Here are the techniques and tips you need to prepare the perfect bowl of chili with complex flavors and the right balance of spicy, sweet and meaty flavors.
Almost everyone has an opinion on what should and shouldn’t be in a chili. Beans… or not at all? Ground beef or cubed meat? Or no meat at all? Tomatoes okay?
The debate will have to rage. Because we’re not here to set the rules. We’ll just give some technical advice and explain how to prepare a good bowl of basic chili. Once you’ve mastered the basics, you’re ready to unleash all sorts of personal preferences and prejudices in your simmering pot of pure comfort.
How to prepare chili step by step
The making of chili consists essentially of slowly developing and balancing complex flavors.
1. Cook your meats
First, sear your meats in a little oil over medium-high heat until they are golden brown. Use a deep Dutch oven or a heavy soup pot. If using a roast, sirloin steak or short rib, cut the meat into cubes. Then make sure it is golden brown on all sides. Remove the meat.
2. Sauté Aromatic
Then sauté your aromatic vegetables in the same pan. Start with your chopped onions, cooking them until they are tender, about 5 minutes. Then, if you add other vegetables – such as celery, peppers and carrots – put them in the pot and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes. Now it’s time to sauté the chopped garlic, stirring until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Now you are ready for the seasonings. Mix them with the vegetables. You will notice that a dark brown crust (or bottom) has formed at the bottom of the pan. That’s the flavor that awaits you!
4. Deglaze the pan
Deglaze the pan with a little beer, white wine, broth or even water, stirring to bring up the brown bits of flavour.
5. Add the broth and simmer
Put the meat back into the pot and add the broth. Simmer for 1 hour, or until the meat cubes are tender. For best results, simmer slowly over low heat. Simmering over low heat allows flavors to develop.
If using harder cuts of meat, let the meat simmer for at least one hour in the seasoned broth. Also add the tomatoes with the broth, if you wish, or wait for the next step before adding the tomatoes. Similarly, if you use tofu cubes or crumbs instead of meat, wait for the next step to add them to the pan.
6. Add the beans (optional)
Add the beans, as well as tomatoes, tofu, corn, if you add these ingredients. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 to 15 minutes. Adjust seasonings and you’re ready to dig in.
Garnish as desired with grated cheddar cheese, sour cream, guacamole, sliced red peppers, chopped fresh cilantro, and perhaps chopped green onions. Keep in mind, though, that sometimes the tastiest chili is the one prepared a day in advance. If you have time, cook it on the stovetop and then reheat it the next day on the stovetop or in the slow stove.
Other ways to prepare chili
Choose your meats
Chili behaves best with economical cuts of meat – this is one of the best characteristics of chili. The slow braising technique favors inexpensive stews, roast beef, rump roast, sirloin, but also venison, buffalo and elk. Ground meats (beef, pork, chicken, turkey) are also good choices. For vegetarian chili, try tofu cubes or crumbled tofu.
Beef chili recipes
Chili Chicken Recipes
Texas Deer Chili
Colorado Buffalo Chile
Terrific Turkey Chile
Choose your beans
Red beans, pinto beans, black beans, white beans (Great Northern and Navy) – all are worthy competitors. What about canned beans versus dry beans? There is no denying the convenience of canned beans. There is no shame in using them.
However, if you use canned beans, be careful with sodium; you may need to adjust the amount of salt you add to the pot if the beans contain a lot of salt. And rinse the beans before adding them to your chili. If you’re thinking about dry beans, think about those traditional dry beans. They’ll take any chili from basic to incredible.
Red beans : my chili
White Beans: White Chili II
Pinto beans: beef, beans and beer chili
Black Beans: Fantastic Black Bean Chili
No beans: chili recipes without beans
Choose your seasonings
While preparing chili is a balancing act, much of the balance can be achieved with your spice blend. For chili, you’ll need cumin and coriander – it’s a no-brainer. And maybe a little cayenne, chili powder, paprika; maybe a touch of cinnamon, cloves and a little star anise.
You can buy packets of chili seasoning at the store. But they are easy and cheaper to prepare at home. If you grind your own spices, try roasting them first in a frying pan to release the complex aromas.
Sarah’s Chili Seasoning Blend
Pepper seasoning mix II
Pepper seasoning mix I
What to serve with chili
Ready to try your luck with these winning chili contest recipes? They could also be your ticket to a blue ribbon. Or take a look at our complete collection of chili recipes.
Want some cornbread with your chili? Good choice. But think about that tasty cornbread waffle. It’s the perfect chili companion. Need more inspiration? Browse our collection of chili side dishes.