Characteristics of the Great Chili
The criteria for judging chili at cookoffs sanctioned by the Chili Appreciation Society International is defined by Red Color – Aroma – Consistency – Taste- and- Aftertaste. Let’s use that framework to more closely examine what makes an award-winning chili.
Chili, also known as a Texas bowl of red, gets its red color from the chili powders or ground chilies used in the recipe. Depending on the peppers that are used, there is a wide range of red, from bright red to brownish to very dark. However, the chili must have enough of the chili powder so it does not appear grey.
With a well-balanced recipe, the chili will have a pleasing chile pepper aroma without any off-flavors.
The chili should appear as a smooth combination of meat and gravy. From time to time, competition cooks have diced their meat into small cubes, used chili or coarse ground meat, or simply used ground meat stirred carefully so as not to reduce it to mush. During the cooking process, care should be taken to completely incorporate the spices into the liquid so the gravy is very smooth.
The taste of a winning chili is one that highlights the chile blend with no particular other flavors apparent in the taster’s experience. A good chili will include onion, garlic, cumin, and a variety of other spices. However, it will be so well balanced that none of those individual spices can be tasted.
There’s lots of attention given to heat when people discuss chili. Award-winning chili will have a warmth that does not interfere with the rich flavor. Rather than flame-throwing heat that takes your breath away, good chili will have a comforting warmth that blossoms after you taste the chili and envelopes you with a pleasant feeling. Chili should be simmered at a low temperature so there is a clean finish to the flavor.
To experience the ultimate people-pleaser, the taste of award-winning chili, grab a small can of tomato sauce, two pounds of ground beef, and a pack of Pure Texan Chili.