Whilst staying in Yellowstone National Park, we had the pleasure of enjoying a delicious bowl or three of smoked bison chili. It was absolutely delicious, the meat and sauce had a richer flavour than beef chili dishes I had previously tasted.
After a bit of research back at the home ranch, we came up with our own version using buffalo and cooked up some tasty buffalo chili with roasted tomatoes.
Buffalo Chili with Roasted Tomatoes
|20-25 mins prep
3 hours cook (mostly unattended)
Grated smoked cheese
|Mature Northern Rhone/Shiraz|
Buffalo and Beef … What’s The Difference?
Buffalo meat (and bison) can be considered a healthier option to beef. It is leaner than beef, with a richer flavour that has a hint of sweetness to it. Buffalo meat is lower in calories, whilst retaining similar protein levels, and has more iron and vitamin B-12. In a nutshell, it’s better for you than beef, and tastes very similar. If you’d like to know more, check out this article.
I sourced the buffalo mince from The Buffalo Farm in Scotland (no commercial connection). They do a prompt home delivery service. I looked at a number of online recipes for buffalo chili, included a classic Colorado Buffalo Chili and one found on the Whole Foods website. The recipe below is a mash-up of these, made to our tastes and also based on what was available in the UK.
I cooked this in our Big Green Egg to add smoke flavours to the chili. It could probably be cooked in a conventional oven using the same technique, just leave out the smoking wood chunks. Or follow the method published on the Whole Foods website. In addition you’ll need:
- Sharp knives
- Chopping board
- Large bowl
- Casserole dish or Dutch oven
- Cooking rack/grid that sits on the casserole dish
Ensure that the casserole dish can be used on your hob and in a Big Green Egg. I used an 8 litre Le Crueset casserole dish.
- 1.5kg buffalo mince
- 4 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
- 1 x 400g can red kidney beans
- 1 x 400g can pinto beans
- 1 large white Spanish onion
- 2 Romano peppers
- 3 red chillies
- 45g ancho chili paste
- 2 tsp Worcester sauce
- 500g sweet vine tomatoes
- Ground white pepper
- 300ml red wine
- 150ml water
- 3 cloves smoked garlic
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- 3 tbsp Dizzy Pig Red Eye Express
- 1-2 hickory smoking chunks (optional)
I like the strong aroma from hickory in chili. If this isn’t to your liking, cherry or apple wood chunks can be used. If you don’t have Dizzy Pig Red Eye Express you can make a rub using a mixture of chili, cumin, garlic and onion powders.
If you’ve made Over The Top Smoked Chili before, the method for buffalo chili uses the same technique. It cooks faster, as buffalo mince is leaner than beef.
- Pre-heat the Egg (indirect cooking setup) to 125°C/260°F. Toss the smoking chunks onto the glowing coals, replace the platesetter, add the stainless steel grid. Wait for the thin blue line of smoke.
- Meanwhile, slice the white onion and Romano peppers into bite sized chunks. Finely slice the red chilis, crush the garlic cloves. Drain the kidney and pinto beans. Slice the vine tomatoes in half.
- In a bowl, mix the Dizzy Pig Red Eye Express rub into the buffalo mince with 1 tsp salt and 1 tsp ground white pepper until it is all fully combined. Separate into three ball shapes and squeeze each tightly.
- Warm the rapeseed oil in the casserole dish over a low heat. Saute the onions until soft, then add the Romano pepper chunks. Saute for another minute.
- Add in the drained kidney and pinto beans, red chili slices, 3 tins of chopped tomatoes, crushed garlic, ancho chili paste and water. Stir, bring to a simmer, add the red wine and Worcester sauce, then salt and pepper to taste.
- Put the balls of mince on the rack/grid and arrange the halved tomatoes around the mince balls. Put the grid on top of the casserole dish, ensuring that the tomatoes and mince balls do not overhang the edge of the dish.
- Carefully place the casserole dish into the Egg. Close the Egg’s lid and cook for 2 hours.
- With heat-resistant gloves, remove the casserole dish from the Egg. Remove the grate holding the tomatoes and balls of mince. Place the balls of mince on a clean chopping board. Decant the roasted tomatoes into the casserole dish. Add in the fourth tin of tomatoes.
- Cut and break the balls of meat into small chunks and add to the casserole dish, stirring with a clean spatula. Add some extra wine or some water if it’s looking dried out.
- Return the casserole dish to the Egg and cook for another hour, stirring occasionally.
- Serve with rice, sour cream, tortilla chips, coriander and grated smoked cheddar cheese.
Hints, Tips and Pictures
- This tastes even better after a day or two, allowing the smoke aromatics to integrate. Put a lid on the casserole dish, let it cool down, wrap it in kitchen foil and store it in the fridge.
- Always use heat-resistant gloves when manipulating hot items in a Big Green Egg.
- I used a raised grid to have the ball of meat higher in the dome. This accentuates the smoke flavour imparted into the meat.
- You can add extra smoking chunks partway through, simply remove the casserole dish, grid and platesetter. Be sure to wear heat-resistant gloves when doing this. Depends on how smokey you like your chili.
- The outside of the casserole dish can be coated with silver foil to protect it from smoke damage. For a proper cast iron Dutch oven this isn’t necessary, however for enameled products this is a good thing to do.