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Cooking Chili outdoors at cook off events

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Hello ChefTalk forum members.

 

I just started competing in Chili Cook Offs. The number one category is Red Chili. This is Texas style, meat and sauce with no beans or filler. We cook outdoors on Coleman stoves in all weather. Last weekend we cooked at 7,500 ft elevation. The air temp was hot with very low humidity. We have 3 hours to cook before presenting to the judges.

 

We had 3 problems, the meat was a little under cooked, we lost too much liquid through steam loss and there was a slightly bitter taste at the end.

 

We use tri-tip beef cut into 1/4 chunks for uniformity. We use 3 lbs of beef. Can anyone tell me what the optimal temperature we should be cooking at to get the beef cooked where it is tender but does not turn to mush?

 

Can anyone give me advice on how to estimate steam loss based on a specific boiling liquid temperature?

 

I suspect the bitter taste came from the cumin we added in the last 1/2 hour. Does anyone know of a brand of cumin that has a smooth and mild taste with no bitterness to it?

 

I realize these are oddball questions but I have to ask anyways.

 

thanks,

 

Bill

post #2 of 6

I think your bitterness was related to your liquid loss and something got overcooked because of the speed of boiling at higher elevation. 

 

My thoughts. Tri-tip is best when it's still pink and not cooked fully as in a stew which chili is. Chuck roast or Brisket would be my first choice and cook it to at least 180-190. It will be tender but not mush. 

 

Get a pressure cooker. It will make your cooking time consistent without regard to elevation and you'll always cook at the same rate anywhere you are. You can cook brisket in 1 inch cubes in about 40-45 minutes once it comes up to pressure. Cook it a little under done so you can coast to completion in your stew. You can brown and season in the pressure cooker before putting on the lid and bringing up to pressure. 

Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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Palace of the Brine -- "I hear the droning in the shrine of the sea monkeys." Saltair
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post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by phatch View Post
 

I think your bitterness was related to your liquid loss and something got overcooked because of the speed of boiling at higher elevation. 

 

My thoughts. Tri-tip is best when it's still pink and not cooked fully as in a stew which chili is. Chuck roast or Brisket would be my first choice and cook it to at least 180-190. It will be tender but not mush. 

 

Get a pressure cooker. It will make your cooking time consistent without regard to elevation and you'll always cook at the same rate anywhere you are. You can cook brisket in 1 inch cubes in about 40-45 minutes once it comes up to pressure. Cook it a little under done so you can coast to completion in your stew. You can brown and season in the pressure cooker before putting on the lid and bringing up to pressure. 


phatch,

 

The bitterness goes away about 30  - 45 minutes after we turn the stoves off. I thought it's related to Cumin as it's a bitter tasting spice.

 

Yes, tri-tip is not usually cooked as a stew. I like it grilled and pink inside. From what I understand all cooks use Tri-tip, I'll test the Chuck roast or brisket soon and post the results. Everyone, cuts the raw meat into 1/4 cubes. I don't know how we can determine if the meat gets an internal temp of 180-190 degrees. I'll put a thermometer in the my next batch but I suspect the boiling liquid will be around 212-213 degrees.

 

I did experiment with a pressure cooker a couple of times. I think this is the right solution if I can get the timing correct. My pressure cooker acts differently when used outdoors than it did on my range top stove. It seems like, even at sea level, it takes much longer to build enough pressure to close the pressure valve to build pressure. The end result was a lot of steam loss, which is something I thought would be avoided with the pressure cooker.

 

 

Thanks for your comments. I do appreciate them. Bill

post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by chilibill View Post
 


phatch,

 

The bitterness goes away about 30  - 45 minutes after we turn the stoves off. I thought it's related to Cumin as it's a bitter tasting spice.

 

Yes, tri-tip is not usually cooked as a stew. I like it grilled and pink inside. From what I understand all cooks use Tri-tip, I'll test the Chuck roast or brisket soon and post the results. Everyone, cuts the raw meat into 1/4 cubes. I don't know how we can determine if the meat gets an internal temp of 180-190 degrees. I'll put a thermometer in the my next batch but I suspect the boiling liquid will be around 212-213 degrees.

 

I did experiment with a pressure cooker a couple of times. I think this is the right solution if I can get the timing correct. My pressure cooker acts differently when used outdoors than it did on my range top stove. It seems like, even at sea level, it takes much longer to build enough pressure to close the pressure valve to build pressure. The end result was a lot of steam loss, which is something I thought would be avoided with the pressure cooker.

 

 

Thanks for your comments. I do appreciate them. Bill


I got my pressure cooker out and cooked up a batch of chili. Before cooking, I ran a series of tests to determine water loss.

