I know first-hand how popular pellet/gas combo grills are, my article on them is one of my most viewed articles each month. Therefore when I found out Camp Chef was coming to market with a new pellet/gas combo grill I was intrigued by how they would approach it. Well, I’m happy to report my first impressions of these new Camp Chef Apex Grills are very positive. I believe these Apex Grills have now set the new standard for pellet/gas combo grills. While at the same time including several other improvements.
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Introduction To The Camp Chef Apex Grills
The concept of combining pellet and gas cooking capabilities into one grill is not a new idea, its not even a new idea for Camp Chef. Up until now, my favourite iteration of a pellet/gas combo grill has been a Camp Chef Woodwind with a Side Kick attachment.
However, with these new Apex Grills Camp Chef has taken the concept to the next level. Instead of having separate cooking areas for pellets and gas the Apex Grills are true combination grills.
As the saying goes, ‘a picture is worth a thousand words‘, well let’s do one better with a video. Below is the first promotional video from Camp Chef on their Apex Grills. As you’ll see from the video below, there are lots of features we need to discuss.
So as you can see from the video above, the entire cooking chamber can be heated via the pellet burner or by the multitude of gas burners on the front of an Apex grill, there is also a side gas griddle for additional utility.
Up until this point, most pellet/gas combination grills have been a 50/50 split, with two separate cooking chambers, one for cooking with pellets and one for cooking with gas.
The advantage of this approach with these new Apex grills is you can for instance go from smoking foods with pellets to lighting up the gas burners for high heat grilling/searing very quickly. No need to move the meat from a pellet cooking chamber over to the gas cooking chamber.
Apex Grill Sizes and Optional Gas Kit
Camp Chef is offering two sizes of Apex grills, a 24″ model and a 36″ model. So while we know the width of the cooking chambers on each model we are still waiting for details on the surface areas of the grates.
In terms of the number of grates, it does appear to be a two-level setup, with a secondary rack over the main cooking grate. I’m not sure at this point if the grates are stainless steel or chrome-plated steel.
As you’ll notice from the image above, both sizes of Apex grill can be purchased without the gas burners or the side griddle attachment. This is where I think Camp Chef is playing it pretty smart.
Well, with these new Apex grills if you don’t have the funds to purchase the grill with the gas conversation kit all at once you can purchase the standard Apex grill and update it with the gas kit at a later date.
You may even find you don’t need the gas kit and you’re happy with the performance of the pellet burner alone. The point being though, there is always the option available to upgrade the Apex with a gas kit as and when you see fit.
Apex Grills Twin Wall Insulated Lid
There is a Camp Chef first on these new Apex grills, twin-wall insulated construction. It’s a feature that’s been missing from the Camp Chef range up until this point, and its good to see it being implemented here.
Why would you want a twin-wall insulated lid? Well, a couple of reasons really, in the simplest terms though it keeps more of the heat in and more of the cold out when grilling/smoking in winter.
Keeping more of the heat in also means the cooking chamber can get up to temperature faster. It also means pellet consumption is reduced, so running costs are less than a standard pellet grill with a single wall lid.
Finally, it means you don’t need to use a pellet grill blanket when cooking in colder climates. Insulated blankets do a good job but they can be fiddly to fit and a nightmare to clean if they get greasy.
Direct Heat Grilling (Gas Burners Only)
To get the best cooking functionality from any BBQ it needs to be able to provide both indirect and direct sources of heat. Now, all pellet grills/smokers are great at the indirect heat part, some are not so great when it comes to direct heat for high-temperature grilling.
Now, some pellet grills get around this by offering direct-flame access to the pellet fire below. This is done typically by fitting a sliding grease tray system that can be opened and closed to let the flames of the pellet fire through.
Direct-flame access on a pellet grill can indeed provide a high grate surface temperature of over 650 degrees. However, it can also come with a higher risk of a grease fire.
Previously, on Camp Chef SmokePro and Woodwind models direct flame access from the pellet fire below has been available. However, on these Apex grills, they are fitted with a solid grease tray that does not enable the flames of the pellet fire to reach the grates.
