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Smoked Chili (Over The Top)

Smoked Chili, also known as Over The Top (OTT) Chili, is the BEST chili you will taste in your life. Smoked ground beef mixed into a perfect blend of classic chili ingredients, all cooked in the Big Green Egg or electric smoker. Then a secret ingredient is the finishing touch that sends the depth of flavor over the moon. With such incredibly delicious flavor, this is a bucket list recipe.

large loaf of smoked ground beef on grill grate in Big Green Egg with temperature probes sticking out

Why this smoked chili recipe works

This OTT chili in particular works because I am a freaking goddess when it comes to making up food like this. (kidding)

But seriously, first there is the tomato base. It has onion but not too much onion, just enough garlic, seasoning but not too much seasoning, and just the right amount of beans – some, but not a lot.

These all balance into what I firmly believe is the way chili should be.

ladle scooping up chili

Next is the ground beef. Not too lean, but not too greasy, and seasoned. Because ground beef literally always needs seasoning.

Then that ground beef is smoked over the chili so all those luscious juices are captured. And thus, this is “over-the-top”.

Add the smoky smoke flavor and the finishing touch of a little dark chocolate, and we have the best chili of our lives.

collage of 2 photos: left, uncooked onion and bell pepper in Dutch oven with wooden spoon; right, cooked veggies
The onion, bell pepper, and garlic are cooked briefly on the stove to soften the veggies a bit. This is done right in the Dutch oven.

Ingredients needed

Ingredients for the chili

  • Extra virgin olive oil. For sautéing the veggies.
  • Veggies: yellow onions, green bell peppers, and garlic.
  • Seasonings: chili powder and garlic powder
  • Tomatoes: One large can each crushed and petite diced tomatoes.
  • Red kidney beans. Only one can so we have some beans but not too many; however, if desired just leave them out.

Ingredients for the smoked ground beef

  • Ground beef. We do not want super lean beef, but we also do not want our chili to end up a swimming pool of grease. I prefer 85% lean meat/15% fat. If not available, opt for 80/20 ground chuck. I do not recommend going leaner than 85%.
  • Worcestershire sauce.
  • Seasonings: kosher salt, fresh cracked pepper, and Montreal steak seasoning.

Last, but not least, is our secret ingredient, dark chocolate. Dark chocolate brings earthy richness and complexity to push this recipe over the edge.

collage of 2 photos: left, assembled chili base in Dutch oven; right, assembled ground beef meatball in metal bowl
The chili base and the ground beef “loaf”, ready for smoking.

How to make OTT chili

Prepare the chili base

Making the base for smoked chili is the easiest part. On our stovetop, we sauté the veggies (onion, green bell pepper, and garlic) in olive oil, then add the rest of the ingredients. Super simple.

In the Big Green Egg

For smoking in the Big Green Egg, we are going to set it up to smoke with the plate setter (aka convEGGtor) with the legs pointing up. We want indirect heat otherwise the bottom of the chili will burn in the Dutch oven.

Bring the temperature to a steady 275°F-300°F and add the wood.

Once you have a good smoke going (and since we are using hickory, it does not take much wood), place grill grate in the Egg, put the Dutch oven on the grate, and either place another grill grate directly on the Dutch oven or use the extender kit (EGGspander) for a second tier over the Dutch oven.

Place the meat “loaf” on the second grill grate. Smoke for 2 hours or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 150°F.

Crumble up the meat and add to the chili. Cook on the Egg another 2 hours to blend flavors and tenderize the meat. Do not add more wood.

To finish, remove the Dutch oven from the Egg and stir in the chocolate morsels.

loaf of raw ground beef on grill grate surrounded by smoke
This OTT set-up is using the extender grill grate system (EGGspander), but really just putting a grill grate right on top of the Dutch oven is sufficient.

In an electric smoker

For making smoked chili in an electric smoker, we are going to bring the temperature to a steady 275°F-300°F and add the wood.

Once you have a good smoke going (and since we are using hickory, it does not take much wood), put the Dutch oven on a grate and the meat “loaf” on a second grate over the Dutch oven.

Smoke for 2 hours or until the internal temperature of the meat reaches 150°F.

Crumble up the meat and add to the chili. Cook another 2 hours to blend flavors and tenderize the meat. Do not add more wood.

To finish, remove the Dutch oven from the smoker and stir in the chocolate morsels.

More smoker recipes

smoked ground beef with piece removed to show internal smoke ring
Look at that beautiful smoke ring!

Tips and FAQs

We used hickory, but you can use your wood of choice. I do not recommend using mesquite – I find it too strong.

