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What makes a good chili?

Just went to a chili cookoff.. I'm not really much of a chili expert but I found myself wondering what makes a good chili? I'd love to try my hand at making some now. It was also interesting to see what people put in them. Someone added apricots and cinnamon to their chili..
So what makes a great bowl of chili? Anything interesting you use to make your chili different from everyone else's?

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  1. As a chili "purist" I would have to say NO BEANS! In Texas the real chili does not have beans! I think the beans came about during the depression to stretch the budget.

    Having said that, I won't give you my recipe, but I will say that good meat, leftover black coffee, beef broth, and a bit of bakers chocolate make my chili really good! You should look at some authentic Mexican chili recipes for more ideas.

    1. I've tasted a few chili-cookoff chilis, and much of it has been edible, some pretty good...but I remain convinced that the recipe that comes with the Carroll Shelby brown-bag chili kit, very simple and straightforward, is about as good as you'll get. The only thing I do differently, and this I insist on, is that after the meat has browned I sprinkle the chili powder over it and stir and fry that for a while before adding any liquid.

      Anyone mentioning CHILI on any of these boards, as I'm sure we'll find out, is just asking for a lot of conflicting and very strong opinions: beans or no beans, tomatoes or not, onions or green chiles or not. I remain agnostic in that I'll use any or none of these things as I please, and whatever meat (beef, turkey, pork, whatever) I want at the moment. I would sooner open a can than face chili with apricots in it, or cinnamon if it comes to that, but it's your chili you're interested in, not mine. Make yourself happy.

      1. I like beans in my chili, as well as both ground and cubed meat (whether red or white chili). The various textures make for a better mouthfeel. I also use both fresh and dried peppers, which vary on availability and mood. And when making a good spicy red chili, my SO likes to add raisins for a touch of sweetness. I thought it was weird, but it's pretty darned good. Kind of like Cincinnati style, which uses cocoa and cinnamon.

        1. Enough heat to make it exciting, enough flavor to keep it interesting. My personal "secret ingredient" is chilpotle peppers in adobo sauce, the kind that come from Mexico in little cans. Plenty of flavor AND heat!

          1. My chili is never really the same twice but it always includes Guajillo chili peppers and sage.