This past weekend, I had the opportunity to make chili. Twice, in fact - once for the potluck dinner for my daughter's school science fair on Saturday evening, then again on Sunday for my church's chili cookoff after the morning service. However, since most of Saturday was taken up with judging the science fair, and Sunday morning was taken up with church, I knew in advance I wouldn't have a ton of time to prepare.

But I knew this: I was going to make the best chili of all time. Or at least as close as I could come to such a state of bliss.

I scrapped my old chili recipes and started from scratch. Different meats, different spices, different methods. A few new ingredients.

And given the reception that my chili received at both events, I may have actually have succeeded in my quest. Chili nirvana. The Platonic ideal chili, brought down into the phenomenal realm by my tender ministrations. And by the way, I won the cookoff.

John's Brisket and Tri-tip Chili of Epic Awesomeness


  • 1 beef brisket, 3-4 pounds
  • tri-tip steak, 2-3 pounds, cubed into 1/2 inch chunks
  • 2 large sweet onions, roughly chopped or diced (your preference)
  • 5-6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 cans diced tomatoes (use the kind with green chiles if you prefer)
  • 1 bottle beer (I used Dos Equis, but use any light-to-medium beer you like. But don't use stout or porter. If you don't like cooking with alcohol, substitute 2 cups of beef stock.)
  • 1 cup John's Chili Awesomesauce (recipe below)
  • 1/2 cup tomato paste
  • 2-3 cups beef stock (homemade or the stuff in the carton is fine, but don't use canned)
  • 4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper


  1. Preheat your oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Set your oven racks low enough that a lidded Dutch oven will fit.
  2. If the brisket is too large to fit in your Dutch oven, cut it into smaller pieces that will fit. (But don't cut it too small - think "slabs", not "chunks" at this point!) Deeply score the brisket with a sharp knife on both sides in a criss-cross pattern. Season on both sides with salt and pepper.
  3. Heat that large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil and heat. Brown the brisket on all sides until a good sear is reached. Remove brisket and drain excess oil from the Dutch oven.
  4. Add the beer to the Dutch oven, re-add the brisket, put the lid on, and put the Dutch oven in the oven for 3-5 hours, or until the brisket can be easily shredded into strands.
  5. Shred the brisket! If the strands are too long (more than a couple inches), apply your knife accordingly. Discard any large hunks of fat. (Note: steps 1-5 can be done hours or days in advance. Just put the shredded brisket in the freezer for 30 minutes to cool quickly, then transfer to Ziploc bags and put in the refrigerator.)
  6. Add the remaining 2 Tbsp. oil to the Dutch oven (again over medium-high heat). Salt and pepper the steak cubes, then brown in small batches, then transfer to a small bowl. (Don't put a paper towel in the bowl - you want the juices!)
  7. Once all of the steak is browned and removed from the Dutch oven, add the onions with a couple pinches of salt and let cook for 4-5 minutes to soften. (They'll also brown quickly, as the released liquid from the onion will deglaze the pan and coat your onions with deliciousness.)
  8. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. (Garlic will burn quickly, and you don't want that the resulting flavor in your chili!)
  9. Add the Awesomesauce and tomato paste. Stir to combine with the onions and garlic. At this point, you may pass out from the awesome smells coming from the pot. Brace yourself and keep stirring for 1 minute!
  10. Add 2 cups of beef broth and the tomatoes (with their juices) and stir.
  11. Add the steak (with any accumulated juice) and brisket and stir until combined. Add a bit more beef stock if needed.
  12. Let it come to a simmering boil, then either reduce the heat to low and cook on the stove for 2-3 hours, or transfer to a crock pot on low.
  13. Serve with whatever you like, but I recommend a dollop of sour cream.

John's Chili Awesomesauce


  • 3 dried New Mexico chiles (or other mild-medium chilis)
  • 3 dried Pasilla chiles
  • 1-2 dried Arbol chiles (optional)
  • 1 Tbsp. smoked hot paprika
  • 2-3 Tbsp. whole cumin seeds
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, broken up or shredded into small bits
  • 4 anchovy fillets


  1. Using kitchen shears, snip dried chiles into a small saucepan, discarding stems and seeds.
  2. Cover chiles with boiling water; let steep for 5 minutes
  3. In a heavy saucepan or skillet, toast cumin seeds over high heat until fragrant (2-3 minutes).
  4. Drain chiles, reserving 1 cup of the steeping liquid.
  5. Add chiles, paprika, cumin seeds, and salt into a food processor with 2/3 cup of the steeping liquid. Pulse until a smooth paste forms. Add steeping liquid a teaspoon at a time if needed.
  6. Add chocolate and anchovies. Pulse until thoroughly combined, adding more steeping liquid if needed.
  7. If you're not going to use it immediately, transfer to a lidded jar or glass container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.