It is counterintuitive for me to say you do not need much smoke… but you do not need much smoke. Ground beef, with all its nooks and crannies, SOAKS up smoke. So, when your wood runs out, do not be tempted to add more. We did, and learned the hard way that was a mistake.

Your chili is ready when you say it is. We are cooking at low enough temperature that you may get a little bubbley bubble out of it, but not a simmer. So, once the meat is added, this smoked chili recipe is done when the meat gets tender and all the flavors are combined.

Chili freezes very well. Wait for it to cool completely before adding to plastic containers, and put a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to protect from freezer burn.

Smoked chili reheats very well also, so it can be made in advance.

As with any chili, the beans are optional. I love them in this chili, and I love that there is only the one can so we have beans but not too many beans.

top down view into Dutch oven of smoked chili
large loaf of smoked ground beef on grill grate in Big Green Egg with temperature probes sticking out

Smoked Chili (Over The Top)

Erica
Smoked Chili, also known as Over the Top (OTT), is the BEST chili you will taste in your life. Smoked ground beef mixed into a perfect blend of classic chili ingredients, all cooked in the Big Green Egg or electric smoker. Then a secret ingredient is the finishing touch that sends the depth of flavor over the moon.
4.38 from 8 votes
Prep Time 15 mins
Cook Time 4 hrs 10 mins
Total Time 4 hrs 25 mins
Course Main Course
Cuisine American
Servings 10 people
Calories 434 kcal

Ingredients
  

For the chili base

  • 2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions diced
  • 3 large green bell peppers seeded, ribs removed, and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 (28 oz) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (28 oz) can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 (15.5 oz) can red kidney beans drained and rinsed

For the ground beef "loaf"

  • 2 ½ pounds (85/15) or (80/20) ground beef (lean beef/percent fat)
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • ½ tsp fresh cracked pepper
  • 1 tsp Montreal steak seasoning
  • ¼ cup dark chocolate morsels

Instructions
 

Prepare the chili base

  • On the stovetop, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a cast iron Dutch oven (*see Notes). Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic, and sauté 5 minutes or until onion is translucent. Remove from the heat.
  • Add the remaining ingredients for the chili base. Set aside.

Prepare the ground beef "loaf"

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the ground beef, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and Montreal steak seasoning until just combined taking care not to over work the meat.
  • Form the meat into a loaf without packing too hard. Set aside.

Smoke the chili in a Big Green Egg

  • Prepare the Big Green Egg to smoke with hickory wood at a steady 275°F-300°F with a plate setter inserted for indirect cooking, legs up.
  • Place a grill grate on the plate setter. Place the Dutch oven with the chili base, uncovered, on the grill rack.
  • Place another grill rack on the Dutch oven (alternatively, use the BGE extender kit for a second rack over the Dutch oven), and place the ground beef "loaf" on that.
  • Cook 2 hours or until internal temperature of the beef is 150°F.
  • Break up the meat into small crumbles and add to the chili. Cook an additional 2 hours. Do not add more wood for smoke.
  • Remove chili from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Serve as desired.

Smoke the chili in an electric smoker

  • Prepare the electric smoker to smoke with hickory wood at a steady 275°F-300°F.
  • Place the Dutch oven with the chili base, uncovered, on a grill rack.
  • Place the ground beef "loaf" on a grill grate over the Dutch oven.
  • Cook 2 hours or until internal temperature of the beef is 150°F.
  • Break up the meat into small crumbles and add to the chili. Cook an additional 2 hours. Do not add more wood for smoke.
  • Remove chili from the heat and stir in the chocolate. Serve as desired.

Notes

A little hickory goes a long way and ground beef soaks it right up. Once the initial wood is used up, resist the temptation to add more. It isn’t necessary and can end up overpowering the finished chili.
Acidic and tomato-based sauces can react with cast iron if your pan is not well seasoned. So, if you pan is newer, use a ceramic Dutch oven or other non-reactive pan.

Nutrition

Calories: 434kcal (22%) | Carbohydrates: 31g (10%) | Protein: 27g (54%) | Fat: 22g (34%) | Saturated Fat: 9g (56%) | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 75mg (25%) | Sodium: 841mg (37%) | Potassium: 936mg (27%) | Fiber: 8g (33%) | Sugar: 13g (14%) | Vitamin C: 105mg (127%) | Calcium: 70mg (7%) | Iron: 5mg (28%)

Calorie count is purely an estimate calculated using an online application to serve as a guide and not to be taken as accurate nutritional information. Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Keyword OTT chili, over the top chili, smoked chili, smoked ground beef
Tried this recipe?Leave a comment below and let me know!

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