 

During the first test, I cooked 4 cups (23 ounces) of water. On the outdoor stove, it took 17 minutes for the liquid to make enough steam to close the pressure valve and get the rocker moving. According to the cooker's instructions, beef stew should cook for 25 minutes so I let it boil for 25 minutes and shut off the heat. I let the cooker cool naturally and measured the water. I had 20 ounces of water, which amounts to a 37% loss. Far more than I had expected. It did blow a consistent stream of steam out so I must have cooked it with too much heat.

 

For the next test, I used 69 ounces of liquid using water, chicken broth, beef broth and tomato sauce plus the spices I use in a cook off. I took only 2 extra minutes to get the cooker to make pressure and I cooked it for the same 25 minutes. This time, I cooked it where the rocker barely moved. The steam loss was only 2 ounces.

 

Then I cooked the whole chili recipe. Same 69 ounces of liquid and spices but browned 3 lbs of meat beforehand. The boil took about the same amount of time. I also cooked the meat the same amount of time.

 

I let it cool naturally and removed the lid. The meat was still a little under cooked (chewy) so I lit the stove to restart the boil. After 3 minutes, the meat had turned to mush. The most tender pieces where torn apart. Only the toughest pieces stayed together. It doesn't seem like a pressure cooker is not the correct tool for the job.

post #5 of 6
Quote:
Originally Posted by chilibill View Post
 


I got my pressure cooker out and cooked up a batch of chili. Before cooking, I ran a series of tests to determine water loss.

 

During the first test, I cooked 4 cups (23 ounces) of water. On the outdoor stove, it took 17 minutes for the liquid to make enough steam to close the pressure valve and get the rocker moving. According to the cooker's instructions, beef stew should cook for 25 minutes so I let it boil for 25 minutes and shut off the heat. I let the cooker cool naturally and measured the water. I had 20 ounces of water, which amounts to a 37% loss. Far more than I had expected. It did blow a consistent stream of steam out so I must have cooked it with too much heat.

 

For the next test, I used 69 ounces of liquid using water, chicken broth, beef broth and tomato sauce plus the spices I use in a cook off. I took only 2 extra minutes to get the cooker to make pressure and I cooked it for the same 25 minutes. This time, I cooked it where the rocker barely moved. The steam loss was only 2 ounces.

 

Then I cooked the whole chili recipe. Same 69 ounces of liquid and spices but browned 3 lbs of meat beforehand. The boil took about the same amount of time. I also cooked the meat the same amount of time.

 

I let it cool naturally and removed the lid. The meat was still a little under cooked (chewy) so I lit the stove to restart the boil. After 3 minutes, the meat had turned to mush. The most tender pieces where torn apart. Only the toughest pieces stayed together. It doesn't seem like a pressure cooker is not the correct tool for the job.

4 cups (23 ounces)  1 cup = 8 ounces ?  23 ounces - 3 ounces =20 ounces 37% loss?  Please check your math and show us your computations.  After you checked the meat did you bring it back to a boil and cook 17 minutes to steam then three more plus cool down time?  That would be a total cook time of over an hour.  An hour in a pressure cooker will cook a 4-5 pound roast to tender.

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jimyra View Post
 

4 cups (23 ounces)  1 cup = 8 ounces ?  23 ounces - 3 ounces =20 ounces 37% loss?  Please check your math and show us your computations.  After you checked the meat did you bring it back to a boil and cook 17 minutes to steam then three more plus cool down time?  That would be a total cook time of over an hour.  An hour in a pressure cooker will cook a 4-5 pound roast to tender.

4 cups = 32 ounces. I type fast. The number should have been 32 not 23. The calculation of 37.5 % loss is correct. In that test, there was too much steam going out the vent and was boiling at too high of a rate. The steam loss was much less when I used more than 2X the liquid and regulated the boil rate and watched the steam loss more closely.

 

I cooked the chili according to the MFG instructions (25 minutes for stew), let it cool naturally and removed the lid. I checked the meat. The meat was chewy, indicating it needed to more cook time. I left the lid off and turned the heat back on. It only took a few minutes to get it boiling again. I stirred the pot in about 5 minutes and it had turned to mush.

 

The MFG recommends not to add the time it takes to get the rocker moving in the cook time calculation. It had 17 minutes to build pressure, 25 minutes of cook time, 16 minutes of cool down time and 7-8 minutes of warm up and boil time with the lid off. These pieces of meat are small, 1/4 inch chunks when cut from partially frozen meat.

 

I have a photo of the pot when I opened the lid but I don't think we can add photos on this forum.

 

Thanks for your response Bill

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