I enjoy adding beer to a pot of chili for taste, but at times find the end result is too soupy. What's a good way to thicken it without overcooking or compromising the flavor?
As noted above, reducing the liquid through evaporation will thicken up the chili but you run the risk of burning/scorching the bottom and it can take a long time at lower temperatures. What I like to do is to take some of the beans (I prefer black beans in mine) and mash them up into a thick paste and then stir that into the chili. The starches from the beans will help thicken up the chili and you aren't adding anything that isn't already there. I have also seen people do similar things with cornbread.
I add beer to my chili and simply let it simmer with the lid off for an hour or two so the liquid evaporates. I've never had a problem with overcooking.
If you want to thicken it fast use flour, just don't add it directly to the pot (If you do, the flour will clump and you'll spend the next couple of hours trying to de-clump the clumps).
Use a bowl. To the bowl, add 1-2 tablespoons of flour and a cup of hot liquid from the chili. Mix/whisk both until combined. Add this mixture to your chili and stir until combined. It'll thicken in 20-30 minutes.
You can also use cornstarch, xantham gum, and many other thickeners or liaisons.
Good videos on reduction and thickening using thickeners/liaisons.
Another good video: Sauce Thickening Agents
Depending on whether you'd consider this a compromise (I consider it a feature), corn meal or crushed tortilla chips not only thicken it but also add a flavor that usually complements the chili.
I don't like using masa flour as it affects both texture and flavor. I have come up with some less conventional ways to thicken chili that work:
Brisket torn into small pieces. Buy some pre-cooked from your local BBQ house, remove the crunchy and fatty parts, and tear the rest into very small pieces. These bitty brisket bits will fill the voids and make your sauce both thicker and meatier. The smokey brisket flavor may even improve the taste. This is also good as a last-minute remedy since the brisket is already cooked. Alternatively if you are planning ahead you can cook brisket in the chili.
Broccoli. Don't laugh - I won a chili cook-off THREE YEARS IN A ROW with broccoli in my chili! Use raw broccoli and only the florets. Chop the broccoli very small. At first it will look like you made a mistake, but let it simmer for an hour - the broccoli cooks down and shrinks to the point you can hardly see it anymore, but you end up with thicker chili since the raw broccoli soaks up a lot of the liquid as it cooks. Just use chopped broccoli instead of beans in any recipe. Again, try it before you say nay! The broccoli pieces take on the flavor of the sauce and taste great.
Unsweetened cocoa. Just one tablespoon - too much will make your chili look like a muddy swamp. This works if you just need a little thickening and I like what it adds to the flavor.
Finely chopped bell red pepper. I recommend stir frying the chopped peppers before adding to the chili or it will affect the texture.
Finely chopped mushrooms. Stir frying is optional - depends on how long you slow cook your chili. If not long, then stir fry the chopped mushrooms before adding to the chili.
I add roux in two stages. First, after sweating the peppers and onions and browning the meat(s) and before adding the beer, with the pot over a medium-high heat add flour approximately equal to the amount of oils (I would have used bacon grease, butter and olive oil to sweat the peppers and onions, your recipe will probably very, but I hope you get the idea...) and stir the mixture until the flour has absorbed the oils and the roux is clinging to the rest of the mixture. Then add the beer. This will thicken the mix, but not 'thoroughly'. The second stage comes at the end. When you are 1 - 1½ hours from 'done' mix 4 ounces each of oil (peanut, corn, olive, lard dealers choice) with 4 ounces of flour in and oven safe dish and bake this roux for about 1 hour at 350°. (This is not quite 'red brick' roux, you want to be short of that...) After baking mix the roux into to the chili, stir and cook for another 30 minutes.
Your mileage may vary based on the batch size and the amount of grease run-off from the meat, but this practice leaves me with a nice thick chili.
I've seen some of the usual answers like ground tortilla chips (unsalted if you can find them), and masa harina, but potato flakes (the instant ones in a box) are a great way to thicken your chili (or any soup). You can also do a quick cornstarch slurry by mixing a tablespoon of water and a tablespoon of corn starch and add as needed. Always add either of them slowly and wait about 3-5 minutes. They don't need heat to be activated either.
Flour, Cornstarch, amd Tortillia chips all work fine, but they will all mute the beef-y flavor of the chili. To avoid any muting at all, use a gum like Xanthen Gum to thicken your pot of goodness. 1 tsp will tighten up a quart of chili, with no reduction of chili flavor.
How about reducing the beer (and other possible fluids) separately before adding them? That should give you the desired flavor effect without the excess water.
Whenever I need to thicken some kind of stew or soup I add chia seeds. They act as a binder for baked goods too. They don't have a flavor but will get a gel coating on the outside after a bit. Plus they reheat well.
I added a can of refried beans. This also calmed down the heat a bit. Thick, spicy and delicious.
I start with a roux. Bacon grease is the best but butter will work too. Or you can put some beans in the food processor if you are health minded.
You can use blood - fresh cow, goat, or lamb companies sell it. Soups, chilis, and many other things used blood as thickener before B.C. even became A.D.
Its used for so many things like blood pudding, even brownies. It enhances the flavor and no this stuff will cause more problems not used it is not evil and any meat including fish has at least some sort of blood in it anyway if think on it everything has its own blood, sap of tree, plants.
A lot of restaurants including Indonesian, African and Asian gourmet use blood as thickener and meats.
I use flour to thicken my chili, but I put a half of cup in my sifter (2-3 sifts at a time) and stir so it doesn't clump together. This has soaked up some of the saltiness as well when I over season it.
To thicken a sauce without changing the flavour, I use powdered arrowroot. In a bowl, put a tablespoon of arrowroot powder with a small amount of cold water. Mix well then slowly add a few tablespoons of the excess liquid from your chilli. when thoroughly blended, add the mix to your chilli and allow to cook through.
Use kuzu root starch.. It comes in rock-like granules. Mix 1 Tb kuzu with 1 Tb water first, then add to simmering chili until thickened. I use a lot of onions and peppers that give up a lot of water and kuzu works best! No change in flavor, texture or mouth-feel. Re-heats perfectly as original.
Stir in one can of refried beans. Or blend one can of whatever beans you are using in your chilli. Wash them off first.
I can't boil to evaporate because my chili recipe requires the ground chili paste. garlic, ginger, cilantro, etc to remain fresh and uncooked.
My family tradition has been to add tapioca or corn starch. Boil half a cup of water in the microwave, and then stir in tapioca/corn flour gradually until the paste is super-saturated. I might even try to microwave the paste further. Tapioca flour is easier to deal with. Corn flour imo tastes better.
When the hot flour paste has chilled to a warm state, gradually mix it into the chili paste until desired thickness is achieved.
I have added brandy, rice wine or chardonnay to the chili paste but never beer.
As absorbent thickener, I am even thinking of cream cheese, or home-made sour yogurt on the verge of becoming cottage cheese. I have never tried but perhaps I should one of these days.
Or apple pulp.
Peanut butter....2 tbsp in a big pot will thicken and not affect the flavor.