Texas-style Smoked Chili (adapted from Johnny Trigg’s recipe)

January 6th, 201370 Comments


5.0 from 11 reviews
Texas-style Smoked Chili (adapted from Johnny Trigg’s recipe)
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
Chili is good all year round but it’s especially comforting during the chilly winter months. Pair it with some crusty bread or SYD cornbread, it makes a complete meal. You can amp the heat up or down, and the spices up or down depending on your mood. I like chili that’s plain and simple. I don’t add beans, chopped onions as a garnish, shredded cheese, nor sour cream. Of all the chili recipes I’ve tried, one of the best that I like is the one that Johnny Trigg made during Season One of TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters. Johnny cooked a big pot of chili with about 20 lbs of ground chuck and it was served during the dinner scene in the Season Finale episode eight.

TLC’s BBQ Pitmasters – Cast from Season One 2010
We actually ate dinner in the scene where Johnny challenged all the pitmasters to a winner-take-all rib throwdown. Paul Peterson who was also on the show was a trained chef and he made some awesome enchiladas with Pico de Gallo but it was Johnny’s chili that was memorable for me. His chili is mild and very enjoyable and you can eat a lot of it without getting heartburn. When I told Trish, Johnny’s wife (all of us called her Mom on the show) that I liked Johnny’s chili, she was so kind to send me a handwritten recipe for Johnny’s Texas style chili with no beans. I’ve since adapted Johnny’s recipe to suit my tastes and cooking style. For example, I like to smoke my chili in a cast iron pot on the pit to give it a smoky flair and I make it much spicier. I also use the spice dunk approach (see recipe) that is common among competition chili cooks to get maximum flavor before eating. I also add a piece of old cheese to enhance the flavor and give it a smooth luxurious texture. It’s thick and can be eaten with a fork and goes well on top of a hotdog! I like to make it the day before to let it rest in the fridge for at least a day before I reheat and serve it.
Recipe type: Entree
Cuisine: American
Serves: 6
  • 5 lbs ground chuck or ground beef with 25% fat
  • 2 tablespoons of canola oil
  • 1 big onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, chopped
  • 2 heaping tablespoons all purpose flour
  • 28 oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 six-oz cans tomato paste
  • 4 oz of old cheese (I used an old block of Parmigiano-Reggiano I had in the fridge. A block of sharp cheddar or cheddar also works well)
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 beef bouillon cubes Knorr brand
  • ½ tsp cayenne powder (more or less to your taste)
  • SYD Hot Rub to taste
  • Chili spice dunk (use more or less to your taste)
  • 3 heaping tablespoons mild chili powder
  • 2 heaping tablespoons paprika
  • 2 heaping tablespoons ground cumin
  1. Saute ground beef in large saucepan in canola oil until beef is cooked. Season with SYD Hot Rub to taste. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cooked beef into your cast iron pot. If you don’t have a cast iron pot, you can use a disposable foil pan for easier cleanup. Or use a pot if you’re cooking the chili on your stove.
  2. Drain off excess fat leaving behind about 4 tablespoons of fat. Add onions and sauté until onions are translucent. Add chopped garlic and cook for a couple more minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the onion and garlic mixture to the pot or pan where you have your cooked ground beef.
  3. Whisk in two tablespoons of flour in the remaining fat in the saucepan. Cook the flour in the oil under medium-low heat to make a roux. Add more oil as needed to get the right consistency for the roux. It should feel like uncooked pancake batter. Cook the roux until it is light brown.
  4. Once roux is light brown, turn up the heat and add water a half cup at a time to whisk the roux into gravy. Once you reach the gravy consistency, stop adding more water.
  5. Add the canned tomatoes, tomato paste, block of old cheese, brown sugar, cinnamon, crumbled beef bouillon cubes, cayenne, and salt and pepper. Pour the entire mixture into the pot/pan you have your cooked ground beef. If you’re not going to smoke the chili on the pit, you can use a pot or Crockpot to simmer the chili for several hours.
  6. Add half of the spice dunk mixture and mix thoroughly. Put the pot/pan into your pit at 250-300 degrees and smoke the chili uncovered for several hours. Every hour, give it a stir and add more water (or beer) as needed.
  7. Add the remaining half of the spice dunk mixture about 15 minutes before you’re going to eat it. The extra time is needed to cook the spices. There is a fine line as to whether the spices taste “raw” or mellow and it’s a matter of individual preferences. Some people like the taste of the raw spices and some don’t. For chili competitors, this is a topic of endless debate. For me, 15 minutes is just right. I also prefer to cook my chili and then refrigerate it so I can eat it the next day as it tastes better.
  8. Before you serve your chili, don’t forget to taste it before serving as the spices have mellowed out. Don’t hesitate to add more spice dunk, cayenne, salt, pepper, and brown sugar to your liking. I like to eat my chili with some freshly made SYD cornbread. Enjoy!


