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My cook team at my Unitarian church will be hosting a chili contest tomorrow evening.  I haven't heard yet how many contestants might be bringing chili, but we have three categories - red, green and vegetarian.  Seeing as how this is Colorado, we may very well have a mixture of game meat and domestic meat in those pots.  I expect to eat very well tomorrow evening, in part because I'm in charge of judging the contest.  I'm looking for ideas and suggestions from one of the great deliberative bodies on this planet, the Daily Kossack Army, for how to make the judging fair and entertaining.  I've seen the cooking shows on TV and while I prefer the Barbecue ones just due to my own favorite food, I'll try and incorporate some of the ideas and feedback of the other shows in our judging.

I am not looking to feed trolls, but I'd also welcome ideas for people's favorite chili recipes or accompaniments.  

We will have three judges.  Two have been on our cook team for a decade, the third is someone who has been a long-time member of the church and also is a frequent participant in the church dinners.  We will have to set up in a room aside from the main buffet area so we don't catch hints as to whose chili is whose.  I don't think we'd play favorites, but I really want this to be as neutral as possible.  We will have someone bring in chilis for us to sample and I figure we'll sample the same one at the same time rather than having a selection and we choose our own order and perhaps have that affect the judging.  I'm also thinking about how to cleanse the palate between samples.  I'm used to the idea of milk in putting out fiery spice, but the cook team lead suggested soda water (?!?).

Please put in comments below suggestions for how you would judge this and any links if you want to online resources.

My thanks in advance for the feedback.

11:22 AM PT: I totally forgot to provide a link to one of the funniest stories about judging a chili contest - is just one source for this.


My favorite type of chili is (or contains)

45%11 votes
25%6 votes
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4%1 votes
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| 24 votes | Vote | Results

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Comment Preferences

  •  My personal chili has a variety of (12+ / 0-)

    beans and sometimes a variety of meats.  I try and use as many different types of dry spices and sauces like Tabasco as I can find in my kitchen, thinking variety, the spice of life, is best.

  •  I have no clue how (7+ / 0-)

    to judge other than not to be a pompous arse like some of the ones you see on teevee.

    When I'm alone, I just make vegetarian chili and start with a variety of dried beans, brine them overnight, saute the holy trinity (chopped onion, celery and carrot) and then add the homemade chili powder --  to which I add, along with the ground cumin, a bit of cumin seeds.  Then I give a look see what hot peppers I have and can add.  Then how much ever canned plum tomatoes and cook it down in a slow oven overnight.

    Jalapenos have been dumbed down for the American palate.  So, to them I add a bit of habenero and next I will try a bit of my dried thai peppers.  In a pinch I use hot pepper flakes.

    I sometimes serve on pasta or rice and always top with shredded cheddar or colby or both, a dollop of sour cream and diced red onion.

    The seltzer "clean the palate" sounds dodgy as it is basically water and will do nothing for the hot pepper oils.  Maybe some yoghurt with diced cucumber like the Indians have figured out.

    Have fun!!

    " My faith in the Constitution is whole; it is complete; it is total." Barbara Jordan, 1974

    by gchaucer2 on Tue Jan 07, 2014 at 07:36:50 AM PST

  •  palate cleanser (7+ / 0-)

    The conventional wisdom seems to be that water does little to subdue the heat.  Alcohol supposedly does, but that might be problematic in a judging situation.  Dairy, perhaps a glass of milk or a bit of cheese on a cracker, might work.

    Perhaps you could ask contestants to rank the spiciness of their offerings, so that you can start with the milder ones and work up from there.

    For my part, chili is one of the few things I've never used a recipe for. It's a little different each time I make it, and it's always pretty good. I brown some cubed meat, usually beef, but sometimes game. Then some diced onion, followed by some chopped chipotle peppers in adobo. Season with chili powder, cumin and oregano. Add some tomato, usually canned chopped or pureed, whatever I have on hand. Add one beer, preferably something hearty. Add some beef stock.  Simmer for a few hours, skimming fat as needed.  About 45 minutes before serving, add some canned beans (usually kidneys, but I used black beans the other night and that worked.)  Serve with hot sauce, sliced scallion, shredded cheese and sour cream.  Also, toasted pumpkin seeds if you can get them.

  •  FWIW, I took a chili made from a recipe (5+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ColoTim, DerAmi, blueoasis, Crider, viral

    in a Boy Scout cookbook.  It was voted Second Hottest and Second Mildest out of 10-15 chilies.  Go figure, maybe Presbyterians must have whacked out taste buts...

