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Home > Food > Chili


Will Rogers called it the "bleesed bowl of red". Texas has laws about what you can put in it. Chili truly is an All-American meal.

Types of Chili

The most common type of chili consists of ground beef and beans in a tomato-based sauce. It can be found in restaurants and kitchens throughout the country.

Texas law prohibits putting beans in chili. A real Texas-style chili will contain nothing but meat, chile peppers, and other spices. While tomatoes are not strictly prohibited, they are not traditional as cowboys in the Old West did not have them.

Cincinnati-style chili isn't truly the chili most people recognize today. It's a cross between chili and an eastern Mediterranean stew served with spaghetti noodles.

Competition chili is used in chili cook-offs. Judges at cook-offs only get one spoonful of each type, so competition chili is much richer than chili made for a meal.

Cooking Chili

If a man can cook nothing else, he can make chili. There's no limit to the number of variations and it's nearly impossible to screw it up. At Manlyweb we believe that Texas-style is the only real chili. Not that there's anything wrong with beans, but serve them on the side, don't put them in the chili. The only required ingredients for chili are meat and chile peppers. Use this as your starting point and add other ingredients only as needed.

Beef is the traditional meat for chili, but that doesn't mean other meats don't work, venison can make a fine chili. While you can use hamburger, a better choice is coarse ground chuck, or (the ideal) lean chuck cut into half-inch cubes. Brown the meat in the chili pot, adding a little grease if needed.

The chile peppers can be fresh or dried. There a number of commercial mixes available for chili, however avoid using ordinary "chili powder". Fresh chilies should be cleaned, and the stem and seeds removed. Puree the chilies in a blender with a little bit of water. Be sure to rinse out the blender before making margaritas.

From this point you may need to add some liquid or thickening agents to bring the chili to the proper consistency. Chili should always be too thick to pour. Water and beer are common liquids, while flour and masa harina (corn flour) are good thickeners. If you're nostalgic for your old army days, you can use ground cooked beans as a thickener.

Other common chili ingredients include garlic, oregano, and cumin. Tomatoes and onions are also popular.

Serving Chili

While good chili is usually thick enough to make a spoon stand up, chili is not to be eaten with a spoon. Tortilla chips or, at least, soda crackers should be used to eat the chili.

Chili Competitions

Today's chili competitions draw their origins from a scheme by Carrol Shelby to help sell some land he had in Texas. Shelby had bought some land in Terlingua, Texas and had hoped to sell it to developers. Terlingua is in southwest Texas near the Mexican border and, at the time, had a population of about two people. Shelby was having problems selling the land.

Shelby's friend, Frank Tolbert, was trying to sell his new book on chili, "A Bowl of Red". They decided to solve both their problems with the first World's Championship Chili Cookoff, held in November of 1967 in Terlingua. They continued to hold the competition in subsequent years and, in 1970, the International Chili Society was born.




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