How to make Campfire Chili
Updated: Nov 13, 2018
Note: This article was written by guest writer and childhood friend Jacob Dunn
How to make Campfire Chili
Nothing says self-sufficient like cooking outdoors. Cooking on a campfire is a truly primal experience, ashes and smoke add flavor that is hard to identify and impossible to recreate indoors. Campfire cooking takes patience, attention, and one of the most versatile and useful items the campfire cook can use – a cast iron dutch oven.
So first you’ll need a cast iron dutch oven – try to find an old one because they conduct heat much more evenly – but the newer models are ok too. If you find a rusty dutch oven – that’s fine – these things never wear out and can be brushed out and re-seasoned again and again. Antique stores, estate sales, and grandma’s garage are great places to start looking. Ebay is also an option but you’ll pay a lot for shipping (they’re heavy).
How to season a dutch oven:
If you’ve found an especially rusty dutch oven, you’ll need to brush it out with steel wool until the rusty scales are gone. Don’t use any anti-rust agents though because cast iron is porous and will absorb the chemicals – not something you’ll want to taste in your chili.
Once the rust is gone, take a rag or a paper towel with vegetable oil and wipe it out to remove any rust residue. Now that it’s clean, you’ll need to season it. Seasoning is a process of coating the iron molecules with fat by heating the iron and then cooling it down again. Once a pot is seasoned, it will be a non-stick surface. To season, heat the dutch oven up over coals and pour about two tablespoons of oil in the bottom. Taking a paper towel, spread the oil all over the inside and outside of the pot being careful not to burn yourself (actually it’s impossible not to burn yourself when working with dutch ovens).
Another option is to simply cook something greasy – bacon or fatback for example – in the dutch oven and use the grease to wipe down the hot surfaces of the pot. Be aware through, that everything you cook in the pot from then on will taste like bacon. You may have to repeat this step several times if your dutch oven is especially old and dried out. Once there is a shimmery black coating on the inside of the dutch oven, let it cool completely. Your dutch oven is ready to cook in.
To clean and maintain your dutch oven: A shortened version of this seasoning process needs to happen after each time you cook in the dutch oven. Soap will ruin the seasoning – so don’t wash it with soap and water. Also, carefully guard your cast iron from people to ensure that they DO NOT wash it either. After each use make sure all the food residue is scraped out. Then heat it up, add about a tablespoon of oil and wipe the surfaces with a paper towel dipped in the oil. Let it cool completely.
Now that your dutch oven is properly seasoned, it’s time to finally make some chili. Start a campfire and wait until you have a nice, even bed of coals. While you wait, assemble and prep your ingredients.
Fresh Ingredients: 2 tbsp. olive oil 1 lb. Ground beef or ground venison ½ lb. Spicy Sausage like Mexican chorizo One bell pepper diced One large onion diced 2 Large carrots diced Garlic to taste (I put 5-6 cloves) minced 1 tbsp Cumin 1 tbsp. Yellow curry 1 tsp Red chili flakes ½ tbsp Coriander
Canned Ingredients: 1 large can tomato sauce 1 can whole tomatoes 1 can black beans rinsed 1 can red beans rinsed 1 can corn rinsed
Heat the pot over the coals and add the olive oil. Once it’s hot, add the ground beef, garlic, onion, and carrot until they’ve browned – 5-8 minutes
Add the sausage and cook for 3-4 minutes Add the bell peppers 2 minutes Add the spices in and stir. Add the cans of tomatoes crushing the whole tomatoes with your hands Add the beans and corn and stir.
Put the lid on the dutch oven slightly tilted allowing some steam to escape. Let it simmer over the coals for about an hour and a half, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust spices. Rake fresh coals as needed to keep the chili simmering. Rake coals away or move the dutch oven to keep the chili from boiling.
Enjoy with friends!