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BEST Prepackaged dry chili mix?

I would like to get a pre-made chili mix....
any suggestions ?

I hear CinChili has a good one....


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  1. Wick Fowler, one of the founders of the Terlingua International chili cookoff, makes simply one of the best - if you must go prepackaged.

    I am preparing to attend the event as I write this.


    11 Replies
    1. re: DallasDude

      Yeah, if you gotta go pre-packaged, Wick is the one. Although Penzey's chili con carne blend (a chile-free seasoning blend to which you add your preferred style and amount of chile) is also worthy.

      1. re: DallasDude

        You should read the book about it "The Great Chili Confrontation" by H Allen Smith. came out in 1967, I think.

        1. re: DallasDude

          Hey DD,

          I have seen that stuff for years, but never knew it was the founder of the cook off. The fact that it says 2 Alarm on the package has always made me ignore it - not that I buy a mix for my chili (have my own recipe), so is it really that spicy?

          I am so jealous that you are going. I would love to go to that cookoff at least once in my lifetime. Have fun and taste for me.


          1. re: danhole

            Tahnk you danhole. We will be logging the adventure somewhere in Chow. It is my first time as well.

            The 2 Alarm includes a cayenne packet that can be used whole or in moderation. I have used this stuff and it is extremely fresh and quality. The few times I have used the box, I beefed it up spice wise.

            Which begs the question... I am from texas where beef is king. However \, I use savory cuts of chunked pork in my chili. The end result is more flavorful and consistent. I have never had a complaint, and the only comments i get is "damn, I am going to use pork next time".

            Any thoughts? Pre-ground chili meat is horrid. Hamburger makes little sense to me.

            1. re: DallasDude

              The Wick Fowler approach is to package the components separately - a large envolope of mild chile, a small one of cayenne, another of salt, and even one of masa for thickening. I think the cumin and oregano are combined, though. I think it is a good way of getting started with a Texas competition style chili. It is easy to move on and use your own ingredients. You can pickup all these spices, for example, from the rack of spices in cello packages in the Mexican aisle of your grocery.

              I can't say anything about CinChili, other than what one can glean from the Throwdown episode.

              1. re: DallasDude

                So far I have used ground chuck, or ground round. Now that I have my recipe perfected I want to try it with chuck steak or round steak. I would have never thought to put pork in it, but there is a place here in Houston that makes a good burger with pork and ground beef.

                1. re: danhole

                  The cubed pork is greatness. They are firm on the outside and explosive juiciness on the inside.

                  1. re: DallasDude

                    I'd like to know more about the pork. Not sure this is the right board for that. Maybe you could mosey on over to the Home Cooking board and explain your pork method for chili.



              2. re: danhole

                I reiterate my note of above..read the book about the contest..it is hilarious and the Big Joke (that is to say, the "whole scheme") is wonderful.

                1. re: hazelhurst

                  I need to find that book. I googled it and found an article from Texas Monthly in 1992 about the chili cook off, that was great. Sounds like a rowdy bunch! Amazing how the art of chili can cause so much turmoil.

                  1. re: danhole

                    Smith, who was once a well-known humorist, went looking for the fight. He and Fowler squared off in Teralingua. You will see why rather quickly. There is chili history in it, beans v. no beans, fights about masa, etc. Smith lived, at the time , in Mount Kisco NY and much of the fun is the invective hurled back and forth from NY to Texas.[It is not giving away too much to report that Smith retired to Texas.]

            2. Actually, that looks pretty good. I was a bit concerned that it would be some kind of Cincinnati Chili mix, but if she won the Terlingua cookoff 2 years in a row, then I know for sure it isn't like that!

              7 Replies
              1. re: danhole

                Dani, CinChili comes from her name, Cindy Reed, a Houstonian, like ourselves. I've used it several times and will again if it ever gets cold. I'm lazy and use ground chuck, but other than that I follow it closely. It makes excellent chili. By the way, the last fifteen years of Terlingua recipes can be found at chili.org.

                1. re: James Cristinian


                  I figured that out when I went to the site! Glad to hear about someone who has actually used it. Can you buy it in town?

                  I think I have the chili.org in my bookmarks, but thanks. If it wasn't there before it will be now. Oh, and it is supposed to get cold very soon - wet & cold.

                  1. re: danhole

                    Dani, I make it from scratch, but she does sell mixes on her website, see op.

                    1. re: James Cristinian

                      From scratch? Where did you get the recipe? On chili.org? I saw the mixes. Just wishful thinking that I could find it in Houston.

                      1. re: danhole

                        Right, on chili.org. The main reason I picked her recipe, other than she's from Houston, was I had most of the ingredients on hand.

