Camp Chef Woodwind SG Pellet Grill Review

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Camp Chef Woodwind SG Pellet Grill Review

I've been using the Camp Chef Woodwind for a couple of years now and loving every minute of it but recently they introduced a brand new member of the Woodwind family called the SG. This new grill, or smoker as I call it, has a lot of new features and I'm going to walk you through and introduce each one.

If you came here knowing you already wanted to buy it, then here's the link for that. Otherwise, read on and I'll give you the full scoop.

Setup

When the SG arrived, it was on a pallet, well packaged and wasn't difficult for one person to put together. I had to install legs, chimney, handles, and the searbox which didn't take more than an hour.

For some reason, I did not take a picture of this! It had to be the utter excitement of getting a new toy.

I did have to spend a little time wiping down the bare metal parts as they had something that smelled like diesel on them but I figure it was probably mineral oil or something similar to prevent rust during storage and shipment.

Initial Burn-in

As with most grills and smokers, it is highly recommended to season it or do a burn-in to make sure there are no oils or residues used in manufacturing left on the metal that might affect the taste of the food that you are cooking.

The slow way to do this, which I like better since it imparts some smoke and leaves a nice smoky residue on the inside walls of your smoker, is to run it at about 225°F for a couple of hours. Then you are fine to use it as normal.

The faster way to do this is to run it at about 350°F for 45 minutes. This burns off oils, glue, residue, etc. that might be on the inside of the smoker and ensures that it is cook ready.

Pick one of these methods and get ‘er done!

SG= Slide and Grill

So what in the heck is “Slide and Grill”? Well it's a new technology that Camp Chef has come up with to allow for a direct heat grill-like experience inside the smoker.

It does this by allowing you to slide the flame/heat deflector back and forth via a knob on the lower left side of the smoker body. Pulling the grill knob straight out moves the deflector away from the firepot and the flames leap up a lot higher giving you some pretty hot heat coming through those vents in the drip tray.

Here's the knob on the side of the unit:

Woodwind SG

At this setting the heat deflector is over the firepot.

Woodwind SG

But when you pull the knob out to the left, the deflector moves away from the firepot and allows the fire to come up to grate level.

Woodwind SG

The drip pan is no longer flat on the bottom but has cutouts or fins angled down toward the grease trough. This allows the grease to drain like usual but when you want some direct heat, those cutouts allow the heat to come through.

The bad side to this is that I like to cover the drip pan with foil to keep it nice and clean and now, with these new cutouts, you can't use foil.

Woodwind SG

and a close-up of those cutouts..

Woodwind SG

That– is slide and grill technology.

Here's an artist rendering of what it should sort of look like in real life:

Woodwind SG

The flames do not leap through the holes in the drip pan but you can definitely feel the direct heat pouring through the holes if you hold your hand over the top of the grate and it's definitely enough to put a burn on something.

As you can imagine, most of the high heat is from the middle to the right side since the heat deflector sort of blocks the left side. This technology paired with some grillgrates will give you some grill marks but it just feels redundant when I have a searbox right there on the right side, attached to the unit.

Here's a video of some hot dogs to show how it works:

Because of how the cutout holes are angled, grease still runs down this drip pan into the trough and then down into the bucket that hangs on the outside of the smoker.

Woodwind SG

Cooking Space

The original woodwind has a bottom rack that measures about 22 inches wide and 19.5 inches from front to back giving you just over 400 in² of cooking space. It also has a partial rack on top which it calls a warming rack but I've used it numerous times to cook on and it works just fine.

The SG model has increased the height of the cooking chamber and added a full size 2nd rack on top. It's 22 inches wide and about 18.5 inches from front to back for another 400 in².

Woodwind SG

This means the SG has a total of just over 800 in² of cooking space. More than the original Woodwind and more than the REC TEC.

Another sub-feature of the cooking grates, since we are talking about them, is the fact that they are now split in half. I got pretty excited when I found this out since that means I don't have to play “see if you can fit the racks in the dishwasher” game anymore.

