Use This Unexpected Kitchen Scrap To Elevate Your Next Batch Of Chili

Dishes like chili may be synonymous with fall, but we'd be hard-pressed to turn it down any time of the year. Whether you have a favorite family recipe to warm yourself up from the inside out or enjoy trying out a new concoction each season, chili is a staple you can enjoy year-round. And incorporating lean meat, whole grains, vegetables, and beans into your recipe is a great way to prepare a healthy version of this comfort food, according to Eating Well.

No matter which variation of the classic chili recipe you choose to simmer in your kitchen — from tried-and-true beef chili to white chicken chili to vegetarian interpretations and more — there's an unexpected way to enhance your regular formula and make it a grand-prize winner.

Here's a hint: Stock up on the scraps of this summer food staple earlier in the year and enjoy robust bowls of chili all fall and winter long. Adding this common (and unexpected!) kitchen scrap to your pot can truly elevate the flavors of your meal.

Sweeten your chili the natural way

While chili recipes are often spicy, many chefs choose to add a touch of sweetness to their recipes as well. By adding a small amount of sugar to your dish, explains Cook's Illustrated, you'll help cut the acidity of the tomatoes in the mixture in order to balance the flavor profile. Brown sugar, cocoa powder, cinnamon, and masa harina are a few secret ingredients often used to add sweetness and dimension (via Food Network). But what if you want to sweeten your chili the natural way? Try the best, possibly most unexpected ingredient: corn cobs!

According to America's Test Kitchen, throwing corn cobs into your chili pot lends a natural sweetness to your dish without the larger amounts of sugar that some of the aforementioned ingredients add to the meal. Corn on the cob is in peak season between May and September, so during those months, make sure to stock up on the sweet veggie at your local produce section or farmers market in order to improve your chili in the seasons to come.

How to incorporate corn cobs into your chili

Doing a bit of prep work at the end of the summer will guarantee sweet, satisfying chili as the weather grows colder — or might even challenge the popular notion that the chilly season is the best chili season. Here's how to do it: After shucking your ears of corn, remove the kernels from the cob for another use (like in this corn salad recipe). To prep them safely and make the least mess, place the ears of corn on a cutting board, using a knife to slice the kernels off the cob. You can use the cobs right away, or place them in a Ziploc bag and store them in the freezer for later use, as The Kitchn suggests.

Prepare your chili recipe normally, and when you get to the simmering stage, toss the corn cobs in the pot! Just be sure to remove the cobs before serving. And if you want to add some toasted notes to your chili, America's Test Kitchen recommends placing the corn cobs under the broiler for a few minutes before adding them to the pot to really bring out the corn's golden flavor.