Long ago, I posted my traditional method of making chili, whether with venison, beef, or a combination of the two. I use two pots on the stove, cooking beans using a quick soak method in one pot, and cooking the meat in another pot. Between the pots, I share the flavoring base of reconstituted ancho chiles, onions, garlic, and spices, and then I combine the pots into one for the last hour of cooking. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, and I just do it all from habit. Actually, I consider it a really easy dish to make. Of course, I usually made too much for the two of us, and I’m paring down the ingredients in lots of my old recipes, like this one.
Recently, I tried to adapt the recipe to my new slow cooker, first soaking the beans overnight, which I never do with the quick-soak method. It turned out okay, but it seemed too wet, too soupy, and beyond using more water than needed, I’m not sure why that happens in the slow cooker. I’ll probably fool with the recipe in the winter to see if I can make it work out right. Or I’ll just go back to the two pot method on the stove.
It’s almost too warm for chili, now, but I thought I’d try it out in my cast iron Dutch oven on the grill, since after all, it’s the traditional cowboy chuck wagon meal to cook over a fire. Now I can see why it’s such a beloved campfire dish.
This might be the best chili of all time, really thick and rich with a deep red color that I never get on the stove.
I have a Weber® Master Touch® grill which has a removable insert in the grate for using cooking pieces, like the chicken cooker or griddle, or like today, a cast iron Dutch oven. To make indirect heat around the center, I made a 2 x 2 charcoal snake, one that usually last 6-8 hours, not knowing how much time I would need. As it turned out, 3 hours was enough, and as you can see in the images, I only needed half the snake. I simply separated the two halves at the end, saving the unburned half for the next day’s grilling.
Venison Chili on the Grill
1/2 lb dried pinto beans
2 lbs venison, in both cubes and ground, or the same in beef/pork
1 large onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons salt
5 dried ancho peppers, reconstituted with 2 cups water, pureed, and strained (see below)
- Soak 1/2 lb dried pinto beans overnight in water to cover by 3 inches. Drain and rinse when ready to use.
- Brown 1 lb venison cubes and 1 lb ground venison in 2-4 tablespoons coconut oil, olive oil, or bacon fat in large cast iron dutch oven.
- In a skillet, saute onions and garlic in oil until translucent, then stir in spices, stirring until fragrant.
- Combine browned venison, strained beans, and onion mixture in dutch oven.
- Pour in ancho pepper puree and stir to combine. You may need to add more water to cover, because the beans still need to cook, but you don’t need to cover by more than 1/2 inch. I added about 1 cup more water, so that with the puree, I had a total of 3 cups liquid.
- Cover and cook with slow indirect heat, about 225°-250°, for about 3 hours.If you don’t have a grate like mine, you can set the dutch oven directly on the coal grate and build the snake around it, but not touching the sides or the pot.
- I imagine you could cook it in a slow oven, too, and I will be trying that out in the winter.
Once you get it on the grill, you have 3 hours to do nothing, or I guess you could make some cornbread.
Reconstituted Dried Ancho Chiles
- Rinse 5 dried chiles, removing stems and seeds
- Tear into pieces and place in small container or bowl
- Cover with 2 cups boiling water; cover container with plastic wrap
- Set aside for about 45 minutes
- Place reconstituted chiles in blender with part of the liquid, adding the rest a little at a time to make a purée about the consistency of thick tomato sauce
- Strain puree through a fine strainer to remove pieces of skin—just keep stirring the mixture in the strainer until only the skin pulp remains (maybe 10 minutes)