Gear Review: Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill with Sear Box (lots of photos)

When REI dropped the Camp Chef brand for anti-gun grandstanding reasons (Camp Chef is owned by Vista Outdoor), I got mad. Mad enough to go get the nicest thing Camp Chef sold at the time, their Woodwind Pellet Grill with Sear Box. And not from REI. Obviously.

That was back in March of 2018, so I’ve spent a lot of time with the Woodwind and have gotten to know it quite well. As of today, REI still won’t carry the Camp Chef brand due to Vista Outdoor’s ownership of firearm and ammunition brands (though they no longer own Savage), and they’ve maintained an effective boycott of others and vastly reduced inventory in Vista brands like CamelBak and Bell.

Not gonna lie, after REI dropped Camp Chef and I decided I’d buy one of their grills as some sort of show of support, the hilarious “Grill God” Woodwind commercials played a factor.

There’s a nice cover in there, too that covers the entire Woodwind + Sear Box unit.

And I already owned a Traeger! I didn’t actually need the Woodwind. The Traeger had served me well and faithfully for a few years and I had no real complaints. But I also owned a separate gas grill for…well…grilling. Searing. Etc. The Traeger is a smoker and it’s a wood-fired oven. It doesn’t get hot enough to grill.

Combining pellet smoker/oven and gas grill into one connected unit was appealing to me, so I pulled the trigger on the Woodwind and donated the Traeger to a poor Texan with no smoker who I knew would put it to good use, one Nick Leghorn. He broke it (but fixed it).

In one million degree Texas heat I began assembling.

There are some heavy parts that may go together more easily with an assistant, but I got it together in about an hour by myself (I bolted on the Sear Box a few days later).

In general, it’s fair to say that the Woodwind is extremely similar to the Traeger in design and function, with some components looking nearly identical.

The Woodwind does have some features that my Traeger didn’t (some current Traeger models offer some of these features), all of which helped push me over the edge to getting it:

• More granular temperature control, including two smoke settings, and a self-run cool-down mode
• Higher maximum temperature
• Built-in meat thermometer with a port in the side of the body through which to pass the cord
• Trap door to empty the pellet hopper (there’s no simple way to switch pellet types — e.g. from hickory to cherry wood — in the Traeger unless your pellet hopper happens to be empty already)
• Trap door to empty the fire box of ashes, complete with ash container underneath (I had to disassemble the grill area and shop vac out my Traeger’s fire box every now and then)
• Slightly more grill space — 429 square inches on the main rack — than the Lil Tex Traeger I had, plus a bonus top rack due to the straight rear wall allowing more internal space
• Simplified start-up procedure
• Snubbed by anti-gun REI

Naturally, the first thing I did was test how fast it goes. I mean, how hot it gets. For science. I also needed to burn off the packaging oil on the stainless steel and other metal components.

Niiiice. My Traeger really struggled to hit 425 degrees on a hot day. The Woodwind rockets up to temperature faster than the Traeger did and it’ll just break 500 degrees. The newer models have a trap door under the grill that allows you to expose your food to the fierce flames within, but I bought before that option was available.

For me, this is still a BBQ, not a grill. If I’m honest, these pellet BBQs are smokers in smoke mode and, on any other setting, they’re a method of tricking men into using an oven. It’s an outdoor, wood-fired oven. Yes, you can (and should) make cookies and pizza and such on it.

And bacon.

Don’t stink up your house, don’t make a mess. Raise your hand if you like the idea of zero-clean-up bacon!

Yeah, me too. You can fit a pound of bacon on the Woodwind’s grill and just bake it till it’s how you like it. The angled pan underneath catches all the drippings and funnels them down to a spout…

It’s great in a Bloody Mary.

…and into a bucket.

You’ll notice that, under the bacon photo, the drip pan looks pretty gross compared to the freshly assembled photo four above it. That’s flavor, baby! Well, okay, yes it’s that, but it also isn’t the drip pan itself that’s all dirty.

Tip: use extra heavy duty aluminum foil and wrap the top of the drip pan. When it gets too, uh, seasoned, just remove the foil and replace with a new sheet.

I got to this technique after a while of Traeger ownership, and started fresh out of the gate with it on my Woodwind. The drip pan — a really nice, pleasingly thick sheet of stainless steel, by the way — is still clean as new but now sports some pretty heat coloration.

