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Any Chile Experts? I made my first batch this weekend and have some questions

The base was cubed beef and pork which was browned and then stewed for a couple of hours in a medley of juices and spices.

Not enough time... it was tasty but could have used more time for the flavors to meld and meats to break down a tad more. Much better the next day. I simply had to rush it out last minute for a party and bought all the goods that morning, with only a few hours to prep and cook. The meat was OK, but I thought the initial batch was a tiny bit dry - not melt in one's mouth.

That said, I'm now wondering:

- in an ideal world, would you marinade the meat for a day or more ? If so, dry or wet?

- brine it? I know pork gets a lot of pro-brine nods but beef?

- most recipes ask to brown the meat first, which is fine if it's dry, but it can get soggy/steamed if straight from a wet marinade. Any tips?

- Even if the browned meat gets a bit dried, does it matter if it's left in a wet slurry overnight? Mine went from tought stew meat to silky, fall apart the next day. Is this science or just cooking it longer?

- Most chile recipes are simple and similar. What have you seen/done to change the playing field? Asian spices? Adding another layer of flavor such as mushrooms?

Thanks, Jon

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  1. I make with brisket, which I pressure cook first. This way you can have the chili ready in an hour or so. The meat shreds up perfectly. As far as unusual flavors, some of the things I add are horseradish, cocoa and cinnamon,tequila and lime juice.

    1 Reply
    1. re: coll

      I make mine with either short ribs, brisket or beef chuck. Like Coll, I don't cube it first, and I don't want it in cubes in the finished product. I bascially braise the meat (after searing to brown) in the pureed chiles/seasonings overnight. Next morning, sauce goes into a jar in the fridge (after cold, skim fat off top, then cook again to reduce some), and I shred the meat by hand and store in a platic bag. At night, put it all back together to simmer.

      IMO, "shreddy" cuts of beef give chile more depth.

    2. I will not claim to be an expert, but will say that chili always seems better the next day. And we make all kinds of chili including all kinds off odd ingredients. DH even likes to add peanuts or pineapple on occasion. I like fresh cilantro in white chili. And he made a shark chili once that was awesome! (Yes, I know chili purists will say these concoctions aren't real chili. Semantics.)

      1. "Barefoot Contessa" Ina Garten, I think it's in her Parties (or is it called Entertaining?) book, has the most delicious recipe for a chile made with chicken, tons of red peppers and tomatoes. I've never liked those chicken/white bean chiles. This chicken chile is fantastic. Even my dad loves it and he hates everything.

        1 Reply
        1. re: JaneWinston

          Good to know, I don't like white chicken chili either.

        2. --- No

          --- No

          --- Yes.. Don't marinate it! --- If you insist...DRY the goop OFF before you attempt to brown.

          --- Yes..It helps a little --- Both -- Cooking the meat longer to render it tender is science.

          --- Personally, I don't try to re-invent the wheel. Asian spices, and/or mushrooms have no place in my chili pot. HTH


          1 Reply
          1. re: Uncle Bob

            I think I'm going to set a record for all responses on all the chili threads on Chowhound ever posted, by agreeing 100% with everything the previous poster wrote. And that has nothing to do with the fact that we're both Bobs. ;-)

          2. The biggest change I'll make to a chili recipe is I'll make Cincinnati chili.


            1. Jon, Key answer to your question--Chili is always better after sitting for a day. BEst tip you'll recieve.

              IMO, Chili is just one of those dishes that you have to simply discover what your go-to style is. There are not any right answers (sorry Texas folks), but some wrong ones (like mushrooms, Asian spice NO).

              Plus, if you really enjoy it and hopefully arent stuck on liking one-way only, you'll learn there are regional variations to enjoy and that you should know how to make.

              Search this site or Food NW and get a feel for and copy some of the basic variations. That'll give you an idea for varied ingredients, of course. You want to look for regional favorites like Texas Red, Cincinnati style, meaty chili, no beans, with beans, Southwest style. HEck a Google for CHILI probably gets you to some recipe databases with them all. Try several that sound different that youre interested in and then zero in on developing your unique mix.

              One tip for your hip pocket---if your doing a chili that includes say crushed tomatoes or juice, you want to add a bit of sugar to taste to counter the acidic nature of the tomato. Some peoples trick is chocolate for the same reason. I also get some cinnamon in there thats not real detectable, but it does something nice to the overall heat profile of my brew,
              Good luck and come back and share what you come up with!

              1 Reply
              1. re: mtomto

                This is so true about tomatoes in chili. It can be too acidic w/out adding a small amount of sweetener. I often squeeze in a little honey as the chili cooks, after I taste for flavor. You don't want much though--just a little.

              2. Yes brown the meat. It adds flavor and texture, even after the meat stews and breaks down. Don't marinate the meat either. If you want, you can dry rub it a few hours before with chile powder. but nothing wet.

                My chile, using cubed chuck steak, maybe 1/2 inch pieces, takes about 2 hours or so to get the right texture. I brown in small batches, sautee onions and garlic and the chile powders and then add the beef back and some water/stock and simmer for roughly 2 hours

                2 Replies
                1. re: ESNY

                  I think it's key to fry any dry spices in fat, just as it is in a proper curry, before adding any liquid. Any chili, even one using only commercial chili powder, tastes much better that way than one in which the spices and liquid are added at the same time. This secret was imparted to me almost 40 years ago by a medical-implements salesman who could barely boil water, but he sure could make chili.

                  1. re: Will Owen

                    I agree, toasting the spices will greatly enhance their flavor, allowing them to bloom a bit.

                    I happen to do it while they're sitting on the meat, seasoning it.

                2. Always better the next day.

                  I make mine pretty much how you say, browned first, covered with water, and then cooked for about 2 hours. Don't use pork though.

