The best tools for making chili

Curling up on a snowy weekend with a pot of chili bubbling on the stove is one of life’s little pleasures. Chili is a hearty, warming stew that can be customized and has infinite variations. Adjust the heat level, the type of spices and the toppings you serve it with for an easy and adaptable meal in a flash. You’ll need to gather a few essential tools to make chili at home.

Three ways to cook chili

It’s easy to customize chili to your taste and traditions, and you can even switch up how you prepare it. 

  • Dutch oven: Chili in a Dutch oven or stock pot is the traditional way. Aromatics, such as onion, garlic, carrot and celery, are browned before other ingredients are added and simmered until ready.
  • Slow cooker: A slow cooker is perfect for busy households. Any meat you use will brown along with any other ingredients you add to slow cook all day.
  • Instant Pot: The newest addition to chili cooking options is an Instant Pot. It’s as easy as the hands-off ease of a slow cooker without the day-long simmer.

Different types of chili

Not everyone agrees on the best chili recipe. In fact, chili variations across the U.S. can vary wildly with staunch defenders in every camp. Some of the most famous styles of chili include:

  • Chili con carne, or “Texas Red”: A bowl of “red” consists mainly of tender chunks of beef swimming in a deep red sauce. There is some debate on the exact spices, but everyone agrees that this chili style includes no beans.
  • Springfield “chili”: The base of this is ground beef, Hunt’s canned tomato sauce, a spice mix that included chili powder and Tabasco.
  • Cincinnati-style chili: Seasoned with cinnamon and allspice, this deep, rich stew is served over spaghetti and topped with cheddar cheese.
  • Oklahoma-style chili: Oklahoma chili is similar to a bowl of “red,” but it can include beans and masa.
  • Chile verde: The defining characteristic of chili verde is its signature color, produced by New Mexico Hatch chilies and tomatillos.

How to make a pot of chili

The technique varies slightly depending on your cooking vessel. There are a few similar steps.

  • Brown any meat you are using. Season with salt and pepper. Drain and set aside.
  • Cook onions, garlic and other vegetables, such as carrots and celery, until just soft. 
  • Add chili powder and other spices and cook until the spices “open up,” which is usually about one minute. If using tomato paste, add it during this step too.
  • Add tomatoes (and beans if using).
  • Return meat to the pot. Turn the heat down and simmer until all of the flavors come together. Season if needed, but don’t use too much salt.

Everything you need to make chili

Best Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

Lodge Enameled Cast Iron Dutch Oven

This is covered in porcelain enamel for easy care with the same substantial heft of cast iron. It is oven-safe to 500 degrees and has big handles for a sturdy grip. It is available in 27 colors and comes in four additional sizes.

Sold by Amazon and Home Depot

Best Crock-pot MyTime Technology Programmable Slow Cooker

Crock-pot MyTime Technology Programmable Slow Cooker

You can customize this slow cooker’s cook times and settings for a delayed start, use the keep warm function and more. Its ample 6-quart capacity means it makes chili for a crowd.

Sold by Amazon

Best Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker

Instant Pot Duo 7-in-1 Electric Pressure Cooker

It holds 6 to 8 quarts of your favorite chili and has 14 programmable settings for everything from yogurt to perfectly cooked rice. It’s easy to clean and small enough to work in tighter spaces.

Sold by Macy’s and Amazon

Best Simply Organic Chili Powder

Simply Organic Chili Powder

It’s not really chili without some kind of spice, and this organic chili powder packs a punch. This version does much of the work for you, blending various spices that include chili powder, cumin, oregano, coriander, garlic, allspice and cloves.

Sold by Amazon

Best Misono Swedish Carbon Steel Gyutou

Misono Swedish Carbon Steel Gyutou

This is perfect for cutting tough chunks of beef for long simmering. It’s nearly 9.5 inches long and made of sharp Swedish carbon steel to hold an edge for a long time. It has a triple-riveted handle.

Sold by Amazon

Best Cento San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes

Cento San Marzano Peeled Tomatoes

With the exception of chili verde, you’re going to need canned tomatoes, and these are universally acknowledged to be among the best you can buy in a can. These are organic and feature limited ingredients, including organic San Marzano plum peeled tomatoes, organic San Marzano puree, organic basil leaf, citric acid and organic salt.

Sold by Amazon

Best Vumdua Oven Safe Bowls for Chili

Vumdua Oven Safe Bowls for Chili

These double-handled ceramic bowls fit 16 ounces of your favorite chili, soup or stew. They are safe in the broiler, oven, freezer, microwave and dishwasher. The wide mouth shape accommodates a large ladle full of chili.

Sold by Amazon

Best Norpro Stainless Steel Ladle

Norpro Stainless Steel Ladle

This 7-ounce ladle is the perfect size for serving from either side of the fluted ladle. It is made of polished stainless steel and has a long handle to keep hands safely away from the steaming stew. It has a hook for easy hanging. 

Sold by Amazon ​​

Best Lodge Pre-Seasoned Skillet

Lodge Pre-Seasoned Skillet

Lodge is one of the most trusted cast-iron skillet and pot manufacturers. This 10-inch skillet is highly versatile and perfect for making skillet cornbread to go with your favorite chili. It’s pre-seasoned, so you can use it right out of the box.

Sold by Amazon and Dick’s Sporting Goods

Best Hamilton Beach Fresh Grind Electric Spice Grinder

Hamilton Beach Fresh Grind Electric Spice Grinder 

For the ultimate culinary customization, grind your own spices in this eclectic grinder. It’s quiet and powerful with a removable chamber for easy cleaning. The cord stores easily around the base of the grinder.

Sold by Amazon


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