Seen above on the Woodwind complete with fresh aluminum foil is a turkey breast that had been brined for a day. Not just any turkey breast, mind you, but one from the first animal I took after moving to Texas.

jeremy turkey hunt texas remington

Courtesy Jessica Kalam

The article on that hunt is here. I believe that turkey breast was the first thing I cooked on my new Woodwind.

I smoked it on Hi Smoke (220 degrees) until it hit a safe-to-eat internal temperature.

Then sliced it relatively thin. We had it for dinner the first night and lunch sandwiches the next day. Far better than expected.

Since this is Texas . . .

Brisket happens.

Ribs happen a lot, too. The two-spatula method is par for the course, because they’re too tender to lift even with two pairs of tongs — they fall apart under a small portion of their own weight.

I do like making ribs. I’ll do beef ribs now and then, too, but couldn’t find photos of any. The family prefers pork, anyway.

Sometimes we get fancy and a boneless leg of lamb happens.

Perhaps some smoked fish. Done on Lo Smoke until it’s right where you want it. My girls absolutely destroyed this salmon on some crackers while the wife and I were cooking dinner, then requested more of it for dessert. As in, literally asked if they could have more of the smoked fish for dessert.

It was immediately clear to me that the extra heat capability of the Woodwind allowed it to grill — yes, it can grill — far better than Nick’s Traeger. I still don’t think of it as a grill, per se, but it’s undeniably capable of imparting grill marks from the enameled steel grill and working up a toasty crust.

Pro tip: hot air rushes up and around the drip pan, especially at high temperatures, just like it does on the Traeger and other pellet grills. If you want to sear something, put it on the first couple inches or last couple inches of the grill (see the brats in the first photo under the fish photo).

Still, for me the wood-fired side just isn’t a grill. The 900-degree Sear Box side with its cast iron grate and infrared diffuser, however, most definitely is.

Yes, I know what that steak is shaped like. Yes, I ate it anyway.

If I remember correctly, these are ribeye pork chops and they were fantastic.

Everyone loves nice grill marks, right? The Sear Box always delivers.

The 11.5-inch by 16-inch grill surface is small, but I make it work for our family of four. When it’s just the protein? No problem. When it’s protein and veggies it’s usually two shifts with the veggies second if they’re of the quick-to-cook variety. If not, they’ll often go on the wood-fired side anyway and then the meat, if it isn’t also on the wood-fired side, hits the Sear Box when the time is right.

Chicken, Asian street food-cut hot dogs (if you haven’t spiral sliced and grilled your dogs like this, you gotta try it), axis deer backstrap. Everything comes out flawlessly on this grill. It’s perfectly even, and the combination of the thick, iron grate and the heat diffuser create a fantastic sear and predictable, delicious results.

This was the axis deer I shot at 196 yards (with a handgun, mind you) on a hunt with CZ-USA this spring. Amazingly good!

Some days I smoke and grill. And shoot…a suppressed SBR. Murica!

Some days I like to think I’m creative and try to take cool gun photos while the Woodwind is starting up.

But every day the Camp Chef Woodwind with Sear Box has served me well. Okay, not every day, but I’d say it gets used three times a week. On a daily basis I use the grill more often than the smoker, but it darn sure gets used and I’ve gone through hundreds of pounds of hardwood pellets since getting the Woodwind (the Camp Chef pellets are great, by the way, though my last few refills have been these from Amazon and they’ve served me extremely well).

After over 18 months of ownership and regular use, I can confidently say that the Woodwind is here to stay. It holds a more consistent temperature than my Traeger did, with far less fluctuation due to ambient temperature, it starts faster and easier, gets hotter, offers more features (useful ones, too), and has been completely reliable. Plus the Sear Box rocks at its job and I love having my grill and my BBQ connected.

Two thumbs up!

EDIT: to appease commenter “bound2,” I reverse seared — smoked on low until the perfect internal temperature, then seared — a couple of steaks . . .

Some crunchy salt (was out of Maldon flakes) and a dash of pepper is all.

Smoked on low until 127 degrees in the middle of the thinner steak. Rested for at least 10 minutes.

Seared hot and fast; maximum of 2 minutes per side.

Fantastic, as always!

