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Want to make the best chili recipe.

post #1 of 10
Thread Starter 

We are going to the chili cook off contest this fall, as a head cook, I have never done it before. I hope I can learn from whoever been in it. I know we can not use any kind of beans, for filler. Just wondering if anybody knows any ingredients to replace it, I would welcome anybody for any magic stuffs to go with my chili recipe, beside, cumin, chili powder, garlic, salt& pepper. Which meats do you guys think is better to use, brisket or chuck? I apologize if I am asking to much, I know it's a secret recipe, promise I won't tell, lol. Thank you.

post #2 of 10

I live in Florida and find armadillo meat very tasty addition to chili.

post #3 of 10

Well, at least you're not asking for much.


Before getting into recipe specifics, I need to know what the rules are for the type of chili you're cooking.  It's probably a good idea for you to know them too.


The best cuts for cubed, long-simmered chili are usually the best cuts for cubed, long-simmered anything else: chuck, round and/or bottom sirloin -- but it depends. One of the things it depends on what if anything you're allowed to do to the meat before putting it into the chil pot. 


What are the rules?


Speaking of long-simmered red, I like to use a few oxtails along with the cubed meat, and shred the meat at the very end.  Brisket shreds, but not in the good way.  Flat gets stringy and tough when shredded and point tends to be too faffy. 


Some competitions are beef only.  Some allow you to mix in armadillo or other meats; most "red" competitions do not. 


What are the rules?


Competition cooking is often more about pleasing the judges -- who have been given a specific set of criteria -- than cooking some wildly creative and original dish.  "The same but better," is usually the goal.  See if you can find out what's been successful for the past few years.  If your relatives insist you should make your patented clam/partridge tarragon chili, the with all the capers... don't invite them.


I have a friend who smokes tenderloin with a cocoa rub over mesquite to not-quite rare.  He finishes it by cooking it off in a separately prepared chili colorado style sauce.  Good stuff.  Could you do something like that?  Good question.


What are the rules?


It may be worthwhile for you to toast your cumin and other seeds onsite before grinding to make your "chili powder."  That's the kind of touch which pays big dividends.  Make sure you have a grinder and electricity.  You'll probably want a blender too.  Some comps let you power your stuff with a genny; a very few have juice available; sometimes you're working off battery power. 


What are the rules?   


Roast your fresh peppers over a charcoal fire before chopping them? 


What are the rules?


A lot of people don't use chili powder anymore.  They soak dry chilis in hot water to soften, then puree them in the blender with some other seasonings.  Then add the mush as the first liquid after the "dry" ingredients have been browned, sweated, softened, sauteed or whatever.  I'm not telling you to do this, just sayin' is all.


Getting back to ingredient specifics:  If you don't already have a very good idea of what goes into chili; if you're so lost that you don't even have a starting point, should you be leading the team?


Use flowcharts with check boxes.  One flowchart for each major task like "packing the car," "setting up the site," "prepping the beef" and so on. 


Assign specific tasks to team members and have at least one run through before goint to the contest.  Don't try to figure it out onsite. 


Figure out what equipment you need; and make sure it all works.  If you're schlepping  recharcheable battery/invertes (like Schumachers, e.g.) to power your equipment, make sure they're charged, in good condition and that you have two.  


Bring extra propane for your burners.


Will you be cooking sides?  Allowed to supply sides like chopped onions, grated cheese, and/or sour cream? 


A competition is part cooking and part campout.  Be prepared for difficult weather.  Have appropriate clothes, extra hats, sunscreen, sunglasses, folding chairs, and so on.  Make sure you have plenty of ice and fluids -- at least some of it non-alcoholic. 


What are the rules?  Find out now.  Don't wait to learn them until you're there.  Try and speak to people who have done it.  Often, they'll be online.


A butter finish can be a very good thing.


What are the rules?


So, what's the first thing you're going to check on?



Edited by boar_d_laze - 8/31/10 at 1:56pm
post #4 of 10
Thread Starter 

WOW! Thank you so much! That's really a big help for me, I am so glad to know all that. I have to look at the rules and so on, my manager has it. 

post #5 of 10

I know that this is an old post, and that the event that the OP was prepping for is long past.  None-the-less, I've won a few chili contests and thought it might be worth sharing what I think makes my offerings stand out.  I make my own chili powder.  I start with dried chili's and roast them over direct heat (usually outdoors on a charcoal grill - it's a stinky process).  I use a mixture of pasilla and ancho peppers along with whatever other kinds strike my fancy at the market.   The dried chili pods are slow roasted until they are almost, but not quite, charred.  They then get stemmed and depending on the crowd, get some of the seeds removed.  Everything gets thrown into a processor and ground to a fine powder.  The resulting powder is dark, complex and delicious.  My chili stands out from the crowd because of the deep, rich color.   It's usually a crowd (and judge) pleaser.


I buy my dried (and fresh) chili pods from the Mexican produce vendor at our local street market but also mail order some from www.penderys.com, a company which has treated me well over the years.

post #6 of 10
Thread Starter 

I haven't logged in a while ( that's what happened when you work for two places). Thanks, that's what I am going to do and using meat like BDL said.

post #7 of 10
Thread Starter 

Just want to share and thank you for all helps, Chili cook off result, 3rd in showmanship, 7th in local division and 10th in men division, not bad for the first timer!

post #8 of 10

Your follow-up is much appreciated.  I always love to hear how the story ends.  Do you have any pics of the chili or care to tell us what you made?


Chili is much like barbecue in that it's very regional.  What qualifies for both in Texas really doesn't qualify for either here in West TN. You need to understand who your judges are and what they "think" chili is.  If the "general public" is the judge, then taking YOUR chili to Minnesota should be a losing proposition every time. 


The best TV show I can think of for this type of competition is "Throwdown with Bobby Flay".  I don't normally watch the show, but the one thing he does is that he researches his competition and their dish to create something different, yet still similar.  The flavors are usually in the same ballpark (as opposed to going up against pulled pork barbecue in TN (which uses a vinegar sauce) with brisket and a sweet Carolina sauce). 


I think competitions like this really come down to "beating the locals at their own game". 

post #9 of 10

Congratulations on a good finish.  Hope you had a lot of fun.



post #10 of 10


  I think most professionals will agree with me (we'll find out) that there are no "secret recipes". Food and the sharing of it is part of our fun. I did work for a family restaurant once and had to sign a waiver that I would not share the recipes with anyone. It was really quite funny because the recipes weren't that good and in reality all one has to do is change it slightly and it becomes YOUR recipe. In this particular case any changes would have been an improvement. This restaurant I'm referring to was owned by a friend of mine and I was only helping out occasionally. So....ask away! Dan

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