Has your appetite for outdoor frolicking and fresh produce slowly morphed into a craving for being wrapped in blankets while your hands grip the edges of a steaming hot bowl of goodness? Better get your Dutch oven fired up, my friend – it’s chili time. Let’s review how you’re going to accomplish getting people excited about chili (instead of eliciting the usual reaction of “oh…chili”) by discussing some basic tenets of a killer chili. Chili should really meet at least two of the following criteria in order to be worth consuming in the first place:
1. A set it and forget it component
My favourite rule for chili – though one that I flaunt TWO whole times in this post – is this one. I love a chili that instructs you to literally pile everything into a slow-cooker, walk away, and then return home to find that a dinner has magically appeared out of the raw ingredients. While I don’t recommend this approach for any chili that involves toasting and hydrating dried chile peppers (or for vegetarian chili in general because it prohibits you from building those deep layers of flavour that legumes tend to need), I looooooove my go-to chicken chili recipe for this exact feature.
2. The addition of actual chiles
Chili is chili because of chiles (helpful, right?). Purists will insist that proper chili starts with a chile paste made from dried chiles that have been toasted and re-hydrated so as to impart all of their complex heat and flavour into the liquid of the chili. This is not to say that chili without dried chiles cannot be delicious (it can – eat my chicken thigh chili and tell me it’s not damn good), but it will simply not have quite the same concentrated peppery taste as one that was made with a rich, homemade chile sauce. And yes, that’s ‘chiles’ with an ‘E’ at the end. Stew = chili, pepper = chile. Let’s not hear another word on the subject.
3. A hearty dose of protein
Be it beans, beef, poultry, or otherwise, chili should deliver a protein-packed punch that keeps you full through those long hours of workday toiling (or those long hours of diddling away at your desk falling deeper and deeper into a YouTube hole). A bowl of chili should not leave you feeling like you could plough through half your snack cupboard.
4. A lusciously thick sauce
Regardless of how you get there (tomatoes, chiles, stock, beer), your chili should be bound together with a thick, dark – and most importantly, well-seasoned – sauce. How you get there is your own problem, but your end result should always be a stew-like sauce that thickens when chilled and gets soupier when warmed.
5. Dreadful gas
Jk jk jk …just making sure you’re still with me. But yeah…even a really great chili might also give you horrific gas.
Are you ready to make the hardest choice of your whole day? Let’s do this.
Want to set it and forget it while also forgoing red meat? Click here for Chicken Thigh Chili (with bonus Skillet Cornbread recipe!).
Don’t mess with Texas: no beans, all beef. Click here for BA’s Best Beef Chili.
Veggies never had it so good (or so garnished!). Click here for Vegetarian Tex-Mex Chili.