Chances are, you have a “famous family chili” recipe tucked away in your recipe box, ready to pull out and throw together if the occasion calls for it. Chili is such an easy, basic meal, and yet the variations are almost endless! A lot of “dad’s best chili” recipes have that one special ingredient that supposedly takes the entire dish up to the next level. Ghost peppers, Coke, whiskey, and even cranberries are among some of the popular “secret” ingredients. The one thing that makes the biggest difference, however, is a lot less spectacular… Baking soda!
Baking Soda… Really?
Yes, really! While the other special ingredients add a certain depth and flavor to the overall dish, baking soda serves to enhance the most important part of chili – the meat! Even if you’re into veggie chili, adding a little baking soda will help improve the quality and texture of your chili.
The Science Behind Baking Soda
For starters, baking soda increases the pH level of the meat, which impacts the protein strands. The heat from the cooking process naturally makes the protein strands tighten up, but adding baking soda, and therefore, alkalinity, causes these strands to loosen up. In other words, baking soda makes the meat tender.
Treat ground beef by mixing 3/4 teaspoon baking soda with 1 teaspoon salt. Add this mixture to 2 tablespoons of water and then mix with the beef. Let the treated ground beef sit for about twenty minutes before adding it to your recipe.
If you’re using chunks of meat, sprinkle one teaspoon of baking soda per pound, and then pour in enough water to cover. Let it sit for fifteen minutes before proceeding.
Baking soda helps to tenderize dry beans as well. Add one teaspoon for every six cups of soaking water.