Chili for the Biggest Game!

by Ross Bowen, Tastemaker in Residence

I am cooking chili for my friends next Sunday to watch the big game. I want to serve them more than browned hamburger, sautéed onions, and chili powder. Using hickory-smoked chunks of meat, a variety of beans, and a homemade chile paste, I am taking this chili from the regular season to the Super Bowl.

Hickory-smoked blade steak adds character and depth to the chili, while giving us the opportunity to defy winter and use our smokers. I smoked about 4 pounds of blade steak for half an hour on my daily use grill, the Kamado Joe ceramic grill. The meat will have plenty of time to cook and tenderize in the pot – we are really just focused on imparting the smoke flavor that will distinguish our chili. Make sure you don’t use a leaner cut of beef because it will lead to a dry and disappointing meat.

Dried beans are better than canned beans because they retain their integrity throughout the cook process. I like to use a variety of beans rather than just the pinto beans typically recommended.  

Whipping up a homemade chili paste is easier than you’d think. Ancho chiles for the base, and de Arbol chiles add heat.

Finally, baking the chili in a covered dutch oven is easier, because the food at the bottom of the pot is not going to blacken or burn.


16-ounce bag of dried mixed beans, or a combination of black, pinto, and kidney beans
4 pounds blade steak

Chile Paste
Half dozen dried ancho chiles
3 de arbol chiles
3 Tbsp cornmeal
2 tsp oregano
1 Tbsp cumin seed
3 tsp cocoa
3 cups chicken broth
2 Tbsp molasses
3 large yellow onion
5 garlic cloves


  1. Add beans to salted water. Bring to full boil, remove from heat, cover, and set aside for an hour.
  2. Meanwhile start the grill with hardwood charcoal. Add 2-3 pieces of hickory hardwood.  When they hickory is fully aflame, place blade steak on grate and close lid. Flip after 15 minutes, and remove after 30 minutes. Slice into small cubes.
  3. Stem and seed the dried ancho and de arbol chiles. Shred the ancho chiles and toast in a skillet. Transfer to a blender, add the remaining solid ingredients, and pulse. Add the chicken broth and blend until a paste forms.
  4. Sauté the chopped onion in vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven. Sauté the garlic separately, because it browns so quickly. Add the chile paste, the tomatoes, two cups of chicken broth, the drained beans, the garlic and the meat cubes to the pot. Mix thoroughly and place the covered pot in the oven at 300 degrees.
  5. After 2 hours, verify that the beans are softened. Turn on the Super Bowl and serve with lime slices, avocado, sour cream, and shredded cheddar cheese.