This is our basic recipe, from which many variations can take place. Read our Chili Secrets for tips & tricks.
2 - 3 lbs (.9-1.5kg) inside or outside round roast, cut into roughly 1-inch cubes, excess fat trimmed
- oil to sauté (use grapeseed, canola, or virgin olive oil for high heat cooking)
- about 1 onion, 1 jalapeño, several cloves garlic, all finely chopped; some folks like green bell pepper, too
- a cup or so of broth, beer, red wine or water, for deglazing
- 1 large can plum tomatoes
- 1 small can tomato paste
- 1 - 2 cans black and/or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed very well (don’t tell any Texans about the beans)
- splash of an acid like lemon juice, red wine vinegar, or balsamic vinegar
- seasonings: salt, pepper, chile powder (mild, medium, hot), a dried chipotle or chipotle powder, roasted cumin, fresh or dried oregano
- secret ingredients: some folks like to add a pinch of unsweetened cocoa, ancho or habañero powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, coffee, Worcestershire sauce, mustard powder, liquid smoke
- finishing: brown sugar (or another sweet like maple syrup or molasses), ketchup (or barbecue sauce)
Heat a heavy bottom pot or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat, adding a tablespoon or so of oil. Brown the meat in batches until browned and beginning to caramelize on all sides. Don’t overcrowd the pan or the juices will begin to accumulate and boil the meat. Transfer meat to a slow cooker.
Reduce heat in the skillet to medium-low and soften the onion for a minute, adding a touch of oil if it’s sticking. Sprinkle a pinch of salt over onions to help pull out their juices. Add jalapeño, bell pepper if using, and garlic. Continue to sauté until veggies are softened and have absorbed all those beef juices. Splash in a little less than a cup of broth, beer, wine… whatever liquid is at hand, loosening up all the delicious brown bits with a spatula. Transfer to the crock pot.
Add the can of tomatoes with their juice, breaking into chunks with your hands. Add tomato paste, canned beans, splash of acid. Season with a pinch of salt (don’t over salt early) and pepper, dash of oregano and chipotle powder or whole dried chipotle, generous amounts of chile powder and cumin. Omit the chipotle if you’re a wuss. We will think less of you but we’ll be polite anyway. You can now add some of those secret ingredients if you want to - whatever floats your boat. Resist the urge to add more liquid. The meat and veggies will give up an amazing amount.
Cover and simmer for 5 to 8 hours.
Towards the end, smash some of the cubed meat against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon to break up. Now is the time to adjust flavours which usually needed. It’s very important to have many cooks stand over the pot, taste-testing frequently, offering opinions and advice... some of which you might take.
Serve chile with salsa in the bottom of the bowl if you like, shredded cheese and/or sour cream on top, and hot sauce for the adventurous or your unsuspecting, obnoxious brother-in-law. Serve with cornbread and a pilsner.
This is merely a launching pad. Make it your own family’s favorite!