I’ve previously written about the disadvantages of pellet grills/smokers, and one such disadvantage is the reduced smoke flavour compared to an alternative BBQ such as a Kamado or an Offset/Stick Burner. Well, we now have a pellet smoker that may be able to compete on the depth of smoke flavour, the Camp Chef Woodwind Pro. Its essentially a hybrid unit, its a pellet smoker with an additional smoke box for wood chips, wood chunks or charcoal. However, compromises have been made for this additional smoke production.
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Introduction To The Camp Chef Woodwind Pro
The original Camp Chef Woodwind has been a solid mid-range option for many years now. However, like all dedicated pellet grills/smokers, the level of smoke flavour produced would typically be described as medium to mild by most people.
Now, for many people (myself included), I actually prefer a more mild smokey flavour in my food. However, if you were looking for additional smokey flavour, this is where a pellet smoker may have disappointed some people.
There are means to try and increase the level of smoke flavour a pellet smoker produces by maybe adding a smoke tube into the cooking chamber or maybe trying charcoal pellets, but really the type of additional smoke produced is not going to match that of smouldering wood chunks/charcoal.
Hence, that’s the approach Camp Chef has taken with the Woodwind Pro. There is still the convenience and mild smoke flavour of burning pellets along with the option to use the smoke box for additional smoke flavour by burning wood chips, wood chunks or charcoal.
While I’m very happy to see Camp Chef develop a solution that can better meet the needs of those looking for the cooking convenience of pellets, but with additional smoke flavour, some compromises have been made to achieve this solution.
I’ll discuss those compromises below (and the means to address them), but first, we’ll look at the new features and the new construction materials used to produce the Woodwind Pro.
How Does The Woodwind Pro Smoke Box Work?
So, I’m going to presume you know how a pellet smoker works in general, if not, check out my linked article. What we are going to discuss here is how the Smoke Box functions. Hence, where you place wood chips/chunks or charcoal for additional smoke flavour.
The handle for the smoke box is located on the front of the unit and there is a second lever which operates a butterfly valve inside the smoker above the pellet burn pot. You simply pull the handle which retracts the smoke box and you can load it with your choice of wood chips/chunks etc.
When you push the smoke box back into position its sitting directly above the pellet burn pot. To ignite the wood chips, chunks or charcoal you turn the second handle which opens a butterfly valve. This lets the flames of the pellet fire into the smoke box to ignite the wood chunks etc.
Now, you don’t want to leave the butterfly valve open for too long (just 5 to 10 mins) as the wood chunks etc will just burn up quickly and produce little additional smoke. Hence, you close the butterfly valve once the wood chunks are ignited.
As the wood chunks etc burn up during the cook you can simply retract the smoke box, add more wood/charcoal to keep going with that additional smoke flavour if you wish to.
But its completely optional, it gives you control to add as much or as little smoke flavour that suits your individual tastes and the particular food you’re cooking.
Won’t Using The Smoke Box Mess With Temperature Control?
So let’s say you have loaded the smoke box full of wood chips, chunks or charcoal. Once ignited, additional heat will be generated from this smouldering fuel, so will that additional heat mess with the Woodwind Pro’s temperature control?
Nope, this is why PID control panels are so cool, and the Woodwind Pro features the same PID technology as the original Woodwind pellet grill/smoker. The PID control panel is constantly monitoring the internal temperature against the set temperature and moderating the feed rate of pellets to suit.
Hence, the more heat the smouldering wood chips etc produce in the smoke box the PID control panel steps back the feed rate of pellets to maintain a steady temperature within 5 degrees of the set temperature.
Therefore, despite wood chips, chunks or charcoal being used to produce additional smoke, the additional heat is not going to mess with the temperatures inside the smoker. The Woodwind Pro is as easy and convenient to use as any other pellet grill/smoker.
However, it is important to note the smoke setting feature (1 to 10) within the control panel/App is purely controlling the level of smoke from the burning pellets. The amount of smoke produced from the Smoke Box and additional wood chunks etc is under manual user control.
Woodwind Pro Stainless Steel Construction
Now, the original Camp Chef Woodwind did feature a little bit of stainless steel, but really it was just limited to the lid. The Woodwind Pro, on the other hand, is a whole different ball game. The majority of the cooking chamber, for the most part, is stainless steel.
The cooking chamber is made from a combination of 430 and 304-grade stainless steel. If you’re not up on your stainless steel grades, check out my article on stainless steel pellet grills to learn more.
Essentially, 304 is the superior grade of stainless steel, however, its a more expensive material. The upper cooking chamber on the Woodwind Pro is made of 430-grade stainless steel. Though the smoker box, gasket and butterfly valve are made from superior 304-grade stainless steel.
While the Woodwind Pro is not a ‘cheap’ pellet smoker, as we’ll look at below, its also not at the same price point as a full-stainless steel unit. Hence, material costs have to be considered, but its good to see Camp Chef opting for the higher grade of stainless on the components exposed to the highest heat.
