This chili is great for tucking into your slow cooker in the morning, so you can come home to a warm winter dinner. Omit the meat if you'd prefer a hearty meatless main dish. If you like, add chopped avocado or shredded cheese as toppers before serving.
Locals spar over whether Skyline or Gold Star makes the better version (and whether the secret ingredients should be cinnamon, cocoa or allspice). Whichever, chili in the Queen City translates as a mild, meaty sauce served over spaghetti noodles and topped with shredded cheese.
Chili, a one-pot meal, is a dinner table staple at many Midwest firehouses. Three-Alarm Lansing Fire Chili comes from Lansing, Michigan's Fire Station 8. The recipe uses beef roast and pork sausage, plus a surprise ingredient: a chocolate bar. (If you prefer less spicy chili, omit the jalapeno pepper.)
This recipe has been passed down from firefighter to firefighter over the years at Fire Station 1 on Mulberry Street in Des Moines. The recipe we received, based on 8 pounds of ground beef, serves 15 to 20 people -- or 10 firefighters. We've trimmed it down to 2 pounds of beef, which should make 8 to 10 servings at your house. A firefighter describes this chili as "spicy without being too hot to hurt you."
Firefighters in Fort Wayne, Indiana, dig into this chili with care. The initials stand for "immediately dangerous to life and health." The chili includes three kinds of fresh chilies and four kinds of powdered chilies. For additional flavor, sear the sirloin steak on the grill first. Alter peppers and seasoning amounts for desired heat.
Another five-alarm recipe comes from firefighter Chris Muenks of the Jefferson County, Missouri, fire department.
Our Test Kitchen created this quick and easy chicken chili, which takes just 15 minutes to prepare and 20 minutes to cook. Serve with assorted toppers such as sour cream, low-fat yogurt, chopped red onions, shredded sharp cheddar cheese and chopped avocado.
This recipe, from Bryon Bensen at the Eau Claire, Wisconsin, fire department, drew a two-alarm rating. It's served over macaroni and can be topped with sour cream, cheese and green onions -- and red pepper sauce, if you want to up the alarm rating even more.
Other firehouse recipes include Donovan's Code 3 Chili, a four-alarm specialty from Cincinnati; Thumbs-Up Chili, a three-alarm dinner from Rockford, Illinois; and United Way Cook-Off Chili, a four-alarm favorite from Minnesota's Duluth Fire Department.
White chili typically combines chicken broth, navy beans or Great Northern beans, chicken and flavorings for a stew that tends to be milder than the beefy red chili recipes. You can still adjust the heat up or down, though, by using more or less chilies and red pepper.
Our White Surprise Chili (left) has been a favorite with readers for years. White Chili in a Bread Bowl is a thick, creamy soup served at the Holiday Inn in Grand Forks, North Dakota. The Southwestern White Chili recipe uses canned instead of dried beans for a quicker-fixing chili; this recipe comes from Lewis and Clark's restaurant in St. Charles, Missouri.
This chili comes from the Firehouse Brewing Company in Rapid City, South Dakota. The chef adds chocolate to take the edge off the tangy tomato flavor. The chili won first place at the Black Hills Stock Show Chili Cook-Off.
A different version of pork-based stew is Fire and Ice Chili, which combines pineapple chunks with more traditional chili ingredients.
Another quick-fix recipe, this chili uses a variety of canned or ready-to-eat ingredients, including salsa, black beans, vegetable juice and turkey kielbasa. Try serving it with Cumin-Cheddar Corn Bread and with Bananas a la Mexican for a complete, fast-and-easy meal.
When we asked for readers' best chili recipes, Midwest cooks submitted dozens. In our 9 favorites, innovative ingredients--whiskey, red wine, cocoa powder and molasses--work magic on the basics of meat, beans and, of course, chilies. Three-Bean Beauty chili, pictured, was one of the winners. Click below for the Three-Bean Beauty Chili recipe or the complete list of winners.