Canned Chili for Texans
July 11, 2004 1:24 PM   Subscribe

Is there such a thing as good canned chili? Note: I grew up in Texas.
posted by Nelson to Food & Drink (22 answers total)
posted by caddis at 2:18 PM on July 11, 2004

posted by majcher at 3:23 PM on July 11, 2004

I know the answer is "no", but I was hoping for "yes". I just want something to throw on the occasional hot dog or frito pie.

A priori it seems like there could be good canned chili. It's not like chili's texture is subtle, and a strong chili can stand up to the taste of the tin. The main problem I've found in $2 canned chili is horrible quality meat stretched way too far with beans or, worse, some random thickener glop. That and there's no spices.

But those problems seem like they could be overcome if someone made an effort to make a good canned chili and sold it for, say, $5 a can. I'd pay that.
posted by Nelson at 3:55 PM on July 11, 2004

You grew up in Texas and you don't worship the Wolf? Brand? "Chili"? Product?
posted by WolfDaddy at 4:11 PM on July 11, 2004

Frito chili pie can be made with no chili other than Hormel No-Bean. It's not great, or even particularly tasty, but you run the risk of a smiting from the Frito Gods if you use something else.

But for something to slop on a burger, hot dog, or nachos, you might do well to troll around in the health food store and come up with something there. Unbelievably, I've found some of the vegetarian chilis to be pretty easily doctored into a tasty topping chili, and you don't face the problem of how to mask the taste of canned meat. They tend to be undersalted and lack body, but some clever work with spices and melting a little cheese tends to take care of the problem nicely.

No matter what you do, though, if you bust some chili out of a can, you are going to have to doctor it. Buy a few random cans and play with them.
posted by majick at 4:19 PM on July 11, 2004

I usually enjoy the Hormel vegetarian chili (no meat -- beans and soy protein), mixed with salsa and chipotle chili pepper. It isn't great, but I think the combination is good enough for 20 seconds of work.
posted by subgenius at 4:29 PM on July 11, 2004

What is Frito Pie?

If you're in the midwest, you should be able to buy canned chili at Steak n Shake. I thought they carried them in those Dinty Moore like pulltab cans.
posted by pieoverdone at 5:00 PM on July 11, 2004

Frito Pie
posted by Nelson at 5:13 PM on July 11, 2004

subgenius, is the vegetarian variety good/better compared to the meat canned variety, or just good as an adequate substitute?
posted by smackfu at 5:21 PM on July 11, 2004

Chili is so easy, especially Texas style, so why use a can? Get some cubed meat, heat it in a thick pan or pot (Dutch Oven) with some spices (chile powder ?), add some garlic onion and then some tomatoes, some broth or water and some more spices (herbs at the end [oregano, basil etc.]). If you like them, add beans. I do. Dried garlic and onion is OK in a pinch. You can get spend more time, get fancier and make better chili, but simple fresh chili beats canned any day.
posted by caddis at 5:21 PM on July 11, 2004

Don't get cubed meat. Pre-cut stewing meat is a huge ripoff. It's not so hard to cut it up yourself.
posted by kenko at 5:32 PM on July 11, 2004

smackfu, unfortunately, I'm a vegetarian so I don't have a good way of making the comparison for you. I mean, I would be skeptical of the meat in a cheap can of chili, but who knows?

I can tell you, though, that I prefer the veggie Hormel (or, at least, my doctored version) to most of the fancy-shmancy organic varieties I find in my market.
posted by subgenius at 9:05 PM on July 11, 2004

I dunno if it would be good on dogs or in chili pie, but Skyline canned and frozen chili isn't bad.


it's Cincinnatti chili, not Texas chili. The kind that's spiced very differently and usually served N-ways on spaghetti. It's good, but a different beast. I dunno that I'd want it on a dog; in with frito-pie might be goodish.

If you're in the midwest, you should be able to buy canned chili at Steak n Shake.

That's Cincinnatti-style too. Good though. *GREAT* road food; I allatime stop at Steak and Shakes for a burger or some chili whilst traveling between D/FW and Tronna.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:22 PM on July 11, 2004

Alternatively, just make your own as caddis suggests and freeze it in veeery smaaall portions -- a thin layer in a sammich baggie -- for use as a condiment, topping, or floor wax.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 10:24 PM on July 11, 2004

I've always thought that Stagg Chili was good, but I'm a Canadian with ties closest to Minnesoteans, so you probably won't trust me.

I know how to make decent chili con-carne, and do like my chili spicier (green chili paste, etc) than the rest of my Canadian brethern. I've found that Stagg worked if you, say, work in an industrial park with nothing but a Subway to eat at, don't always have time to make a lunch to bring to work, and prefer something that doesn't taste like red dog food.

The meat isn't great, but they do add spices to the chili.
posted by sleslie at 10:32 PM on July 11, 2004

As far as chili-con-can goes, sleslie's suggested Stagg Chili is about the best there is. I recommend the "Fiesta Grille" variety, as the fire-roasted corn and tomatoes add quite a bit of flavor.
posted by Danelope at 11:09 PM on July 11, 2004

Chile freezes very well (I think it tastes better after the flavors have blended in the freezer), is it really too much to make up a big pot and freeze it in 1 or 2 cup amounts?
posted by TungstenChef at 1:10 AM on July 12, 2004

Now that we're on the subject: any good chili recipes? Warning: no American brands, plz, we're EU based (actually, no brands at all would be even better, as I hate preprocessed food).
posted by NekulturnY at 1:22 AM on July 12, 2004

Not a canned chili, but Stouffer's makes a decent frozen one. I make a mean chili from scratch but I don't always have the 4-6 hours it takes to always have some on hand, so I know what you mean about finding a good pre-made alternative.
posted by FreezBoy at 7:35 AM on July 12, 2004

NekulturnY, I do not really use a recipe. To the extent I do you saw it in my previous comment. Chili is one of those dishes, like Bouillabaisse, that lends itself to using the ingredients at hand. Sometimes that means leftover ingredients, and sometimes whatever is freshest and interesting at the market. Frequently I find that getting good chilies to put into the dish is the limiting factor, although chili powder (cayenne, garlic and cumin primarily) can provide all the heat if that is all you have. I like to use some Chipotle peppers; others hate them. I also like to make it pretty hot and sometimes I add a little sweetness (molasses say) to balance the heat; others find this sacrilegious. I sometimes stray far from Texas style, using alternate meats, including fish, and sometimes with white meats or fish no tomatoes. I like beans in the chili because they taste good and are good for you, but I do not like chili with all beans and no meat. Here is a chili discussion with recipe that I found. The recipe looks pretty close to what I like, but I would use more heat.
posted by caddis at 8:35 AM on July 12, 2004

That URL didn't really work. It was supposed to be the nice print formatted version. Try this one.
posted by caddis at 8:39 AM on July 12, 2004

Thanks caddis.
posted by NekulturnY at 7:43 AM on July 15, 2004

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