One saying we definitely agree with is that “a grill just makes everything taste better”. This also applies to chili! If you want to elevate your chili to a whole new and even more delicious level, try cooking it on the grill. You can easily impart that great sweet and smoky flavor into the meat and veggies of the chili and kick the flavor complexity up a notch.
Plus, grilled chili makes a great option for a large backyard gathering or tailgate party because it’s so easy to make and feeds a crowd.
To cook chili on the grill, you need a heavy-duty pot to use that can withstand the high heat of the grill/smoker. Kitchen pots often have plastic parts (usually on the handles) that can be damaged in the heat. Cast iron is always a great option for your outdoor cooker and a cast iron dutch oven will work perfectly for your grilled chili.
If you do not have a dutch oven and don’t want to buy a new one, you can use a large pot but absolutely make sure it is grill-friendly.
As with many things that are cooked on the grill, the fresher the ingredients the better results you are going to get. So, for your grilled chili, try and avoid canned items as much as you can. Instead, opt for fresh tomatoes (to make your own grilled tomato sauce), dried beans, fresh peppers, etc. The extra work will definitely be worth it.
It’s important to make sure that your veggies (and pieces of meat if you are using something like steak and not ground meat) are cut small enough. So, chop onions, peppers, jalapeno, and other similar items into ¼-inch pieces before they go into the pot. If you are using grilled steak or chops, cut those into ¾-inch cubes.
One of the best things about chili is the robust, meaty flavor profile. So, don’t be afraid to use a variety of different spices and liquids to build a complex and delicious flavor. Remember, besides meat, the base of your chili is going to be tomato. So, think of things that will complement both tomato and meat flavors.
Besides salt and black pepper, of course, some other good examples include chile peppers (especially chipotle peppers), minced garlic, paprika, cumin, oregano, cayenne seasoning, beef broth, and even ale.
For best results, you want to preheat your grill or smoker to at least medium heat, which is between 350 and 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Before you add the soft/liquid ingredients (tomato sauce, broth, water, vinegar, etc.) you have to partially cook the other ingredients.
So, at this higher temperature, the meat will properly cook through, the veggies can be grilled and softened just enough, and you’ll get that delicious char-grilled flavor. Then, you can move on to adding the liquids and seasonings to the pot with the meat and veggies and lower the temperature to finish cooking the chili.
Dry beans do not cook very well if they are cooked in/with acidic foods, like tomatoes and onions. By cooking your dry beans separately, they will end up with a better texture and won’t get too mushy. So, just make sure to wait to add the beans to the tomato mixture until AFTER they are cooked.
Source: The Spruce Eats
Once the meat has been browned and the veggies softened, add your remaining chili ingredients (except beans, see above) and lower your cooker’s temperature. The temperature should be lowered to between 250 and 300 degrees Fahrenheit. At this temperature, you should let the chili slowly simmer for about an hour to an hour and a half to cook the rest of the way.
A good rule of thumb to follow is to add the cooked beans to the chili once it has simmered for at least 60 minutes. Then, let it simmer for about 20 minutes more with the beans.
Understandably, the smell of your chili cooking on the grill will be intoxicatingly delicious. But, to cook properly, it has to stay covered except to stir it occasionally. So, make sure you’ve got a tight-fitting lid on your dutch oven/pot.
Ground beef is the most commonly used meat in chili. But, don’t be afraid to try different meat options in your grilled chili. Some other good options include diced steak, diced pork chops, ground turkey, bison (ground or chunked), or venison (ground or chunked).
Sometimes, depending on the type of meat you use, once the chili is almost done and ready to serve, you may see some fat that has risen to the surface. This is totally normal. Just use a spoon to gently skim the surface of the chili to remove any excess fat before serving it.
No chili is complete without some good toppings in each bowl. So, make sure to have an array of toppings available so people can get creative and discover their favorite combination. Some good chili topping options include:
To round out your chili meal, you could serve it with grilled corn bread or focaccia bread and a fresh tossed salad. Don’t forget dessert either! While you are cooking the chili you could be cooking a delicious grilled dessert as well.
Check out our article on grilled desserts for a bunch of great ideas!
Compared to stovetop cooking, cooking chili on the grill is still super easy but will help elevate the flavor as you’ve never experienced before. You may even end up saying that chili was meant to be grilled in the first place!
By following the pro tips we’ve covered above, you can help ensure that your grilled chili turns out perfectly every time.
Have you cooked chili on the grill before? Do you plan on trying it soon? Leave a comment below and tell us all about it. We want to hear from you!
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