Cook the Book: Simple, Perfect Chili

Cook the Book: Simple, Perfect Chili

I have spent a happy, happy week cooking from Ree Drummond's The Pioneer Woman Cooks. Drummond has become a welcome and very pleasant presence in my house, especially when meal times roll around. Every single recipe that I have tested this week was not only incredibly delicious but very plentiful. The developed her recipes to feed a family of five and some hungry ranch hands, but my two-person household hasn't been this well fed in a while. The question of what's for dinner has turned into more of a what's not for dinner.

I made Simple, Perfect Chili a few nights ago—it's been feeding us ever since, and it only gets better. I made the chili using all of the optional ingredients listed in the recipe, but upon tasting it before putting in the beans, tomatoes, and jalapeño, I found that these ingredients are not really necessary. They do their part to bulk up the portion size, and add different textural components, but the all-meat chili is spectacular, possessing a richness that I've never encountered in any other chili recipe.

One of the secrets to this amazing chili is the addition of masa, a finely ground cornmeal flour common in Mexican and South American cooking. It acts as a thickening agent, but also lends a slight, very welcome hint of corn. Taking a lead from the masa, I was inspired to make a skillet of The Pioneer Woman's Skillet Cornbread. Both recipes were simple, pretty much perfect, and made enough leftovers to be enjoyed for many days to come.

As always with our Cook the Book feature, we have five (5) copies of The Pioneer Woman Cooks to give away this week.

  • Yield:6 servings


  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon ground oregano
  • 1 tablespoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 2 pounds ground beef
  • One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup masa (corn flour, found in the Mexican section of many supermarkets)
  • Optional Ingredients
  • 1 can pinto beans, drained
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and finely diced
  • 1 can diced tomatoes and chilis (I use the Rotel brand)
  • For Serving
  • Shredded cheddar cheese
  • Chopped onion
  • Fritos


  1. 1.

    Begin by measuring the spices: chopped garlic, oregano, cumin, cayenne, and chili powder.

  2. 2.

    Place the ground beef in a large pot and throw in the garlic.

  3. 3.

    Cook the beef until brown.

  4. 4.

    Unless you want to tick off your cardiologist, drain off the excess fat.

  5. 5.

    Pour in the tomato sauce, followed by the spices and the salt.

  6. 6.

    Stir together well, cover, and reduce the heat to low. Cover the pot and simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally. If the mixture becomes overly dry, add in 1/2 cup water at a time as needed.

  7. 7.

    After an hour, place the masa in a small bowl. Add 1/2 cup of water and stir together with a fork.

  8. 8.

    Dump the masa mixture into the chili and stir together well. Taste, adjust the seasonings, and all more masa paste and/or water to get the chili to your preferred consistency, or add more corn flavor. Add the beans, jalapeño, and tomatoes if desired. Simmer for 10 minutes.

  9. 9.

    Serve with shredded cheddar, chopped onions, and Fritos.