I was up at Big Bear, California last weekend for a quick camping trip, and I knew that it would be on the chilly side given that it’s November.
And while we didn’t have to worry about brutally cold temperatures, rain, or snow, it was a little brisk in the evenings, so a hearty, warm meal was in order.
I don’t know about you, but when I think of a hearty camping dinner, I immediately think of a traditional beef chili recipe.
Now, there are a million excellent recipes for chili, and you might already have a favorite go-to recipe that you use. But if you’re looking for a new recipe to try that’s both tasty and easy to make, this is it!
Traditional Beef Chili Recipe
As noted above, this is a super simple recipe, as evidenced by the short list of ingredients:
- 1.5 pounds lean ground beef
- 2 16-ounce cans of kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
- 2 16-ounce cans of diced tomatoes
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 1 teaspoon of pepper
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 2-3 tablespoons of chili powder
I like to use lean ground beef in my beef chili recipe, but you can substitute any red meat into the recipe and still get great results. The advantage of lean ground beef is that there’s so little fat, so you don’t have to worry about a super oily chili.
Likewise, I like a little bit of heat in my chili, thus the chili powder. However, you can omit the chili powder if you want something more mild, or you can add cayenne pepper to kick the heat up a notch further.
The best part of this beef chili recipe is that there’s only two steps in the cooking process:
- Combine the beef, onion, and garlic in a large saucepan and cook until the beef is browned and the garlic and onions are tender. Give it about 10-15 minutes depending on the temperature of your fire (or stove).
- Then add the beans, tomatoes, salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder and bring the chili to a simmer (uncovered). Cook for about 30 minutes. Alternatively, you can slow-cook it by reducing the heat and extending the cooking time.
Once the chili is done and the tasty smell is too much for you to resist any longer, serve it with whatever sides you like. Cheese, sour cream, or tortilla chips are a good option.
How to Cook Traditional Beef Chili the Easy Way
Here in California, we have fire bans all over the state, including in Big Bear. That meant that we couldn’t build a fire and have campfire chili, so we had to improvise a bit – and our setup worked great!
First, I set up my MC Ranch Overland Original Fire Reflector (shown in the rear of the photo above) to help block the breeze and set a perimeter up around the cooking area. I’ve reviewed this reflector before and sung its many praises, not the least of which is that it helps reflect heat and light back into camp, which is a huge benefit when you’re camping this time of year and the temperature dips and the sun drops so early.
Next, I set up The Schenk, one of my all-time favorite camping cooking implements.
As you can see in the photo above, The Schenk consists of a vertical metal ground rod and a foot stabilizer with a cooking ring up top. You simply drive the vertical rod into the ground about six inches, slide the foot stabilizer onto the rod and lock into place using the steel key, and then slide the cooking ring onto the rod and position it at whatever height you need, again with a steel key.
Since all these parts are made of steel, they are incredibly durable and can stand up to the rigors of use in rough-and-tumble environments.
Normally, I use The Schenk over an open flame, but in this case, I had to use the Outland Living Firebowl since there’s a fire ban in place.
This setup worked great for this beef chili recipe because the Firebowl sat on top of The Schenk’s foot stabilizer, and then I could easily adjust the height of The Schenk’s cooking ring as needed.
While I would have preferred to cook over an open fire, this setup worked great for cooking this dish and our other meals over the course of the weekend.
So, the next time you head out for an autumn camping trip, think ahead about what you want to cook and how you want to cook it, remembering that if you have the right tools like The Schenk and the Outland Living Firebowl, it can make the process of cooking that much simpler and more enjoyable, too!