Over The Top Chili

Over The Top Chili

I’m a big fan of a hearty spicy chili. Smoked chili takes this to another level especially when we smoke the meat and the chili slowly. This recipe is perfect for make ahead meals for you and your family, and I guarantee it will kick things up a notch above more conventional chili as you let the giant meatball smoke atop your cauldron of chili goodness. The spices and add-ins have been prepped to my preference to make something spicy but not killer hot.

Chili Vessel

I’ve always smoke this in a ceramic 6 quart crock pot liner, but you can use any large pot that’s safe to bake from steel, to cast iron, to a dutch oven.

Wood Choice

I carry this out on my pellet smoker, and I tend to favor hickory or a hickory blend. Some folks who want a less heavy smoke may prefer a blend instead or some specific wood that will produce a sweeter smoke. I would avoid mesquite for this as it will probably be too bitter for most palates.

The Meat

While a big 3 pound meatball is the norm for this recipe, you can make that meatball with all ground beef or some combination of chorizo, turkey, or chicken. Beef and chorizo are excellent, but any of these combos should yield something delicious. I prefer to mix seasoning into the meatball so it’s absorbing them as it cooks.

The Heat

When making a spicy chili, I’m a fan of incorporating multiple types of peppers to give a complimentary bouquet of flavors. I typically use habanero, chipotle powder, ghost pepper, and chili powder. In the near future I’ll post my recipe for smoked chipotle powder from fresh jalapenos, but home smoked chipotle powder will give your chili more potent smoke and heat than the store bought stuff.

The Brewski

Use light lager. Don’t use hoppy stuff as it may bitter up the chili. Something like Bud, Coors, or any other macro or micro lager that’s kind of watery. A regular 12oz can is fine, but if your chili vessel has the space you could up the beer to thin things a bit more.


Here’s a nice big raw meatball. I flatten the meatball a bit so it won’t hit the top of my smoker.

Topping the chili

A cooling rack is a good way to suspend your meatball over the chili base for smoking. Make sure to insert a temperature probe in the meatball to check doneness as you go.

Ready to drop in

Smoke the meatball over the chili. Though you can watch the flavor drip right into your vat, it’s better to leave the top closed on your smoker. If you’re looking then you aint cooking as they say. When the meatball has reached the desired internal temperature, it will look something like the picture above.

Break it and stir it

Break up the meatball into chunks and chuck it into the vat! I was using some oversized silicon grill gloves, but these days I use nitrile gloves streched over cotton work gloves for more dexterity and easy cleanup. Once it’s in, stir it up.

Smoke until done

Let the chili smoke longer to get everything tender, melded, and smoked. Voila! You have some delicious chili you can dish out to your hungry fans. Traditional chili toppings all apply such as cheddar, sour cream, cilantro, or whatever you like. Enjoy!

  • 12 bowls
  • 25 minutes
  • 5 hours



  • 3 lbs ground beef or combo of ground meats
  • 2 tbsp ranch powder
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp cumin
  • 2 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp garlic minced

Chili Base

  • 1/2 jalapeno sliced thin
  • 1/2 habanero minced
  • 1 tbsp smoked chipotle powder
  • 1/4 tsp smoked ghost pepper
  • 1 tbsp ghee or oil for saute
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2-3 bell peppers diced
  • 1 tbsp garlic minced
  • 15-16oz beef broth
  • 15 oz can tomato sauce
  • 28 oz can crushed or diced tomatoes with liquid
  • 2 - 15 oz cans of black beans rinsed and drained
  • 3 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tbsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp cocoa
  • 2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 12 oz light lager


Chili Base

  1. Saute onions, garlic, and ghee over medium heat in a frying pan. Then add the bell peppers and cook until almost tender.
  2. Transfer all ingredients from saute pan to your chili vessel of choice such as a crock pot liner, dutch oven, or other pot.
  3. Add all the other chili base ingredients to your chili vessel.


  1. Combine all the meatball ingredients and form into a ball.


  1. Preheat smoker to 300.
  2. Place the meatball on a cooling rack over the chili vessel in the smoker.
  3. Smoke until the meatball internal temperature reaches 160 degrees which takes about 3 hours.
  4. Break up the meatball and mix into the chili, and remove the cooling rack from the smoker.
  5. Simmer chili in smoker until it hits desired tenderness and smoke level or about 2 hours.

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