Camp Chef Pellet Grill Comparison
Woodwind 36 in
Woodwind 36 in
XXL Vertical Smoker
Walton’s is thrilled to have a new line of smokers and bbq accessories for sale. Camp Chef has been around for over 30 years, making full lines of pellet and gas grills and smokers. Being a family-owned business, we also appreciate the fact that they are family-owned too.
First, these are both pellet grills, so instead of using propane or electricity to burn sawdust or wood chunks, these smokers utilize wood pellets to act as both the smoke and heat source. I switched to a pellet smoker/combo a few years ago, and I am almost certainly never going back. In my mind, it is very similar to the amount of smoke you get from wood chunks and charcoal, and the clean-up and setup are far easier. With that in mind, both of these grills have a rod on the side of the units that can be pulled out, which will empty the ash and any partially burned pellets into the ash cup below the smokebox, making clean-up a lot easier. They both also have hopper emptying slides, which makes emptying your hopper to change types of wood or to prevent the pellets from getting wet a lot easier.
In addition, they both have something called smart smoke technology. This allows you to set your smoke level from 1-10; the lower the # is, the closer the smoker will stay to the set temperature, but it will create less smoke. The higher you set the smoke level, the further it will deviate from that set temperature. They both also utilize the Camp Chef Connect App, an easy-to-use app that can be used on a smartphone or tablet. Now, from my experience with this, I do think it works better with IOS, but it does work with android as well. Also, the directions on the Vertical said to burn at top temp for 30 minutes to burn off oils used in manufacturing, I don’t know what the woodwind said in the instructions, but they both got considerably longer than 30 minutes. I wanted to make sure it was all burned off, so they both ran at top temp for 3 hours.
Woodwind 36 in Wifi Pellet Grill
One of the major advantages of the Camp Chef woodwind grills is that the side shelf can be replaced with either a propane-powered sear box or a side griddle. This allows you some versatility that many pellet smoker combos don’t offer. Most pellet smokers top out at around 500-550°, making getting a really good sear on your steak a little difficult. The sear box or griddle makes reverse searing so much easier and better. Previously, I would have to start my smoker at around 200° and leave my steak in there until it reaches 118°, then pull it out of the smoker, wrap it in foil to prevent too much heat loss, then kick my grill up to as high as it would go and use my grill grates to try to get them as hot as possible, this would take upwards of 8 minutes sometimes. Having the sear box already at max temp means I pull them out of the smoker and begin searing immediately, which is a huge advantage in my mind.
But getting the sear box or the griddle isn’t even necessary to get a good sear as there is a slide of the smoker that, when pulled, moves the heat deflector out of the way, meaning you can get up to 650° above the firebox. Add some grill grates, and you could be up to about 800° in the main box. The woodwind also comes with built-in shelving, nearly doubling your available cooking space, 4 probe thermometers, and the hopper can hold up to 22 lb of pellets.
XXL Vertical Smoker
For the Camp Chef Vertical XXL smoker, you are going to get 8 screens, 3 of which are tightly woven mesh for small items, and they total 2408 sq inches of smoking. The screens are orientated fairly tightly, so you are not going to get to use all 2408 sq inches if you are making pork butts or something like that, but they will work very well for jerky. The unit also comes with a smoke stick to loop snack sticks over, they also have some s hooks on the smoke stick to easily hand netting for things like ham. The Vertical XXL Smoker can hold up to 18 lb of pellets and comes with 2 probe thermometers.
Let’s get to Smokin’
First, we did a pork butt in both of the pellet grills. We rubbed them liberally with Sweet Chipotle Lime Rub and smoked them at 225°. Both smokers presented a great finished product, with gorgeous color on the pork butts. Those of you who follow me on meatgistics got to see how awesome they looked when I pulled them from the smoker. A few important notes, though, were that the Vertical XL did a better job with pellet management, these smoked for over 12 hours, and the vertical barely went through an entire hopper. Now, the smoke setting was set at 1 for the first 3 hours. Taste-wise, this one was awash in my opinion. They both got amazing bark, and the taste was awesome. The laydown finished a little faster, but that was because it was situated right on top of the burn box. Also, the grates on the vertical do require some breaking in or spraying as they are not as stick-resistant.
Then we did some chicken wings as well. Both were absolutely awesome, but again, the racks stuck a little on the vertical XXL, so we lost some of that nice chicken on the run coating. Also, the built-in shelf for the Woodwind was perfect for getting the wings up and away from the heat source. So, both are amazing, but the woodwind grill won this one.
We have also used both of these to make snack sticks. We did the woodwind as soon as it came in stock, and we again used the top shelf to lay the snack sticks on. 160° is as low as the woodwind goes, but the snack sticks came out surprisingly good. I think cooking them at that temp worked fine initially, but it dried the casings a little too much, and then when they sat in the fridge overnight, they absorbed too much moisture, and the snap was no longer nice and firm.
What We Learned
At slow and low temp cooking, both Camp Chef pellet grills functioned fairly similarly; the grates are better in the woodwind, but the pellet management seems better in the XXL, so if you do a lot of slow cooking, you will be happier with either. If you do a lot of steaks and grilled chicken and want that functionality, then the 24 or 36" woodwind grill, especially with the sear box or the griddle on the side, is going to be way more useful to you. However, if you want to do snack sticks, summer sausage, or hang hams, bacon, and things like that, then the Vertical XXL is absolutely going to give better results.
Shop waltonsinc.com for Camp Chef Woodwind 36 in Wifi Pellet Smoker
Shop waltonsinc.com for Camp Chef XXL Vertical Smoker