There are as many variations of Over The Top smoked chili as there are variations of ‘regular’ chili. Often referred to as OTT chili, the basic idea is that you smoke a ground beef mixture over a pot of chili mixings, such as tomatoes, beans (oh no! I used beans!), etc. As the beef cooks some of the fat drips into the chili pot, adding flavor. And of course the smoked beef picks up on some smoke flavor, too.
This is how I make it. I won’t ever make it any other way. I don’t need to. This is amazingly good chili.
One of my biggest concerns with the idea of Over the Top smoked chili was that the beef drips into the chili as it smokes. I knew I wanted some of that fat (fat is flavor!) in the chili but I didn’t want a lot of it floating on top of my chili. Some recipes call for using low-fat (90/10 or even 95/5) beef. Well, that’s expensive. So my solution? Use cheaper ground beef and par-smoke it first. Let much of the fat drip down into a pan, not into the chili. Then add the chili and let the remaining fat drip into it. Problem solved.
I went very light on the smoke when I made this. I used just a small chunk or two of fruit wood. Ground beef loves to soak up smoke and I didn’t want that flavor to bury the taste of what is a fantastic chili base.