The Best Chili Ever. That's a bold statement. But then again, chili is a bold dish. Sure, you can make do with some powdered chili powder, a hit of cumin, some ground beef, and maybe a can of beans and tomatoes chucked together in the slow cooker and come up with something you can dip your chips into, but if you want the best, the kind of chili you'll eat bowl after rib-sticking bowl, then some extra care is in order.
How do we get there? By optimizing flavor at every step. In place of chili powder, we use a blend of fresh dried chilies. Instead of grinding them, we soak them in chicken stock and purée them for optimum texture. Rather than ground beef, we start with big chunks of bone-in short rib, seared whole (for optimal browning), then roughly chopped in the food processor to deliver a wide range of textures. Beans aren't required for great chili (and indeed, many folks would say that beans would exclude you from the running in the chili game), but if you want them, we show that soaking them in salt water is the way to go.
Finally, we bump up our flavor with a combination of unique spices including star anise, cloves, fennel, and coriander (all toasted before grinding, of course), along with coffee, chocolate, and a pinch of Marmite, soy sauce, and anchovies (aka the Umami Bombs). A dash of bourbon and splashed into the pot at the end helps get all those wonderful volatile aromas you've built up out in the air and up your nose where they belong.
More work? Yes. Worth the effort? Absolutely. This is the chili that's gonna win you contests left and right.
About the author: J. Kenji Lopez-Alt is the Chief Creative Officer of Serious Eats where he likes to explore the science of home cooking in his weekly column The Food Lab. You can follow him at @thefoodlab on Twitter, or at The Food Lab on Facebook.