We decided to taste Cincinnati chili with Boston area residents. We bought packaged and canned versions of the hot stuff in Kentucky and fed it to nine men and women between the ages of 16 and 86. Samples were Skyline canned, Gold Star canned and powdered, the non-restaurant Cincinnati brand powdered, and a recipe we made from the Internet, touted as authentic. All used 85 percent lean ground beef.
Served buffet-style with spaghetti, shredded cheddar, chopped onions, and kidney beans, the bowls had to be rated on a score card.
Tops, far and away, was the Cincinnati brand powdered.It was followed, decimal points behind, by homemade, then Gold Star powdered, then Skyline canned and, bringing up the rear, Gold Star canned.
All ranged in color from dark brown to reddish-brown, and almost all were considered salty by the majority. The powdered-mix chilis were generally runny — a clear failure of execution; the canned versions had an unappealing pasty texture. The group that tasted Skyline chili in northern Kentucky agreed that none of the home versions came close. Residents of Greater Cincinnati have it right: The good stuff is in the restaurants.