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H.O.G. Chili Cook-Off 2020 – How to Win

Dallas Harley-Davidson® Chili Cook-Off 2020

There’s not much like getting together with a bunch of people who ride the world’s best motorcycle and eating the world’s greatest culinary creation. Throw a little competition in the mix and things really get interesting. Make plans now to attend the H.O.G. Southwest Regional Chili Cook-off at Dallas Harley-Davidson in Garland to be part of the fun.

Harley owners are already known for being a tad bit flashy, opinionated and in-your-face. When someone stands to be chosen the best, to win top honors for their chili cooking prowess, it becomes a day few will ever forget. If you’re entering the competition, we’ve got some hints on how to turn your favorite recipe into next-level brew.

Know the Chili Cook-Off Rules

To qualify, make sure you know what you need and what’s allowed in your chili. Here are the official H.O.G. Southwest Regional chili cook-off rules.

  • Chili cooking teams are responsible for bringing all their own supplies. That means if you need a cooker, heat source, a table and chairs, condiments to go with your chili, even water for cooking and cleaning, it’s up to you to bring them.
  • Teams are also responsible for completely cleaning their area and hauling off all supplies and trash after judging is complete.
  • Chili must be cooked on-site with SCRATCH ingredients on Saturday, February 22. Everything has to happen that day and be made by your team on site.
  • No fillers. Don’t add beans, pasta, rice, hominy or any other non-chili substance to your chili.
  • No commercial mixes.
  • Only chili ground meat or ground chuck is permitted. No cubed meat.
  • Each team of up to four people cooks and submits only one pot of chili. The pot should contain at minimum of four quarts.
  • Acceptable ingredients include meat, chili powder, other individual spices, chopped onion, tomato, sauces, peppers, and similar ingredients. No vegetable chili.

If you have questions about the rules and you don’t see an answer here, it’s better to check before you start cooking your entry. Phone in your questions to (972)270-3962.

Make Your Chili Cook-Off Entry Stand Out

When everyone starts with the same basic dish and similar ingredients, the challenge is figuring out a way to make your chili cook-off entry unique. The judges taste pot after pot of chili, and it all starts to run together. If your recipe is tasty but basic, you probably aren’t going to win. 

If grandma had a secret ingredient, guard that secret with your life but use it here. If you grow and dehydrate your own ancho poblanos, grind them into powder and slow simmer them to make liquid fire, don’t hold back on competition day. Fillers are against the rules, but some people swear by adding a little beer, liquid smoke, soy sauce, molasses, even cocoa.

Name Your Chili Something Unforgettable

Connect your name to the flavors in your chili or the members of your team to stand out even more in the minds of the judges. Make your name descriptive or funny. Names like Death by Chili and Burn Baby Burn can do double duty as a warning label if your chili is extra spicy. Avoid names that could irritate the judges (Better Than Your Wife’s). 

Don’t Add Weird S***

Some ingredients belong in chili. Some don’t. While you want to stand out, you don’t want to be so extreme the judges run from your table to the nearest trash can. 

Heat is good, but keep in mind the judges are tasting lots of recipes. Don’t put so much spice it causes blisters. Stay away from seasoning that doesn’t enhance your chili’s flavors, it just makes it weird. We once heard of someone who added licorice extract just to introduce novelty, and it ruined otherwise very good chili.

Make sure your spices and ingredients are fresh. If you used that seasoning at last year’s chili cook-off, it’s probably stale. 

Give Yourself Enough Time

The best chili starts with the freshest ingredients getting seasoned and browned, then slow simmered. A low and slow cook time draws out the most flavors. That means you can’t arrive an hour before judging, whip up a pot and expect to take home a prize.

Teams can start setting up, prepping and cooking at 8 a.m. Judging doesn’t start until 2:30. For best results and to avoid a last-minute rush, we recommend starting your chili as early as possible.

Take Notes

Start planning early for next year by making a record of what you did and what other teams are willing to share about their own recipes. Write down exact measurements for what you added to your chili, including brand names of spices and varieties for peppers, onions, and garlic. Then after judging is complete, note any changes you want to make next year.

If other teams had ingredients or cooking methods you think you can improve on, write that down too. You’ve got 12 months to try variations for a chance to make an even better pot of chili next year.

Whether you’re entering the competition or you just want to stay posted, make sure you’veliked our Facebook page so you’ll receive updates and news as they come in. Good luck!