The Woodwind series of pellet grills from Camp Chef are amazing cookers that absolutely must be considered if you are in the market for a high end pellet grill. Some of the great features in the Woodwind series are WIFi connectivity, direct flame grilling, easy ash cleanout and a variable smoke level PID controller.
This article is going to walk you through the details of the primary features of the Woodwind and examine the different models available. We are going to look at multiple sources of real world customer reviews and then compare the Woodwind to other Camp Chef pellet grills as well as the meaningful competition from other brands.
Buying a high end pellet grill is a serious investment and finding unbiased information on the Internet is tough. To that end it is important for you to know the following facts about this review:
- This review is NOT sponsored.
- There are ZERO affiliate links on this page.
- I have absolutely NO financial interest in whether you buy a Camp Chef or not.
Let’s get started!
The Woodwind series of pellet grills have several key features that set them apart. The key features worth focussing on are:
- PID Temperature Control with Smoke Levels
- Direct Access Flame Grilling
- Side Attachment Compatibility
- Easy Ash Cleanout
- Impressive Temperature Range
- WiFi/Bluetooth Connectivity
Let’s explore these features in more detail.
PID Temperature Control with Smoke Levels
Camp Chef’s PID temperature controller with variable smoke levels is an innovative approach to one of the biggest challenges of pellet grills, smoke flavor.
Traditionally, if you wanted very precise temperature control (+/- 5F) then you had to have a PID based temperature controller. The way you get precise control is to operate the grill with a high degree of efficiency and clean burning pellets. The problem is that clean burning pellets do not produce much smoke. Many people claim that meats smoked using a PID controller have so little smoke flavor that they might as well have been cooked in the oven.
Camp Chef’s approach to this problem is to provide you with the ability to “detune” the PID through Smoke Level settings. This controller allows you to set your Smoke Level to settings of 1-10. At Smoke Level 1 the PID will control the temperature as precisely as possible (+/- 5F) and will produce the least amount of smoke flavor. At Smoke Level 10 the PID will be more sloppy with temperature control (+/- 20F) which results in a tremendous increase in the amount of smoke produced.
You can experiment with the Smoke Level settings and dial in the exact level of smoke flavor you want. You also have the flexibility to alter the Smoke Level during a cook. For example, if you were smoking a brisket then you could have the smoke setting at Level 10 for the first four hours when the brisket can soak up the most flavor and then switch the controller back to Level 1 when you wrap the brisket and precise temperature control is more beneficial.
Another thing that I like about the Smoke Levels is that they can be applied at any temperature. In contrast, other pellet grill manufacturers will provide modes like Traeger’s Super Smoke Mode but they are only available at the lowest temperature setting on the grill.
Direct Access Flame Grilling
The Woodwind is a great smoker and, due to the direct flame access capability, is also a pretty nice grill. When the grill is set up for direct grilling the meat has direct access to the flames and temperatures of up to 650F can be reached directly over the fire pot. The ability to have direct flame grilling is a feature found on much less expensive Pit Boss grills like the Laredo and Pro 850 but how this feature is achieved is fundamentally different.
Pit Boss grills allow access to the fire pot flames by having a slide mechanism on the grease tray that exposes slits in the grease tray directly over the fire pot.
Woodwind grills have a louvered grease tray with gaps that are constantly open. To access the flames on a Woodwind there is a slide mechanism that pulls away the heat diffusing baffle that covers the fire pot.
While the end result of direct flame access is nearly identical between the two brands, how you get there is surprisingly important. To achieve direct flame grilling Pit Boss simply eliminated the heat diffuser. While that may seem elegant the end result is that during normal operation the lack of a heat diffuser creates a significant hotspot directly over the fire pot. The heat diffuser on the Woodwind provides much better heat distribution and a more even cooking surface.
Side Attachment Compatibility
When you buy a Woodwind you have the ability to add on a propane fired side attachment to increase the functionality of the grill. The two attachments currently available are the Sidekick and the Sear Box. Either attachment sits on the right side of the grill.
The Sear Box consists of a 16,000 BTU/hr stainless steel propane burner that is covered by a heat distribution/grease vaporization system followed by a cooking grate. The Sear Box can reach temperatures of 900F and, in Camp Chef’s terms, “The Sear Box is a master of one thing-searing.”
