Our Test Kitchen Director shares his top choice.

Greg DuPree

It’s Chili Season in the South. Not familiar with Chili Season? Of course you are! It’s those precious weeks during football season when the fall weather finally starts to cool off, causing sudden cravings for big pots of chili. Like pumpkin spice latte season, but spicier.

If your favorite chili recipe calls for ground beef, make sure to choose the best kind and don’t just reach for whatever is closest in the meat aisle. Different types of ground beef have different meat-to-fat ratios, depending on the meat trimmings that were used. Ground chuck (made from chuck roast trimmings) contains the most fat, typically 80 percent meat to 20 percent fat, so it cooks up juicy and rich. Ground sirloin (made from the loin) is much leaner, usually 90 percent meat to 10 percent fat. When cooked, ground sirloin is drier with a heartier texture.

WATCH: 10 Ground Beef Recipes

You don’t have to choose one type over the other. When making chili, Southern Living Test Kitchen Director Robby Melvin recommends using a mix of ground chuck and ground sirloin. “It’s the best of both worlds,” he says. “You get a balanced lean-to-fat ratio from the chuck and the hearty, beefy leanness from the sirloin.” Our West Texas Chili recipe calls for two pounds of ground chuck or venison, but you could easily make it with a pound of ground chuck and a pound of ground venison (or sirloin).

Because you’re making chili, not spaghetti sauce, you want the meat to really stand out. If your butcher will grind meat to order (or if you grind your own meat at home), Melvin recommends coarsely ground beef for a heartier texture. “Coarsely ground beef has a presence that a chunky style of chili needs,” he says.