Food & Drink

Making chili for the Super Bowl? Here are tips from some Columbia area pros

Get ready for Sunday’s Super Bowl with chili.
Get ready for Sunday’s Super Bowl with chili.

Super Bowl Sunday is this weekend. And in many households, that means chili.

If you’re curious about what makes a good chili or want to try your hand at your own chili recipe, look no further.

Certainly, there are disputes as to what constitutes “true” chili.

For example, beans or no beans? The pro- or anti-legume arguments can be fierce.

And are tomatoes allowed?

What kind of meat is best?

Fear not, chili heathens. We rounded up advice from past Palladium Society Chili Cook-off contestants to help you decide what’s what. While not definitive, here are some pro tips – offered before last year’s event and definitely worth repeating – for making the best chili ever.

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To bean or not to bean

“No beans. Cowboys went extinct some time ago and it’s only a matter of time before evolution will remove beans from chili.”

Jessica Shillato, Spotted Salamander Catering

“No beans. They are a great protein substitute in vegetarian recipes, but I would never include this in our mix.”

Chandra Williams, Ole Timey Meat Market

“With beans, of course. Without beans, all you have is a glorified tomato and pepper stew.”

Robert Walker and John Tjaarda, Rotary Club of Five Points

“Absolutely beans. I know it’s a sin in Texas, but in South Carolina, you better have beans. I don’t use many, and I prefer pork and beans the best - gives it a touch of sweetness.”

Jeff Hoskins, Nuclear Meltdown

“If you don’t have beans, you’re making something, but it ain’t chili.”

John Long, Slow Cook Mafia

Be nice with spice

“Heat is a gimmick. Your chili should have a kick to it, but too many chili-makers use heat to cover up a lack of flavor. It is the flavor that matters. Heat is secondary.”

John Long, Slow Cook Mafia

“When the heat overpowers the palate, you lose the ability to sense the rich, intricate flavors that a good chili should contain. Chili is a complex beast! Excessive heat masks the real flavor and makes me question the freshness of the ingredients.”

Chandra Williams, Ole Timey Meat Market

“I will usually have two levels of heat at a cook-off. One is mild enough for small children to eat, and the other one, well, the team name is Nuclear Meltdown, so...”

Jeff Hoskins, Nuclear Meltdown

Be consistent

“I encourage chili-makers to pay special attention to the consistency and texture of their chili. No one enjoys a watery cup of meat soup that flows off the spoon. It also should not contain large chunks of meat or vegetables that could become tough or dry.”

Chandra Williams, Ole Timey Meat Market

Keep your recipe simple, and write it down

“Don’t try to be cute. Chili is workingman’s food. It should be hearty and warm you up. Save your gluten-free arugula bean-sprout quinoa curds for another day.”

John Long, Slow Cook Mafia

“The most important thing is to document, document, document! How can you repeat an outstanding recipe or keep from repeating a horrendous one if you don’t remember what, or how much of something you put in it?”

Jeff Hoskins, Nuclear Meltdown

Use the right tools

“You must have a large plastic stirring paddle that reaches the bottom of the pot! If you are not mixing from the bottom, you risk scorching the base of the blend.”

Chandra Williams, Ole Timey Meat Market

“Not all chili powders are created equal. Some are blended, and some are pepper-specific. Just like anything else, you get what you pay for. Also, a strainer is a must. I always fry my meat with chopped onions and then strain the grease off before adding anything else.”

Jeff Hoskins, Nuclear Meltdown

“All you need to make perfect chili is fresh ingredients, a great recipe, a large pot, a long spoon, a slow flame and patience. John thinks beer is a bit of a necessity, too.”

Robert Walker and John Tjaarda, Rotary Club of Five Points

If you go

The Palladium Society Chili Cook-Off, a benefit for Historic Columbia

WHEN: 5:30-8 p.m. Feb. 11

WHERE: Music Farm Columbia, 1022 Senate St.

COST: $25 for Palladium Society members, $30 for Historic Columbia members, $35 for general public; $45 at the door. VIP packages available at additional cost for advance purchase only.