Chili is a controversial subject. Should it have meat? What type of meat? Should it include beans? Dry or canned? What are the requirements of the perfect bowl of chilli? The debate rages on. Whether you’re a purist or not, we can all agree on a few best practices. In honor of National Chili Day, here’s your guide to making the perfect chili every time:

It’s all about the chillies!

Experts agree: the flavor of your chili becomes far more gourmet when you use real dried chillies and leave the generic chili powder blend in the cupboard. Look for good quality chillies and go for a variety to create even more layers of flavor. Get the lowdown on different types of chillies and their flavors here

Cook your protein accordingly

Everyone from raging meatheads to omnivores to vegans can enjoy chili! That’s the beauty of it. The key is to know how and when to add your protein of choice. If you’re using meat, be sure to brown it before doing anything else to seal in flavor (cook it from room temperature for best results).

If you’re using vegan protein like tofu, you don’t need to add it until the end because it just needs to heat through with your vegetables.

Choose your beans wisely

You can use pretty much any type of bean you like (or none at all), but it’s better for flavor control and your health to use dried beans, especially if you’re following a low sodium diet. Canned beans might be the easier route (you only have to add them near the end of cooking to heat them through), but they often contain added sodium. Dried beans need to be soaked overnight before cooking, but they don’t contain salt so you can better control your chili’s seasoning and salt levels.

Be careful with acids

Acids can actually prevent your meat from becoming as tender as it could be, so it’s best to add acidic ingredients like tomatoes closer to the end of your chili’s cooking process.

Let it simmer!

Let your chili simmer for at least 45 minutes so the flavors meld together nicely and the meat becomes extra tender. Chili tastes even better if you cook it a day in advance!

Don’t forget to garnish

Sour cream, cheese, fresh cilantro, green onions, avocado, taco chips, and even cornbread can make your gourmet chili taste even better!

What’s your best chili making secret? Share in the comments below!

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