Here’s to you – Chili Cook-Off Competitors



chili potIf you have ever sat down and turned on a cooking competition like Top Chef, Chopped, or Master Chef, you know that things get pretty heated in the kitchen, literally!

From the clock counting down, to the contestants slicing and dicing, to the smack talk, these shows and competitions get pretty intense. I can attest from my own personal experience that trying to make a gourmet dish under the pressure of judges, an audience, and a time limit can make things pretty stressful. Nonetheless I thrive under the pressure and like most people, enjoy a healthy amount of competition.

In just a few weeks our very own Valley locals will get to experience this hectic environment by participating in the annual Chili Cook-Off. This is a competitively driven activity to help kick off Cattle Call and the Rodeo. Individuals and teams alike will congregate together to bring the heat as the recipes they have tested and perfected all year long will be tasted and critiqued to ultimately crown a victor.

I feel as though a competition like this, a true Valley tradition, makes participating and winning even more special. People have been participating in the Chili Cook- Off for years and recipes have been passed down through generations. And chili is something that can be tweaked so many ways, based on personal preference that it is hard to share a recipe that is guaranteed to win. So this week, rather than share a chili recipe, I thought that I would share some tips and methods that one may want to consider when making chili.

It should be understood that while most chili these days has beans in them, true chili typically only has meat. I personally like the combination of the meat with the beans and as long as the rules don’t specify you can’t have beans.

When it comes choosing a meat for your chili, I would choose beef of some kind. Chili is supposed to be somewhat thick and warm, and fill you up. While chicken can certainly do that, it just doesn’t have the same effect or flavor. Now, if you do decide to choose beef, you have two options: 1) go with a mixture of ground beef and sausage, or 2) go with actual cuts of meat from a tri tip or roast, something that you can get good solid little chunks from.

As far as pre seasoning the meat, stick with something simple that you have mixed on your own. I like to just use some garlic, salt, pepper, and a bit or oregano. I mix all of these spices first to get them equally balanced before rubbing it on the meat. If you prefer, you can marinate the meat in a liquid base overnight as well.
And finally, when cooking the actual meat, be sure to have the meat at room temperature before putting it into the pan. If you put it in the pan when it’s still cold, you risk over browning the meat.

Use a variety of beans. I like to use black, pinto, and kidney. Canned beans are easy and convenient, but fresh are always better, so if you have the time, make up some fresh ones.

Chilies and Vegetables:

As with beans, fresh is always better. Try to pick up some fresh chilies and tomatoes and whatever vegetables you may want to add.

I recommend cooking your chili low and slow in a pot on the stove. If you are allowed to begin cooking a few days in advance do that as well. Chili should be cooked a minimum of a few hours before being eaten, but ideally a day; that way it has time to set and really absorb the flavorful goodness you have added. Secondly you should cook the meat first. This will help cut down on the overall time it will take to make the chili, as well as help the meat soak up whatever seasonings you added to it initially.

Now that you have a few tips for making chili, it’s your turn! So find your favorite recipe or create a new one. The countdown to the chili cook off is underway!

Good Luck!