Grilling Up Hearty Chili: A Flavourful Guide to Barbecue Bliss

Grilling Up Hearty Chili: A Flavourful Guide to Barbecue Bliss

THUNDER BAY – LIVING – As the crisp breeze sweeps through Northwestern Ontario, signalling the approach of fall, it’s the perfect time to embrace heartwarming comfort foods. What better way to do so than by whipping up a hearty pot of chili, infused with smoky flavours from the barbecue? In this guide, we’ll walk you through the steps of creating a sensational pot of grilled chili, complete with recipes and invaluable tips to elevate your culinary adventure.

Embracing the Charred Perfection: A BBQ Twist on Chili

Chili, a classic dish known for its rich and robust flavours, takes on a new dimension when prepared on the barbecue. The combination of charred ingredients and smoky undertones adds depth to the dish, making it an ideal choice for those cool Northwestern Ontario nights. Let’s dive into the process:


  • 2 lbs of your choice of protein (ground beef, ground turkey, or a combination)
  • 2 cups of kidney beans (cooked or canned)
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 bell peppers, diced (assorted colorus for visual appeal)
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup of tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon of cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil for cooking
  • Optional toppings: shredded cheese, sour cream, chopped green onions, and cilantro


  1. Preheat the Grill: Start by preheating your barbecue to medium heat. You’re looking for a temperature around 350°F (175°C).
  2. Sear the Protein: In a cast-iron skillet or a grill-safe pot, heat some olive oil. Brown the chosen protein over direct heat, breaking it up into smaller pieces as it cooks. Once cooked, transfer the protein to a plate and set it aside.
  3. Sauté the Aromatics: Place the skillet back on the grill and add the diced onion and bell peppers. Sauté until they start to soften and develop a slight char. Add the minced garlic and continue sautéing for another minute or so.
  4. Add the Tomatoes and Sauce: Incorporate the can of diced tomatoes and the tomato sauce into the skillet. Stir well to combine the flavours.
  5. Season to Perfection: Sprinkle in the chili powder, cumin, smoked paprika, salt, and pepper. These seasonings will provide the smoky, savoury essence that’s synonymous with great chili.
  6. Bring It All Together: Return the cooked protein to the skillet and stir everything together. Allow the mixture to simmer for about 20-30 minutes, giving the flavours ample time to meld.
  7. Infuse the Smokiness: For an extra layer of smokiness, you can add a small handful of soaked wood chips directly onto the barbecue coals. This step is optional but can really enhance the barbecue flavour profile of your chili.
  8. Add the Beans: Towards the end of the cooking time, introduce the kidney beans to the mixture. These will add texture and extra heartiness to the chili.
  9. Serve and Enjoy: Once the chili has simmered and the flavours have harmonized, ladle it into bowls. Feel free to sprinkle your favourite toppings on top for an extra burst of flavour and colour.

Tips for Barbecue Chili Excellence:

  1. Choose Quality Ingredients: Opt for fresh, high-quality ingredients to enhance the overall flavour of your chili.
  2. Experiment with Smoke: Different wood chips bring out distinct flavours. Hickory chips offer a strong smokiness, while fruitwood chips can add a sweeter, milder smoke aroma.
  3. Control the Heat: Adjust the barbecue temperature as needed to maintain a steady simmer in your chili. You don’t want it to scorch or boil over.
  4. Let It Rest: After the chili is cooked, consider allowing it to rest for a few minutes. This allows the flavours to fully develop and meld together.
  5. Diverse Proteins: Don’t hesitate to mix and match proteins for a unique twist. Combining ground beef and ground turkey, for example, can add both flavour and health benefits.
  6. Spice Levels: Adjust the amount of chili powder and other spices to suit your preferred level of heat and flavor intensity.
  7. Customize Toppings: Encourage guests to customize their bowls with a variety of toppings, creating a personalized experience for each diner.

In Conclusion:

As August winds down and Northwestern Ontario embraces the cooler evenings, there’s no better time to indulge in the comforting warmth of a well-prepared pot of chili. Elevate your culinary prowess by taking this classic dish to the barbecue, infusing it with smoky charm and robust flavors. With the right techniques and attention to detail, your grilled chili will undoubtedly become a cherished fall tradition, perfect for savouring under the starlit skies.

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