The Hopper

The hopper on the original Woodwind held 18 pounds which I never understood since most bags of pellets are 2o pounds. This means every time you fill it up, you are left with a couple of pounds in the bag which you then need to seal up so they won't get damp and then store them somewhere and hope you don't forget where you put them.

The SG has solved this issue.. it now holds 22 pounds of pellets which means it can hold a full bag with some room left over and if you happen to find any of those old bags of leftover pellets lying around, you can pour one of them in with it.

Woodwind SG

The SG also now has a clear window on the front so you can see how many pellets you have in there at a glance.

Just like on the Woodwind, there's a really handy chute in the back of the hopper with a pull handle that makes it really easy to dump the pellets into a bucket or other container when you want to change them out or if you need to clean the hopper.

Woodwind SG

Ash Cup Cleanout

Another feature from the original Woodwind that was brought over to the SG is the ash cup on the very bottom of the smoke chamber. Note that this does not catch ALL of the ashes but it does a great job of getting them out of the firepot which is the ones that can cause a problem if you don't maintain it.

Woodwind SG

Occasionally you do still have to vacuum the ashes out of the bottom of the smoke chamber. I vacuum mine every time but I have a tendency to be compulsive like that.

I have heard that it's a great idea to let the ashes build up on the bottom of the smoke chamber in the wintertime to act as an insulator and help hold in the heat. I haven't tried this but if anyone has, feel free to share your thoughts about this in the comment area below.

Side SearBox

I love the searbox and think it's one of the greatest things that anyone has added to a pellet smoker in a long time.

The searbox attaches to the right side of the unit and is basically a propane grill that cooks at up to 900°F.

It operates on propane, has a lid that opens and closes and a single knob to control the level of heat that you want.

The cooking grate for the searbox is make of cast iron which everyone knows gives you the best grill marks. The ribs of the grate are raised to really lay on some beautiful grill marks.

A really great feature in my opinion!

The Controller

This is the part of the smoker that controls the heat and one of the things that most people complain about. The controller on the SG, like most pellet grills at this price point, works on an average temperature, not exact temperature.

I think people really get hung up on this since no one ever complains about their home oven, which probably operates this was as well.

Test your home oven and you will no doubt see this in action. No one complains because it still bakes great cakes, biscuits, pies, etc.

Average temperature to me does just as well as exact temperature in my opinion. There are pellet smokers which holds a perfect temperature and while that is nice, it doesn't cook any better, have better flavor or get things done any faster.

So, in my opinion, cooking based on average temperature is not a bad thing if you can learn to just leave it alone and let it do it's thing.

The SG fluctuates up and down approximately 15 to 20°F with the range being wider on the (2) specialized “Smoke” settings than on the regular settings.

The controller has inputs for dual probes which are included. These can be used to monitor the meat temperature and/or the pit temperature.

Woodwind SG

Good Deal or Not?

All in all, the Woodwind SG by Camp Chef is quickly becoming my favorite pellet smoker with all of it's features, extra cooking space with the double full-sized racks and the larger 22 pound hopper. The slide and grill technology is nice but I don't find myself using it that much as I usually fire up the side searbox instead.

It is well worth the $999 that it costs and with free shipping and a 3 year warranty, it's a great buy.

Check it out on CampChef.com

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2018-06-22T21:10:15+00:00 By |20 Comments

About the Author:

Long time Industrial Engineer turned self-proclaimed fire poker, pitmaster and smoke whisperer and loving every minute of it!

20 Comments

  1. Steve Schulte October 17, 2018 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    Would you recommend the sidekick or the sear box?

    • Jeff Phillips October 17, 2018 at 11:08 pm - Reply

      The sidekick, which I haven’t used yet, is more of a hot griddle so you could still sear on it but the heat is more like what you’d get in an iron skillet rather than over an open flame grill. I prefer the searbox style of cooking. Anything you’d use the sidekick for could be done in a skillet in my opinion.

