May 27, 2015 - Sports & Leisure    1 Comment

Dan’s Idaho Nuclear Chili

This is a recipe that comes compliments of Dan Yurman, which I have copied from his blog. Since his original blog completed its run and has since vanished from the Internet, I thought it would be wise to preserve a copy his recipe here, in case his latest blog also eventually goes away. Enjoy.

In the spirit of Thanksgiving, and wanting to take a break from reading, thinking, and writing about nuclear energy, I’m offering my tried and true cooking instructions for something completely different.

By Sunday night you will be stuffed, fed up, literally, and figuratively, with turkey. Instead of food fit for pilgrims, try food invented in the wide open west—chili. Cook this dish on Saturday. Eat it on Sunday.

These instructions take about an hour to complete. This chili has more vegetables and beans than some people might like, but we’re all trying to eat healthy. Although the name of this dish has the word “nuclear” in it, it isn’t that hot on the Scoville scale. If you want some other choices for nuclear chili there are lots of recipes on Google

The beer adds sweetness to the vegetables, as does the brandy, and is a good for cooking generally. In terms of the beer, which is an essential ingredient, you’ll still have five cans or bottles left to share with friends so there’s always that.

However, I recommend Negra Modelo for drinking with this dish and Budweiser or any American pilsner for cooking it. Alternatives for drinking include local western favorites, Moose Drool or Black Butte Porter, and regional amber ales Alaskan Amber, Fat Tire, or Anchor Steam. Do not cook with “light” beer. It’s a very bad idea.

History of the cooking instructions

Scoville, Idaho, is the destination for Union Pacific rail freight for the Idaho National Laboratory (INL) way out on the Arco desert.

There is no town by that name, but legend has it that way back in the 50s & 60s, when the place was called the National Reactor Testing Station, back shift workers on cold winter nights relished the lure of hot chili hence the use of the use of the name “Scoville” for shipping information.

Overnight temperatures on the Arco desert can plunge to −20 °F or more. Unfortunately, the guys running the reactors couldn’t drink beer, but they did have coffee. It’s still that way today.

Why “Second-day” in the name?

This is “second-day chili.” That means after you make it, put it in the unheated garage to cool, then refrigerate it, and reheat the next day. The flavors will have had time to mix with the ingredients, and on a cold Idaho night what you need that warms the body and the soul is a bowl of hot chili with fresh, warm cornbread on the side.

If you make a double portion, you can serve it for dinner over a hot Idaho baked potato with salad. Enjoy.

Dan’s Second-Day Idaho Nuclear Chili


1 lb chopped or ground beef (15% fat)
1 large onion
1 sweet red pepper
1 sweet green pepper
10–12 medium size mushrooms
1 can pinto beans (plain, no “sauce”)
1 can black beans
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 can small, white “shoepeg” corn
1 12 oz can beer
1 cup hot beef broth
1 tablespoon cooking brandy
2 tablespoons finely chopped jalapeno peppers
2–4 tablespoons red chili powder
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon coarse powdered garlic
1/2 teaspoon cumin


  1. Chop the vegetables into small pieces and brown them in cooking
    oil. Add 1 tablespoon of cooking brandy near the end. Drain thoroughly.
  2. Brown the meat separately and drain the fat.
  3. Combine all the ingredients in a large pot. Be sure to drain the
    beans, and tomatoes before adding. Simmer slowly for at least
    60–120 min. Stir occasionally.
  4. Set aside and refrigerate when cool.
  5. Reheat the next day. Serve with cornbread. Garnish with shredded
    sharp cheddar cheese.

Feeds 2–4 adults.

1 Comment

  • Thank you for re-posting my Idaho Nuclear Chili recipe. The original blog Idaho Samizdat, 2007-2012, was lost due to a combination of factors over which I had no control, not the least of which was a hacker who somehow managed to delete all the comments and images, but not the blog itself. The damage was too significant and I took the entire package offline permanently. No one ever claimed credit for the intrusion.

    The new blog, Neutron Bytes, has been up since September 2014. I am finding this time around people prefer shorter blog posts compared to long form, which has elevated Twitter as a significant platform. We’ll see how it goes.