                        1. re: danhole

                          Cin Chili is available at Spec's downtown; doesn't she list other retail locations on her website? I've used it but it's too mild for me while Wick Fowler's overdoes the ancho.

                          I used WF for years but now make my own blend. The best ready to use mix I've found is Pecos Red, also made here in Houston, but very limited availability at retail, even here (Spec's has that, too). It's about twice as expensive as Cin which is more expensive than WF. Both call for hamburger grind meat but I ignore that and cube or use chili grind.

                          Both Cin and Pecos Red are more nuanced than WF.

                    2. re: James Cristinian

                      The cubed pork comes out quite awesome, try it if you can. Firm on the outside, explosively juicy on the inside. It takes less time to achieve the tenderness beef would.

                      The Cin threw me off, I had images of Cincinnati floating about my brain.

                  2. Carroll Shelby's mix is the best in my book. Oh so good. My mother took some to a chili party once, not realizing it was a cook-off. She won! Had to turn the prize down because she didn't make it from scratch, and everyone was shocked when she told them it was from a mix.


                    2 Replies
                    1. re: tzurriz

                      Second vote for Shelby's. Although I deplore the calmed-down (okay, dumbed-down) instructions - no more telling you to cut meat into pieces the size of your little toe - the ingredients include the best premixed chili powder I've ever tasted. Only thing is they tell you to add the chili powder after the liquid, while anyone who knows what's what knows enough to fry the powder in with the meat at the end of the browning process and THEN add the liquid. I made a pot of this with TURKEY one night for a club meeting, and our token Texan helped himself to three bowls anyway.

                      1. re: Will Owen

                        Another nod to Shelby's here. Makes chili fast and simple. And tasty!
                        Yes you add the liquid after the spices. Even this NYer knows that!

                    2. A strong vote for Morton's Chili Blend here.

                      1. I will add my vote for Wick's 2 Alarm Chili. I have been using it for years, when I want a quick chili. I don't use ground meat though. I finely dice some stew meat. I have also used diced venison steaks. Also where the instructions call for water I use beer.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: ChrisOC

                          Last time I used Wick's was with 'oriental cut' short ribs, and black beans. I don't normally use beans in my chili, but have found that with fattier cuts, such as the ribs or oxtail, the beans absorb much of the excess fat.

                        2. Don't laugh, but French's Chili-O mix has been my family's favorite for years (though Wick Fowler's is a close second).
                          As for the meat, course ground elk makes unbelievable chili.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: slewfoot

                            I second French's Chili-O mix. My mom used to use it. I use it,but add some extra chili powder and cayenne.

                          2. I really like the little package of McCormick chili seasoning. I actually use it to cook chicken in also even when im not making chili and it tastes delicious- just add a little sour cream

                            1. Where I live, we have several Hard Times Chili locations. I generally skip the restaurant and make their chili myself with the mixes.
                              My favorite is their Cincinnati style chile, but all are very, very good.
                              Highly recommend you try them!

                              ..I know this sounds like a commercial for them, but their stuff makes for great gifts for the chowh's in your life.

                              1. Williams is pretty good for a brand that's easy to find at the grocery store. One trick is to add a package of Taco Bell taco seasoning mix along with your favorite chili mix. Tons of Na but really tasty.

                                1. So far, I think the best prepackaged mix is Chiliman chili mix from faribault foods (or something like that). This recipe won Terlingua twice in a row several years ago. It has a lot of cumin and nice chilli flavor, but it's not bitter, or so hot it makes you sweat. Very earthy intense and profound flavor. My only issue is that I would use twice as much mix as the recipe calls for with the given amount of meat and beans.

                                  I just got wick fowler, mexene and morton's, so I'm planning on making a lot of chili and seeing if they are better than chiliman. I'll let you know my conclusions.

                                  1. I'll throw out a bone. Simply go on line and order some powdered New Mexico chilie, from Hatch or Deming. I find the flavor so superior, that by comparison, it tastes like the the mixes must use inferior chile and dump in spices to make up for it.
                                    I simply add the chile powder and some flour to the frying meat, then fresh diced garlic, salt and water and let it cook and thicken. The chile flavor is so sweet and smooth, I add no other spices. I have seen the chile light and will never return my old profligate chile mix daze.
                                    Praise the Lord and pass the chile.

                                    15 Replies
                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                      What I meant to say is that my favorite prepackaged chile mix is a bag of powdered Hatch red chile.

                                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                                        I've recently stopped buying pre mix chili seasoning, and begun grinding my own dried chilis, adding cayenne, cumin, paprika and chipotle in adobo. What would I notice as an improvement if I used Hatch or Deming? So far, I've been much happier with the homemade than any pre made mix.