New Adjustable Rear Vents
Those of you familiar with the design of the original Woodwind will have noticed the chimney is missing on the Woodwind Pro. Camp Chef has gone with an adjustable vent design on the back of the cooking chamber.
With the addition of the Smoke Box for wood chunks etc, I think the choice of adjustable vents makes sense. The level of smoke produced from the Smoke Box will change depending on the type of wood/charcoal used, so giving the user more control over the smoking process is a good choice.
It should be noted, the vents cannot be completely closed, which is a good thing from a user’s perspective. If airflow out of the Woodwind Pro was completely restricted, that could lead to issues of heat and smoke going back up through the pellet hopper, which only leads to problems.
The Woodwind Pro, with just wood chunks etc in the Smoke Box can be used as cold smoker (more details here) at temperatures as low as 80 degrees with the control panel set to fan mode (no burning pellets). Hence, this is where the adjustable vents will also be very handy.
Much Better Smoking At The Expense Of Grilling Performance?
The Woodwind Pro features the same PID control panel as its original Woodwind sibling, hence a maximum temperature setting of 500 degrees is possible. However, the original Woodwind also had direct-flame access for grate temperatures around 650 degrees.
The Woodwind Pro does not feature direct-flame access, hence 500 degrees is the hottest temperature it will get for grilling purposes. I asked Camp Chef about the lack of direct-flame access, and they confirmed it was a feature they simply were not able to fit into the Woodwind Pro.
It makes sense, as on the Woodwind Pro, the Smoke Box sits directly above the pellet burn pot. Hence, providing direct flame access to the cooking grates had to be sacrificed. So what does that mean in terms of grilling performance for the Woodwind Pro?
Well, 500 degrees at the grate is ‘ok’ for grilling, using a couple of GrillGrates would also improve things. However, if you have the funds, personally, I would add on the well-regarded Camp Chef SideKick. That way, you have excellent smoking/grilling capabilities with no compromises.
The propane SideKick accessory can be specified when ordering a Woodwind Pro or purchased at a later date as an add-on. Hence, if funds are tight and a SideKick could not be included at first, it can still be added at a later date.
After all, its possible that a Woodwind Pro owner would find the grilling/searing capabilities of the standard Woodwind Pro sufficient for their needs. The point being, having the option of the SideKick add-on further widens the capabilities of the Woodwind Pro.
In fact, a Woodwind Pro with its Smoke Box and then a SideKick fitted to the side is arguably the most capable and convenient BBQ ever produced using three different fuel sources.
Camp Chef Woodwind Pro Price VS The Competition
Above I’ve been discussing the benefits of the Woodwind Pro in terms of both its capabilities and materials. But at the end of the day, most people after learning about the features of a product, still want to know the key factor, how much it is?
Well, the Woodwind Pro is currently priced at $1,199 for the 24″ and $1,499 for the 36″ model, though please check CampChef.com if those prices have changed by the time you read this if I’ve not had the chance to update the article.
The original Woodwind 24″ is priced at $899 with the 36″ at $1,199. Hence, going from the Woodwind to the Woodwind Pro is a price premium of $300. However, besides the Smoke Box, its important to note the increased use of stainless steel on the Woodwind Pro as a justification for the price increase.
But what about the wider competition? Well, if you consider a Traeger Timberline Gen 2 retails at a starting price of $3,499, the cost of a Camp Chef Woodwind Pro even with a SideKick added coming in around $1,799 comes across as a good deal.
Furthermore, while the Timberline and Woodwind Pro are both premium BBQs, the Timberline will not be able to compete with the Woodwind Pro when it comes to smoke flavour when using the Smoke Box.
Really, as it currently stands, the Woodwind Pro is in a category of its own due to its improved smoking capabilities. And therefore, it makes it difficult to compare the Woodwind Pro against other conventional pellet grills/smokers.
Review Of The Camp Chef Woodwind Pro
Below I’ve included a review of the Camp Chef Woodwind Pro by Mike on his channel Everyday BBQ. I’ve previously included Mike’s videos in my articles such as the Weber SmokeFire as when things aren’t right, Mike is willing to point out the cons as well as the pros.
My Final Thoughts On The Camp Chef Woodwind Pro…
Camp Chef are on quite a roll lately, their Camp Chef Apex is arguably the best gas/pellet combo grill and now the Woodwind Pro is arguably the best pellet smoker to date, but then again, that’s because its not just a pellet smoker.
The Woodwind Pro continues to take advantage of the best attributes of pellet smokers for their ease of use/convenience and add to it with the additional functionality of smoking with wood chips, chunks or charcoal.
Yes, its disappointing that ‘Slide ‘N Grill’ had to be sacrificed from the original Woodwind, but if you are looking for additional smoke flavour from a pellet smoker, the Smoke Box is worth the sacrifice. Furthermore, as I stated above, add on a SideKick, and excellent grilling/searing functionality is maintained.
That’s it! I hope you found the above summary of the features/capabilities of the Woodwind Pro interesting/useful. Please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide to learn more about pellet BBQs 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.