    “that our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions, any more than our opinions in physics or geometry.” Thomas Jefferson

    by markdd on Tue Jan 07, 2014 at 07:59:36 AM PST

  •  We Love Jill Richardson's "Orangecloud's" (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BadKitties, ColoTim, DerAmi, viral

    crock pot vegetarian chili recipe. I don't have it in electronic form on this machine, maybe someone will have it. Must be 5+ years ago that she shared it here.

    Basically it uses beans and barley to get the complete protein, and an onion & a green pepper chopped up for some veggie, and individual spices along with chili powder.

    If I have some time to dig it out later, and nobody's shared it, I'll look up this diary and post it.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Tue Jan 07, 2014 at 08:02:21 AM PST

  •  My essential ingredients! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    BadKitties, ColoTim, DerAmi, viral

    I love a 50-50 mixture of ground beef and pork chorizo sausage.

    Use beer instead of water--the malt brings out the flavor of the beef.

    I start with the Carroll Shelby spice mix and add finely chopped onion, garlic, and poblano pepper--generally a whole poblano for 2 pounds of meat. I use about half the cayenne pepper packet, none of the salt packet, and all of the masa flour packet. Instead of draining the can of beans and using water to make a paste of the masa flour, I just dump the undrained beans and the dry flour into the chili pot, and stir it all up there.

    And don't forget this essential:


    "The true strength of our nation comes not from the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals." - Barack Obama

    by HeyMikey on Tue Jan 07, 2014 at 08:05:16 AM PST

  •  The Secret's in the Sauce (5+ / 0-)

    My two secreta for every pot of chili, no matter what the recipe, add equal parts dark molasses and cider vinegar.  Correct for balance, depending on the other ingredients.  And always brown the meat with the onions for fully developed and married flavor.

    Readers & Book Lovers Pull up a chair! You're never too old to be a Meta Groupie

    by Limelite on Tue Jan 07, 2014 at 08:10:44 AM PST

  •  I was in a chili cookoff once =) (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ColoTim, DerAmi, viral

    The first batch I made turned out so well that DH and his friend Donny ate the whole pot :( The second one wasn't quite as good and came in fourth :(  Out of 10.

    The chilis were on a table and numbered. The judges entered after they were all set up. I don't remember what was used for palate cleansing, but the yogurt and cucumber sounds perfect, also arranging them in order of heat, if possible.

    I'm embarrassed to admit that I use Wick's, omit the red pepper and salt, add more cumin and chopped green chili (canned or 505), ground turkey instead of beef, chopped onions, kidney or black beans, a can of no-salt diced tomatoes, tomato paste, and do add beer once in a while instead of water. Also Mexican oregano and Penzey's Florida seasoned pepper. This wasn't the cookoff recipe. I actually made that from scratch, but I was a newlywed and didn't have kids. Had time, then, to measure and fiddle and taste repeatedly. Now I dump ingredients in the pot and that's it. I usually make it on Sundays and it cooks for at least 4 hours.

    "I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do because I notice it always coincides with their own desires." -Susan B. Anthony

    by BadKitties on Tue Jan 07, 2014 at 08:14:48 AM PST

  •  Our company had some chili cookoffs to celebrate (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    DerAmi, viral, BadKitties

    Cinco de Mayo or a Mexican Heritage month (or something like that) for a few years before it was acquired, and the new company just didn't do it again  until last year.  I think the makeup of the campus changed, becoming more Caucasian and less Hispanic.  The categories were red, green, vegetarian, game/exotic, and chili most likely to start a fire.  I tried it one year, but in a company with nearly 2000 people on the campus and several hundred samplers, it was a lot of money for the ingredients and I was by myself rather than part of a team to share the expense.  Several tables (including mine) were decorated, there were costumes for some teams and the organizers had arranged for a local high school's mariachi band to come entertain.  Some entries were just plain crock pots on bare tables, quickly empty of ingredients and out of the running.  

    I can't remember where my "Gringo Chili" finished, but it was a popularity contest for the most part, and my small team was at a remote campus so any votes I received were truly for taste.  When I went around tasting others, I never found a chili that I felt was very hot, but I was tempted to enter the next year and just use ghost peppers and so scald the taste buds that there would not be any doubt about the winner in that category.  I never did do that, though, because I'm not mean enough to spring that on people and having enough samples as well as the milk, sour cream, crackers and other adulterants would just make something already expensive prohibitively so.  I'm also losing my ability to tolerate really hot foods, so that also kills the enjoyment.  Or rather, makes me pay again later.

    They had the contest again last fall, but since there didn't appear to be a charity benefactor (I think they decided upon one after the posters went up) I chose to sit it out.

