Chili Size

  • Serves

    serves 4


This dish is said to take its name from the "hamburger size" ladle that legendary Los Angeles chili parlor proprietor Ptomaine Tommy used decades ago to spoon chili over the open-face burgers he served.



  • 3 oz. suet, finely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 12 lb. ground beef or chuck
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 14 cup chili powder
  • 2 14 tsp. paprika
  • 1 12 tsp. brown sugar
  • Salt
  • 1 (28-oz.) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 12 cups cooked kidney beans


  • 1 lb. ground beef or chuck
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 12 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • 4 tsp. butter; softened
  • 4 soft white hamburger buns with sesame seeds, split
  • 12 small white onion, peeled and finely chopped


Step 1

For the chili: Melt suet in a medium pot over medium heat, add onions, and cook, stirring often, until soft, 8–10 minutes. Add meat and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, 5–7 minutes. Add garlic, chili powder, paprika, sugar, and salt to taste, mix well, then add tomatoes and 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thick, 1–1⁄2 hours. Add beans and adjust seasonings. Keep warm on lowest heat.

Step 2

For the hamburgers: Preheat broiler. Divide meat into 4 equal parts, then gently shape each into a 3 1⁄2" patty (don't overhandle meat, or it will toughen) and season generously with salt and pepper. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sear patties until well browned on both sides, turning once, about 1 minute per side. Reduce heat to medium-low and continue cooking 1 more minute per side for medium rare. Top patties with cheese and broil until melted, about 1 minute.

Step 3

Heat a large skillet over medium heat. Butter buns, add to skillet buttered side down, and toast until golden, about 1 minute.

Step 4

To assemble, divide bottom buns between 4 plates, top each with a hamburger, then spoon some of the chili on top of each burger. Garnish with onions and put top bun on the side.

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