Features and Specifications: Camp Chef Woodwind with Sear Box

Woodwind Features:

  • Includes 2 meat probes
  • Includes removable 2-piece enameled steel lower rack
  • Includes removable 2-piece nickel plated upper rack
  • Smart Smoke Technology
  • Pellet Hopper Cleanout/Purge
  • Slide and Grill Technology’s Direct Flame grilling reaches 650°F
  • Ash Cleanout System
  • Cord Management System
  • Grease Management System
  • Large capacity hopper
  • Electronic auto-start ignition
  • Dual LED temperature display: internal cooking temps and internal food temps
  • Simple temperature selection system
  • 160º F up to 500º F temperature range for slow smoking to grilling
  • Automatic auger dispenses pellets as needed for improved smoker efficiency
  • Bottle opener
  • Clear hopper window
  • High temperature paint with matte finish

Sear Box Features:

  • Stainless steel construction
  • 16,000 BTU stainless steel burner
  • Enamel-coated cast iron grill grates
  • Raised ribs on grates for distinct grill marks
  • Propane burner for high heat
  • Propane tank holder included
  • Grease management system with drip tray
  • Built-in ignition for easy lighting
  • Heat diffuser plates for infrared cooking
  • Reaches temperatures up to 900°F
  • Propane tank not included

Woodwind Specifications:

  • Upper Rack Area: 382 sq. in.
  • Lower Rack Area: 429 sq. in.
  • Total Rack Surface Area: 811 sq. in.
  • Chamber Capacity: 4,850 cubic in.
  • Hopper Capacity: 22 lbs. of pellets
  • Overall Height: 42 in.
  • Overall Weight: 150 lbs.
  • Warranty: 3 years

Sear Box Specifications: 

  • Searing Area Dimensions: 11.5 in. x 16 in.
  • Total Surface Area: 184 sq. in.
  • 16,000 BTU stainless steel burner
  • Overall Weight: 34 lbs.

comments

  1. avatar Rick the Bear says:

    Gee, thanks, Jeremy. Now I believe that I too need/want a Woodwind. I could almost taste those food photos.

    And yes, the commercial was fantastic.

  2. avatar Buff cousin Elroy says:

    Lol wtf, a smoker is not “gear”. Has absolutely nothing to with guns…

    1. avatar Unlicensed Bozo says:

      For some reason after reading this i need a new gun! Was there some kind of subliminal messaging in this article?

    2. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      Bruh I’ve cooked various tasty animals that I hunted. With guns. It’s hunting-related. Kinda. The big fudge factor here was REI’s anti-gun public antics. For this reason, and because Camp Chef is owned by Vista Outdoor, which owns Federal Ammunition, owned Savage Rifles, etc, it was decided at the time I bought this thing that I’d review it for TTAG to support Vista Outdoor and yell at REI. It isn’t gun-related, per se, but it’s pro-gun nonetheless 🙂

      1. avatar Buff cousin Elroy says:

        Eh…. ok, touche’

      2. avatar Marc says:

        Great write up and pictures. I really enjoyed this post…….don’t think my wallet did though.

    3. avatar KenW says:

      But it can be used for things you shoot with guns. Like jerky, sausage and such.

      1. avatar Buff cousin Elroy says:

        Ken, yeah of course but a smoker is cooking related. Not gun related. Does that mean my oven and stove are “gun-related” because i can cook meat that i hunted on them? Naww

        1. avatar David says:

          What about my wife’s oven that I use to cure my guns when I cerakote them?

        2. avatar Buff cousin Elroy says:

          David, lol well damn dude, you got me there

  3. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

    Got mine at my local BiMart.
    Love that thing!
    And yeah, smoked salmon is just fine for dessert.

    1. avatar Unlicensed Bozo says:

      Smoke w\apple, with honey glaze yum!

      1. avatar Tom in Oregon says:

        Oh yeah. Last Sunday, I smoked stuffed chicken breast wrapped in bacon. Then drizzled a mix of honey, butter and garlic over the breasts.
        (Stuffed with mushrooms, cheese and asparagus.

  4. avatar Minuteman says:

    Looks like it does a fantastic job. I will have to investigate. What is REI?

    1. avatar strych9 says:

      Recreational Equipment Incorporated.

      They’re a outdoors co-op for hiking, camping, biking, snowshoeing, climbing etc.

