In this first installment of a new series in which we look to our staff for insightful tips and tricks, we go to Cooking Light resident barbecue expert, Test Kitchens Professional Mike Wilson, who knows a thing or two about pork and smoke. He uses both elements to concoct a robust slow cooker chili with Mexican flair. (He also shares directions for cooking it on the stove.)
Wilson's best advice: Follow your instincts. "I figured tossing an inexpensive smoked ham hock into the chili would add smoke flavor to the whole pot, but I didn't want it to overwhelm the dish," he explains. So the hock is cooked then discarded―leaving behind that woodsiness with little fat or sodium. Fresh tomatillos and a spritz of lime "add a little tartness to balance the smokiness," Wilson says.