How To Thicken Chili
A Few Suggestions On How To Thicken Chili
Some folks don't seem to worry too much about how to thicken chili, it just seems to come out right every time and they don't seem to give it a thought, or just don't care. For the rest of us, chili often seems too thin and watery or too thick. Though a matter of personal taste, thin chili just doesn't seem to taste as well, although the ingredients may be the same as for a thicker concoction. A little more or a little less of one ingredient often makes a difference. As far as being too thick is concerned, when you can plaster a wall with it, it's gotten way too thick and also quite unappetizing.
Some people will tell you what to add to chili to thicken it up. Others will tell you, you shouldn't have to add anything. If you get the proportions of ingredients correct, the chili should neither be too thick nor too thin. To make matters worse, if you find an ingredient that does a good job of thickening the chili, that ingredient may just alter the flavor. Too a chili snob, and there are many, altering the flavor can be heresy. Of course, if you're gong to invite a chili snob over for dinner, let him cook the chili. You can maybe get a little kick out of telling him it's too thin!
There may or may not be a best way to achieve the desired degree of thickness in a pot of chili, which at best is a subjective measure, but a good approach to finding out how to go about it, or at least an entertaining one, is to review the comments in several chili forums, which most often contain some words regarding how to achieve the desired thickness.
Old School Thickening - One way of course is to make the chili a little thin to begin with, and then crush crackers in it. That's how we used to have it for lunch in grade school, and some of us have never outgrown that. One suggestion is to add the cracker crumbs while the chili is still cooking. Several contributors indicate they use corn meal as a thickener. That seems to make sense, as a little corn meal usually won't affect the flavor much, though a true chili expert (read snob) may disagree. Corn meal isn't all that far removed from cracker crumbs for that matter, and less salty to boot.
A Variety Of Approaches - The most common approach, at least if cooking in a crock pot, is to let the chili cook an hour or so longer, part of the time with the lid removed. Evaporation will do the job in this case. Those making a pot of Texas Red chili will tell you it should simmer all day in any event. Another common approach is to add more beans, crushing them first. For every one who suggests that approach, some one will answer that true chili does not have beans as an ingredient. Another common approach is to use tomato paste or puree instead of tomato sauce, which makes sense, as you're starting thicker to begin with. Adding mashed pumpkin or squash is yet another approach, which in addition to thickening the chili may at the same time enhance the flavor. Here again, it's a matter of taste as to whether adding mashed pumpkin or squash is "acceptable", but you be the judge. It's your chili. Masa is another thickening agent, though a number of contributors to the various forums have indicated it ruins the taste, or at least the chili doesn't taste quite as good.
Texas Red Chili - If you have some time on your hands, or really, really want to make a great batch of chili, that should turn out to have just the right thickness, look up a recipe for Texas Red chili. Don't settle for any prepared mix or Texas Red chili out of a can, but choose the get-all-the-ingredients, do-it-yourself approach. Without going into a of detail, making Texas Red chili (correctly) involves mixing together some 14 different ingredients to make up the seasoning mix, including ground chili peppers, basil, leaves, garlic and onion powder, paprika, mustard, and much, much more.
When your seasoning mix is complete, add it to the remaining 13 ingredients: peppers, meat, cornmeal, celery, garlic, and a few other things. This is done in about 10 different steps, where in each step you are mixing something, cooking something, or both. After a few hours you'll have a pot of great tasting chili with just the right consistency. Or, maybe by then you'll be too tired to tell if it needs thickening, but it'll sure taste good!