Chili Cookoff Ideas

    Looking for something to spice up your fall?  Consider hosting a chili cook-off!  It’s a great event for the office, neighborhood, or family.  The change in the weather makes everyone crave warm and spicy dishes; chili hits the spot!

    chili crocks For the Trophies2Go holiday party, one year we held a chili cookoff competition.

    So how do you start?  First, put together your guest list and send your invites.  I like Evite – it’s fast and easy.  Unfortunately, they don’t have a chili cookoff themed background, but they do have a cute “potluck” design that features a stock pot.  It works for me.


    Then find out how many entrees you have in your cook-off and give those folks the rules.  I keep my rules very simple – the chili has to be homemade, and that’s it.  But some purists don’t allow any “foreign matter” into their chili, including beans, onion, pepper, etc.  It’s only beef, tomato and spices for the really hard core competitors.  See the International Chili Society for the “official” rules for professional chili cookoff competitions.  But like I said, we’re pretty relaxed in the Northwest, so anything goes as long as it doesn’t come out of a can!

    Next I have all of the participants bring their chili in a crock pot with their own ladle.  That way I know the chili will stay warm and I won’t have to supply all of the spoons.  With all of those appliances in the same spot, I keep extra extension cords handy in case I blow an outlet.  This system seems to work pretty well.


    chili trophy Our Trophies2Go chili trophy. It can be passed on each year.

    How do you want to judge your cookoff?  You can either have 3-5 official judges, or have all of the attendees taste and judge (that’s what I do).

    For judging, I take a paper plate and glue small paper tasting cups to it.  I use a sharpie to label each chili entry so they are all anonymous.  I dish up the chili entries to keep it secret.  Then I let the judges have at it!


    Participants: I recommend participation ribbons, pins, or medals for each person who enters the competition.  We have lots of cute and affordable options.

    Winners: For my cookoff, I have an adult’s choice and a kid’s choice winner.  In the past, I engraved cutting boards for the winners.  This year I think I’ll do ribbons (Blue – first, Red – second, White – third) and maybe an engraved ladle for the winners.  Trophies are always a great option, especially perpetual chili pots that can pass from champ to champ each year.  The awards are the fun part and the hit of the party!

    Wishing you fun and laughter at your event!

    Cheers, Jessica

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