How To Make Half-Smoke Chili And Take A Decade Off Your Life

This week’s episode of Foodspin takes us to the fabled (and somewhat controversial) Ben’s Chili Bowl, which has been an institution here in Washington, D.C. for nearly 60 years. There, Burneko and I discover the wonders of the Ben’s half-smoke, which is a big fucking sausage smothered in chili and onions. No wonder my nipples are erect for most of the episode.


Anyway, co-founder Virginia Ali wouldn’t tell us how the chili was made. But that didn’t stop us from staging a HOT MEAT REVERSAL and serving her a mustard-fried chili burger. The twist is that we put the half-smoke IN the chili, because that’s what Satan would have wanted. I took the leftovers from our taping home and shat pure Tabasco for a week. It was worth it. Wanna make the recipe yourself? Here it is:


1 onion, chopped

1 serrano pepper, sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 pound half-smokes or smoked sausages, casings removed and cut into small pieces

¾ lbs. chorizo, no casings

1 smoked pork knuckle

1 large can crushed tomatoes

1 can of beer

1 tbsp chili powder, plus more to taste

1 tbsp cumin, plus more to taste

Salt and pepper to taste

1 can red kidney beans, drained



1 pound fatty ground beef

¼ lb. chorizo

Yellow mustard


Chopped onion

Chopped cilantro

First, fry up the onion, pepper, and garlic in a big pot with some hot oil. Add the chorizo and half smokes and stir them around until the chorizo is cooked through. Then add all of the remaining ingredients, except for the beans. Compared to regular chili, it should reduce quickly, in about 60-90 minutes. Stir the chili and drink beer while you watch it bubble. Once it’s nice and thick, take out the knuckle and add the beans. Set the chili aside.

To make the burger, mix the beef and chorizo with a bit of salt and pepper, then form flat, wide patties with your hands. Sprinkle the patties with a bit more salt. Drizzle both sides of the patties in the mustard, then fry up the patties in a hot skillet, about five minutes a side. (NOTE: It’ll get smoky.) Take the patties out, lay them in the buns, and put the onion and cilantro on each patty BEFORE you top them with chili. This is enough to make roughly six burgers, with some chili left over.

Drew Magary is a Deadspin columnist and columnist for GEN magazine. You can buy Drew's second novel, The Hike, through here.