  •  I'm getting hungry! (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    And I am keeping my recipe secret.... for now.

    However, my favorite version at this time involves using whole cuts of meat (usually beef), diced into small cubes and marinated with spices and Bourbon.

    This better be good. Because it is not going away.

    by DerAmi on Tue Jan 07, 2014 at 08:38:19 AM PST

  •  Longest list of ingredients (5+ / 0-)

    That would be a possible fun category or most unusual ingredient voted on by hand at the end by the attendees.

    The key to my chili is to cook the spices in the oil with the onions and beef.  I have thrown in leftover coffee, mini-chocolate bars, cinnamon, ground coriander and even cloves.  A dark malty beer is preferred if used.

    As for palate cleansers, Gogurts would be handy.

    Just give me a good patch of dirt and I'll show you growth and well-being!

    by kfred on Tue Jan 07, 2014 at 08:58:01 AM PST

  •  In-between treats (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ColoTim, blueoasis, viral, BadKitties

    Get some bland cheese, such as mozzerella or even cottage cheese to take the burn off, and eat a plain soda cracker too.

    "Societies strain harder and harder to sustain the decadent opulence of the ruling class, even as it destroys the foundations of productivity and wealth." — Chris Hedges

    by Crider on Tue Jan 07, 2014 at 09:11:32 AM PST

  •  Vegetarian Chili! (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ColoTim, viral, BadKitties

    This recipe is the best:

    ◦    2 medium zucchini, chopped
        ◦    1 medium onions, chopped
        ◦    1 cup chopped green peppers
        ◦    1 cup chopped sweet red peppers
        ◦    3 cloves garlic, minced
        ◦    3 tablespoons olive oil
        ◦    2 (28 ounce) cans Italian stewed tomatoes, cut up
        ◦    1 (15 ounce) cans tomato sauce
        ◦    1 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans, drained
        ◦    1 (15 ounce) cans black beans, drained
        ◦    1 jalapeno peppers, seeded and chopped
        ◦    1/4 cup fresh cilantro, minced
        ◦    1/4 cup fresh parsley, minced
        ◦    3 tablespoons chili powder
        ◦    1 tablespoon sugar
        ◦    1 teaspoon salt
        ◦    1 teaspoon cumin
        1.    In lg pot, saute zucchini, onion, peppers and garlic in oil until tender.
        2.    Stir in all remaining ingredients.
        3.    Bring to a boil.
        4.    Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

    I usually leave out the sugar and the jalapeño.  Once I had a party and served 4 different kinds of chili (white chicken, and turkey, ground beef)  and the veggie one was the favorite.  

    It's the Supreme Court, stupid!

    by Radiowalla on Tue Jan 07, 2014 at 09:27:27 AM PST

  •  The Pot of Chili Is On The Stove Right Now (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ColoTim, viral, PeterHug, BadKitties

    I had just taken the dog out into the 10 degree weather and came back into the house. The smell was divine.

    Since this is Cincinnati I have added a little cinnamon to the chili. That's what makes it Cincinnati Chili. The rest is a basic Betty Crocker recipe that I have amended over the years.

    It is a good night for chili! Good luck in the judging. By the way, my chili won at a church soup contest about a decade ago. I was pleased that the chili was not disqualified as a non-soup.

    Dog Poop More Popular Than Congress! Alan Grayson

    by wild hair on Tue Jan 07, 2014 at 12:42:37 PM PST

  •  I sautee the meat, onions, garlic, celery, spices (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    and chili powder along with a good dollop of curry powder all together to get a more complex and richer flavor. I also like my chili soupy rather than thick. By day 3 I might add some elbow macaroni for a version of chilimac.

    •  Day 3. Wow. What do you cook this in? (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Then also do you use additional liquid?  If I tried doing this in the dry Colorado climate, I'd have dessicated bits crusted to the bottom of whatever pot I tried using.

      •  Sorry. lol. It's day 3 of leftover chili. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        And I add to the meat mixture a large can of whole peeled tomatoes in juice and beer. The tomatoes get roughly chopped. I let that simmer for an hour or two. Then I add some cans of light red and dark kidney beans depending on how much meat I started out with. I don't use a recipe so I'm constantly evaluating the flavor.

        I love chili so I freeze as much as I can. But by day 4 I do get tired of it.

  •  Good luck to you re contest. I would bring (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Beano, antacids, yoghurt, French bread and milk to cover all the bases. Beer as well.

    Write another diary to let us know how it turned out...the highs, lows, pitfalls, the absolute worst...what's it like to have chili breath for days on end.

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