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.

woodwind sg hopper window

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.

searbox

A really great feature in my opinion!

Note: The SG is also available with a griddle called a “Sidekick” if you prefer that over the searbox. You just select that option when you purchase.

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 and home ovens, works on an average temperature, not exact temperature.

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. AND it doesn't advertise on the stove display screen that it is 25°F above or below your set temperature.

Pellet grills advertise it on the display and therefore it bothers us.

Average temperature cooks 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 really great buy.

Check it out on CampChef.com

42 Comments

  1. Healthy Kitchen 101 January 11, 2021 at 2:12 am - Reply

    This one is definitely my recommendation for most people looking to. This one is awesome but overkill on price and features for most of us.

  2. Mike February 27, 2020 at 10:26 am - Reply

    Jeff, I've read the comments on the covering the drip pan or swapping it with a flat one. What about covering it with foil and cutting slots in the openings of the vents? would that work?

    • Jeff Phillips February 27, 2020 at 10:49 pm - Reply

      Mike, that should work just fine. You wouldn't even have to cut out the slots unless you plan to slide the heat deflector out of the way and do some direct heat cooking with it.

  3. Jackson Bates February 20, 2020 at 10:29 am - Reply

    Does one have to use the Camp Chef pellets exclusively, or can pellets from Traeger or Green Mountain be substituted?

    • Jeff Phillips February 21, 2020 at 10:36 am - Reply

      Jackson, you can use any hardwood cooking pellet in any pellet smoker. Most smoker manufacturers recommend their own pellet brand for marketing purposes and because they feel like theirs are better than the competition. I typically use the Pit Boss brand from the big box stores and get really good results at a great price.

      I am not aware of any pellet smoker manufacturer that requires the use of their own proprietary pellets.. if anyone knows of any, feel free to enlighten me.

  4. John Edwards October 3, 2019 at 8:04 pm - Reply

    I bought the Woodwind SG with the Sidekick earlier this year. I'd like to comment on a couple of the recurring questions about the vented tray and the Sidekick.

    As for the tray, I did my first cook – a pork butt – without putting foil on the tray (did not use the SG feature) and found it to be a bear to clean. Since then I have put foil on it and have not had any problems with the ridges from the vents inhibiting flow down to the drain bucket. I will probably get a non vented tray for future smoking and use the vented tray to experiment with the SG feature. The ash cup and pellet dump are great features and allow easy routine cleanup after a smoke and makes changing pellets easy. I vacuum out the main area about once a month, depending on ash level.

    I debated whether to get the Searbox or the Sidekick for almost a month before I finally made a choice. I ultimately decided on the Sidekick because of the flexibility it provided. It comes with a flattop griddle, but there are available options – Grillboxes (which provide a cast iron grill plate to sear like the Searbox), and a Pizza oven. You can also just take the griddle off and use the burner to heat a large stock pot or similar sized vessel. I haven't used the griddle yet, but I have grilled small steaks, burgers, sausage, and a couple of Tuna fillets on the grillbox. It produces great grill marks and is very convenient. One of my daughters has purchased the pizza attachment for me as a birthday gift so I guess I'll be trying that in the next couple of weeks.

    I've been smoking for quite some time and got the Woodwind as a retirement gift to myself. I started out using stick burners and the WSM and after over a decade of briskets and pork butts, the ability to fill the pellet hopper and let it run is a luxury I couldn't pass up. This smoker is quite good and I'm very happy with it.

    • Jeff Phillips October 4, 2019 at 10:23 am - Reply

      Thank you, John for the excellent write-up!

  5. Jason K May 24, 2019 at 5:19 pm - Reply

    I am looking to get the Woodwind SG but was curious what your thoughts were between the one with the Sidekick vs. the Searbox. I know that if I get the one with the Sidekick I'd need to get the extra grill box for it but wanted to see what you thought of the new Sidekick and if the added versatility is worth it. Thanks in advance!

    • Jeff Phillips May 26, 2019 at 9:33 pm - Reply

      I guess that really depends on what you like to cook. I prefer the searbox since I like to smoke things like steak, ribs, tri-tip, etc. and then easily put a quick sear on them. The sidekick is nice but it works best for things you would normally do on a griddle such as vegetables, pancakes, toasted buns, etc. both options are very nice so I guess it just comes down to personal preference and how you tend to cook as well as the types of things you like to cook.

  6. Carrol Rhodes May 16, 2019 at 12:59 am - Reply

    Jeff, if i get the natural gas set up will it heat up to 900 degrees like propane? I have a grill/smoker that advertised 900 degrees, but with natural gas will only get to about 450. Was told after I bought it that 900 for for propane only.

    • Jeff Phillips May 16, 2019 at 2:39 am - Reply

      Carrol, This is a question that I am not able to answer due to lack of knowledge with using natural gas on the sear box. Maybe someone on here has tried it and can chime in?

  7. Rocky Corbin May 15, 2019 at 4:32 pm - Reply

    Hello Jeff, been looking at pellet smokers, like a lot of things with camp chef, but recently have looking at Grilla grills smokers. The silverbac seems like a well built smoker with a 4 year warranty. I'm hard pressed between the two. What's your take ?

