This Award-Winning Chili Recipe Will Make You a Hero
It is officially cold outside, and one of the best cold weather dishes I can think of is a big pot of homemade chili. It goes great with football, at tailgates, parties, or even just as a family meal that you want to stretch throughout the week. I recently shared a homemade salsa recipe, but it’s time to shift gears. There are two things that make chili such a great thing: it’s cheap to make, and you can easily feed a lot of people, or create multiple meals for your family with just one pot. If you don’t believe this recipe is good, I’ll let the comments be the judge. There are over 100 comments on this recipe already and most are talking about the gold medals and trophies this recipe won at their chili cook-off. If you try this recipe and win, be sure to come back and let me know!
So, what if I told you that you could feed a dozen people, or supply your family of four with multiple meals for three days all for under $25? Well you can, and you can do so even using steak! Vegetarians, you may want to look away now, because we’re going to be putting together a really hearty and meaty chili. If you don’t eat meat, I’m sure you could find something to substitute, and probably even save a good deal of money, but you’re on your own finding a recipe for that.
Anyway, I want to share with you a relatively inexpensive chili recipe, but not just any recipe. This recipe has even won awards at chili cook-offs. No, we’re not talking any national competitions you’d see on the Food Network, but this recipe and slight variations has won some top honors at a number of local events over the past 15 or so years. I stole the basis of this recipe from my dad, but shhh, don’t tell him. So, let’s start with the ingredients.
Ingredient List and Cost
- 2 x 28 oz. Cans of Crushed Tomatoes – 2 x $1.59 = $3.18
- 28 oz. Can of Brooks Chili Beans – $1.89
- Green Bell Pepper – $0.69
- Poblano Pepper – 0.26 lb @ $2.49/lb = $0.65
- Garlic – 0.10 lb @ $2.99/lb = $0.30
- Sweet Onion – 1.21 lb @ $0.88/lb = $1.06
- 1 lb Roll of Bob Evans Zesty Hot Sausage = $2.50
- Round Steak – 2.96 lb @ $3.48/lb = $10.30
- Worcestershire Sauce
- Tabasco Sauce
- Liquid Smoke
- Chili Powder
- Ground Cayenne Pepper
- Ground Coriander
- Salt and Pepper
These prices were taken from my grocery receipt from last week when making this batch of chili. In total, I spent $20.57 on everything. The only thing that was on sale at the time was the Bob Evans sausage, which was $1.00 off, so if everything was regular price, it would have been around $21.57. You’ll notice I didn’t include prices or add the spices to the total cost. The main reason is that most of these things are typical spices and ingredients that the average kitchen will already have, with the exception of liquid smoke. So, depending on how many of these ingredients you already have, you might not need to purchase any of them, or you may need to spend a few dollars to pick up a small bottle of liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce, chili powder, etc. In that case, you’d want to add anywhere from a couple, to maybe ten dollars or more to stock your pantry with these items. Either way, most are great ingredients to have on hand for dishes other than chili anyway.
Of course, your region may vary, and you may see prices for specific items significantly higher or lower based on availability or season. In addition, you may also be able to save even more money if you can pick up things on sale, especially the meat. Another great savings tip is to grow and can your own tomatoes. Not only will they probably taste better than from a can, but they are virtually free.
Preparing the Chili
Go ahead and chop those peppers. I don’t go too crazy in trying to get everything uniform since chili is a pretty rustic dish, but you do want them relatively small and manageable pieces. You can just use green bell peppers if that’s all you have, but I really like to use one bell, and one poblano pepper.
The same goes for the onions. Again, uniform size isn’t all that important because they will really soften up after cooking and be virtually shapeless anyway. I really like sweet onions for this for their milder flavor. Of course, go ahead and use whatever kind you have on hand or prefer. In this case, I used one large onion that weighed in a little over a pound. If you’re using smaller onions, you may want to use a few. I’d say after all said and done, it was around 3 cups.
Once you have your onions and pepper chopped, go ahead and mince up about 6 cloves of garlic. Then, throw everything into a big bowl. I have to stress the fact that it needs to be a big bowl, because not only are you putting all the veggies in here, but you’ll also be adding all of the meat and mixing it together for marinating a bit later.
Chop the steak into about half inch cubes. I typically find that round steak comes in big flat slabs that are around 1/2 inch thick anyway, so it’s easy enough to cut it into strips, and then cube it crosswise. As seen above, that is only about 1 pound of the 3 pounds total that go into the mix. It can take a little time to get through all of the chopping for this recipe, but your patience will be rewarded.
Once you add the chopped steak to the big mixing bowl full of onions and pepper, you’ll want to take the roll of sausage and break it up into pieces. At this point you’re not looking to do anything special with the sausage other than make it easy enough to work with. Don’t go and throw the whole log right on top since that will make your mixing job that much harder. Just break it up into pieces with your fingers.
