Texas-style chili con carne is the subject of many debates. Beans or no beans? Tomatoes or no tomatoes?
My thought on the subject is that Texas-style chili doesn’t have any beans in it, but tomatoes ought to be in there.
With that being said, if you want beans in your chili, put em in there. It doesn’t seem very Texan to tell a person how they’re supposed to eat their supper.
Manners are more important than what you put in your chili.
What chili con carne is, is simple. It’s just a beef stew loaded up with a lot of chiles.
The key to making it taste excellent is to use quality ingredients and treat them well. By cooking each component properly and adding a small amount of salt to each, we can build the flavors up to be greater than the sum of their parts.
You can get away with not toasting your chiles, but to really bring out their flavor, don’t skip this part.
Toasting your chiles will add complexity, bringing out their natural flavors and adding a bit of smokiness.
To toast your chiles, peel and seed them, then press them onto a hot comal or pan with a metal spatula for a couple of seconds on each side.
As you toast your chiles, you’ll notice the color lighten up slightly. Just be careful not to burn them. That’ll add a bitter taste.
In addition to toasting your chiles, after you have pureed your chiles with some chicken stock, you’ll need to press them through a medium-mesh sieve.
I only take the time to strain chile puree when I’m using guajillo chiles. Sometimes their tough skins don’t break down very well.
Use Cubed Beef Instead of Ground
Most people use ground beef for their chili con carne. That’s fine, but cubed beef top round is much better. If you want to use ground beef to make it easier on yourself, be sure to get coarse ground beef so that you’ll have some texture.
If the beef top round isn’t prepared correctly, it can come across as dry and overly tender in a stew.
What you’ll do is cook it in two batches to prevent overcrowding the meat (you don’t want to steam it instead of searing it).
You’ll preheat your dutch oven over high heat, add the oil and wait until it’s almost smoking, then add one-half of your cubed beef. It’ll stick as soon as it hits the pan. That’s okay, just give it a few seconds and it’ll release.
After it has cooked for about thirty seconds, it’ll start releasing moisture. Keep cooking and stirring until it has completely evaporated, then cook an additional 2 or 3 minutes, stirring constantly, to get a good sear on the meat.
Don’t worry if it looks like the meat has toughened up. It’ll absorb moisture and soften back up as it braises in the chili.
Salt Each Layer
People don’t realize that each element of a dish needs to be salted separately. If you don’t, then one part of the dish will be full of flavor, and another part will be bland.
In a couple of different steps of this recipe, you’ll be asked to add a pinch of salt. Just use three fingers to pinch salt out of the container.
For me, one pinch generally equals about one-third of a teaspoon.
Additionally, be sure that you are salting with Morton’s Coarse Kosher Salt. This is the salt that most recipe developers work with, so it’s good to keep on hand.
Not all salts are as salty as others. This is due to the grains’ size and shape (learn more in Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat by Samin Nosrat). For reference, table salt is about twice as salty as Morton’s Kosher Salt, and Morton’s Kosher Salt is almost twice as salty as Diamond Crystal Kosher Salt.
Avoid Iodized salt in any form. It’ll add a metallic flavor to your food, and very few people in the industrialized world have any issues with iodine deficiencies.
Use Canned Tomatoes
Chili is generally a wintertime food. As such, sourcing decent tomatoes is virtually impossible. Winter tomatoes are usually flavorless and not much use for anything.
On the other hand, canned tomatoes are generally packed at the peak of their freshness and offer much more flavor. Opt for a high-quality canned tomato (you usually get what you pay for).
Sazon Goya, the Secret Weapon
Sazon Goya is the secret weapon in your chili.
I like Sazon Goya con Culantro y Achiote for the addition of the achiote (annatto) and coriander. It adds a little extra flavor and deepens the red color of your chili (people eat with their eyes first).
The real ingredient in Sazon Goya that elevates the taste of your chili is monosodium glutamate (MSG), one of the most common amino acids in nature.
In foods, MSG enhances the savory, meaty umami flavors, which in this case, will make your chili taste even beefier.
I know MSG has a bad reputation, but there is no real evidence that it’s as evil as it’s made out to be.
If you feel you might be sensitive to MSG, leave the Sazon Goya out of the recipe.
What to Serve With Your Chili con Carne
As I said previously, if you like beans and want them in your chili, do it. Food is meant to be enjoyed. Anybody that doesn’t like it can sit in the corner and eat crackers.
Here’s some other things that go great in a bowl of Texas-style chili:
- Diced avocado: The creaminess balances the chile peppers nicely.
- Chopped white onion: White onions will add a fresh crunch.
- Chopped green onions: Green onions will add more of an herbal quality than white onions.
- Cheese: Cheddar, queso fresco, Monterrey jack.
- Saltines or Fritos: Fritos are my weakness.
- Flour tortillas: Bonus points if you heat them on a cast-iron comal.
- Bread. Chili and masa cornbread or pan de campo is an excellent combination.
Texas-Style Chili Con Carne
- 3 dried ancho chiles
- 3 dried guajillo chiles
- 3 dried pasilla chiles
- 1 cup chicken stock
- 2 tbsp. vegetable oil
- 2 lbs. top round roast - trimmed of fat and cut into 1/2" cubes
- 1 large yellow onion - finely diced
- 1 large red bell pepper - finely diced
- 2 large jalapenos - finely diced – remove seeds and veins if you want milder chili
- 1 tbsp. ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper - (optional)
- 2 tsp. Mexican oregano
- 1 tsp. kosher salt
- 6 large garlic cloves - minced
- 2 15 oz. cans fire roasted, diced tomatoes
- 1 tbsp. tomato paste
- 1 12 oz. can Kolsch style beer - I prefer Lawnmower from Saint Arnold Brewery. Substitute an American Pilsner if you can't locate it or another Kolsch.
- 2 packets Sazon Goya - (optional)
- 1/3 cup masa harina - for thickening
- Preheat a dry cast-iron comal or pan over medium-high heat. Stem, seed, and de-vein the chiles. Toast the chiles on each side for 2-3 second by pressing them onto the comal with a metal spatula. Add to a pot of simmering water and soak for 20 minutes.
- Drain the chiles and transfer them to a blender jar, along with 1 cup of chicken stock. Blend on high speed until very smooth. Press through a medium-mesh sieve. Discard any solids left in the sieve.
- Add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil to a large dutch oven and heat over high heat. Once the oil is very hot, add one-half of the cubed beef and a small pinch of salt. Cook, stirring until the meat has released its moisture and it has all evaporated. Sear, stirring constantly for an additional 2 minutes. Remove and set aside. Brown the other half of the beef, remove and set aside.
- Reduce heat to medium high, add 2 tablespoons of cooking oil. Add the diced onion, bell pepper, and jalapenos, and a small pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, 10 minuntes, until the onion is translucent and starting to brown. Add tomato paste, cumin, cayenne, oregano, and cook, stirring constantly, an additional 1 minute.
- Add the diced tomatoes, beer, and Sazon Goya. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and cook for an additional 3 hours..
- Sprinkle the masa harina all over the top of the chili, then thoroughly stir it in. Cook an additional 10 minutes, then stir thoroughly again. Serve.