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Sara Hansen

11 Pro Tips on How to Cook Chili on the Grill

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.

In this article, we’ve put together 11 tips straight from pro pitmasters and grillmasters on how to cook chili on the grill perfectly.


Use a Cast Iron Dutch Oven

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. 


Fresh Is Best

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.


grilled tomatoes for chili | chili on the grill | grilled chili


Make Sure the Ingredients are Cut Small Enough

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.


Use a Variety of Different Spices/Liquids

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


Preheat the Grill or Smoker High Enough

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.


Cook Dry Beans Separately

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.


dry beans for chili on the grill | how to cook chili on the grill
Source: The Spruce Eats


Let the Chili Simmer

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. 


Make Sure the Chili Stays Covered While Cooking

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.


Don’t Be Afraid to Experiment With Different Meats

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).


Remove Excess Fat Before Serving

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.


Don’t Forget the Toppings!

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:

  • Shredded sharp cheddar or pepper jack cheese 
  • Sour cream 
  • Sliced scallions
  • Avocado chunks
  • Fresh jalapeno slices
  • Chopped cilantro
  • Crushed tortilla chips
  • Fritos
  • Broken saltine crackers

toppings for grilled chili | chili on the grill


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!


Try Out Grilled Chili Today!

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!


If you want to really elevate your backyard cooking skills, make sure to get our Championship Backyard Cooking Classes here at BBQ Champs Academy today! Taught by Champion Grillmasters and Pitmasters, these classes show you step-by-step exactly how to cook 20 delicious grilled or smoked recipes!

And if you want to start cooking competition-caliber barbecue, make sure to grab your All-Access pass today! In these first-of-their-kind online BBQ classes, you’ll learn exactly how to master several different cuts of meat in your smoker or grill, straight from the Pro Grillmasters and Pitmasters. With BBQ Champs Academy, you’ll get all the in-depth insider tips and cooking secrets like nowhere else!

Plus, to stay on top of all the latest insider info and competition BBQ news, make sure to subscribe to the BBQ Champs Academy YouTube channel today!

Sara Hansen

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