Smoked Chili is made using one of the most delicious cooking technique ever: Smoking burgers to crumble and add to homemade chili. All it needs is some freshly grated cheese, a lil’ sour cream and, of course, Frito’s.
Chili has to be one of the best soul-warming foods you could possibly enjoy when it’s cold outside, and it has been made a bazillion different ways. I would love to say that I’m about to introduce you to a brand spanking new one, but I won’t because it really isn’t groundbreaking foodology.
It’s just kinda new to me because as much as it seems like a natural thing to do to chili, I just hadn’t thought about it until now.
It’s really so, so good.
Obviously, when it comes to changing up your chili repertoire, adding smoky flavor is kind of a given. There are a couple of ways one can accomplish this.
One is to smoke tomatoes, onions and peppers (including jalapenos, of course) and adding that to the pot with the beef. Another way to do it is to form your beef into burgers and throw those on the smoker.
The latter is the best way, in my opinion.
I know, I know, you’re probably thinking ground beef is ground beef, why go through all that extra effort?
But let me tell you, once you taste the depth of flavor that smoked beef adds to your chili, you will never go back to using regular ground beef again. Well…ok you probably will every now and then just because of logistics, but you know what I mean.
How to Make Smoked Chili
First things first, choose high-quality meat. I like a combination of chuck and sirloin for the perfect balance of fat and flavor, about half a pound each for a typical size pot of chili that calls for 2 cans of beans.
For a big ass pot to feed an army, double that.
Form beef into burger patties and refrigerate until ready to smoke.
Next, it’s time to fire up the smoker.
I like to use a combination of hickory and mesquite wood for a nice smoky flavor, but you do you. There are all kinds of different flavored smoking wood – pecan, cherry, maple, etc. Just play around with them and you’ll find your favorite.
Preheat the smoker to 225 degrees Fahrenheit and place the burger patties on the grates.
Now you get to sit back and relax (kind of) while the burgers smoke. It’ll take about 1 – 1 1/2 hours for them to be done, but trust me, it’s worth the wait.
They’re ready when they reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Keep in mind that the beef will continue to cook while in the chili, so no need in annihilating them.
Once the burgers are done, remove them from the smoker and let them cool for a bit. Then, using a fork or your hands (depending on how sassy you’re feeling), crumble them into small pieces.
Now it’s time to make your chili.
Heat a large pot over medium heat and add some oil or butter. Throw in your diced onions and peppers and sauté them until they’re soft.
Then, add in the crumbled burgers and any other ingredients you like in your chili (such as diced tomatoes, beans, spices, etc.).
Let the chili simmer for at least 30 minutes, or until all the flavors have had a chance to mingle and get to know each other.
I turn mine down to simmer and let it go for a while longer, about 20-30 minutes more.
Serve the chili hot, garnished with your favorite toppings (I like a little sour cream and shredded cheese). Trust me, the smoky flavor of the burgers will take your chili to a whole new level of deliciousness.
Combine ground beef with 2 tbsp (or packet) of chili seasoning; form into burgers and refrigerate until smoker is ready.
Smoke burgers until 160° fahrenheit. Feel free to add peppers to the smoker, to (I do). Let rest for about 15 minutes and crumble, then dice peppers.
Drizzle about a tbsp of olive oil in a large dutch oven or stock pot over medium heat; add onions and peppers and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Saute, stirring, for about 2 minutes.
Add crumbled beef, diced peppers, beans and tomatoes. Stir to combine and bring to a slow boil; reduce heat to medium low and cover. Simmer for 20-30 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.
Serve with cheese, sour cream and chips.
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