Now comes the fun part! To your meat, onion, and pepper mixture, it’s time to add the seasoning for the marinade. To the bowl, add a few large pinches of kosher salt. I prefer kosher salt myself, but whatever you have is fine. If you are using regular table salt you may want to use less. Then, add a teaspoon or so of black pepper. For me, that’s about 20 turns on my pepper grinder. Now it’s time for the liquid components. We’ll be using both the liquid smoke and the Worcestershire sauce. No exact measurements here, but I’d guess about 4 or 5 tablespoons of Worcestershire and maybe 2 tablespoons of liquid smoke to start. Then, dig in with your hands! You need to thoroughly mix everything together. After you get things pretty mixed, you can determine if you need to add any more liquid. You don’t want a soup, but you want it to be moist and have everything covered. You can see from the image above how mine turned out after mixing everything together.
Now, we wait. Cover the bowl, and throw it in the refrigerator overnight if possible. You really want the flavors to get into the meat since that is the heart and soul of this recipe, but if overnight won’t work, you can probably get by with 4 hours. The longer you’re able to let it sit, the better it will be. I know, the smell that this mixture has created will fill your house with some of the most amazing aromas ever, but you’re just going to have to wait.
Cooking the Chili
After the mixture has had time to marinate, it’s time to begin the actual cooking. You’ll want the largest skillet you have to make this process go as quickly as possible. Remember, we’re working with nearly 4 pounds of meat and about 4 or 5 cups of vegetables. Even with a large skillet, it is impossible to brown everything in one batch. I know what you’re thinking, but don’t even try it. If you cram everything into the pan, you’re not going to speed anything up. It will take even longer to cook, and you’ll end up basically steaming the meat. So, work in batches. I have a 12-inch skillet that I used here and it took 3 batches. Each batch took about 7-10 minutes on medium-high heat. We’re not too concerned if the meat is 100% fully cooked since it is going to go into a pot and simmer for a few hours.
As your meat begins to brown, you’ll find yourself with something that looks like the picture above. Notice the liquid that’s coming out of the meat and veggie mixture. This is good! The last thing you want to do is to cook it so long that you boil this all away. You do want to have it reduce a little bit as to make sure you don’t end up with soup instead of chili, but this liquid that’s been extracted from the onions, peppers, meat and marinade is flavor that you can’t get anywhere else. So, it goes right into the chili pot. It doesn’t get better – great items and top brands at closeout prices at Cooking.com!
Once all of the browned meat is dumped into a big pot, you can add the entire can of chili beans. I insist on Brooks, but you can use whatever brand you happen to have. Then, add almost one entire can of crushed tomatoes. We’ll probably end up using close to the entire two cans of tomatoes, but you want to be careful and go slow with adding them, because it can turn from chili to soup very quickly. Remember, you can always add, but it’s very hard to subtract. So start with that, and give it all a good stir to check the consistency.
This is the consistency you’re looking for, although if you like your chili more chunky or more soupy, go for it. But I like mine to hold up well for dipping, but not so runny that you need to almost drink it.
Once you get the right consistency, it’s time for the seasoning. There is no exact science here, and you can really experiment with what works best for you. But you’ll want to start with about 2 tablespoons of chili powder, about 5 dashes of Tabasco sauce, and a teaspoon of both cumin and coriander. Top it off with a light sprinkle of cayenne pepper. Give it a good stir and see how it tastes. It will probably be pretty bland, and that’s fine. Again, it’s easier to add flavor, but nearly impossible to take it out once it’s in. So, slow and steady is the key here. After adding the first round of spices, add a little more of each, with the chili powder being the primary ingredient, and add just small amounts of the others. Keep doing this until the taste and amount of heat is right for you.
All you have to do now is let it simmer. At minimum, I try to give it two hours, but if you have four, that’s great. This long and slow cooking process really gives the meat a chance to become very tender, and all of the flavors and spices to come together.
Eating the Chili
And now it’s time to serve and eat! I like my chili a number of different ways. As pictured above, just a bowl with some shredded cheese on top is fantastic. Sometimes, if I want to make a little more of a meal out of it, we’ll whip up some corn bread. The chili also works great as a dip. I love to buy those Frito Scoops and just dig in with those. Or, consider topping your baked potato with some chili. The possibilities are endless, so you can either serve it all up to a group at a party, or use it in a variety of ways to feed your family for a few days.
Chili also stores quite well. It will last for about a week in the refrigerator, or if you want, put some in the freezer and thaw it out a month or two down the road. Since it is a bit labor-intensive and makes quite a bit, it doesn’t hurt to save some for eating later when you don’t feel like cooking and don’t want to spend money eating out.
If you enjoyed this recipe, be sure to check out some of my others:
- Homemade Salsa Recipe
- Crock Pot BBQ Pulled Pork Recipe
- Homemade Applesauce Recipe
- Grilled Potatoes and Sour Cream Sauce Recipe
Author: KC Beavers
KC Beavers is a semi-retired entrepreneur. The subject of personal finance has always fascinated him. In an effort to not bore those around him with all his love of personal finance as much he has come here to bore all of you instead.