From America's Test Kitchen
Real Texas chili, made with dried chiles rather than chili powder, should have exceptional chile flavor but not overpowering heat, a smooth, rich sauce, and hearty chunks of meat. We wanted to develop the ultimate version.
There are many types of dried chiles, and we chose a combination of ancho and New Mexican for a combination of earthy, fruity sweetness and crisp acidity. While chili powder works fine, we got the best flavor by toasting and grinding chiles ourselves. Chuck-eye is our favored cut of beef for stews and it seemed right for our chili. We cut the meat into 1‑inch chunks, which gave the chili a hearty texture. Then, we browned the meat in fat rendered from bacon, which added a smoky depth to the dish. From among the many recommended liquids to use in chili con carne, we chose plain old water—everything else diluted or competed with the flavor of the chiles. Although many “authentic” recipes include neither tomatoes nor onions, we found both to be valuable additions. To thicken the chili, we mixed in some masa harina, which also imparted a subtle corn flavor.
Grill-smoking the meat, a technique from food writers John and Matt Lewis Thorne, authors of the Serious Pig (North Point Press, 1996), in combination with chipotle chiles give this chili a distinct but not overwhelming, smoky flavor. Make sure you start with a chuck roast that is at least three inches thick. The grilling is meant to flavor the meat by searing the surface and smoking it lightly, not to cook it.