Steven Raichlen's Barbecue! Bible


Cincinnati Chili Dogs

Recipe from Steven Raichlen's BBQ USA

You  might be familiar with Cincinnati chili, which is remarkable in the annals of American gastronomy for its unexpected flavorings (cinnamon and cocoa powder) as for the bizarre way it’s served (over spaghetti and kidney beans, with oyster crackers).


  • Yield: Makes 8 chili dogs
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For the chili:

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 pound lean ground beef
  • 1/2 cup tomato sauce
  • 3 tablespoons ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon pure chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
  • Coarse salt (kosher or sea) and freshly ground black pepper

For the hot dogs:

  • 1-1/2 cups canned kidney beans, drained and warmed in a saucepan
  • 1 medium-sweet onion, finely diced
  • 1-1/2 cups finely grated orange cheddar cheese
  • 8 beef hot dogs
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 8 hot dog buns

Step 1: Make the chili: Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and garlic and cook until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes. Increase the heat to high, add the beef, and cook until browned, 3 to 5 minutes, crumbling the beef with a wooden spoon. Stir in the tomato sauce, ketchup, vinegar, chile powder, cinnamon, oregano, cocoa powder, cumin, cloves, and allspice. Add 1/2 cup of water and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring the chili to a boil, reduce the heat to medium and let simmer gently until thick and flavorful (the chili should be moist, even wet, but not soupy), 20 to 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning, adding more cinnamon, salt, and/or pepper as necessary. The chili should be highly seasoned and should have a hint of sweetness. The recipe can be prepared ahead to this stage and refrigerated, covered, for 3 days or frozen for 1 month.

Step 2: Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high.

Step 3: Reheat the chili, if necessary. Place the chili, beans, diced onion, and cheese in attractive serving bowls.

Step 4: When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Lightly brush the hot dogs with a little of the melted butter (this will give them a crisp skin). Place the hot dogs on the hot grate and grill until handsomely browned, about 2 minutes per side (8 minutes in all). Lightly brush the insides of the buns with the remaining butter and toast them on the grill, 1 to 2 minutes per side. (In Cincinnati hot dogs are never served on toasted buns, but I prefer them toasted.) Place the grilled hot dogs on the buns and let each person add chili, beans, onion, and cheese to taste. Serve any left over chili over spaghetti with oyster crackers.

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