                                        1. re: mcf

                                          What chilies do you use? These New Mexico varieties are different from Mexican dried Anchos or Pasillas, but not necessarily better. It probably comes down to taste.

                                          1. re: paulj

                                            I saw a bunch but I wasn't that familiar with all of them, so I bought straight up dried chilis., no name other than that. They had others, though. If they'd had ancho, Id've gotten some of those, too. I'll have to branch out over time, but I still have a bunch left to grind for future chilis. This particular store had guajillo (sp?), pasilla, I think, habaneros.

                                          2. re: mcf

                                            I just use New Mexico chiles aka Anaheims (a marketing ploy).

                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                              Really no cumin, though, not even at the end? I'd miss that. I'll never go back to mixed chili powder again, though. The homemade was not only better the day I made it, but kept getting better over the next days when we ate the leftovers from the fridge. I don't want to start with anyone else's ratios any more, especially when I have everything in the house to make my own, and it's better.

                                              1. re: mcf

                                                No cumin; the chile flavor is just sooo good.

                                        2. re: Passadumkeg

                                          I'm going to do that, P-keg. I think perhaps the reason I'm generally less than thrilled with chile is because of the whole more is better attitude. I know there are people who are like that about many foods and that's fine. But what you describe really sings to me. Thanks as always, kid.

                                          1. re: c oliver

                                            Remember, adding onion is just for Alamo lovin' Texans! Heh, heh, heh.

                                            1. re: Passadumkeg

                                              So, we're supposed to not love the Alamo? No, I don't use onions in mine, and certainly no beans.

                                              1. re: James Cristinian

                                                I was joking, a dig at a Texan chowbuddie, Dogracs. I have a Corpus SIL and a 1/2 Texan grandson.
                                                But please remember that if God had wanted Texans to ski, he would have given them mountains.

                                                1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                  I knew you were, but i always get my Yankee friends on this one. We have higher mountains than anywhere east of the Mississippi. We just don't have much snow. Think Terlingua chili cook-off and points north.

                                                  1. re: James Cristinian

                                                    Hey, I ain't a Yankee, my wife is, but boy is she a good chile eater! Better than my New Mexican SIL!. New Mexicans tell Texas jokes. A question in a History of the Southwest exam at UNM asked me to trace the history of Texas imperialism against New Mexico.
                                                    I do prefer New Mexico Sonoran style enchiladas to the Texas rolled one w/ the brown sauce. I live for my visits to Austin and my annual taco truck binge.
                                                    How high is the tallest Texican mountain. NM is over 13 k, Maine almost 6 k, but close to the sea and sea level. Best skiing in the east at Sugar Loaf, but lousy chile.

                                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                                      Walk me through the Sonoran enchiladas, sauce, meats, cheese, chiles. If you ever get to Houston we have taco trucks a plenty. Guadalupe Peak, near 8.8 k, 50 miles south of Carlsbad, plus Emory Peak, 7.8 k in the Big Bend. When you hit Austin, do you also do Lockhart for bbq?

                                                      1. re: James Cristinian

                                                        The New Mexican aka Sonoran enchilada is either red or green chile. The red is often a sauce of red chiles, pork, water, garlic and salt; fry the corn tortilla, ladle sauce, cover w/ grated cheese and diced onion; repeat for 2 or 3 stack; a fried egg on top is the coup de grace. Green chile is fresh roasted New Mexican (Hatch?) chiles, onion, garlic, water, flour (some add finely diced potato or pintos) and repeat process as for red; a dollop of crema or sour cream on top is a nice flourish. Yum.
                                                        Yes, Lockhart is a pilgramige, we prefer Smitty's. We also enjoy Cooper's in Llano and Charlies in Austin. Sitting out on the back porch at County Line in Austin ain't too shabby either.

                                        3. Williams makes a good chilli mix. You have to add your own salt. And the spice they give you specifies that is seasons 2 lbs ground meat. But I have always used it to season 1 lb. of meat.

                                          But now, I just use Penzey's or another good chilli powder. Its the same thing really. Or are you asking who makes a good chilli powder? In that case, Penzey's is very good.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: sueatmo

                                            Penzey's is very good, but they also have gorgeous dried whole ancho and chipotle peppers.
                                            I just picked those up to grind for my homemade chili seasoning. Now I have to get the ratios between ancho, chipotle and chili pepper just right.

                                            1. re: sueatmo

                                              I bought some of the Williams mix and found it to be very bland. I had to lots of extra chili powder, cayenne, and red pepper to give some taste. Maybe I got a hold of a bad batch?