70 comments... read them below or add one

  1. fesdwino says:

    Looks like a nice recipe. You may have read the recipe incorrectly. Additions of spices are known as "dumps" not "dunks". Good luck in 2013!

  2. smokinsuburbia says:

    know dumps is right, but I like dunks. I’ve got a batch of this chili on the smoker right now. We’ll see how it turns out.

  3. InspectorKluso says:

    I’m new to this site. Is there a "print" button for the chili recipe hidden somewhere or do I have to write it out by hand? My "print" and "print screen" buttons get me a blank page out of my printer….Thanks!

  4. Brad-B-Q says:

    The recipe seems a little complex for a simple chili. I can’t see Trigg pronouncing half the words used. Must be heavily modified.

    • Harry Soo says:

      Hey Brad:
      Yes, the recipe is complex and the results are worth it.
      The addition of old cheese, roux, and SYD Rub were mine as I wanted more thickness.
      The "dunks" are also mine as I enjoy chili that has a robust flavor.
      Try it out and let me know what you think. Thanks

  5. RyanFisher says:

    What type of wood do you use for this chili recipe? Thanks for sharing!

  6. DanO says:

    Just pulled off the smoker after 4 hours using a combo of Apple and peach. By far the best chili I’ve ever had.I made a small batch with sautéed ghost peppers wow! That turned up the heat. A+++++ recipe

  7. JJ says:

    This is amazing! Recently purchased a smoker – couldn’t wait to try chili. Will never need another chili recipe ever again. Thanks!

  8. Dot says:

    This is the BEST chili recipe I ever had. I don’t use no other recipe Johnny Trigg is the Best hands down. 10 Stars

  9. Jim D says:

    Harry –

    I’d like to cook this the day before, and then heat it up 2nd day in a crockpot for a chili competition at work. Should I put the 2nd dunk day 1, or wait until I’m almost done heating it up in the crockpot?

  10. Wrigley Wrangler says:

    What are you looking for when you "add water/beer as needed" – what is a rough estimate on the amount of water/beer to add. {Currently Smoking, will update results}

  11. Gloria says:

    I made this for my husbands work today for the chili cookoff! Awesome flavors. I didn’t have the spice dunk though and added an horchata beer.
    Guess who won 1st place!!
    Thank you for the recipe!

  12. Ron says:

    I crumbled up bacon and added it into the onion garlic mix Have to say probably the best chili have every had!!!! Thanks for the recipe

  13. Brian Gailey says:

    Any recommendations on type of beer to use?

  14. Dan McGill says:

    Gonna make this later today.
    Do you throw that block of cheese in whole? What effect does that have? Why not cube it or shred it?

  15. jus says:

    5 lbs beef?? Feeds 6?? Is that right??

  16. Daniel says:

    So is it really 5 lbs of beef?

  17. miles says:

    I used 2 pounds of venison hamburger and modified the ingredients as best as I could. Smoked it with hickory since thats all I had. seemed like by using venison the venison chunks were hearty. ill make a bigger batch next time. Everyone seemed to love it. Thanks, Harry

  18. Anthony says:

    I’m gonna try this for my church chili contest. Do you think using brisket or pulled pork would be OK? And what if I add beans? Thanks
    Anthony K

  19. Chris says:

    Is 5 lbs of ground beef correct for 6 servings of chili?

  20. Chris says:

    Never mind, I saw my answer above. Thanks

  21. Landon Sullivan says:

    Ok, I’m new to this…. but what is a spice dunk? I have no clue what this is or how to put it in the chilli. Also I need a alternative spice for this chilli as I will not have the spice you are suggesting. Thank you for the time!! And I can’t wait to sweep the competition at my chilli cook off.

    • Harry Soo says:

      The spice dunk is put in to amplify the flavor. You can find these spices in grocery stores: Chili spice dunk (use more or less to your taste) = 3 heaping tablespoons mild chili powder + 2 heaping tablespoons paprika + 2 heaping tablespoons ground cumin
      In your contest, add some dunk about 10 minutes before turn-in to get the flavors to pop. Simmer and adjust the amount to not overdo it. Good luck!

