Tips for Winning Any Chili Cook-Off

October 31, 2014 Chili

Nothing says autumn like warm, hearty chili. This comfort food can also bring out people's competitive sides during chili cook-offs.

Friendly, informal competitions take place at social events, with attendees participating and judging. Formal cook-offs are more intense, with official taste testers and scoring procedures.

If you're looking for a casual way to entertain this fall, host a chili cook-off party and invite three or four families to bring their best recipes. Of course, your family should also enter its favorite chili. Offer a variety of garnishes — from the conventional (shredded cheese, oyster crackers and sour cream) to the unconventional (orange zest, cornbread croutons and softened brown sugar).

Here are some tips to make your chili cook-off recipe stand out from the crowd.

Add a Different Twist Taking inspiration from another country's cuisine teases the palate and keeps friends guessing. Incorporating an unexpected ingredient into your dish — such as citrus zest, bacon or tomatillos — will surprise friends, impress judges and maybe even score you the top prize.

Any cook can create an "out of the pot" chili recipe guaranteed to delight.

Chili Makes a Quick Meal You don't necessarily have to spend hours cooking the perfect chili. This classic recipe takes 35 minutes from start to finish. Garnish it with chopped green onions and sour cream, and it's ready to serve.

Slow Cookers Provide Rich Flavor Letting your chili simmer in the slow cooker gives it a rich flavor, and you can attend to other tasks while it's cooking. For example, cook the chicken in this white chili recipe on low for extra-tender meat.

Tender Meat Is Key As mentioned above, tender meat is critical to many chili recipes. The secret is simmering it for the proper amount of time, which allows the juices to be slowly absorbed into the meat. Use your perfectly-cooked beef in this Texas chili recipe, which also has kidney beans, onions and garlic.

Savor the Leftovers Enjoy your award-winning chili the next day by adding fresh beans to the pot. Combine kidney, black and pinto beans, and you'll have enough for another meal. Chili is the perfect blend of so many delicious ingredients — the leftovers make a first-class meal.

Whether you prefer the traditional or the unique — any cook can create an "out of the pot" chili recipe guaranteed to delight the crowds and win the competition!

Meet Sandy Coughlin

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