The perfect way to use the Sear Box is to smoke a two inch thick Tomahawk steak with the Woodwind until it hits an internal temperature of 120F, firing up the Sear Box and then searing the steak until it hits a perfect Medium Rare.
The Sidekick is a much more versatile accessory than the Sear Box. The Sidekick is fired by a 30,000 BTU/hr cast aluminum burner and comes with a 14 inch griddle. There are several other accessories that are available for use with the Sidekick including a pizza oven and a bbq box. You can also use the Sidekick to heat stock pots or frying pans.
Basically, the Sear Box is a one trick pony while the Sidekick adds a lot of versatility to your outdoor cooking arsenal. Here is some more detailed information about the Sear Box and Sidekick.
I would recommend getting the Sidekick for another reason as well. Since the Sidekick is propane fired you will still be have the ability to cook outside when the power goes out. That’s kind of a big deal down here on the Gulf Coast 🙂
Easy Ash Cleanout
Camp Chef has a patented “Ash Kickin’ Cleanout” system that makes it incredibly easy to dump the leftover ashes and unburnt pellet out of the firepot.
Keeping the base of a pellet grill clean is important to keep it running smoothly and preventing uncontrolled fires. Many brands of pellet grills require you to remove the cooking grates, grease tray and heat diffuser and then bring out a shop-vac to suck up all of the ashes, sawdust and residues. Other grills like the Z Grills 1000 series have an easy slide out tray that lets you keep the body clean but does not get the ashes from the fire pot.
While I really like this easy dump system it is important to remember that this only deals with the ashes in the firepot and you will still need to occasionally clean the bottom chamber of the grill to remove grease and stray sawdust.
Impressive Temperature Range
These grills have a temperature range of 160-500F when the heat diffuser is in place and up to 650F when the heat diffuser has been slid to the side. While most folks get fixated on the top temperature a grill can achieve, in this instance I am more interested in the low temperature capability.
The ability to run these grills at 160F makes them ideal for dehydrating homemade jerky and smoking homemade summer sausage. A lot of people use electric smokers to hit these temperatures but the problem there is that the heating element on an electric smoker is running so low at these temperatures that they don’t get the wood chips hot enough to smolder and smoke.
Since these grills are running on pellets, and you have control over smoke levels, then these should be awesome for jerky and sausage. If either of those topics sound interesting to you then check out these two easy to follow guides:
The Woodwind grills come with WiFi/Bluetooth connectivity so you can monitor and control your grill from your phone or tablet. In theory the addition of WiFi/Bluetooth is a great idea. However, in reality, this has become the single biggest complaint I have seen about these grills.
The diversity of complaints about the app is massive. Issues range from the firmware on the grill failing to update, the inability of the grill to access the WiFi router, compatibility with the iOS operating system compared to Android, the grill failing to connect to the app, the app dropping the grill in mid cook, etc.
The issues are not happening for everyone but are frequent enough for me to state that the connectivity and app are definitely “buggy” to say the least.
Please Note: I am writing this in November, 2020 and technology changes fast. It is very possible that Camp Chef will release an update to their app and grill firmware that will resolve all customer complaints so please check for recent comments on the Camp Chef site or the Facebook group that I link to in the Reviews section of this article.
Three Sizes are Available
The Woodwind comes in three sizes, 20 inch, 24 inch and 36 inch. The 20 inch model is not able to accept a Sidekick or Sear Box accessory. Below are some of the base specifications for these grills.
|Woodwind Model||20 Inch||24 Inch||36 Inch|
|Primary Grilling Area (sq in)||253||429||663|
|Total Grilling Area||248||382||573|
|Hopper capacity (lbs)||10||22||22|
|Total Weight (lbs)||90||150||177|
Adding a Sear Box or Sidekick to either the 24 or 36 inch model will increase the MSRP by about $200.
All three models have an easy dump mechanism to change out pellet flavors between cooks and the 24 and 36 inch models have a viewing window for monitoring pellet usage.
Real Customer Reviews
There are three types of sources I go to when I want to learn as much as I can about a grill.
