Real Texas Chili – Rules Of Making Real Texas Chili

Texas Chili, Cool Fall and Cold Winter weather go together like Santa Clause and small children.

I thought it was worth re-posting and sharing with those that follow my blog postings and have not had the opportunity to attend one of these hair raising Chili Cook-Off events.

Texas Chili Cook Off Not For Sissy’s or The Weak of Heart

A Texas Chili Cook Off can be as much fun as any one person can stand. There’s usually so much going on it’s hard to take it all in. Besides the cook off there’s music and contests of all sorts and lots of new friends to make. That’s why these things can run for 2 or 3 days. Anyone and everyone comes to a Texas chili cook off. Chili cook offs are very popular in Texas and are a major form of family entertainment.

Before the main event there may be cook offs and competitions for the best barbecue, brisket, salsa or dessert.

The chili cooking teams are judged not only for the quality of their chili product but also on presentation which many times means a pretty good show.

In a sanctioned cook off the chili must be prepared and cooked on site. Some events provide a table, set up under a tent but no electricity or water. You must provide all cooking tools, utensils and ingredients. The competition can be fierce. Never touch another mans utensils. That’s how fights get started.

The official chili sanctioning body in Texas is the Chili Appreciation Society International, CASI. CASI makes the rules. They award points to the best ten cookers and these points can qualify a team for the World Chili Championship held the first Saturday of November in the dusty ghost town of Terlingua.

There is only one kind of chili recognized by CASI: Texas red. No fillers are allowed, or as the rules state: “NO FILLERS IN CHILI – Beans, macaroni, rice, hominy, or other similar ingredients are not permitted.” (In Texas putting beans in chili has replaced horse thievery as the number one hanging offense.)

Some of the most fun is the people watching. Just how much fun an event is going to be depends on who is throwing the shindig. Like, for instance, a cook off sponsored by a Baptist church probably won’t be as exciting as, say, one thrown by a radio station or a Texas singer. A guaranteed good time is when the cookout is connected with a birthday party especially if the guest of honor is a Texas singer and double special if that singer has 3 names like Robert Earl Keen, Larry Joe Walker, Jerry Jeff Walker. If this is the case you might want to get a physical and check your health insurance policy before attending.

Helpful pointers and suggestions to aid in optimizing the total Texas Chili Cook Off experience.

1. Arrive in pickup truck, the bigger the better. If you don’t have one borrow one. You may substitute an SUV if it is the size of a small house, get 3-7 miles to the gallon and made in the US of A. What ever you drive, it must have a tailgate.

2. Ice chests. The more and the bigger the better. These should be filled with beer and ice and no more than 4-5 soft drinks and these should be Dr Peppers preferably bottled in Dublin, Texas.

3. Beer and how much. Preferably Lone Star or Shiner. No imported beer unless it’s from Mexico. Best rule of thumb is two cases per cook off day. In case of a beer emergency, you’ll want to be able to share with a fellow in need.

4. Food. White bread, baloney, American cheese and mustard and a half dozen onions should do if you’re planning full serious meals, a couple of bags of pigskins (the hot kind) if your just going to snack. You’ll also need coffee and a pint of Wild Turkey or bottle of tequila to cut the dust out of your mouth in the morning.

5. Camping gear. You’ll want to stay for the whole cook off so plan to stay at least one, possibly two nights. Gear should include a sleeping bag, a gas stove, flashlight and a coffee pot. Tents are too much trouble. Typically you’ll throw your sleeping bag into the bed of the truck and crash there. And don’t worry about rain. It almost never rains.

6. Lawn chairs. At least two, any style.

7. Tables are optional. That’s what a tailgate for.

8. A Texas flag or two.

It’s also important to know what to wear. Dress for comfort. Blue jeans are always acceptable and, in warm weather, shorts. Sandals, sneakers or hiking boots work for footwear. Or you can go barefoot. A ball cap with some sort of logo is also acceptable. The logo should be for a beer brand, a tractor brand or a football team (high school or professional). T shirts of any type with any logo or picture on front works. All shirts should have sleeves of some sort or someone might mistake you for a redneck and they won’t share their beer and pig skins (the hot kind) which could be hazardous in case of a beer or food emergency. And that’s how fights get started.

For women it’s the same as men and boy’s but tighter and shorter.

Don’t worry about your Yankee accent. At cook offs everyone’s welcome and everybody’s equal. And please don’t try to talk Texan. You won’t fool anyone and that’s how fights get started.

Dropping names is a good way to make friends and influence folks at a cook off. Willie Nelson, George Jones and Bob Wills are good names to throw down. Don’t ever mention Nashville or California. That’s how fights get started.

And don’t discuss politics. You might get a hold of a Yeller Dog Democrat and they’re kinda touchy these days. That’s how fights get started.

