Although related to our bbq efforts I realize that some folks who come to my bbq page might not want to read about chili too. I created this separate tab on the blog to make it easier for visitors to navigate between the two types of cooking.

We're new to traditional competition chili (i.e. without beans). Anything I do here, say here, or pictures I post here should be taken with a grain of salt because we are still learning. I have found the world of competition chili is not as "friendly" to new cooks as competition bbq was when we started. Chili cooking methods appear to be closely guarded secrets, so we are learning through trial and error. If you are an experienced chili cook and we are "not doing it right", please forgive us while we learn the ropes.


I am planning to enter a couple of chili contests in August in the State of Ohio. I'd rather stay closer to home in Michigan, but there aren't any chili contests here until later in the fall.

Here are the two contests I plan to enter:

Buckeye Regional

CaJohns Facility
Westerville, OH
Regional Contest

Ohio State
CaJohns Facility
Westerville, OH
State Contest

We haven't entered the salsa category previously, but I think Linda is wanting to give it a try the next time around.


Linda and I traveled to Livonia, Michigan today for the state chili championship cookoff. It was only our second Inernational Chili Society (ICS) contest, so although we hoped to improve upon our previous results our expectations were not unrealistic. Last fall we competed in the Michigan Regional event in Plymouth to get our feet wet in ICS competition.

We arrived early to the event and got everything unpacked and set-up. After about 30 minutes Linda remembered that we didn't bring the medium onion for chili verde,a  jalapeno for chili verde, and or a serano for red chili. I remained surprisingly calm at the revelation though because it was 90 minutes until the cook's meeting.

Not being familar with the area it took longer than expected to find a grocery store and the Kroger I found did not have a jalapeno in the entire produce department. Errgh! Come to find out, if I'd simply turned right out of the parking lot instead of left the grocery store was 1/4 mile down the road. It was a larger store and would have certainly had a wider selection of produce. :-)

The calm before the action started
We are generally more comfortable with verde chili, since it uses pork, but our red chili is coming along. The goal was to keep the verde consistent without excessive salt and to thicken the "gravy" for the red. Our verde was very good, but the red ended up overly thick. Being new to chili contest cooking, we rely heavily on our recipes. It turns out some simpe adjustments with chicken broth or beef broth would have thinned things up and a few extra dashes of the pepper spice mix and we could have improved our results with red.

We ended up encouraged with the results overall. We finished mid-pack in verde and the comments on red were primarily restricted to the gravy being too thick. Not one judge said anything negative about the flavors although a couple said the verde was "mild", but I don't take that as bad because a certain amount of personal preference comes into play for the judges. Three judges had very positive comments and on judge called it "The Best" of the verde.

With 7 or 8 World Champions in the field out of 32 entrants, I was satisfied with our results. We were satisfied with the results. We just need to cook some mroe events to help flatten the learning curve. If I get a chance to attend a judges training, I plan to take advantage of the opportunity.

Our neighbors across the aisle.


We'll be getting back to bbq on the blog later this week, but for the past few weeks I have been preparing for my initial attempt at competition chili with the International Chili Society (ICS).

We arrived at the contest at 7 a.m. and based on my experience cooking in Kansas City Barbeque Society (KCBS) events I expected to be assigned a cook site. With ICS, the cook sites are apparently first come first serve. I actually like it. The forecast called for rain and it's been a little cooler weather-wise this weekend, so the ability to choose a cook site toward the interior of the of the overhead shelter was a bonus. It was definitely warmer at our site than in some of the cook sites toward the outer edges of the chili cooking area.

Moving on to the cooking experience....

We had our site set-up finished by 8 a.m. and we started getting to know our neighbors. The competitor to the left made the drive to Plymouth from Cleveland. He has cooked 8 or 9 events to date. The team to our right made the short trip from Belleville and has been cooking competition chili contests for more than 30 years.

We started off with verde chili prep. I chose pork loin "chops" instead of the more traditional pork loin. At first I wasn't sure about the choice, but after reading the comments on the judges cards I don't think made a hill of beans difference. The majority of the comments said the verde chili tasted good, but that the gravy was "thin". I need to learn a little more about the goal thickness for the verde "gravy" before we try it again.

