On cold days, nothing goes better with football and beer than a hearty bowl of chili. Throwing a chili cook-off for your friends one Sunday is a perfect way to get plenty of chili for the entire week. Plus, it’s the only way to ensure your friends will bring over something more substantial than chips.
Who to Invite
Invite both cooks and noncooks. You want your favorite people there, but only tell those with actual culinary abilities to bring chili. While making chili may seem easy to the casual observer, there is nothing worse than a wasted pot of burnt, tasteless meat, tomato sauce and beans. Explain to the noncooks that they are necessary as impartial judges and more than three people bringing over chili will become more complication than fun. Ideally, you should have between two to four recipes (including yours). Most importantly, keep things relatively small — you don’t want more mouths than chili.
Set the Scene
When you invite chili-cookers, tell them to bring a finished product. You won't want your buddy Chuck bringing over five pounds of raw ground beef and beans, then expecting you to clean up the mess. If you have the counter space and outlets, suggest they bring a Crockpot to keep it warm. Pick a time of day when there are good football games on or whatever your choice of sports might be. While chili tastes best with a side of football, movies like Major League, Slap Stick, Raging Bull, Beerfest, and Ghostbusters are excellent alternatives if watching sports isn't your thing.
What You Should Provide
So you don’t spend too much, ask friends who aren’t bringing chili to bring beer, wine, shredded cheese, chopped onions, rice, corn chips, sour cream, hot sauce, tortillas, crackers, guacamole, or cornbread. If you can’t get someone to commit to each of those, you should make sure to have them on hand. If friends are bringing Crockpots then make sure you get cheap aluminum, buffet-style serving dishes with cans of Sterno to keep things warm. Get eco-friendly disposable bowls and spoons for easy clean-up later. Have little slips of paper for everyone to write down their votes and don’t get too drunk before tallying them up. Buy a cheap trophy to award the winner. You can find reasonable chili pot or cow trophies online.
How to Judge
Let everyone eat as much chili as they want and have them vote on a slip of paper. If chili batches are anonymous, no one will feel obligated to vote for their significant other or best friend. Have a nonpartial judge tally the votes and award the prize. Allow the winner to talk about the chili and invite people who voted for it to explain why they like it, if they wish to reveal themselves. Also, make the winner disclose one secret ingredient or tip for everyone to take away for next time.
Chili to Fill You Up All Week
The clean up should be easy if you buy disposable bowls and silverware. Instruct chili cooks to bring their own Tupperware so they can trade dishes with each other. If you follow that setup, the after-effects should be painless and there should be plenty of chili in the fridge for a week.
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