Bobby Flay’s Perfect Beef Chili

Kate Krader wrote . . . . . .

Some dishes, such as massive seafood towers crowned with elaborate shellfish and seven-tiered weddings cakes, are best left to the professionals.

Chili is not one of those. Superior versions can come from anywhere, whether on the back of a five-alarm-chili kit or an uncle’s award-winning recipe jotted down on an envelope. It doesn’t benefit from fancy ingredients—in fact, it’s antithetical to try sourcing expensive aji charapita peppers ($25,000 per kilo) to make a pot of chili.

There is a professional chef who knows the secrets of a good chili: Bobby Flay. The chef/owner of Gato in New York and the star of Food Network shows like Worst Cooks in America, has been making chili most of his life. “I know it well,” Flay wrote in an email. “I’ve been cooking Southwestern food for over 30 years.”

The recipe he shared with us is stocked with chunks of tender beef and flavored with a rich sauce spiked with tomato, multiple chiles, and maple syrup, a surprise ingredient that adds a dark sweetness to the dish. After you inject some elbow grease at the beginning to chop the ingredients, it’s an easy dish to keep an eye on over the course of a couple of hours, though Flay prepares it only on special occasions. “I make it a couple times a year, on a big game day,” he confided.

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The Recipe

Ultimate Beef and Black Bean Chili


Serves 4 to 6 people

3 tbsp canola oil
2-1/4 lb beef chuck, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, excess fat discarded
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 serrano chile, seeded finely diced
1/4 cup favorite chili powder (or 3 tbsp ancho chili powder plus 1 tbsp pasilla chili powder and 1 tbsp ground cumin)
Pinch of ground cinnamon
1 qt chicken stock or canned low sodium broth
1 (16-ounce) can fire-roasted tomatoes, pureed
2 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp chipotle pepper puree (from a can of chipotles)
3 cups canned black beans, rinsed and drained
1 lime
Sour cream, ground cumin and cilantro leaves, for serving
Boiled rice, for serving

Heat the oil in a large casserole over high heat. Season the beef with salt and pepper; add half of the meat to the pan in an even layer and sauté over high heat until browned all over. Transfer the meat to a plate. Repeat with the remaining meat; add more oil to the pot, if necessary.

Discard all but 2 tablespoons of the fat from the pan. Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until soft. Add the garlic and serrano chile, and stir for 1 minute. Add the chili powder and cinnamon, season with salt and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of water and cook until reduced by half.

Return the beef to the pot, add the chicken stock, tomatoes, and maple syrup, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to moderately low, partially cover the pot, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the beef is tender, about 1 1/4 hours; occasionally skim off any fat.

Add the beans and continue cooking for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, in a bowl, mix the sour cream with a few large pinches of cumin and season with salt and pepper. Season the chili with salt and pepper and add the juice from the lime. Ladle the chili into bowls on top of rice, garnish with cilantro, and serve with a dollop of cumin sour cream.