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  • David Skarin

Smoked Chili

Updated: Jan 21, 2021

It’s almost that time of year! Chili season!!! Here in Arizona it’s been an absolute brutal summer breaking all sorts of records that shouldn’t be broken. However, the weather is just starting to cool and it’s time to start working on that perfect chili recipe just in time for Fall.

Not sure how many of you have watched the show The Big Bang Theory, but to quote Sheldon Cooper, "Then it's not chili. Real chili has no beans in it, but...your ignorance is forgiven."

Not my ignorance! No beans in this chili!

This was my first attempt at chili on the grill and I was extremely pleased. The slow cook allows the flavors to marry together nicely. I didn’t add much heat as my son tends to shy away from anything spicy. Even if I say spicy when something has no heat it becomes an uphill battle to get him to eat it. For those that don’t have that concern, I definitely suggest a touch of heat noted below.

I also suggest making more than needed and use the leftovers for Chili Cheese Dogs. I take that back, I don't suggest, I demand you do so.


Fast Facts

Category: Meat, Stew, Chili

Cut: 80/20 ground beef

Weight: 2 Pounds

Grill: Traeger

Heat Source: Wood pellet

Estimated Cook Time: 3 Hours (can be done in less…or more)

Actual Cook Time: 3.5 Hours

Estimated Cooking Temperature: 450 for first portion of cook and then 225 for remainder

Actual Cooking Temperature: 450 for first portion of cook and then 225 for remainder

Location of Purchase: Local grocery store

Cook Date: August 28, 2020


Ingredient List

  • 2 pounds 80/20 ground beef

  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (olive oil will work as well)

  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped (1 cup or 8 ounces)

  • 2 tablespoons garlic (about 6 cloves)

  • 3 tablespoons chili powder (reduce to 2 ½ or 2 if sensitive to heat. I did not have any heat register with 2 tablespoons)

  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt

  • 2 teaspoons cumin

  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder

  • ½ teaspoon allspice

  • ½ teaspoon cayenne (reduce to a ¼ teaspoon or eliminate if you desire no heat)

  • 1 can tomato sauce (15 ounce can)

  • 1 cup water

  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Supply List



Step 1: Preheat your grill to 400-450 degrees, place your cast-iron Dutch oven on the grill.

Note: This recipe can be done on any grill type: Pellet smoker such as a Traeger, a gas grill such as this Dyna-Glo, or a charcoal grill like this Weber. This cook was done on my Traeger as I wanted to get some smokiness infused in the chili. Should you not want that, or not have a pellet smoker/grill, you can easily do this on any grill.

Step 2: Add the oil and allow it to heat up about 15 seconds, the oil should start to glisten.

Step 3: Add your chopped onions, stirring periodically, and cook until soft. This should take about 5 minutes.

Step 4: Add in your garlic and cook, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute.

Step 5: Add your ground beef and cook until browned, about 8 minutes. Be sure to break up the beef be stirring regularly.

Step 6: Add remaining dry ingredients: chili powder, salt, cumin, cinnamon, cocoa powder, allspice and cayenne. Continue to stir constantly and integrate the spice throughout, about 1 minute.

Step 7: Add tomato sauce, water and red wine vinegar, mix thoroughly and allow the mixture to come to a simmer.

Step 8: Start reducing your temperature to 225 degrees. See note below on whether to cover the chili or not.

Note: If you are cooking this on a normal gas or charcoal grill with no “smoke” element such as wood chips, I suggest covering and let cook a minimum of an hour, stirring occasional (about every 15 minutes). This can simmer at 225 for a few hours if you want to continue marrying the flavors together.

If you are cooking with a “smoke” element, cook it uncovered for an hour, stirring occasionally (about every 15 minutes). Due to the Dutch oven being uncovered, you will have some evaporation and therefore a thicker chili. The longer you cooked uncovered, the thicker it will get.

Step 9: After an hour or more on the grill, start cooking to preference. You can uncover the Dutch oven for a thicker chili or take it off immediately and serve. Chili always tastes before the longer the flavors have time to integrate.

Top your chili with whatever your heart desires! I personally love diced yellow sweet onion and sharp cheddar cheese. Delish!



Be sure to check out some of our other recipes that use this chili:

  • Chili Cheese Dogs - Oh, my, sure to make some extra chili so you can make these as well!


Lessons Learned (Note: I will update this section to include your lessons learned from the comment section)

  • I cooked my chili on the smoker at 225 for three hours and it reduced a little more than I thought it would. I need to experiment with more liquids such as tomato sauce and water to see if that would help allow the chili to cook longer uncooked and taking on more smoke.

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