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Chili Cook-off Basics
Before the Cook-off
- Decide on your booth theme and decoration.
This can be the best part of a chili cook-off when you get together with
your teammates and decide on just how zany you want to be at the
cook-off. Think outside of the box. In addition to costumes, songs and
dance adds to the fun and gets the booth judges attention. Your goal is
to win the Showmanship Award!
- Shop for spices - the freshest ingredients are
a must for a winning pot of chili where you are using fresh peppers,
garlic and/or onions, or chili powders, garlic powder, and any other
spices make sure they are as fresh as they can be. Be sure to check the
dates on the spice containers. Spice life can be extended by storing
your spices in airtight containers and keeping them in the freezer.
- Shop for meat - Many cooks are using tri-tip
beef roasts for ICS competition red. People's Choice is usually (but not
always) chili grind. If competing for ICS competition red, the technique
most cooks use for cutting the meat is: trim off the fatty covering when
you get the roast home, cut the roast into large sections wrap and
- Cutting the meat - A roast is easier to cut
into small cubes if it is semi-frozen. If you zap the frozen meat a
section at a time in the microwave for 45 seconds or so you can then cut
it to the precise thickness you want easily. Be sure you are using a
very sharp knife.
- Spices - Some cooks pre-mix the spices before
the event, others add the spices individually at the cook-off (this
would be for the competition chili as People's Choice chili is prepared
before the event). Many cooks super-grind their spices using a coffee
bean grinder. It is best to clean the grinder thoroughly after grinding
spices and before using it for coffee beans.
- Put together all of your chili ingredients and
check them off your master checklist so that you don't get to the
cook-off and discover you have forgotten the beef broth or garlic or
- Decide what kind of stove you are going to use
and be sure you have enough fuel for it. Test the stove before the
The Day of the Cook-off
- To get the best booth location have a teammate
get to the cook-off site as early as possible and stake out a spot. If
you are bringing a pop-up canopy or other covering (which is definitely
recommended) this is a good time to set it up.
- Have your booth set up by 10:45 a.m.
- Arrange your cooking area. Be sure everyone
knows where the ingredients are and prepare and area for disposing of
- Stir your pot, enjoy the music, lie about what
is in your recipe, put on a show for the people and the judges and have
a barrel of fun!