                  Probably the single best thing to do, is get hold of some varied dried mexican chiles as well as some fresh. Not for heat but for flavour.

                  1. My chili recipe involves a six pack of corona that you consume to the last bottle and then add that to the mixture, put it in a crockpot and eat the next day to get rid of the haqngover. I call it my "una mas cerveza chili".

                    1. Hey! I thought this was going to be about chili peppers ( I like to grow many varieties) . Isn't it usually "chilli" for this dish? Might Google up more options

                      1. Chili, as in a beef stew cooked with lots of dried ground chiles, is normally spelled with an 'i'. This identifies it as an American (as in USA) dish, not something sticking close to Mexican roots.

                        I think it is good to start with a straightforward competition Texas style chili - finely diced beef, onion, garlic, lots of a mild-to-medium hot dried red chile, cumin, Mexican oregano, hot chile to taste. This lets the chile take center stage as the flavoring ingredient.

                        1. Chili is pretty basic. The slow cooking kind using beef stew meat or chuck is so beautifully simple. But the taste is in the details. Use plenty of chili powder, or make your own. Use tomatoes or not, your choice. Add fresh hot pepper early or late in the cooking--again your choice. Use beans or not, your choice. And in my opinion the quick hamburger or turkey chili is good too. And you get to make all those choices with it, as well. I agree with other posters; use several recipes to find your true preferences.

                          1. I don't marinade meat that I'm going to braise, which is basically what a chili is.

                            What would help, however, is to rub the meat with the spices and let sit, however long you can, to season them. Then brown in batches so they don't end up steaming. That method, in combo with deglazing the fond after browning, and then seasoning the chili again, usually while sauteeing the aromatics, and then again when the liquid is added, makes for a well seasoned result. Like a chili ought to be. Well-seasoned.

                            1. The only thing I can add to the wonderful recommendations hereinabove is this:

                              It seems so many people buy cheap meat with which to make chili. Chili is not a diet dish, and should not be made with meat that's at all lean. Also, if you can afford Angus beef then by all means, use it. Your palate will thank you.

                              Finally, *true* chili is, in our house, always eaten the next day.

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: shaogo

                                The cut of beef matters more than the breed. A lean cut like round will cook dry and stringy unless diced finely (or a coarse grind). Chuck, regardless of breed, usually has enough fat and connective tissue to make a good braise. In a braised dish, left overnight, the fat that is rendered from the meat rises to the top. The connective tissue, on the other hand, breaks down, contributing a wonderful mouthfeel or body to the stew.

                                1. re: paulj

                                  Hmm, I wonder how beef tendon would work in there, speaking of mouthfeel. Maybe 1 part diced tendon to 4 parts diced chuck. If only tendon were easier to dice :)

                                  1. re: Botch

                                    Beef shank makes a good braise, though I've used it more for an Italian peposo (black pepper and wine stew), than a SW style chili.

                                    Oxtail does great. This is one case where I like adding beans (esp. black), since they absorb some of the fat.

                                    I haven't worked with tendon, though I see all the time in the Asian grocery. How about cooking it whole (or in large pieces) and dicing after it softens?

                              2. >There are not any right answers (sorry Texas folks), but some wrong ones (like mushrooms, Asian spice NO).

                                I will speak for the Texas folks. :) No marinade, no brine, heck, I would say no pork, just beef. I like pintos on the side only. Real Texas chili has beef, onion, garlic, chili powder, oregano, cumin, no tomato. I like to use poblanos (fresh) plus a mix of powders, including ancho. Brown the meat. Thicken if needed with masa. I also add beer and sometimes just a touch of cocoa. Not cinnamon.

                                And, no pineapple. It may be "good," but it's not chili! /thus endeth the sermon on real Texas chili.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: cocktailhour

                                  I will second this. It is very close to the Texas State Prison receipt. It is my fav.

                                2. chili is one of those things that cannot be made asian-fusion. NO. i honestly don't think mushrooms would work either.

                                  keeping it simple is the easiest and best thing - i change up my chili recipe a little depending on what i have but i like certain ingredients to be in there, e.g.

                                  chopped white onion
                                  lots of chopped garlic
                                  half browned ground beef
                                  half browned cubed and floured flank/brisket (no marinating)
                                  half red beans (soaked overnight)
                                  half black beans (soaked overnight)
                                  good-quality crushed tomatoes
                                  chili powder (the kind with cumin, not asian chili powder)
                                  beer (even the crappy american kind is fine, just not light)
                                  cocoa powder or dark chocolate (don't overdo it)
                                  lots of chopped cilantro
                                  oregano (mexican)
                                  chopped canned jalapenos
                                  brown sugar (to even out the acidity of the tomatoes and jalapenos)

                                  i don't have a particular recipe, but the above are usually all in there. i like half black beans because it gives it a really rich color. i've done some unconventional things too, like sub half the crushed tomatoes with a can of campbells tomato soup (because it's sweet and thick-ish, so you don't have to worry about flouring your brisket cubes or adding sugar to it). a touch of espresso powder is also cool when it's handy, or a spoonful of adobo, just for that touch of bitterness and smoke - adds complexity.

                                  of course, it's got to cook for no less than three hours, very low. tastes better the next day, freezes well.

                                  i have no idea whether this is authentic by texas/cincinnati/ other "chili states" standards, considering i spent most of my life in SE asia, but it tastes good to me :D

                                  2 Replies
                                  1. re: madkittybadkitty

                                    You can also use masa flour mixed with a bit of water (slurry) to thicken your chili if it appears a little thin. Works great.

                                    1. re: madkittybadkitty

                                      However you could make a Korean style beef stew that is heavy in the chile pepper seasoning.