{Eating Chili in Texas, Texas Chili Cook Offs and beer seem to go together like levi’s, pickup trucks and a cow dog riding on the tool box.}


Texas Chili Cook Off Humor
Notes from an inexperienced Chili taster named Frank, who was visiting Texas from the East Coast

Frank said “Recently I was honored to be selected as an outstanding famous celebrity in Texas, to be a judge at a Chili cook-off, because no one else wanted to do it.”

Also the original person called in sick at the last moment, and I happened to be standing there at the judge’s table asking for directions to the beer wagon when the call came.

I was assured by the other two judges (Native Texans) that the chili wouldn’t be all that spicy, and besides, they told me that I could have free beer during the tasting. So I accepted.

Here are the scorecards from the event


JUDGE ONE: A little to heavy on tomato. Amusing kick.

JUDGE TWO: Nice, smooth tomato flavor. Very mild.

FRANK: Holy Shit, what the hell is this stuff? You could remove dried paint from your driveway with this stuff. I needed two beers to put the flames out. Hope that’s the worst one. Those Texans are crazy.


JUDGE ONE: Smokey, with a hint of pork. Slight Jalapeno tang.

JUDGE TWO: Exciting BBQ flavour. Needs more peppers to be taken seriously.

FRANK: Keep this out of reach of children! I’m not sure what I am supposed to taste besides pain. I had to wave off two people who wanted to give me the Heimlich maneuver. They had to walkie-talkie in three extra beers when they saw the look on my face.


JUDGE ONE: Excellent firehouse chili! Great kick. Needs more cumin.

JUDGE TWO: A beanless chili. A bit salty. Good use of red peppers.

FRANK: Call the EPA, I’ve located a uranium spill. My nose feels like I have been snorting Drano. Everyone knows the routine by now. Barmaid pounded me on the back; now my backbone is in the front part of my chest. I’m getting shit-faced.


JUDGE ONE: Black Bean chili with almost no spice. Disappointing.

JUDGE TWO: Hint of lime in the black beans. Good side dish for fish or other mild foods. Not much of a chili.

FRANK: I felt something scraping across my tongue, but was unable to taste it. Sally, the barmaid, was standing behind me with fresh refills; that 300 lb bitch is starting to look HOT, just like this nuclear-waste I’m eating.


JUDGE ONE: Meaty, strong chili. Cayenne peppers freshly ground, adding considerable kick. Very impressive.

JUDGE TWO: Chili using shredded beef; could use more tomato. Must admit the cayenne peppers make a strong statement.

FRANK: My ears are ringing, and I can no longer focus my eyes. I farted and four people behind me needed paramedics. The contestant seemed offended when I told her that her chili had given me brain damage. Sally saved my tongue from bleeding by pouring beer directly from a pitcher onto it. It really pisses me off that the other judges asked me to stop screaming. Freakin’ Rednecks! ! !


JUDGE ONE: Thin yet bold vegetarian variety chili. Good balance of spice and peppers.

JUDGE TWO: The best yet. Aggressive use of peppers, onions and garlic.

FRANK: My intestines are now a straight pipe filled with gaseous, sulphuric flames. No one seems inclined to stand behind me except that slut Sally. I need to wipe my ass with a snow cone!

JUDGE ONE: A mediocre chili with too much reliance on canned peppers.

JUDGE TWO: Ho Hum. Tastes as if the chef literally threw in a can of chili peppers at the last moment. I should note that I am worried about Judge # 3.

FRANK: You could put a #)$^@#*&! Grenade in my mouth, pull the #)$^@#*&! pin, and I wouldn’t feel a damn thing. I’ve lost the sight in one eye, and the world sounds like it is made of rushing water. My shirt is covered with chili, which slid unnoticed out of my X*$(@#^&$ mouth. My pants are full of lava-like shit, to match my X*$(@#^&$ shirt. At least the during the autopsy they’ll know what killed me. I’ve decided to stop breathing, it’s too painful. I’m not getting any oxygen anyway. If I need air, I’ll just suck it in through the four inch hole in my stomach.


JUDGE ONE: A perfect ending. This is a nice blend chili, safe for all; not too bold, but spicy enough to declare its existence.

JUDGE TWO: This final entry is a good balanced chili, neither mild nor hot. Sorry to see that most of it was lost when Judge # 3 passed out, fell and pulled the chili pot on top of himself. Not sure if he’s going to make it. Poor Yank.

FRANK: – – – – – Mama?- – – (Editor’s Note: Judge # 3 was unable to report).


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19 responses to “Real Texas Chili – Rules Of Making Real Texas Chili

  1. Pingback: 1 Chili Pepper In The Pot Does Not Make Chili | Town & Country Gardening

  2. I live in the South of England where conditions aren’t always great for growing peppers. I’ve had reasonable success growing Ring Of Fires, Jalapeno and Santa Fe Grandes in our garden but the Habaneros didn’t do so well. They’ve done better inside the house where I’ve got Brainstrains, Fataliis and 7pods growing too.

