The Chili Champ

Mike Mayenschein knows his chili. He has entered and won many chili cook-offs since 1994 and is steadfast in his approach to making delicious, no-nonsense chili.

Born in Chicago, Mayenschein moved all over the country before settling in Oklahoma in 1987. In 1994, he tagged along with a friend to a chili cook-off, and he was hooked. He has competed – and racked up championships – ever since.

One important note about competition chili: There are no beans, pasta, rice or other fillers allowed. Only the meat and “gravy” are permitted.

So what makes a really good bowl of chili? Mayenschein shares several tips for making a great bowl of “red.”

“Making delicious chili is all about building layers of flavor,” he says.

This is achieved in several ways. First, the meat is not seared or browned; it should only be “grayed,” or cooked just until the pink is gone. If the meat were seared, it would not be able to absorb the spices. Mayenschein recommends using ground chuck because it has a higher fat content than other cuts, and fat equals flavor.

“The first and most important indication that the meat is good is if the drippings are a bright, golden color.”

The spices are added in batches, known as “dumps.” This is done for a couple of reasons. “Some spices can and will become bitter if cooked too long,” he says. “The chili should just bubble every few seconds. This keeps it from reducing too quickly and burning.”

Another secret to making great chili is to cook it in an enameled cast iron pot. The enamel is important because a plain cast iron pot would react with the acid in the tomato paste and give the chili an unpleasant, metallic flavor.

One of the most interesting tips Mayenschein shares is adding bone-in pork chops to cook with the chili. It is similar in flavor to adding ham hock to a big pot of beans.
He also suggests only using coarse sea salt because it contains some minerals that other salts don’t have.

One last tip Mayenschein shares is to regrind the already ground spices for a more uniform consistency and also to help release the oils.

Mike’s Championship Chili

The chili takes three hours to cook once everything is added, but it is well worth the time commitment. A big bowl of chili is a delicious thing by itself, but of course, there are other uses for it, too. Frito chili pie would be stellar with homemade chili, as would three-way spaghetti.  However, one of Mayenschein’s favorite things to with his chili is to make a tasty dip.

“Melt a large block of Velveeta and then add chili to it until it has a good consistency,” he recommends.

4 lb. ground chuck (80/20)
1 can beef consommé
1 can chicken broth
1 8-oz. can tomato paste
Chicken bouillon
Beef bouillon
Cayenne powder
Onion powder
White pepper
Garlic powder
Chili powder
1 stick butter
White sugar
Brown sugar
2 bone-in pork chops
Coarse sea salt

Mix each “dump” separately.

Dump 1
2 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp. white sugar
1 tsp. beef bouillon
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt

Dump 2
4 tbsp. chili powder
1/2 tsp. cayenne
1 tsp. chicken bouillon granules
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. white pepper
1/2 tsp. white sugar

Dump 3
4 tbsp. chili powder
2 tsp. MSG
1 tsp. chicken bouillon
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. brown sugar

Divide meat into two equal portions. Gray one portion of meat (cook just until the pink is gone) in half a stick of butter. Remove and set aside to drain well. Repeat for second portion. To the pot add chicken broth, beef consommé and two cans of water. Heat until simmering, then add dump one. Dissolve spices, then add ground chuck and the two pork chops. Heat until simmering. Simmer on low heat for two hours, stirring regularly. Remove chops and add dump 2 and two dollops of tomato paste, blend and simmer for 30 minutes. Add dump 3 and simmer another 30 minutes. Stir regularly. Add water if sauce is too thick. Salt to taste.