My wife and I experienced a fantastic lunch at the Gatlinburg branch of Calhoun’s Tennessee BBQ in 2019, part of our east coast USA tour. The highight was the best chilli that we’ve ever tasted, using brisket as the meat. After cooking and enjoying some brisket back home, we had leftovers. Time to emulate that amazing Calhoun’s Tennessee brisket chilli.
Alder Smoked Brisket Chilli
|20 mins prep
4-5 hours cook
|Tortilla chips, grated cheese|
Brisket, Leftovers and Meaty Chunks
To acquire leftovers, we needed to cook a brisket. This exercise is the nirvana for most BBQers, with many recipes available in books and online. I used the technique described in Aaron Franklin’s authorative tome Franklin Barbecue: A Meat-Smoking Manifesto to cook ours. There’s only two of us at home (and three large, fluffy Mainecoon cats), and it was a meaty 6kg brisket, so we had plenty of leftovers available to experiment with.
The brisket chilli was a significant step up in quality from previous, similar dishes. Why? It’s the first time we’ve made chilli with small, meaty chunks (the Calhoun’s inspiration). Previously I’d used minced or ground meat. The texture that those small, meaty chunks of heavenly brisket goodness imparted into the dish elevated it to a whole new level. Definitely the way to go, it’s almost worth cooking an entire brisket again just to get leftovers to make this lovely chilli.
- Sharp knives
- Chopping board
- Large bowl
- Dutch oven or casserole dish that can be used in a Big Green Egg
For a Dutch oven I use a Le Creuset casserole dish. These are perfectly safe to use in the Egg, the one you’ll see in the pictures in this blog post has been utilised in many Egg cooks over the years.
In the list below, I use three peppers – red, yellow and green. It doesn’t really matter what colour you use, I happened to have one of each lying around. Orange also works.
- 1kg cooked brisket
- 3 peppers
- 2 medium white onion
- 4 x 400g tinned chopped tomatoes
- 1 x 400g tinned pinto beans
- 2 x 400g tinned kidney beans
- 3 cloves smoked garlic
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 3 red chillis
- 2-3 tsp smoked sea salt
- 2-3 tsp course ground black pepper
- 1-2 tbsp Dizzy Pig Redeye Express rub
- 250ml red wine (Malbec)
- 100g chipotle paste
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 100ml bourbon
- 1 smoking chunk
The Redeye Express rub is optional, I find it gives it a bit of a kick. It’s a coffee-based rub so you could try a bit of coffee instead.
I used alder wood to smoke this chilli. For regular chilli, e.g. over the top smoked chilli, I would use hickory. However the brisket was already impregnated with hickory smoke from when it was cooked, so I went with a different and slightly milder aromatic instead.
The method below is for cooking in a Big Green Egg or other similar Kamado style cooker. You can also prepare this with a conventional oven, just without adding the smoking chunk. If using a conventional oven, put a lid on the casserole dish when adding to the oven.
- Pre-heat the Egg to 135°C/275°F, indirect cooking setup.
- Chop up the leftover brisket into small cubes, about half an inch on each side. Slice the onion and peppers into small chunks. Finely slice the chillis and crush the garlic cloves. Drain the kidney and pinto beans using a colander.
- Heat up the oil in the Dutch oven over a medium heat. Saute the garlic, chilli slices and onions with a dash of salt and pepper for 4 minutes, then add the pepper chunks. Saute for an additional minute.
- Add in the chopped brisket and combine with the onion and pepper chunks. Then add the drained kidney and pinto beans, tomato puree, 3 tins of chopped tomatoes, the Redeye Express rub and 2 tsp each of smoked salt and black pepper. Stir gently, bring to a simmer, add the red wine and bourbon. Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.
- Add water to the tomato tins. Pour the water (and extra tomato flavouring) into the Dutch oven to bring the liquid level up so it mostly covers the ingredients.
- Using heat-resistant gloves, remove the platesetter from the Egg. Toss the smoking chunks onto the glowing coals, replace the platesetter, add the stainless steel grid.
- Place the Dutch oven on the stainless steel grid inside the Egg. Close the Egg’s lid and smoke the chilli for around 3 hours.
- Burp and open the Egg. At this stage the chili may have dried a little, if it has add the fourth tin of tomatoes (see hints and tips section below). Cook for another 1-2 hours at 135°C/275°F, stirring occasionally. At the end, skim off any fat that has accumulated on the surface of the chili.
- Serve with any of rice, sour cream, tortilla chips, coriander and grated cheese.
This tastes even better after a day or two resting. Put a lid on the Dutch oven, let it cool down, wrap it in kitchen foil and store it in the fridge. The smokey aromas from the cooking vessel infuse into the chili even more over the next couple of days.
Hints, Tips and Pictures
- If the chili looks dried up when the meat is added it needs that fourth tin of tomatoes.
- I cooked this in our Large Big Green Egg. It wouldn’t fit in the Minimax. I could probably halve the ingredients and use a smaller casserole dish to get it to fit.
- Always use heat-resistant gloves when manipulating hot items in a Big Green Egg.