    2. avatar DesertDave says:

      REI is a soy based anti 2A sporting goods store that caters mostly hikers, bikers, kayakers and such. Their claim to fame is that you can return their stuff for a full refund up to a year after your purchase. So, based on their anti 2A stance I have taken advantage of that from time to time when I need stuff for a vacation, get it use it and then return it, used.

      1. avatar strych9 says:

        First, your behavior is absurd.

        Secondly, it’s doubtful that REI has much of a position on guns considering that they carry Arc’Teryx and Patagonia both of which make gear for the military.

        It’s much more likely that co-op members pushed the company to do it. The two really big REI stores are in Denver and Seattle, not exactly conservative hotspots to put your flagship stores, but it makes sense when you think about what REI actually sells.

        Do you get really pissed when you find out that Brakes Plus doesn’t sell gun gear?

        1. avatar Jeremy S. says:

          If Brakes Plus stopped carrying a brand of brake pads explicitly because the parent company of that brake pad manufacturer owned a gun company as well, then, yes, I’d take my business elsewhere and possibly purchase that very brand of brake pads next time I needed some. This is the exact equivalent of what REI did (dropped Camp Chef because Vista owned Savage Arms).

        2. avatar strych9 says:

          Taking your business elsewhere isn’t the same as intentionally ripping off a business as the OP claims to.

          His claim is doubtful because their return policy is not a year and it has nothing to do with their “claim to fame” (which is their discount for members and 10% store credit for every dollar you spend with them) but that’s not the point .

          The point is this:

          Some companies don’t cater to gun people. Fine, don’t do business with if you don’t want to but to rip them off and brag about it (or just brag that you did when you didn’t) makes us all look bad and makes it much harder to make an argument that we can be trusted with “dangerous items” such as firearms when we have people boasting that they’re so vindictive that they rip off a company for a policy the person disagrees with. Like it or not our rights are, in fact, up for a vote and this is how you make yourself look like HRC, a vindictive hag with an ax to grind who can’t be trusted with a mug of hot water. That makes it less likely people vote the way we’d like.

          REI sells what they sell. They have not ever catered to gun folks, hunters or fisherman. Ever. The fact that they continue not to isn’t Earth shattering news. The fact that they’re responsive to their ~17 million members isn’t exactly shocking either. I mean, isn’t this the same crowd that whines constantly that the NRA doesn’t respect it’s members? Should we then expect REI to do the opposite of what they’re members want just because that action pleases US? That’s hypocritical hubris if ever there was such a thing.

          The ownership of CampChef probably came to the attention of a vocal group of members and they pressured the company. The fact that they still sell Arc’Teryx and Patagucci is indicative that this isn’t an overarch company policy a la Dick’s, but rather a response to something members brought up and that the members don’t know about Arc’Teryx LEAF or the Patagonia Lost Arrow Project.

        3. avatar strych9 says:

          *their.

        4. avatar neiowa says:

          You comment on the returns is valid. The rest is BS. I was member of REI in mid 80s when their ONLY store was in Seattle (where they originated (as Eddie Bauer pre soccormom/yuppie days)). Good customer service and decent selection of unique products PLUS a dividend payback. They were leftwing kooks then with the KGB antinuc BS, Save the Whales and every other wacko leftist meme. But marginally tolerable and before my wokedededness.

          They were procommie then and antiAmerica now Screw REI.

    3. avatar Mad Max says:

      An outfitter for the Lefty outdoorsy-type that specifically banned products from Vista Outdoors (brands like Camelbak, Bell, and Camp Chef) because Vista owned the gun manufacturers Stevens and Savage.

  5. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

    Between an 800-dollar wood (pellets? Heathens!) grill and an 800 dollar “Green Egg” grill, I won’t have any damn money for guns…

    (Note – The well-fed yellow cat knew who to watch. 😉 )

    1. avatar KenW says:

      Check out Orion smokers for another fix. They make the best smoked turkey. We do one every Christmas.
      Ribs come out good too. Watch Lowes and Home Depot around the end of summer as they often times have them on clearance,.

  6. avatar DesertDave says:

    Ummmmmmm! BBQ, you are killing me with those pictures!

  7. avatar Biatec says:

    That is haaawwt.

  8. avatar strych9 says:

    I was never surprised that REI dropped Vista. REI is a co-op and, as such, knows it’s members. Members who are probably rather vocal about their dislikes of certain brands.