A view of the crowd of chili fans

Moving on to red chili prep near mid-day we pulled out the bottom round sirloin and commenced prepping. In practice we cooked top sirloin, but for the larger amount of meat needed for the contest I opted for the less expensive bottom round for a savings of $7.00 per pound. Yes...per pound.

We were closer to goal with the verde, which I'll attribute to cooking bbq pork quite a bit. I'm still learning about red chili and will be the first to admit that I have a lot to learn. One of the comment cards said the red was too "bitter", but I won't get too upset about it because no one else mentioned anything similar about bitterness. One judging card did say the red lacked "chili" flavor, which I do find hard to believe because I used 13 TBSP of various types of chili powder.

Red chili turn in sample

Based on the samples we sold to the public, we could have sold a lot of verde chili samples if we'd had more available. The female festival goers definitely favored the verde chili to the red chili hands down. I'd estimate a 8 to 1 ratio...maybe even greater. I was surprised that several people kept asking if we had any vegetarian chili available. I'm not the brightest bulb at times, but I'm pretty sure that the definition of chili includes meat :-)

To wrap up the day after the awards ceremony, the cooks were invited into the judging tent to check out the judging cards and they were actually given the opportunity to sample entries turned in earlier in the day (something that would never happen at a bbq contest). I saw several people sample a few bites from the "finals" table. I didn't try any of the entries, but could have if I wanted to.

Looking for ideas to use my current abundant supply of jalapenos I decided to make some "green" chili today. is the home page for the International Chili Society's (ICS) competition information. In ICS competition, beans are not allowed so my chili would be something a little different than the typical "home-style" chili I'm used to eating this time of year.


Green chili sans beans

My attempt at chili verde was loosely based on Gambler's Chili as published on the ICS website.

1. I started with 2 lbs of pork loin chops purchased at Meijer that I cut up into small 3/8 inch sized pieces. I browned it in skillet with a small amount of olive oil for 10 minutes and then drained the liquid.

2. I added 1/2 a jar of Green Salsa, 2 cups of chicken broth, 1 cup of finely chopped onion, and 1 cup of finely diced green pepper to the pork and continued cooking for 1 hour.

3. I added the spice mix (see below) and continued simmering.

Spice Mix

1 medium sized clove of minced garlic
2 ½ Tbsp Watkins chicken base
1 tsp celery salt
1 Tsp Arrowroot
2 tsp Mexican oregano
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp jalapeno pepper - diced
1 Tbsp dried cilantro

4. Then I added 14 oz of canned chopped green chili's and simmered for another 30 minutes.

For my personal tastes, the results were pretty good. The pork was very tender. Some might like a little more heat or salt, but that's easy to regulate by adding a dash here and there for your preferences. Beans can also be added, if you like your chili "homestyle".

One option for adding some heat using jalapenos is to cut them lengthwise and drying them on the lowest heat setting in the oven. When they are dried out, they can be ground up using a coffee grinder and used as a powder.


Red chili aka chili without beans
This was my second weekend spent working to develop a contest-worthy-chili recipe. Last week left me a little disappointed, but this week's result turned out closer to my expectations.

I have searched and searched on Google images for what ICS contest chili is supposed to look like with very few results, so I am still unsure whether I am getting closer (or farther) from competitive quality.

Last week I tried to some inexpensive sirloin cuts labeled as "stew meat" on the package. This week I purchased a $15 package labeled as Top Sirloin and the texture and tenderness of the chili was much better.

I feel much more comfortable with the level of heat in the chili too, but that is the area I most unsure about. If a judge is just eating a one bite sample the chili can stand to be a little hotter than if eating an entire bowl (i.e. cup).

Next week I'll be working on a green chili recipe.


Types of ground peppers I use in my chili:

Pasilla: 250 - 3,999 Scovilles

Chipotle: 2,500 - 8,000 Scovilles

Santa Cruz mild (finely ground red peppers) from

California mild (finely ground red peppers) from

Other peppers I use:

Jalapeno: 2,500 - 8,000 Scovilles (I buy them whole, but I also grow, dry and grind my own from by backyard gardening efforts.)

Serano: 5,000 - 23,000 Scovilles (I buy them whole, but use them sparingly)

No comments: