5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Chili

5 Mistakes to Avoid When Making Chili

Kelli Foster
Jan 26, 2015
(Image credit: Guy Ambrosino)

Over the years I've come to learn that chili recipes are a very personal thing. And most people have some pretty strong opinions about how they make their chili — what exactly gets added, and what does not. I can't think of many other dishes that get people feeling so passionately.

There are, however, a few basic universal chili-making dos and don'ts. And with the Super Bowl right around the corner, there's no better time to check your chili-making IQ than right now.

1. Not browning the meat first.

Raw meat and pot of chili are two things that don't belong together. If the recipe includes any type of ground meat, bacon, chorizo, or cubes of beef, it should always be browned first.

Try this: The first order of business before adding anything else to the pot, is to brown any meat in your recipe. This important step adds a caramelized flavor that simply cannot be replicated by simmering on the stovetop or in a slow cooker.

The exception to the rule is chicken chili, which typically calls for the meat to be poached alongside all the other ingredients.

2. Not making your own chili seasoning.

The most flavorful chili starts with a really good spice mix. Not to be confused with ground chilies, often labeled as chili powder, this is a blend of ground chilies and other seasonings like cumin, garlic powder, and oregano.

Try this: Instead of the list of spices that always tends to vary between recipes, start here. Making your own chili seasoning is the single best thing you can do for better chili. Regardless of where it's cooked and whether it's meaty, meat-free chili, Paleo, or keto, start with your own chili seasoning. Use as little or as much as you like to flavor the chili to your taste. And best of all, once you have a jar mixture together, it will carry you through several batches of chili.

Make your chili seasoning with this recipe: How To Cook Simple & Tasty Slow Cooker Chili

3. Seasoning at the end of cooking.

Herbs and spices are key to flavoring chili, but if you wait until the end of cooking to add them, you're missing out on a ton of flavor.

Try this: Season early and season often! If you add seasoning early on, the flavors with mingle together and develop an even richer taste while the chili simmers.

4. Not cooking the chili long enough.

There are a lot of recipes for "quick weeknight chili," and they're good, but they're not exploding with richness and layers of flavor like a pot of chili that's been simmering for a couple hours. Great chili needs time to draw out the flavors from each ingredient and blend them together.

Try this: For a great chili with deep, rich flavors, cook it low and slow. I like letting my chili simmer over low heat for about two hours.

5. Not adding some acidity at the end.

Your chili has been simmering all day long, so it should be ready to ladle into bowls the second your pull it off the burner, right? Not so fast. While all that time on the stovetop or in the slow cooker has made for a deep, spiced aroma, the long cook time often results in a flat flavor that benefits from some acidity to perk it up.

Try this: Adding just a teaspoon of vinegar — either apple cider or sherry vinegar for chili — or even a squeeze of lemon or lime juice for taco-inspired chili, not only brings a bright tang to each bite but it may make the beans easier on the digestive system.

Cozy Up with Our Favorite Chili Recipes!

Your turn! What are your best tips for making chili?

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