    They do not sell anything hunting or even fishing related. Which isn’t really surprising considering 1) their customer base and 2) how the company started which was pure alpinism.

  9. avatar Unlicensed Bozo says:

    If you’re a guy with a gas grill, no worries!.

    Buy Treater pellets
    https://www.amazon.com/Traeger-PEL331-Signature-All-Natural-Hardwood/dp/B079DHNK3H/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?keywords=treager+pellets+for+grilling&qid=1572556715&sprefix=treager&sr=8-3

    And a pellet smoker tube
    I
    https://www.amazon.com/Pellet-Smoker-Tube-Stainless-Generator/dp/B07JGVBKN3/ref=mp_s_a_1_3?keywords=pellet+smoker+tube&qid=1572556879&sprefix=pellet&sr=8-3

    I do everything he’s done with this setup. Remember to only turn on one burner and run about 250 degrees. Get a internal meat thermometer too.

    This tube is useful for cold smoking tuna for pate.

    1. avatar Geoff "I'm getting too old for this shit" PR says:

      I’ve got some mesquite chips I can wet and put on the lava rocks in the gas grill for a bit of smokey flavor.

      Far inferior to a real hardwood smoke fire, admittedly, but when time is short…

  10. avatar Ranger Rick says:

    The Woodwind is the Tits, a big plus is the ease of cleaning. Good article.

  11. avatar Jim Warren says:

    Haven’t been inside an REI since cancelling my membership almost two years ago. Eff ’em.

  12. avatar ChainsawWieldingManiac says:

    Totally agree with the review.I have a Woodwind SG, and it has been phenomenal. Had an early issue with the augur motor dying, but they sent me a new one, plus they’re cheap ($25) on Amazon anyways. But in terms of smoking, it’s a workhorse and I’ve made some great stuff on it. I will eventually suck it up and buy a proper PIID controller, but it does a pretty decent job of maintaining temperature with the stock controller.

    Word of advice: buy good pellets. I noticed significant difference in flavor and smoke between Traeger pellets and Cookin’ Pellets.

  13. avatar Bob says:

    Very cool when a guy can express his love for two or more hobbies at once. Tube hifi audio gear and fine bourbons are an example of mine. Good write up also.

  14. avatar tsbhoa.p.jr says:

    awesome. smoking lets you outside some highballs (the giraffe’s drink of choice) over a leisurely session.
    me, i cast iron sear, then finish on the $17 gas hibachi.
    but i’druther dutch oven some meat goat.

  15. avatar Don from CT says:

    Looks awesome. I actually never knew that REI carried these in the past.

    I’ve always wanted one of these but in the Northeast, winters are hard on grills. So they don’t last. REI still has a Cabellas/LL Bean (no more from those 2) style satisfaction guarantee. So you could return it when it burned out.

    Don

  16. avatar Kahless Lives says:

    Got mine 2 years ago, it was out of my price range until I found out they give military discounts. Sent them a copy of my DD214, Cha-Ching 40% discount.

    And by the way, they are a great smoker, wood fired cooker and great company.

  17. avatar bound2 says:

    It ‘was’ a lotta nice meat. But Dude, what’s the hurry – why do you overcook everything? The idea of a smoker is “Low & Slow”. Smoke meats for hours, or over night, at their lowest safe edible temp, then sear for a few minutes at the end. Especially Steaks, Roasts & Turkeys. Similar to Sous Vide style.

    1. avatar Smokin' Sam says:

      bound2 my friend, y’all know sumthn bout Slow Southern Smokin: Hold yer horses til the cows come home…
      “Low & Slow”. yup

    2. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      If you think seared means overcooked, we can’t have a rational discussion. I assure you not a single one of the grilled things in the photos is overcooked in the slightest. Steaks are always full-on medium rare (warm, still purple center) and the chicken and such only barely hot enough near the bone to be considered safe. Pork I usually cook slightly pink still in the middle, as that’s now considered safe. I have reverse seared steaks. It’s good. With the time constraints of a normal day for me, I just grill them. And I grill them properly, thank you very much. I don’t find the time commitment to smoke then sear to be worth the effort in most cases outside of special occasion guests or whatever. When I want to low and slow and smoke, I’m making ribs or brisket or traditional BBQ kinda stuff.

    3. avatar Jeremy S. says:

      Reverse seared a steak just for you. Pics added at the end of the article 🙂

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