  22. Landon Sullivan says:

    Awesome! Thanks for the info!

  23. Harry Soo says:

    In January 2018, this recipe was used by me to win the 2018 Kiwanis Chili Cookoff in Alameda California using 3/8 inch dice Prime tri tip purchased from Costco in Pleasanton, Calif. This recipe rocks and there’s a medal to prove it.

  24. Gary sloan says:

    Hi Harry,
    For the competition did you use both ground Chuck and tri tip? Also, did you smoke the tri tip first?

  25. Blake says:

    What is chili spice dunk if it is just a mxiture of spice you make up what do you recommend to use?

  26. Nathan Duersch says:

    Harry…back to the use of Tri-Tip. Did you smoke the Tri-Tip before adding it to the chili or did you cook the Tri-Tip with the chili?

  27. Chris says:

    Yep, made the perfect chili.

  28. Robert P Martin says:

    Lagunitas Brown Sugar beer works really well

  29. JayZ says:

    I have loved this recipie for a few years now. This year I added a twist. I cook the ground beef OTT style. I use a serloin as well and use bacon fat for the oil. Cooking my second batch this season. 1st batch was hands down the best chili I have ever made or had for that matter.

  30. Bradly says:

    Just tried this recipe for a church chili contest and it won out of about 25 other pots of chili. So chalk another win for this recipe. I smoked it for about 6 hours with hickory flavor. Best chili I’ve ever had!

    • Harry Soo says:

      Congrats! Another winner! When you have time, you can watch my Youtube channel where I won the Kiwanis chili contest with a similar recipe.

  31. Jason Macpherson says:

    No beans in this recipe?

  32. Chris Conley says:

    Hi Harry! Huge fan here :). I was wondering if I could do cubed chuck roast instead of the ground beef, or would I want to keep both meats in there? If both meats, would you still shoot for 5 total pounds?

  33. Chris Conley says:

    Thought I owed it to come back and give this chili a five-star rating! My wife said it is the best she’s ever had. My office also crushed it at our Christmas potluck!

    In the words of the great Johnny Trigg, "Whooo, oh my gawd… I just outdid myself. I just outdid myself!" I love that episode! Thank you for the great recipe, Harry! Second one I’ve tried (first was the Kalua Pork) and both were fantastic! Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  34. Ben says:

    Super excited to try making this for friendly chili competition tomorrow. Though will sub out the bouillon cubes, as blocks of MSG feels like cheating 😉

    • Harry Soo says:

      Good luck. Send me your 1stplace pics! Please see my YouTube channel also for 1st place chili

    • Ben says:

      Funnily enough I actually won! From out of 9 chilis Won a new Lodge Dutch Oven as a prize. I omitted the boulouion during the initial phase. Did 3/4 ground beef and 1/4 diced tri-tip. NO beans or fillers (never knew that was a comp rule). Smoked over oak lump charcoal and apple wood chunks for almost five hours (bc I fell asleep). Used a little beer to keep moist first 1/3 of time, then switched to beef stock. Every hour. Let to cool, then into Friday. Next day heated up in a large pot, added more beef stock, more of the spice dump mix. Pumpkin spice (think that’s my new secret ingredient). Let it simmer for a bit then into slow cooker on low in prep to take on hour drive to friends house.

      I think the extra time re-cooking prior after being in fridge really brought out flavors.

      Everyone was surpirsed it was ALL meat. The smoke was sutble but really make it shine. I could have added more chilli poweder.

      Thanks for making my first ever chili a success!

    • Harry Soo says:

      CONGRATULATIONS! Well done!

  35. Paul says:

    How many quarts does this make?

  36. Kevin says:

    I used this as a base for my pork baby back ribs chili. I followed this recipe but used smoked pork baby backs cubed to about 1/4”. I also added about 1/2 cup of my bbq sauce. Smoked it for 3 hours on the smoker and placed 1st out of 15 at the church Super Bowl party.
    I’m going to make it again this weekend using beef and no bbq to feed the local school board. Love this recipe and it can be easily adapted.

  37. Lisa Bizier says:

    Hey Harry. Love watching you cook. So basically if i dont do the old cheese, dont do the dunk approach, and dont smoke in a cast iron pot, this is would be EXACTLY how Mr. Trigg does it? I want to try both ways.
    thanks so much. You’re awesome!!!

    • Harry Soo says:

      Sounds like a plan. Give it a go and let me know how your Mr. Trigg’s recipe come out. Trish Trigg wrote the recipe for me in her own handwriting!

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