5 Chili Secrets from the Pros

Want some chili?Want some chili?During these chilly months, it is the perfect time to make and eat delicious comfort foods. That's why in this episode of Blue Ribbon Hunter we traveled to Mesquite, Nevada in search of the king of all comfort foods...chili. The stakes were high at the Mojave Desert Chili Cook-Off as 32 competitors went head-to-head for the best chili. Among those competing were former World Champions and Grand Champions with safely-guarded award winning recipes. But lucky for you, we got them to reveal some of their chili secrets, and even got the full recipe from the winner himself, Mark Haught. Check it out!

1) Add a Prune for Gloss: Many competitors confessed that they use a prune (or raisins) to offset bitterness and add a nice gloss to the chili. But be careful, make sure to remove the prunes as soon as they begin to puff or else you will be chasing bits of prune around the pot trying to get them out!

2) It's All About Timing: Add your spices heavily and often. As the chili cooks, the flavors from the spices are escaping the pot. Make sure to keep your pot covered, and add your kicker late. You should aim for a mild spice throughout, and add a kicker in the last 15 minutes of cooking.

3) Temperature is Key: As the winner told us, one way to avoid bitterness is to cook your chili "slow and low". If you keep the heat low and cook it for longer, you are sure to avoid bitterness and make sure everything is cooked all the way through. It helps to have a thermometer to ensure your temperature since water boils at different temperatures at different altitudes.

4) Grind Your Spices: A great chili requires great flavor, and the best way to do that is with your spices. Get more out of your spices and chili powders by running them through a coffee grinder until they are the consistency of baby powder. This will bring out more of the flavor of the spices, and help them to absorb into the chili for a smooth sauce.

5) Experiment with a Variety of Chilies: Great peppers come from all over, and some of the most popular ones we saw in the Mojave Desert come from California, Texas, Arizona, New Mexico, and Colorado. Experiment with a variety for a stand out chili.

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Haught Dawg Chil
By Mark Haught

Cooking Time: 3 hours
Prep Time: 2 hours
Yield: 16 cups chili

Step 1
3 tablespoons California chili powder*
3 tablespoons New Mexico chili powder*
1 tablespoon Ancho chili powder*
1 cup hot water
1 cup hot beef broth
3 serrano chilies minced with seeds
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium sweet onion, minced

1. Combine all Step 1 ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a large pot and put pot over low heat while you proceed with Step 2.

Step 2
3 tablespoons olive oil
4 pounds trimmed tri tip beef, cubed in ¼-inch squares
½ pound hot breakfast sausage shaped into a patty

2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add beef to skillet, and cook until gray (not brown). Drain and rinse the beef, and add it to the chili pot. Allow the chili to come to a slow simmer, and add the breakfast sausage. Simmer very slowly for 1½ hours.

Step 3
½ cup hot beef broth
1 tablespoon California chili powder*
1 tablespoon New Mexico chili powder*
1 tablespoon cayenne chili powder*
3 tablespoons ground cumin*
1 teaspoon onion powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 cup tomato sauce

3. Combine all Step 3 ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Remove the breakfast sausage from the chili pot, and add the Step 3 blended ingredients to the chili pot.

4. Allow the chili to return to a very slow simmer and simmer uncovered for approximately one hour. The cooking time will vary depending on outdoor temperatures and altitude. The intent is to ensure the meat is cooked to the desired texture and the sauce is at the desired consistency. You may need to add water.

Step 4
1 tablespoon table salt
1 teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoon cayenne chili powder*
½ teaspoon Ancho chili powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon onion powder

5. Add the step 4 ingredients ½ hour before turning your chili in to the Judges. Adjust for salt as necessary prior to turning in to the Judges.

* * Mark's note: The various chili powders may be purchased from many local grocery stores. However, you will find that many of the common brad name chile powders have other spices mixed with them. I do not recommend them for competition cooking. A couple of good sources for spices can be ordered through the All Things Chili or
Pendery's Spices websites.