    Next year after starting under a cold frame I’m going to try again outdoors but in a raised be rather than individual pots. The ones I have seem to have done better clustered together rather than spaced out in individual pots. On the bright side I have managed to dry out a lot of the produce from summer so plenty of spicy meals to see me through winter.

    This is what I was considering planting them in next summer


    • Re chillifan – Successful pepper growing is all about soil temperature and growing days. Soil temperature is more important than air temperature. Jalapeno/Santa Fe Grandes want a soil temperature 70 to 75 degrees and above with a growing season of 85 to 115 days.
      Habaneros want soil temperature of 78 to 85 degrees with 120 to 150 growing days. Keep soil slightly moist ‘Not’ water logged wet.

      Happy Holiday Season


      • Hey thanks. I’m new to home growing, this summer was one big experiment. That I had any success is a bonus.

        A lot of the seeds I’m getting are from UK stocks and others have reported success in outdoor growing. Admittedly our small back garden is quite sheltered so only gets the best of the morning and midday sun before getting slightly shaded.

        I was curious as to whether growing in a planter would have a real bearing on soil temperatures as opposed to the pots? I was working on the theory of relative surface area to soil volume in pots compared to a raised bed or planter. In the sun I’d guess the pots would heat faster but also cool faster in the shade.

        It really was the Habanero selection that performed badly. The others seemed to do pretty well after a late start.

        As I type this my PC is telling me it’s about 44 degrees outside but the Brainstrain, Fatalii and 7pods in the living room seem to be making the most of the little sun there is and still growing well. It may just be that if I want the Habaneros to grow I need to keep them inside.

        Hopefully it won’t be long before I can start making some killer sauces of my own from the homegrown peppers!


        • Re chillifan – I have a female friend that lives in Washington state. Her weather is much like your UK weather, where air temperature seldom exceeds 80 degrees. She has good luck growing her pepper patch in a raised bed covered with black plastic. Cutting a hole in the plastic and planting her plants in that hole. She said it heats and holds the soil moisture and temperature. Also helps to controls weeds. You may want to consider a test plot using her method for growing peppers.

          Happy Holiday Season


          • Thanks again pobept.. I was over in WA some years back, I visited Seattle and the conclusion was that it wasn’t too dissimilar to my home town both in climate and culture.

            I hadn’t considered using black plastic covering but I’d be keen to give this a go. I’ve previously started my well performing seeds in small propagators and coir plugs. The poor performing seeds were started in poor quality soil rather than coir plugs. Perhaps this too has contributed? Am I right in thinking that coir is better for temperature and moisture when starting peppers? I am a complete novice. Certainly it’s evident that those grown this way had a better start, the Ring of Fire, Santa Fe Grande etc.

            I definitely think a raised bed would be a good move and I’ll run a test with the black plastic. Thanks again.


            • Re chillifan – Sorry but I have never saw or used Coir Plugs. I use common potting soil (as a starter mix) soaked in a water soluble balanced 5-5-5 or 10-10-10 fertilizer applied at 1/4 full strength for the first watering. FYI peppers are perennial plants and can be over wintered in pots as a house plant giving a really big head start on next years pepper crop.
              Good Luck with your pepper crop.


  3. Funniest thing I’ve read in a week!


    • Re Bart – Thanks for taking time to visit my tiny blog.
      I’m glad to hear that you enjoyed my guided tour of a ‘Real’ Texas chili cook-off.
      Happy Holiday season


  4. Reblogged this on gutsisthekey and commented:
    Too funny not to repost and since I am a hot pepper aficianado; it fits on my site. Really good site to visit.


  5. very funny – great reporting – made me giggle – stopped in for chili recipes but then just enjoyed the ride reading your article – SUVs the size of a townhouse with a tailgate, I never saw the point of those unless you have a farm, but now we see them here in Europe too, shiny black with a big truck bed and patently being driven to make a statement. It’s a shame the international influencing didn’t go the other way, then the Texans would be driving SMART cars which would have been better environmentally, but of course at a Chili cookoff you would then need to mosey on over to some large guys pickup and try to share his beer and tailgate – and need I say it: that’s how fights get started ๐Ÿ™‚


  6. Texas chili, Texas Playboys, Texas two-step – get aload of Patsy doing Old San Antone –

    too bad no video, but who needs video with that voice.

    thanks for the memories pobept!


  7. Wonderful post – good enough to repost every fall! ๐Ÿ™‚


  8. Leland, Mississippi has a chili cook-off every year. Everyone gets to sample the chili and vote on their favorite. Last year, the one I thought was the worse (and everyone I talked to) won…


  9. That is TOO funny! Still laughing.


  10. really, really interesting


  11. Ha ha ha, that has really made me laugh! My sister in law has just moved back to Texas so a Texas Chilli Cook Of will be on our To Do list when we visit next summer.. ๐Ÿ™‚
    I live in Southern Ireland, just outside of Banteer, Co Cork!
    Great Blog!


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