Washington Nationals: Half-Smokes w/ Homemade Chili

Aug 21, 2013 7 Comments

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Ben's Chili Bowl Half Smokes w: Homemade Chili Recipe MLB Recipe Series Washington Nationals IMG_2843

One of the most iconic food institutions in the DC area is Ben’s Chili Bowl. Locals, politicians, and celebrities alike flock to the establishment for its famous “half-smoke” sausages covered in house-made chili, onions, and shredded cheese.  A favorite of Bill Cosby’s, half-smokes are basically a slightly spicy smoked half pork/beef sausage that have been a staple at Ben’s since they opened their doors in 1958.

Since the dog is the official tubed meat of the Washington Nationals, it seemed only fitting that we create our own rendition of Ben’s Chili Bowl Half Smokes as part of our MLB Recipe Series.

To make the magic happen I called in the assistance of local bloggers/friends Mr. Beerbecue and Danger Men Parenting. I provided the half-smokes, Beerbecue his custom made smoker, DMP the necessary allotment of beer, and together we set about fine-tuning the chili recipe.

First a little background on Ben’s chili. For better or worse the “iconic” chili is basically a finely ground meat gravy overloaded with chili powder.  It’s lacks complexity and any degree of subtleness, but nonetheless people dig it.  Our rendition is more of an evolutionary step away from Ben’s in an attempt to create a more sophisticated meat gravy…if that is even possible.

The backbone of chili powder remains in the recipe but is balanced by an equal amount of smoked paprika and a few key spices allegedly in Ben’s.  Depth and complexity comes principally from the incorporation of Garam Masala, while a small amount of freshly grated cinnamon at the end rounds out the chili and provides a final subtle pop.

Overall, the gathering of “Merry Beer Men” pronounced the chili experiment to be a success and many covered half-smokes were happily devoured during a afternoon of gluttony.  Even the wives and children who showed up to collect our sad souls gave their approval meaning once again that men can never fail when a grill, smoke, and beers are involved.


The Necessities:

  • Half-smokes* and hot dog buns (click here to order half-smokes from Ben’s)
  • 2 lb freshly ground meat
  • 1 lrg yellow onion (finely minced)
  • 4 cloves garlic (finely minced)
  • 1/2 lrg ripe tomato (finely minced)
  • 28oz tomato puree
  • 7 tsp smoked paprika
  • 7 tsp chili powder
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp yellow mustard
  • 1 tsp tumeric
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp hot paprika
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Woodchips (optional)

*Any other sausage or hotdog can be substituted for the half-smokes.


Ben's Chili Bowl Half Smokes w: Homemade Chili Recipe MLB Recipe Series Washington Nationals IMG_2775

  • Fire up that grill or in this case Beerbecue’s custom made smoker and add woodchips (if necessary, presoaked).

Ben's Chili Bowl Half Smokes w: Homemade Chili Recipe MLB Recipe Series Washington Nationals IMG_2782

  • Add the half smokes or whatever sausages you have on hand to the grill/smoker. Cover and smoke until the proper internal temperature has been reached.

Ben's Chili Bowl Half Smokes w: Homemade Chili Recipe MLB Recipe Series Washington Nationals IMG_2822

  • While the sausages are cooking prepare the chili.
  • First saute the onions with a splash of olive oil in a large pot over medium heat until translucent.
  • Add the garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • Toss in the ground meat and cook until browned.
  • Stir in the fresh tomatoes and puree.
  • Then the remaining spices and cook over low heat for at least 30 mins.
  • Season to taste, along with a light grating of cinnamon.

Ben's Chili Bowl Half Smokes w: Homemade Chili Recipe MLB Recipe Series Washington Nationals IMG_2844

  • Load up a bun with a half smoke, onions, chili, and, if desired, cheese.

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7 Responses to “Washington Nationals: Half-Smokes w/ Homemade Chili”

  1. Name says:

    You should have heard my stomach growl when I was looking at this post. The chile sounds awesome and opening and closing pics have me chewing on my pencil!

  2. Karen (Back Road Journal) says:

    I grew up going to a little place with my father for chili dogs with fine chopped onions on top. I know that I would like the half-smokes. :)

  3. Sportschump says:

    Just wondering if that whole “smoked” thing was named for Strasburg’s record this year.

  4. ChgoJohn says:

    I know this hot dog! Some 20 years ago, there was a small chain of hamburger restaurants here in town that served hot dogs very similar to these, a spicy grilled dog with chili and onions. I could not get enough of them, especially with one of their restaurants located about a block from where I lived.

  5. Angeline M says:

    Oh, are we in luck. With this chili recipe and our local Lockford sausages/links from Lockford, California, we have a winner! If you are ever back in this area check out Lockford!

  6. Eva Taylor says:

    That smoker looks intriguing, is it a cold smoke or hot? We just bought that same Weber grill on our recent trip to Wisconsin, it works like a charm. The chili recipe sounds delicious.

  7. Raymund says:

    I so miss my high school looking at this, back in the Philippines we almost ate this every weekend when I was in high school. Hot dogs with chilli con carne, love em

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