BBQ Smoked Chili

By | December 17, 2011

Smoked ChiliDecided to try out the new Savannah Stoker controller by cooking up some beef for chili. note: This is not Texas chili. It has beans and other stuff in it! Ingredients:

  • 3 lbs of stew quality beef (chuck, anything that will break down is good). I used some “bulk -buy” chuck that I had bought several weeks ago, chopped into large chunks and frozen for later use in 16oz bags.
  • Chili powder, 1-2 Tbsp per pound of beef, to taste. Mild or hot, your choice depending on your guests
  • 2 medium onions, yellow or white
  • 4 14.5oz cans (or 2 @ 28+oz) of diced tomato (this is a very tomato rich sauce. Cut back and replace with water for less tomato taste)
  • Several cans of kidney beans. I used about 4 14.5oz cans per recipe.
  • Salt, Pepper to taste
First, fire up your pellet grill or smoker, and set it to a good low smokey temperature. I used 170F for this recipe, use whatever you like. Let your grill settle in while you prepare the meat.

Start by making large cubes of your beef, 2+ inches each. We want to smoke the beef, not cook it through! Add a bit of chili powder, just enough to coat it lightly

raw meat

  Next, put the meat on the smoker. I use FrogMats to keep the beef from getting stuck on the grill, and to avoid smaller pieces from wedging down through the grate.  We’re going to leave the meat on the smoker for about an hour.

meat on the smoker

While the meat is smoking, prepare the rest of the ingredients: Dice and brown the onions in the bottom of a large stock pot, using a small amount of butter or extra virgin olive oil (EVOO). I prefer to use a low heat, cooking them to semi-translucent, more of a “sweat” than “browning”. If you prefer to caramelize them to a darker brown, that’s good too! With the onions done to your liking, add the diced tomatoes. If you prefer a more traditional, purist chili, reduce the tomatoes and add about half the capacity back using water. Adjust later to taste.

onions and tomatoes

Add the chili powder. My wife likes mild chili, both not to strong nor hot. I prefer stronger, spicier. For mild chili flavor, use 1 heaping Tblsp per pound of raw meat. For stronger taste, use up to 2 Tbls per pound. Vary the chili powder type from mild to hot based on your preference for heat. Experiment! Bring the tomato/onion/chili mix to a low boil and reduce to a simmer while waiting for the meat. After about an hour, the meat should have picked up a good amount of smoke flavor. I pulled mine and whoa, it smelled great! The meat should be dry and smokey on the outside, raw on the inside (not cooked)

off the smoker

For chili, we are going to want to cut the meat into smaller pieces. I like to get it down to sizes about the size of the end of your thumb. Remove any excessive fat or connective tissue as you go.

cutting up the meat

  Brown the meat in small enough portions that you can brown, not braise, using vegetable oil or EVOO. We don’t want to boil the meat, we want it to go through the Maillard Reaction to get that browned goodness that imparts a lot of great flavor.  You want the meat cooked mostly through, but you don’t have to worry if some are a little undercooked, as they will continue to cook in the chili for hours. As you brown each batch, transfer them to the stock pot with the tomato/onion/chili mix.


During the browning, you’ll notice the strong smell of the smoke. This is what we are after!  The outside of the meat has picked up a lot of smoke flavor from the smoker. Some of this is sticking to the pan as you cook. After browning the last batch, deglaze the pan with water (white wine would be OK too). Get all the brown smoky crusties scraped up and whisked, and transfer the liquid to the stock pot.


  Mix it all in and set the pot to simmer (very low, don’t burn it!)

all mixed in

I left this to cook for hours. You need to let it cook long enough for the meat to start to break down. About an hour before serving, add your beans. I had my wife pick up 3 different colors of kidney beans, for variety.

with beans

  The final product: Hints of smoke, definitely not your typical canned chili, nor is it exactly like your stove top cooked chili. Smoking the meat is definitely the way to go. The final product is less smoke flavored than what you are smelling all the way through the cooking process, the cooking definitely makes it milder. I will always try to take the time to smoke my chili beef going forward!

chili by bill

3 thoughts on “BBQ Smoked Chili

  1. Chris

    Neil, this looks great and perfect for the cold cloudy weather we have today. Do ya’ll get that kind of weather over there? (ha ha)

    Thanks for adding beans! I don’t care if Texans hate me, I like beans in my chili.

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