However, these Apex grills fitted with the gas burner kit can offer direct heat high grate temperatures for grilling/searing without the need for direct-flame access from the pellet fire. Furthermore, I think the new quickly removable grease tray makes grease fires even less likely.
Quickly Removeable Grease Tray (Great Idea)
Going from cooking a large fatty piece of meat ‘low and slow’ to high heat grilling can potentially lead to a grease fire if the grill has not been cleaned frequently enough.
Furthermore, they are some designs of pellet grills (Weber SmokeFire) where grease fire risks are more likely. Hence, an example where its sometimes recommend to use a water pan. Not to stop the meat from drying out during the cook, just as a means to collect the grease.
Frequently cleaning the grease tray is obviously recommended to avoid grease fires. That typically requires removing the grates. However, Camp Chef has designed a quickly removable grease tray on the Apex grills which I think is a great feature.
Making the grease tray so easily accessible will make cleaning the grease tray nearly as easy as cleaning ash from a Camp Chef pellet grill with its removable ash cup.
The grease tray can now be quickly and easily slid out and scrapped of excess grease. Alternatively, a foil liner could be used to keep the grill free of excess grease and hence highly unlikely to suffer from a grease fire.
Other Camp Chef Apex Grill Features
So it appears that the same full-color control panel running a PID temperature algorithm and WiFi/App support from the Camp Chef Woodwind has been fitted to the Apex.
I think this makes a lot of sense really, its been proven to be a reliable control panel and it still meets the latest standards of temperature control, smoke control and WiFi/App connectivity (Camp Chef Connect).
Therefore, on the pellet side of things, I would predict the cooking temperature range to be 160 to 500 degrees. For higher temperatures for grilling/searing that’s where the gas burners would come in.
It appears both the Camp Chef Apex 24″ and 36″ grills are fitted with a 30lb pellet hopper which is more than capable of meeting the requirements of any overnight cook. Especially as the Apex will burn fewer pellets than other Camp Chef grills due to the twin-wall insulated lid.
Camp Chef has now also fitted a pellet sensor to the hopper which is a nice additional feature. In terms of construction, it appears to be a combination of stainless steel panels and enamel-coated steel.
Camp Chef Apex Grills Price Point & Competition
The 24″ Apex without the gas kit is $1,839, and with a gas kit the 24″ Apex is priced at $2,199. The larger 36″ Apex without the gas kit is $2,039 and with the gas kit its priced at $2,449 (see here).
Hence, the price difference in choosing the 24″ Apex grill with or without a gas kit is $360 and its a difference of $460 on the 36″ Apex.
When purchasing the gas kits separately at a later date for instance they do cost a bit more. The gas kit for the 24″ Apex grill is $499 and for the 36″ Apex grill its priced at $549 (see here).
Around the $2K price point, what other competition is there for the Camp Chef 24″ Apex?
Well as I’ve stated above, this is really the first premium pellet/gas combination cooker where both heat sources share the same cooking chamber. So what about other pellet grills around the $2K price point?
There are the Gen 1 Traeger Timberline models, they also feature twin-wall insulation but lack direct-flame grilling/searing capabilities. The Gen 2 Timberline models do have better direct heat performance from their induction hob, but they also cost significantly more than these Camp Chef Apex grills.
My Thoughts On The Camp Chef Apex Grills…
At this point, I don’t have any real-world owner videos I can reference on these Apex grills, but I will add them to this article once available.
However, I do have some initial thoughts, for instance, going back to the title of this article on what we know so far do I think the Camp Chef Apex is the best pellet/gas combo grill to date? Quite simply, yes.
First off, my previous favourite pellet/gas combo was a Camp Chef Woodwind with a propane Side Kick attachment. The Apex builds on that design (and uses the same excellent control panel) but it has become a true combination grill, with pellet cooking and gas cooking in the same cooking chamber.
I also do like the easily removable grease tray from the front. I try and emphasize how important it is to use a pellet grill/smoke safely, and cleaning up excess grease is a very important part of that.
That’s it for now! I’ll be updating this article over time as I say once we get more details from Camp Chef and I’ll also add some real-world owner reviews. Please also check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide to learn more in general. 🙂
Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.
Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.
A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.
In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.