  2. Lyn Jones September 13, 2018 at 12:11 am - Reply

    Great review Jeff, I’ve had my eye on the Camp Chef for over a year. I couldn’t decide if the Woodwind was large enough for the added food for when guests or family visit. The full size 2nd shelf solved that issued for me and the attached gas grill takes care of the sear I have to have on my steaks.. I currently use a Weber 22″ grill and a Weber SMC smoker and both are excellent products, but I do like the idea of not having to watch the smoker on the long smokes. If I decide to make the plunge to a pellet smoker, it will probably be Woodwind SG, and I’ll go through your site to order it. Thanks again for the review.

  3. Eric Hughes September 8, 2018 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    Jeff, I have a electric master built smoker. I Love it during the warmer months, but in the winter time when I’m opening and closing the door it takes forever to warm back up. What smoke would you recommend that’s good year round. Thank you for your help. Eric

  4. Keith Bailey September 5, 2018 at 9:18 am - Reply

    Jeff, would it be possible to replace the slotted drip pan with one from another model that is flat? Especially if the S&G would not be used due to the sear box. One could always keep the slotted drip pan if it was ever needed. By using the flat drip pan, one could wrap it with foil for easier cleanup as on the previous models. Would replacing the slotted drip pan with a flat drip pan affect the performance?

    • Jeff Phillips September 5, 2018 at 12:23 pm - Reply

      Keith, as far as I know, the regular flat drip pan would fit just fine and not cause any problems. The slots are only to allow the heat to come up when in direct grill mode.

  5. Mike Seaton September 5, 2018 at 8:53 am - Reply

    Does the Slide and Grill business allow it to cook more like a propane/charcoal grill? (I know, it’s still getting it’s flame and heat from burning pellets) My wife isn’t a fan of smoked meat and associated carcinogens. It’s ok on occasion, but if everything is smoked, I’d never hear the end of it and she’d never eat it.

    So, does the slide and grill tech work like a regular grill? How about the sear box? Is it big enough to gas grill for 2? Any thoughts on the Sidekick vs the Sear Box?

    I want one to replace my electric smoker, but I’m also hoping it can replace my gas grill, too. You know, make everybody happy and safe space.

    • Jeff Phillips September 5, 2018 at 12:34 pm - Reply

      Not quite like a regular grill but it’s getting close. When you slide the heat deflector to the side, the heat is coming up from the center where the burn pot is and it hits a fairly large part of the smoker grate with what I will call semi-direct heat. It’s enough to make a hotdog sizzle but doesn’t do quite as good as an actual propane or charcoal grill.

      The searbox is 11.5 wide and 15.5 deep and is plenty of cooking space for 2 in my opinion. It has a hook on the back of the smoker for the propane tank and can reach temperatures as high as 900°F if needed.

      The sidekick, which I haven’t used yet, is more of a hot griddle so you could still sear on it but the heat is more like what you’d get in an iron skillet rather than over an open flame grill.

  6. Bill O’Neal August 1, 2018 at 6:51 pm - Reply

    The woodwind does not have a water pan. is this important?

  7. Joe Richardson July 28, 2018 at 2:22 pm - Reply

    Jeff you mentioned not being able to cover the drip pan with foil because of the vents. Is there any reason not to cover the drip pan if smoking and not grilling?

    • Jeff Phillips July 30, 2018 at 12:47 am - Reply

      I guess theoretically you can but it would have a lot of hills and valleys because of the raised vents and the grease would not “flow” down to the bucket properly.

  8. Chris Mohr July 22, 2018 at 11:00 pm - Reply

    Hey Jeff, Just got our new Woodwind SG and gave it a workout this weekend. I found your comment in your review about the grates being dishwasher safe, however we can’t confirm that after searching camp chef‘s website and manuals that came with the smoker. Can you confirm that to be true?

