The Legend of Jack’s BBQ Texas Red Chili
As a kid growing up in the PNW, chili meant a sort of stew made with ground beef, red kidney beans, canned stewed tomatoes, chopped onions, and a good dose of mild chili powder along with some cumin. My mom even served it with Saltine crackers instead of cornbread or tortilla chips. Come to find out, chili ingredients are a hotly debated topic in Texas where diehard “only meat, never beans” purists vie with “alarmists” – as in, what alarm-fire will be erupting in your mouth due to a generous use of hot chili peppers – for notoriety.
What everyone can agree on is that chili must be seasoned with some form of chili pepper and cumin, a spice brought to the New World by travelers from the Canary Islands off the coast of Spain. When Spanish colonists began settling Texas in the 1800’s, they brought this exotic spice to San Antonio, mixing it with chili peppers to flavor meat stews. Chili “queens” sold it in the town square making San Antonio the royal birthplace of chili as we know it.
Jack’s BBQ founder Jack Timmons created his triple threat “Jack’s Texas Red Chili” after rediscovering an old cookbook written by Frank X. Tolbert, the co-founder of the Original Terlingua International Championship Chili Cook off. Inspired by Tolbert’s use of whole chili pods, Jack’s version includes a trinity of chiles: Ancho, Chipotle, and Chile de Arbol — as well as chili powder and red pepper flakes. For best results, make the chili the day before and allow the flavors to meld overnight before serving.
Jack’s Texas Red Chili
Serves 6 to 8
- 4 Ancho chiles, de-stemmed
- 1 Chipotle chile, de-stemmed
- 1 Chile de Arbol, de-stemmed
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 6 TB paprika
- 2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
- 2 tsp chili powder
- Pinch of red pepper flakes
- 2 TB salt, plus extra to taste
- 1 TB freshly ground black pepper, plus extra to taste
- 3 lbs beef, such as smoked brisket, chuck, or tri-tip, cut into ½-inch pieces
- 1 TB canola oil
- Shredded cheddar cheese
- 1 small white onion, chopped
- Pickled jalapeño peppers
- Sour cream
In a large Dutch oven, add chiles, onion, and garlic. Add just enough water to cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the ingredients steep for 10 minutes until softened. Add paprika, cumin, chili powder, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper.
Lightly season beef with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add beef. Sear for 5 minutes, until browned. Add beef to chile mixture and enough water to cover. Simmer, covered, over medium-low heat for 45 minutes, occasionally using a heatproof potato masher to mix the meat and spices. Remove from heat, set aside to cool, and refrigerate overnight to intensify flavor.
Reheat chili in a large pot over medium heat. Ladle hot chili into bowls and top with cheddar cheese, onion, and pickled jalapeño peppers. Serve with sour cream on the side.