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 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
In desperation because I didn't have time I used an immersion blender right in the pot. After half a dozen or so pulses on low setting the thickness was near perfect.
Probably a good idea not to blend more than 15 to 20% or the texture will change too much (unless that's what you want).
Be careful about splashing, you don't want to get scalded.
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.