    • Jeff Phillips July 23, 2018 at 10:24 am - Reply

      Chris, I have always washed mine in the dishwasher with no issues however, at your request, I have contacted Camp Chef directly and asked them to confirm that this is safe. I will let you know once I hear back from them.

    • Jeff Phillips July 24, 2018 at 12:28 pm - Reply

      From Camp Chef Support:

      Hello Jeff,

      Thank you for your email. Yes it is safe to put the cooking and the warming racks into the dish washer, However It is not recommended to put the cast iron grill grates into the dishwasher. Please let us know if you have any further questions.

      Best Regards,
      Camp Chef
      Customer Support

  9. Daniel Barbagelata July 12, 2018 at 8:39 am - Reply

    Jeff, I have heard that with the cutouts on the grease pan, that butts, etc. cooks a little faster as they are not as protected from the heat. Have you seen that to be true? I agree with your assessment as to foil on the tray. Seems like a big disadvantage to me. I also agree that with the sear box, the Slide and Grill seems a little unnecessary. Essentially, what I am asking is the SG a worthy upgrade for $100, or should I just get the original with sear box? Do other upgrades make up for the disadvantages? Thanks!

    • Jeff Phillips July 12, 2018 at 8:22 pm - Reply

      I have not noticed that things are getting done faster, at least if it is, it’s not significant.

      Regarding the features and their value, this really depends on how you like to cook. I think the ability to have a direct grill-like experience is cool but honestly, if I have a sear box, the SG feature is sort of overkill. And no slots in the drip pan would mean I could cover it with foil and it would be easier to clean.

      In my opinion, $100 is well worth the larger hopper and especially the double full grates for those times when company comes over and I need to cook extra food. No need to cook in batches or to fire up another smoker or grill. You’ll have to decide if that scenario ever happens and if it’s worth it to have that problem pre-solved for an extra $100.

      As a side note, the cooking chamber on the SG was increased in height to make room for the increased cooking space.

      for ME, the perfect hybrid pellet smoker would be the original Woodwind, no slide and grill option (I prefer the searbox), flat drip tray without slots, larger hopper, searbox and (2) full size racks.

      • Daniel Barbagelata July 17, 2018 at 2:47 pm - Reply

        Thanks, Jeff. I feel the same way in my research of pellet grills. There is not yet one that is EXACTLY what I want!

  10. John C. Critzer July 7, 2018 at 3:52 pm - Reply

    Did you pay for this smoker or did they send it to you at no charge? Be honest please. Thank you.

    • Jeff Phillips July 7, 2018 at 11:17 pm - Reply

      John,

      As everyone knows (you may be one of the few who wasn’t aware of this) and I have said many times, many companies send smokers, thermometers, equipment, products, etc. just hoping that it will meet my standards and that I’ll mention it somewhere. The Camp Chef smokers are some of my favorites among the many and fortunately I do not have to pay for all of them (who could afford that?). If they were not good smokers, then you’d never hear about them from me. It’s as simple as that 😉

      I loved the Woodwind that they sent me initially and in my opinion, the Woodwind SG is even better.. they’ve gone back to the drawing board and added a 2nd full-size shelf, larger hopper, direct grilling inside and the side searbox is included and it cooks great food every time. I use it more than most and I’ve had zero issues.

      Everyone that I know of who has had an issue has had a great experience with customer service taking care of the problem for them. You can’t beat that and that’s the kind of company I can get behind.

      The camp chef smokers use a simple controller that does not hold a precise temperature but rather holds an average temperature just like your home oven does with about a 20 degree temperature swing in both directions. I also use Traeger, REC TEC, and Pit Boss smokers and they all work well but Camp Chef is still my favorite and, in my opinion, the best smoker for the money right now.

  11. Rick Bullard July 1, 2018 at 7:12 pm - Reply

    I have found out for me …leaving a good amount of ash in the firepot actually makes the smoke much more consistent and more smoke in the hi and low smoke settings….used to be a little dissappointed in these settings…..used to clean ash out all the time….not now….just saying….thanks Jeff…!

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