While most people find a horizontal combined pellet grill/smoker meets their needs best, there are those who simply want more space to smoke a greater volume and range of foods. Therefore, in those cases, a vertical pellet smoker is a good option to take. Well, Camp Chef has released a new version of their Vertical XXL Pellet Smoker featuring their Gen 2 PID/WiFi control panel. I think it currently makes this Camp Chef XXL WiFi Vertical Pellet Smoker one of if not the best domestic vertical wood pellet smoker you can currently purchase on the market today. Therefore, I want to discuss why I think that’s the case.
Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other sites are affiliate links and I earn a commission if you make a purchase.
I have previously written a post on the best vertical wood pellet smokers which I’m now going to have to update after finishing this post with a summary of this Camp Chef XXL WiFi Vertical Pellet Smoker, I do think its now the best option. Granted, as you can see from clicking the link to the Camp Chef website above it does retail for $650, and you can get Pit Boss vertical pellet smokers for less. However, the simple facts are, as this Camp Chef vertical pellet smoker now features a PID controller and the Pit Boss vertical pellet smokers don’t, they are just simply not as good.
Introduction To The Camp Chef Vertical WiFi XXL Pellet Smoker
So first off, let’s discuss the capacity of this vertical pellet smoker. In other words, how much food can you actually fit into the Camp Chef Vertical WiFi XXL? Well, it provides a total internal cooking area of 2,400 square inches which is divided up over eight cooking racks. Those eight cooking racks are divided up as four standard smoking racks, three jerky racks (shorter racks) and a top rack which you can use to hang sausage hooks from, twelve in total. To literally get a better picture of the size of these cooking racks, I’ve included the video below from Camp Chef.
So before I start to discuss the standout feature of this vertical pellet smoker, the PID/WiFi control panel lets discuss its other notable features. Just like the Camp Chef SmokePro and Woodwind pellet grills/smokers the XXL WiFi Vertical Smoker also features the patented ‘Ash Kickin’ Cleanout’ feature. This simply means its much easier and quicker to keep this vertical pellet smoker clean than many of its competition. Simply pull a lever on the outside of the smoker and the ash from the pellet burn pot is dropped into the removable ash cup below. Now, this feature doesn’t mean you never have to ‘properly’ clean this vertical pellet smoker. You would still want to do that after probably 4-5 cooks. But’s that’s less frequently than other vertical pellet smokers.
The Camp Chef XXL WiFi Vertical Pellet Smoker does also have a Hopper Cleanout feature, or ‘pellet dump’ as its commonly referred to. Why is this an important feature to have? Well, really, you should not be leaving wood pellets in your pellet hopper when not in use unless its just for a few days or the humidity is very low. Otherwise, your wood pellets will absorb the moisture from the air, start to expand and go bad. Now, Camp Chef and many other pellet grill/smoker brands promote the pellet dump feature as a means to quickly change BBQ wood pellet flavours, which it is. However, for me its a really important feature to have to not only protect your wood pellets (keep them in a sealed plastic bag/container) but also to protect your pellet grill/smoker. Because if you leave pellets in the auger and they get wet/absorb humidity from the air that’s potentially going to lead to a blocked pellet feed auger.
The Camp Chef Gen 2 Wifi/PID Control Panel
So for me, what makes this vertical pellet smoker so special is because its the only domestic vertical pellet smoker that I’m currently aware of which is fitted with a PID/WiFi controller. As this is not a pellet ‘grill’ and does need high temp settings the control panel provides a temperature range of 150-350 degrees. Now the WiFi feature of the control panel along with the Camp Chef Connect App may or may not be of interest to you. However, everyone should be interested in the fact that this is a PID (Proportional, Integral, Derivative) control panel.
You see, most pellet grill/smoker control panels in the past have been time-based controllers. In other words, to maintain a set temperature the control panel will turn the auger motor and combustion fan on and off for a set period of time. However, that’s not a very accurate way to control temperature on a pellet grill and can only hold temperature within 25 degrees of the desired set temperature. A classic example of a time-based control panel is the previous generation Traeger Pro Controllers.
With a PID controller such as that fitted to this XXL vertical smoker, it is constantly monitoring the internal temperature of the smoker against the set temperature and making adjustments to the auger and fan speed. Hence, a PID controller can hold temperatures within a much tighter 5 degrees from the set temperature. Now, some have argued you get less smoke with a PID controller. Why could that potentially be the case? Well, you get smoke from inefficient combustion. Hence, when the fuel (pellet) and air mixture isn’t quite right. So is a PID controller on a pellet ‘smoker’ actually a good thing? Well, it depends on the specific PID controller fitted.
The PID control panel fitted to the Camp Chef Vertical Pellet Smoker also has ‘Smart Smoke Technology’ where you can choose the amount of smoke you actually want from 0 (low smoke) up to 10 (highest smoke setting). What this additional Smart Smoke Technology algorithm is doing is deliberately adding in some inaccuracy/float to how tightly the PID algorithm controls the auger/fan on the pellet smoker. Hence, when the smoke setting is on 10 you will find more swing in the actual temperature from the set temperature. In other words, it won’t be holding the temperature of the smoker to within 5 degrees. Now, it will likely still be more accurate than the 25-degree temperature swing (and potentially more) found on older generation time-based control panels. But you should not expect lots of smoke and a pellet grill/smoker to hold a very accurate temperature at the same time.
The point is, with this Camp Chef PID controller now fitted to the XXL vertical smoker you have the option of very accurate temperature control or more smoke. On other pellet smokers without such an advanced control panel it was more of you ‘hope’ it holds an accurate temperature. A PID temperature controller is also much better at dealing with external temperature changes, hence smoking in cold/windy conditions. The basic point being here if you have the option of a vertical pellet smoker with a PID control panel such as this and you can afford it, its the vertical pellet smoker to get.
Conclusions On The Camp Chef XXL WiFi Vertical Pellet Smoker
As I’ve referenced above, yes, this Camp Chef vertical pellet smoker is more expensive than a smoker of similar capacity from Pit Boss or Masterbuilt. However, those vertical pellet smokers are just not really in the same league as this Camp Chef XXL vertical smoker. The PID functionality of this Camp Chef vertical smoker provides much more accurate temperature control but with higher smoke production and less stable temperatures when needed. Add in the WiFi functionality and I think its currently the best domestic vertical pellet smoker currently on the market. Say you’re smoking a big cut of meat like a brisket, that could be in the smoker for many, many hours. Wouldn’t you want to be able to monitor how its cooking from your phone using the control panels meat probes? Furthermore, would you not want to have confidence that the smoker will hold a stable temperature? I know I would, good brisket is not cheap! 🙂
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found my thoughts on the updated Camp Chef XXL Vertical Pellet Smoker interesting/useful. You can order the XXL WiFi/PID vertical pellet smoker directly through Campchef.com. You may also want to check out my article on horizontal vs vertical pellet smokers. If you want to explore more of your pellet grill/smoker options for whatever your budget is, please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide. 🙂
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.