  8. Tracy Hewitt April 25, 2019 at 4:24 pm - Reply

    Jeff,

    Do you know if Camp Chef has any plans to add WiFi option to the Woodwind SG?. I am torn between the sear box and the side kick. I like all the other options the side kick offers. I would like to know how the sidekick with the optional BBQ box compares when searing to the sear box itself. One other thing I will mention is that the sear box and the side kick are both convertible to natural gas with parts directly from camp chef. I have NG acess on my patio so this is a plus for me.

    • Jeff Phillips April 26, 2019 at 8:01 pm - Reply

      Tracy, I am not aware of this per se but hopefully they are. Most of the other pellet smoker makers are going that direction and I think it's the obvious thing to do to make the product better. I also have the REC TEC and it is really nice being able to control the smoker with my phone from anywhere I happen to be.

      The sidekick is basically a hot griddle and while I haven't used the one that camp chef produces, for searing, I tend to prefer the open fire that the sear box provides. Having said that, for cooking a breakfast of eggs and bacon or even some pancakes– anything you'd do on a normal griddle, the sidekick would be awesome.

      Great information on the conversion to NG.

    • Ryan Milton (@1860rm) May 29, 2019 at 5:45 pm - Reply

      FYI. I spoke to the manufacturer yesterday. A WiFi attachment is coming in 2019. This is the grill I'm getting. It's better than having 3 mediocre grills to do different things. This is like 2 or 3 in 1.

  9. Doug Weaver April 25, 2019 at 1:33 pm - Reply

    I got my camp chef in 2017 and I love it. I have had a few problems but Camp Chef took care of them. I love to smoke and this is an easy way to do it. Thanks for anymore infornation you can share.

  10. Andrew C January 17, 2019 at 9:24 am - Reply

    Jeff, can you please comment on the smoke flavor from this pellet grill. I understand that the pellets are very efficient in burning, and am concerned that maybe that means we get less smoke. Is it more like an oven than a smoker?

    • Jeff Phillips January 22, 2019 at 8:55 pm - Reply

      All pellet smokers are not created equal and some of them are programmed to produce more smoke than others. Use the special “Smoke” setting of each pellet smoker to get the best smoke flavor. I get great smoke flavor from the Traeger, Camp Chefs, Pit Boss and REC TEC smokers. In my opinion, the MOST smoke and smoke flavor of any pellet smoker comes from the REC TEC in the “Extreme Smoke” setting and the smoke is almost constant with very good smoke flavor on whatever you are cooking.
      Another option is to use the A-Maze-N smoker tray or tube inside to produce extra smoke for more flavor.
      One thing to remember is that when you cook at high temperatures in a pellet smoker, there is absolutely no smoke. At this point you are using it as an oven.

  11. Ed E Reinsch November 22, 2018 at 11:10 pm - Reply

    Jeff,

    I have, besides my smoker, a basic propane grill with a side searing burner. The original grill plate burned out and I had a welding shop make a new grill out of hot rolled steel as opposed to the common cold rolled steel found on most all burners. My grill will heat up to 1200*+ as opposed to the old grill at 850-900*. I'm now able to truly char steaks like Ruth-Criss etc., etc.
    Your comments?
    P.S. I'm considering your recommendation re: the Woodwind SG so I only have one device on deck.
    Great site and continued great advise on all aspects of smoking and grilling, THANKS many times over.

    Ed Reinsch

    • Jeff Phillips November 23, 2018 at 12:49 pm - Reply

      Ed, Sounds like you've done a great job modding your grill. The Woodwind SG with the side searbox is a great smoker in my opinion and it happens to be on sale right now for $899. The side searbox will go about 900°F which is plenty for everything I've thrown at it but it may not replace the high heat grilling capability you have now.

      Other than that the SG still cooks in a range of about 180 to 450°F which is not searing temperatures by any means but does give you a lot of versatility in cooking outdoors.

      The Camp Chef Woodwind SG, like many other pellet smokers, cooks at an average temperature rather than a set temperature. For instance, if you set it to 225°F, you're actually going to see temperatures of about 15 degrees above and below that temperature.

      Let me know if you have further questions about this.

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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

  15. 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.

  16. 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.

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

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

  18. 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.

  19. 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

  20. 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!

      • Michael Barton February 3, 2020 at 5:51 pm - Reply

        Of all the research that I have done I agree 100% with this. I think I am going to go with the WiFi Woodwind SG 24″ or the Woodwind SG 24″ and get a regular drip tray for it. In addition I will get the sidekick because you can do so much more in addition to searing with it. This thread has been immensely helpful after all of the things that I have read and watched. The perfect model really would be Woodwind OG with everything the SG has to offer EXCEPT for the slotted drip tray.

        I will be going with some variation of the Woodwind SG with the sidekick specifically for the extra chamber space and will purchase a flat drip tray to make it my own perfect smoker. Thanks!

        • John Sheere February 17, 2020 at 12:32 pm - Reply

          I am in the same boat and am considering the same. I've been looking at these for awhile and the 24 inch WiFi version looks like it will be the right choice. I'm still having the debate on which accessory but I'm starting to lean toward the sidekick because of it's versatility.

          I am a little curious about everyone's debate on the drip tray. Is it really that important to cover it with foil and/or clean it all the time? That seems like one of those pieces I would not normally mess with until I read this post. Any feedback would be appreciated.

  21. 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.

  22. 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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