Chili cookoffs are held in virtually every state and in many countries around the
world. Usually held as fund-raising events for charity, they serve also as an outlet, a hobby, for countless competition chili
cooks. Everyone loves Mom’s chili and everyone seems to have the recipe to end all recipes. So the reason for chili
cookoff competition is to settle the score and, in the process, raise money for a good cause. Chili is cooked on site and
from scratch. A panel of judges, using a blind selection process, determines the winners.
Cooking competition chili can be a rewarding experience. Seasoned competition
chili cooks enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow cooks and especially enjoy the opportunity to exercise their “bragging
rights” when they have won or placed in a chili cookoff contest.
What to expect at your first cookoff
Typically a chili cookoff will start with the registration of the cooks and
organizing where the cooks will set up their cooking gear. Thereafter, the Chief Judge or some other cookoff official will
call for a "cook's meeting" during which the rules of the day will be explained and the cooks will be given an opportunity
to ask questions. You will receive your judging cups at this time also and given a time to turn in that cup to the judges.
At the designated turn-in time, all cooks will take their chili samples to
the judging tent or similar area. The Chief Judge will oversee the marking of the judging cups for the blind judging and the
process of determining the winning bowl of chili will begin. It could take from one to two hours for the judging panel to
complete the judging process. Announcement of the winners will be set at a time consistent with any other programmed activities.
5 Criterias judges are looking at:
Judges will judge 1-10 on each chili, 10 being the highest score.
At the end of judging all judges sheets will be tallied into a whole score. Whoever has the highest score is the winner
for that day.
What are the rules?
It is unfortunate when a new, excited chili cook attends his or her first
chili cookoff, spends quite a bit of money for the entry fees, travel, ingredients and equipment, and finds the chili cooked
is not “competitive”. This turns many first time cooks away, and they never come back. Depending on what
category you're cooking in please read rules for each.
CASI CHILI COOKING RULES
A. CHILI COOKED ON SITE - All chili must
be cooked from scratch on site the day of the cookoff. All chili must be prepared in the open (no cooking in motorhomes, etc.).
Chili is cooked usually under canopies.
1. CHILI COOKED FROM SCRATCH
- "Scratch" is defined as starting with raw meat. No marinating is allowed. Commercial chili powder is permissible, but complete
commercial chili mixes ("just add meat" mixes that contain pre-measured spices) are NOT permitted.
2. NO FILLERS IN CHILI - Beans, macaroni, rice, hominy, or other similar
ingredients are not permitted.
3. SANITATION - Cooks are to prepare and cook chili in as sanitary a manner
a. INSPECTION OF COOKING CONDITIONS - Cooking conditions are subject to inspection
by the head judge or his/her designee and CASI Referee. (Failure to comply is subject to disqualification.)
b. COOKS MAY HAVE TO TASTE THEIR CHILI - At the discretion of the head judge
or CASI Referee, chili cooks may be required to remove the lids from their chili cups and taste their chili before turning
in for judging. (If a contestant refuses, his or her chili will be disqualified.)
B. ONE CHILI PER COOK - Each head cook is responsible for preparing one pot
of chili that he or she intends to be judged and turning in one judging cup from that pot. No more than one judging sample
can be taken from any one pot.
C. COOKS MUST SIGN NUMBER SLIPS - Chili cooks must sign their secret number
slips in ink with their first and last names at the time cups are issued. Winners will not be eligible if their secret numbers
are unsigned when presented. NOTE: Cooks must present their signed secret numbers to win.
D. PROTECT THE JUDGING CUP - Once judging cups have been issued, each head
cook is responsible for his or her judging cup. Cooks must not remove or tamper with the numbers on the outside of the cups.
Any marked or altered cup must be replaced prior to turn-in or it will be disqualified.
E. FILLING CUPS - Cups will be filled ¾ full or to the level designated at
the cooks' meeting.
F. CHILI TURN-IN - Chili will be turned in at the place and time designated
at the cooks' meeting or as otherwise designated by the head judge.
G. PYROTECHNICS - No chili contestant may discharge firearms or use any pyrotechnics
or explosives at a chili cookoff. Contestants discharging firearms and/or using explosives or other pyrotechnics will be disqualified
from the chili cookoff.
H. PENALTIES - Failure to comply with CASI rules will result in disqualification
of an individual cook for the cookoff. Decisions of the official(s) are final. In case of disqualification, the CASI official
monitoring the cookoff will immediately notify the head cook and give a reason for disqualification. In the event disqualification
of a cup of chili occurs after judging has started, it is not necessary that the cook be located or given an explanation for
turned into judging has to go by the CASI rules. Chili given to public for samples may be made at home before the event.
I personally make my "give out chili" before the event at home and I cook a 2 1/2 pound recipe the day of event
to give to the judges.
Category Rules: Anything goes, any fillers (beans, corn, etc) and can be made before the cookoff,
but you must have a booth to give out chili to the public.
What Equipment will you need?
Most chili cookoffs take place outdoors. Cooks must provide their own equipment
for cooking. Seasoned competition chili cooks will come to the cookoff with canopies, tables, decorated booths and more. In
addition to your meat and cooking ingredients, you will need to bring, as a minimum, the following extra gear:
- Dipping or serving spoon
- Chili pot with lid*, 5-8 quart variety
- Measuring spoons and cups
- Portable outdoor-style camp stove
- Heat diffuser (inexpensive metal device to spread flames)
- Can opener
- Matches / lighter
- Propane fuel cylinder
- Pot holders
- paper towels
- Ladle, large and small
- Ice chest and ice
- Long-handled spoon
- Cutting board
- 1 to 3 gallons water - Dishpan, dish soap, scrubbers, etc.
Since samples of your chili are usually given out to the public, most cookoffs
fall under the jurisdiction of local health departments. You may need some additional equipment such as rubber gloves or hand-washing
provisions in order to serve samples to the public. Check with the Cookoff Chairperson for local health department requirements
for each cookoff.