Pitboss Chili Recipe

ground beef over top chili in a pitboss smoker

This Pitboss Chili Recipe is unique and sure to impress

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that if you like smoking foods, there’s a high chance you like making and eating Chili.   The most common way people mix these hobbies is by making Chili with leftover smoked meat (like leftover smoked brisket.)   This recipe is unique because we will smoke ground beef directly over the chili, adding smokey goodness to both beef and chili directly.   The recipe for this Pitboss Chili adds a smoky note to the chili, while preserving all of the underlying chili flavors.

pan of pitboss smoked chili on a table

How to make your chili extra smokey

There’s a special trick for this recipe that I didn’t include in the main instructions that can supercharge the smokey flavor of this chili.  That’s to use smoked tomatoes in your sauce.  I love growing and preserving tomatoes, and figured out years ago that smoked tomatoes make some of the best sauces, including chili.   In fact, if you don’t want to smoke your meat and chili directly, you can use smoked tomatoes in my high protein turkey chili to get a smokey flavor. 

Common Smoked Chili Substitutions

  1. Beans:  One of the most basic things to play with in your smoked chili are the beans.   Texans would prefer to skip beans altogether.  If you do like beans there are still choices to be made.  I used to prefer using a can of dark red kidney beans and a can of pinto beans.   Light kidney beans also work.   More recently I’ve started using canned chili beans.  They’re basically pinto beans in a light sauce and I’ve found the flavor to be quite complimentary. 
  2. Spice:  My chili has a medium spice level, but you can always increase the heat!   Add some of your favorite hot peppers, hot sauce, or additional cayenne powder.   Unless you’re a chili pro, I recommend being conservative with heat, and if you need to, add more cayenne powder at the end of the smoke.
  3. Up the vegetables:  Chili is really flexible for adding vegetables.   Large chunks of garlic cloves instead of minced will create more notable bursts of garlic.   Grated carrots will add a bit of sweetness.  Celery or sliced zucchini would also be at home in a chili.
bowl of pitboss smoked chili with sour cream and toppings top down

Do I have to use beer in this recipe?

In short, you need to add liquid, but you can add beef broth instead of beer.  Smoking is a naturally dehydrating process, and over the course of this smoke, a lot of liquid will be cooked off the chili.  If you don’t add enough liquid at the start, you’ll end up with something closer to sauce covered ground beef rather than ground beef chili.

Using beer is safe to add, particularly if you add it at the start.  Alcohol will cook out of food much faster than water, and this chili cooks for a long time.  Adding beer adds the hoppy grain flavor of the beer to the mix, which is quite nice.

If you don’t have beer, or simply want a different flavor than beer, you can use an equal amount of beef broth.  The water will cook off over time, leaving an enriched beefy flavor.

I’ve also used hard cider in past chili’s to amazing effect.

What sides to serve with this Pitboss Chili Recipe?

  1. Honey Cornbread – Cornbread is probably the ultimate chili side.  I based this recipe off my favorite cornbread from high school, and make it every chance I get.
  2. Cottage Cheese Drop Biscuits – I make and serve these biscuits with everything.  They’re only two ingredients, fast to make, can be frozen, and go great with most dinners.
  3. Chopped Salad – a cool fresh salad is the perfect starter for a hot bowl of chili.  This recipe is a copycat of Maggiano’s chopped salad.
smoked chili in a bowl with a slice of honey cornbread on a plate

Tips for making Chili in a Pitboss Smoker

  1. Use a smoke tube – I find my Pitboss doesn’t make nearly as much smoke as a green egg or offset smoker. You can find smoke tubes online for pretty cheap.  You fill them with smoker pellets and start them burning.  Added into the smoker chamber, they’ll add additional smoke and burn for 3-5 hours.
  2. Use a water tray – Most Pitboss smokers come with a tray for water and you should use it.  The water tray is generally close to the heat element, and will quickly evaporate off a lot of water.  This will help keep your beef and chili from drying out.   It might seem unlikely, but your chili loses a lot of liquid over the duration of the smoke.

How to make this Pitboss Chili Recipe

bowl of pitboss smoked chili with sour cream and toppings top down

Pitboss Chili Recipe

Beef and Chili smoked separately and combined for explosive flavor
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours 30 minutes
Course Dinner
Cuisine American
Servings 6 servings
Calories 378 kcal


  • 1 Pitboss smoker or other smoker
  • 1 foil tray



  • 2 lb ground beef, 88% lean
  • 1.5 tbsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne powder or gochugaru
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic powder
  • pinch of salt and pepper


  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 3 tbsp minced garlic +/- 1 Tbsp depending on preferences
  • 64 oz diced tomatoes (two 32oz cans)
  • 2 Beers of choice 2 12oz beers
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne powder or gochugaru (up to 1/2 tsp depending on preferences)


  • Fry onions and peppers in skillet until softened
  • Add garlic and fry a little longer
  • Add the rest of the chili ingredients and transfer to a metal tray for the smoker. Note: two beers might seem like a lot, but the alcohol will cook off and the extra liquid is needed to account for liquid evaporation inside the smoker.
  • On a cutting board, liberally salt and pepper your ground beef, then form into a ball.
  • Combine spicy mix ingredients and coat the exterior of the ground beef evenly, using as much of the powder as possible.
  • Preheat your smoker to 230F (110C), fill your water tray, and start a smoke tube if using one.
  • Place the ground beef ball directly onto a smoker grate, and set your chili tray directly beneath it. Your temperature probe should go right into the center of the meat ball.
  • While smoking, keep your water tray filled. This will help control how fast the liquid from your chili evaporates off. Every couple hours, stir the chili.
  • Smoke the meat and chili until the meat reaches around 140F, then increase your smoker temperature to 280F (137C).
  • When the meat reaches 165F (74C), break it up into the chili. I was able to just push it down into the chili with a wooden spoon, but you can also bring it inside to break up. Stir the meat into the chili.
  • Let the combined chili smoke for another half hour to meld the flavors together. Then serve and enjoy.

Alternate instructions for faster smoking

  • These alternate instructions are to speed up the chili cook time. We will smoke the beef at a higher temperature to start, and it should finish a couple hours faster.
  • Prepare the chili per the previous instructions, but only use 1 beer instead of 2.
  • Preheat your smoker to 280 to start, and smoke the meat that temp the entire time.
  • Follow all other instructions including managing your water tray, use a smoke tube, and break up the beef into the chili after its cooked.


Serving: 1bowlCalories: 378kcalCarbohydrates: 17gProtein: 31.8gFat: 16.9gSaturated Fat: 6.2gCholesterol: 103mgSodium: 408mgPotassium: 408mgFiber: 3.7gSugar: 7gCalcium: 55mgIron: 4mg
Keyword chili, ground beef, Smoked
Tried this recipe?Let us know how it was!
Nutrition Facts
Pitboss Chili Recipe
Serving Size
1 bowl
Amount per Serving
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
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