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.
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.
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…
…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.
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 . . .
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.
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.
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 . . .
Fantastic, as always!
Features and Specifications: Camp Chef Woodwind with Sear Box
- 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
- 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.