- Written Reviews on Amazon and Company Websites
- Highly Specific Facebook Groups
- Youtube Review Videos
Here is what I took away from each data source.
Reviews from Amazon, BBQ Guys and Camp Chef Websites
Camp Chef has made it intentionally hard to dig through customer reviews on their website which is a disappointing practice. People are researching a $1,000 purchasing decision and deserve access to all available information.
For example, for the 24 inch grills Camp Chef shows they have 430 reviews with an average rating of 4.3 stars. However, they do not show a distribution of ratings or make it easy to look at the negative reviews. In order to find the negative reviews you have to sort the reviews by “Highest to Lowest” and click through 25+ pages of positive reviews until you get to the buried negative reviews. Sorting the reviews from “Lowest to Highest” is not an option.
Because of the similarities between the 24 and 36 inch grills I combined all of the reviews from Amazon and BBQGuys into a single data set of 667 independant customer ratings. There were not enough reviews for the 20 inch grills for meaningful interpretation. Here is what the reviews from Amazon and BBQGuys looks like (current November, 2020).
The Woodwind grills received 70% 5 Star ratings and 17% 4 Star ratings meaning about 87% of customers were happy with their purchase.
The absolute largest complaint about these grills in the review comments was the frustration of the WiFi connectivity and app control. Several people said that the ability to control the grill remotely was the primary reason that they bought this model and the frustration of the connectivity made them very upset.
Again, technology changes quick and it is very possible that Camp Chef will push out a firmware fix or app update soon to fix the issues.
Reviews from Facebook
If you want to ask some other owners the pros and cons of the Woodwind series then there is a great Camp Chef Owner’s Facebook group you can join. The group has over 13,000 members and, although it appears to be Moderated by Camp Chef employees, they do allow open discussion and criticism about the products.
I spent many hours in the Owner’s Group and the community was very open and honest with their experiences. The general consensus I saw was that these owners loved their grills. The biggest complaint in the community was about how buggy the app was and the frustration of not being able to remotely connect.
Reviews on Youtube
Here are the two best Woodwind review videos that I found on YouTube. Both of these reviews come from people who received the grill from Camp Chef in exchange for the reviews. That being said, there is a lot of great detailed information and the reviewers are not making sales pitches.
The first video is from the Everyday BBQ channel and does a great job of showing the details of the grill.
The second video is from the Cooking With Ry channel.
Other Grills to Consider
While the Woodwind grills are extremely nice there are some other options to consider. Below is a list of great pellet grills that are alternatives to overpriced Traegers that are worth a look.
Other Camp Chef Models
The 24 inch Camp Chef Smoke Pro Sg costs $100 less than the 24 inch Woodwind and has almost all of the same features. The Smoke Pro does not have a color display for the controller but does have the same WiFi connectivity.
Other than the color display and cosmetic stylings the Smoke Pro and Woodwind are nearly identical.
In terms of quality the Camp Chef grills are superior to Pit Boss. However, if what is important to you is the ability to do direct flame grilling then you can get the same feature on a Pit Boss for a whole lot less money.
One budget friendly option to consider in the Pit Boss product line is the Austin XL 1000.
Rec Tec makes pellet grill that are just as good as Camp Chef.
A benefit to buying a Rec Tec pellet grill is that they are visually stunning. I have a Rec tec sitting on my deck and I think it is beautiful. A downside to buying a Rec Tec is that it is not built to offer access to direct flame grilling.
The GrillaGrills Silverbac is a larger grill than the Woodwind 24, has an interesting approach to smoke flavor management and is from a small company in Holland, MI. I think the Silverbac is a better looking grill as well.
What About You?
What else would you like to know about the Camp Chef grills?
I guess the biggest question is whether or not you should buy a Woodwind or a different grill. I am comfortable saying that as long as WiFi connectivity is not a primary criteria for you then these grills will make you happy.
Pros of the Woodwind
- Great build quality
- Ability to smoke and sear
- Flexibility of Sidekick attachments
- Easy to clean
- Love the Smoke Mode
Cons of the Woodwind
- WiFi Connectivity is wonky but I think they will get it fixed soon.