Brian Baumgartner's Top Secret Tip For Great Chili - Exclusive

Brian Baumgartner knows what he's talking about when it comes to chili. What started out as a joke for the hit show "The Office," in which Baumgartner plays the oafish accountant Kevin, turned into a passion, and now a cookbook. "I'd never made chili before this event on 'The Office' and started making it. I made it as a joke for fun and posted a picture, and people got into it. Then I got into making it myself. One thing has led to another, and now I've got a book out," said Baumgartner in an exclusive interview with Mashed.

The book in question, "Seriously Good Chili Cookbook: 177 of the Best Recipes in the World" has, as the name suggests, 177 chili recipes. After working through all those recipes its no wonder Baumgartner has learned a thing or two about chili making. During his rise to chili superstardom, Baumgartner has judged the World Championship Cook-off, made his own recipes, and gotten a sense for what truly makes a great chili. Now, he has shared those tips with us. 

Undercooking the onions

As any "The Office" fan knows, Kevin's secret to his chili is to undercook the onions. So we wanted to know, is that what truly elevates a chili? According to Baumgartner, yes, and for a very specific reason. "If we want to talk seriously for a second, when you caramelize onions — everyone who's had caramelized onions on a sandwich or on whatever — it has a very specific flavor, which can be overpowering ... Get them translucent, get them in there early, but so that they are with everything. But don't let them get burned or caramelized."

What some may have thought was a joke, actually turns out to be solid advice when making chili. "That is what I always tell people is that the biggest tip that I got from Kevin — to not overcook the onions." 

For those looking to recreate Kevins chili and don't want to wade their way through the Peacock terms of service, the recipe is included in "Seriously Good Chili."

Tomatoes and fun

Undercooking the onions isn't the only secret to good chili, though. Baumgartner shares that when cooking a meat and tomato based chili, such as a classic chili con carne, he has a special trick to bring the whole thing together. He says, "when you are browning the meat — whatever it is, if it's ground turkey, ground beef — initially, let it get about half-browned and add in the tomato paste then."  Instead of waiting until the end, Baumgartner suggests cooking the meat part of the way, and finishing the cooking process with the tomato paste. He says that this can make a huge difference in the end product. "You really can taste the difference when the tomato paste is added in early, in terms of combining everything, as opposed to tasting meat and then the tomato stuff. It combines it." 

Finally, Baumgartner reminds us to "have fun with it." While some might see a recipe as set in stone, Baumgartner encourages everyone to "try certain things if there are flavors that you like or different methods ... Don't be afraid to explore."

So there you have it. Undercook the onions, toast your tomatoes with the meat, and above all else, have fun. 

"Seriously Good Chili: 177 of the Best Recipes in the World" is available for purchase now.