The great chili cook-off

December 3, 2006 on 7:00 pm | By | In Food Musings | Comments Off on The great chili cook-off

After our run today my darling and I had a hankering for chili. Now I make some really awesome chili, but it takes all day and we wanted chili NOW. I’m sure there are places in Seattle that offer a decent bowl, but I’m not aware of any. Besides, we both had a ton of work to do and didn’t want to waste time going somewhere. So we decided to settle for store-bought.

I had hoped one local market might offer some freshly made (they often have a big pot of cioppino bubbling away), but alas we were out of luck (heck, they didn’t even have cioppino!). So off to the shelves of canned chilis I headed. I immediately spied one brand that looked promising: Pacific Natural Foods’ Beef Steak Chili with Beans. An added bonus — it wasn’t canned, but rather came in a microwaveable pouch. It was, however, much spendier than the canned offerings ($4.99/18-ounce package).

At that point my darling came up with the idea of doing a chili taste test. He first picked an organic brand, but since it was vegetarian we didn’t think it would be a fair comparison. We both love spicy food, so we chose the Campbell’s Chunky Firehouse Chili with Beans.

Okay, so calling it “the great chili cook-off” is rather misleading given we were just comparing two kinds (and as my darling points out, we didn’t even cook ’em; we just heated them up). If we were Cook’s Illustrated we would have chosen at least 8-10 brands and would have compared them to homemade. But we were hungry, dammit!

As you can see in this picture, the Pacific chili was much thicker:

Chili

The texture was much closer to my own, plus it had nice big chunks of beef in it (while the beef in the Chunky style was indiscernable). However, I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of heat in the Chunky version. In fact, I felt the Pacific version was a bit bland (it improved considerably after I added Tabasco and more salt). Neither contained funky ingredients (other than modified food starch in the Chunky version).

The Pacific brand, although containing more calories per 1-cup serving than the Chunky (250 compared to 220), had a lower percentage of fat (24% compared to Chunky’s 32%). Not surprisingly, Chunky’s chili was much cheaper ($2.99 for 19-ounce can).

So what was our verdict? Well, MY chili is the hands-down winner. But if that’s not available I’d go for the doctored Pacific. My darling actually liked the Chunky better since it was spicier, but he conceded that if he had thought to add spice to the Pacific, he would have preferred it.

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