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Chili 911

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OK Hounds, I really screwed up this time! While watching some Oklahoma cook make his signature chili on that "diners and drive-ins" show, I got the idea to just throw everything together in a pot; meat, spices, onions, garlic, even whole canned tomatoes, and start slow-cooking without browning the meat first (as I have always done my whole entire life.) The way this guy on TV did it, the meat seemed to break up into small granules, and his chili (minus beans) got dark and red and smooth and rich and delicious looking. I must have missed a step, because my chili is, as you might predict, pale, greasy, and disgusting looking, as it has no color except kind of pinkish-grey (I used beef and pork.)

Do I just cut my losses and throw this mess in the garbage, or is there any way to salvage it? Does anyone else here skip the browning step and get all the color from chili powder, tomato sauce, other ingredients? I really wish I had a dog.

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  1. I'm sure others will chime in, and I'm not an expert in chili, but I would start with a dark beer -ale -stout (such as Guiness) and slowly mix some of that into about 3 tablespoons of unsweetened cocoa powder to form a paste and then add the paste and the beer into the chili, plus enough water to give you the ability to skim off a lot of the fat from the surface, and then cook down for several hours until it reaches a stew-y consistency. It should have darkened quite a bit by then.

    1 Reply
    1. re: weezycom

      I agree with weezycom. I also keep a jar of instant coffee in the cupboard (I don't drink coffee anymore, by the way) just for times when I need to darken the color. Just a tsp. or 2 drastically changes and darkens without imparting any real flavor (I do this to gravy's all the time if they do not get dark on their own - and nobody in the family has ever noticed).

    2. LIke weezycom, I'm no chili expert, but this is what I would do if I were you.

      Drain the liquid from your failed chili, then brown the meat in your skillet. Set that aside.

      Then, in a stockpot, add some tomato paste, bbq sauce, a dark ale of some sort, chili powder, diced tomatoes and onions, and whatever other spices you normally use, and cook it. Bring it to a boil, and then let it simmer for about an hour, then add the browned meat that you made earlier and simmer for another hour so, and see if you it works.

      1. The recipe is on the Food Network site. you cook the meat with water for 5 hours, then drain it, and then add the rest of the ingredients. It calls for tomato sauce, not whole tomatoes which couple with the chili powder and cayenne, is probably where the color is coming from.

        1. Actually I just started cooking my chili without browning the meat first. I just throw everything in the pot and mix and let it cook for a couple of hours, and mine doesn't turn gray. I did this because I wanted to get a smooth chili, like for hot dogs, burgers etc. Mine comes out just fine. I use tomatoe sauce, chili mix etc. and like I said mine comes out fine. If the taste is there, add some tomato sauce and maybe some more chili powder and spices. Good luck.

          1. How long have you cooked it?

            How much ground chile have you used? What kind?

            In my experience most of the color in chili should come from the chiles. A generous amount of ancho chile (ground or rehydrated paste) should give a good dark color from the start. A couple of hours of cooking, especially in a low oven, should deepen that color.

            3 Replies
            1. re: paulj

              Guess what, it kind of developed more color just as it continued to cook. The worst part was we tasted it and the grease level was just WAY too much. I poured off what I could, strained what I could, but the chili is very "fine" or 'smooth' as paprkutr said, so I wasted a bit down the drain, but saved a lot.

              Yes, most of these suggestions definitely sounded "right," i.e. I might have tried them on my own, just wanted to see if it was possible! Goody, because I hate throwing away food! And Paulj, I have to admit I use a prepared chili powder.

              Browning in the oven, more chili, tomato sauce or paste, cocoa, coffee, stout, all great suggestions which I will choose from and try tomorrow. Awesome ideas folks. Thanks for all your help.

              So far I love the level of spice I used and the fine grain of the meat cooked this way, but I'm not sure I would do it again. Unless I used a meat with a VERY low fat content...aha, maybe ground turkey breast! I'll let you know the final result, however, with this fatty beef and lean ground pork version.

              1. re: quichelorraine

                First thing I'd try is to refrigerate it overnight, then lose the fat.

                1. re: Spot

                  Exactly. You should have just refrigerated it and tomorrow lift off the congealed fat. I use a 90% ground beef, because that is the leanest that I can get. If you like the taste and texture, then do it again, and just make it a day ahead. Enjoy