TipTop Chili

This is a mutated version of the chili I learned to make while working at the Tip Top Lounge in Ames Iowa circa 1986. The major difference is that I buy everything fresh and none of my cans are dented. (I also recommend that you use a clean pot, which was not a strict requirement at the Tip Top although I’m sure things have changed by now.)

This chili is extremely easy to make if you follow a few simple rules:

1. Buy as much as possible the day you are going to make your batch.

2. You have to buy the lowest grade of ground beef you can find. Seventy-five percent is the bare minimum because this is the key to the chili. (The American Heart Association has asked me to leave out the rendered beef and pork suet we used for everyone’s benefit.)

3. Cut everything into big pieces. This is important for a number of reasons mostly it allows everything to retain some of itself.

4. Try to serve your chili 1 day after you make it. At the Tip Top we made a batch with a quarter of a pot to go so every bowl sat at least one day.

5. To taste means TASTE! Keep trying this stuff throughout the entire process; it is the only way to tell how everything is getting along.


2lbs. Ground beef with as much fat content as you can find.

2 lg. yellow onions.

3 medium green chilies or one can roasted and peeled.

1 lg. can stewed Italian style stewed tomatoes.

1 small can tomato paste.

1 bottle

Tabasco sauce. (I use red and green.)

5 lg. peppers. At least 2 green and 2 red color matters more here than taste.

2 lg. cans mild chili beans. Soaking and seasoning your own is a large ass pain and not really worth it taste wise.

I jar of your favorite salsa (I prefer a generic cilantro and black bean with corn but at the Tip Top we used Pace)

Spices to taste: Chili powder, Salt, Black Pepper, White Pepper, Garlic Salt, and Oregano.

This is a basic list if you want to add anything else it’s your friends and family so what do I care.

Get a pot that you can fit your entire head in. no matter what this has been my best test of a good chili pot and I’m sticking with it.

Brown your ground beef on high heat with a bunch (I tried to warn you it’s not science) of salt and black and white pepper. I’ve tried leaving the white out and it wasn’t the same. When there is no pink left in the meat but you haven’t started to brown add your two yellow onions cut into big chunks.

You should start to see some color developing on the meat and onions so now its time to turn the flame down and start filling the pot. Drain your beans and dump them in. shake as much Tabasco as your weakest link can handle, stir. Add in your chili powder, more salt and pepper, stir. Dump in the stewed tomatoes and the tomato paste, stir until all blended together. Add your large chunks of peppers and your salsa, stir, walk away.

After about a half an hour it’s time for your first taste. You’re looking to taste the gravy that makes up the superstructure of the chili. Nothing should stand out at this point and it will probably be a little bland but with a slight after bite. This is right where you want it to be.


You only need to learn this lesson once but I’m trying to save you some time and money. Stirring about every ten minutes, take some time in between to clean those kitchen drawers you never seem to get to.

Another warning; TV KILLS CHILI! After an hour, you will get your first real taste. What do you think? I’m not much help from here but you’re looking for balance. Hold off for another half hour and see if you still agree on what was missing. If yes, add it and stir again. Now is where you can get lazy.

Dump the chili in a crock-pot and let it cook all day. Stir it once an hour tasting along the way but try not to make severe changes. Remember that you’re going to serve this tomorrow so no need to get nutty now. Refrigerate in the crock-pot and heat it back up in the same container next day. That’s it. I’ll leave you with a couple more tips but after that, you’re on your own.

What you serve with the chili affects the taste:

Crackers add salt and take away heat.

Cornbread adds sweet and enhances heat.

Cheese (sharp cheddar my choice) and Sour cream are requirements.

Over Spaghetti works best for kids. (me included)