Living in MN, I think there is a short window of time to use your smoker for “hearty” meals.  You can use it year-round for various kinds of meats or perhaps vegetables, but if you are making something traditionally enjoyed during winter months or that is much more filling, you don’t have much time.  That is why I took advantage of the mild winter and slightly warmer than usual temperatures lately to make a batch of Smoked Chili with Ground Beef.  I chose this time of year for a couple of reasons.  1) winter is too cold for me to want to smoke food and I would spend too much time trying to keep the temperature consistent, and 2) I wanted to make something hearty that could be enjoyed while it was still cold out.  That’s why this time of year was perfect (for me).  The smoker was able to function properly, I was able to stand outside without bundling up or freezing, and it was still cold enough to want to enjoy a hot meal.

The recipe can be found here.

The chili has great smoky flavor and is very hearty.  I would describe it as chunkier than soup…there wasn’t a lot of liquid when it was done.  Although I do think this is personal preference on how you like your chili, it still had that classic chili feel.  The meat and beans were moist, and it had heat without being spicy.  I hope that makes sense!

Start by preheating your smoker to 250 degrees F with hickory wood chips.  Hickory was my choice of flavor for this recipe but use any flavor you prefer.  Or make it multiple times with different wood chip flavors for a different variation each time!

While the smoker preheats, prepare the chili.  You want to cook the ground beef before it smokes so heat a large skillet over medium heat, add the ground beef and cook until completely cooked through, breaking apart as it cooks.  This should take about 10 minutes and you can work in batches if needed (i.e. if you are going to double the recipe or don’t have a large enough pan).  Drain the grease.

Add the cooked beef to a large mixing bowl along with the tomato sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, great northern beans, kidney beans, chili powder, butter, salt, pepper, dried onion, garlic powder, and beef broth.  Mix until well combined.  I want to note that I used a combination of great northern and kidney beans.  Use any type of bean you prefer.

Depending on the size of your smoker, you may need to use more than one pan.  Make sure to measure your space BEFORE proceeding!  I originally bought a jumbo foil pan and it unfortunately wouldn’t fit in our smoker.  I’m glad I found this out BEFORE attempting to place the pan in the smoker.  Now I have a jumbo foil pan that I have no idea what to do with but that’s a problem for another day 😊 So…either pour the mixture into ONE LARGE or TWO SMALL foil pans.  Our smoker is narrow but tall, and we can move the racks so it’s easy to stack pans or work upwards.

You are going to place the pan(s) in the smoker and smoke for 3-4 hours, stirring every hour and adding wood chips as needed.  Try to keep the temperature as close to 250 degrees F as you can while the chili smokes.

When ready, remove from the smoker and scoop into bowls.  Top with shredded cheese, sour cream, and any other toppings you like!  Enjoy!

The recipe can be found here.

The complex flavors of this recipe are worth the wait!  It’s great to eat as is with a spoon or to scoop with Frito or Tostito Scoops, or regular tortilla chips.  Perhaps (if you’re feeling adventurous) you can also smoke some cornbread to enjoy with your chili.

Happy Cooking!

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