Wood-Fired Kentucky Bourbon Chili

Many of you may not have a place to start a fire in your backyard. If you’re like me, (living in a condo), there are rules regarding open fires. I found an acceptable product at Solo Stove that is allowed in a condo because it’s self-contained and virtually smokeless. Because of that, I get to enjoy wood-fired cooking (including pizzas) out on my back deck. (I don’t get anything for promoting Solo Stove; I just think they have great products.)

What makes this chili different is that it is not cajun spicy, and if it’s done over a fire (perhaps with flavor chips in a smoker box), you can actually taste the fire in the finished product. Of course, you can do it on a stove but that’s too easy. Save this recipe for your next camping trip, or as mentioned, after you purchase a safe wood fire container.


1 and 1/4 lb ground beef
1 cup bourbon (I use Knob Creek since it’s straight bourbon)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried sage
3 tbsp olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 bell peppers (1 each red, green, and orange) seeded and chopped
1/2 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped (optional)
1/4 cup orange juice
1/2 stick unsalted butter (Irish if you can get it)
1tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp ground chipotle pepper
1/3 tsp cayenne pepper (or Paprika)
3/4 tsp salt
1 28oz can of crushed tomatoes
1 15 and 1/2 oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 and 1/2 oz can garbanzo (chickpea) beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup sour cream
3 fresh mint leaves (or green onions) finely chopped
4 oz cheddar, shredded (about 1 cup)
Tortilla chips or artisan bread, for serving



If using an open fire, set cast iron pot (hanging from tripod or resting on cast iron stand) apx. 10″ from flames. When temp reaches apx. 400 degrees, begin. Note: All time specifications are based on maintaining a heat of apx 400 degrees. As flame intensity changes, so does timing.

  1. Add beef, 1/4 cup of bourbon, half the garlic, oregano, and sage. Cook, breaking up beef with a wooden spoon until meat is browned, 6-7 minutes. using a slotted spoon, transfer beef mixture to a medium bowl and set aside; discard remaining juices.
  2. In the same pot, heat olive oil. Add onion, bell peppers, jalapeno, orange juice, butter, and remaining garlic, and cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables begin to soften, about 10 minutes. Add chili powder, chipotle, cayenne, and salt and cook stirring frequently, for 1 minute. Add remaining bourbon, reduce heat to medium (by raising pot on tripod), and cook until liquid is reduced by half, about 8 minutes. (Again, note that temperatures may fluctuate due to intensity of the fire. As long as it is simmering steadily, it is hot enough).
  3. Add tomatoes and bring mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Add beans and reserved beef. (If mixture is dry, add up to 1 cup water). Reduce heat to medium-low (again, by manipulating distance from pot to flame), and simmer, partially covered, for 1 hour (or more depending upon temp of fire. It is difficult to burn the chili at this point, so cook to ensure meat is fully cooked).
  4. Before serving, stir together sour cream and mint in a small bowl. Divide chili among bowls and garnish each with about 1 tablespoon cheddar and 3 teaspoons min sour cream. Serve with chips or bread.

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