Weber is a very long-established and highly regarded name in the outdoor grill industry. Established in 1893, Weber has been producing charcoal, gas/propane and electric grills ever since. However, they have only recently entered the pellet grill market. Their first attempts at producing pellet grills are the SmokeFire EX4 and EX6. Weber has attempted to bring over their experience and reputation with high-quality propane grills to pellet grills. With this post, I’ll discuss the features/designs of these grills and whether I think the SmokeFire EX4 and EX6 live up to Weber’s reputation as a manufacturer of some of the best grills on the market.
With EX4 and EX6 Weber is targeting the middle of the pellet grill market, the average guy or girl. They are not budget/economy pellet grills, neither are they premium/luxury models. They sit in the middle, sometimes referred to as the practical class of pellet grills. I have a separate post on how to chose the best pellet grill to meet your needs if you are not sure on the different pellet grill classes/categories.
Introduction To The Weber SmokeFire EX4 and EX6 Pellet Grills
The arrival of the Weber SmokeFire range of pellet grills has been eagerly awaited by many in the pellet grill community and the propane grill community. Within the pellet grill community, the question has been can Weber introduce a range of pellet grills to challenge Traeger. As many believe that Traeger produces the best pellet grills, can Weber bring some new ideas to the table so to speak with additional functionality/features? Within the propane grill community (particularly Weber owners) and those who have yet to own a pellet grill they have been looking forwards to the SmokeFire range as their first ‘taste’ of BBQ wood pellet cooking/smoking.
Below I’ll discuss the key design features of the Weber SmokeFire pellet grills. However, first I’m going to include a video from the BBQGuys on their run-through of the features on the EX4 and EX6. It helps to break up this post and enables you to see the features I’ll discuss below such as the porcelain enamelled finish and stainless steel flavourizer bars.
If you are familiar with other brands/models of pellet grills from Traeger, Camp Chef, Pit Boss etc you will notice that Weber has chosen to adopt several different design choices from traditional pellet grill designs. Below I’ll briefly discuss these features before later in the review section discussing if I believe these design choices have been successful.
Weber SmokeFire EX4 and EX6 Cooking Areas
As you have probably guessed, the EX4 is the smaller unit compared to the EX6. Both the EX4 and EX6 have lower and upper grill racks. The EX4 has a lower main grill rack area of 432 square inches, with an upper rack providing 240 square inches. The EX6 has a lower main grill rack area of 648 square inches, with an upper rack of 360 square inches. Therefore, the EX4 has a total cooking area do 672 square inches, with the larger EX6 providing a total cooking area of 1008 square inches. Other than the difference in size with these two pellet grills, the EX4 and EX6 have the same features and capabilities.
22LB Rear Horizontal Pellet Hopper
On the majority of pellet grills today you will find the pellet hopper located on the side of the grill. However, with the SmokeFire range, Weber has chosen to position the hopper on the back of the pellet grill. I’m sure this is partly due to their choice of a drop-down pellet auger design, but I’ll get to that below. By positioning the hopper on the back of the grill while it reduces its width, it does increase its depth. Having a capacity of 22 lbs though does mean you can load in a full 20lb bag of wood pellets in one go before the pellet grill has run out. Furthermore, a pellet sensor is built into the base of the hopper as standard.
Weber has integrated a pellet hopper emptying chute so you can change over pellet flavours quickly and easily. You should also empty the pellet hopper before you put the grill in storage. The pellet hopper emptying chute may appear an obvious feature, but not all pellet grills have one (though they should).
Drop Down Pellet Auger and Firepot Design
A potential issue that happens on pellet grills from time to time is auger jams. Now, most of the time pellet auger jams are a result of water (rain) getting into the pellet hopper, and the pellets expand and jam the auger. I’ve written a post in the past on how to resolve jammed Traeger pellet augers. However, Weber has taken the view that to reduce pellet auger blockages a shorter auger should be used. The idea being that longer augers create more resistance, hence are more likely to jam/block up. With the rear hopper, Weber is able to use a short DC powered vertical auger which then drops pellets down into the burn pot. Weber also believes that this design, separating the pellet auger and firepot will reduce the chances of fire travelling up the auger and into the hopper.
600 Degree Searing and Flame Broiling
The Weber SmokeFire EX4 and EX6 feature a powerful induction/combustion fan which provides fast warm-up times. These pellet grills have a maximum temperature of 600 degrees. Typically on many other pellet grills, particularly cheaper smaller/portable pellet grills they will only reach 450-500 degrees. With higher temperatures, you are able to sear/caramelize your meat, fish and vegetables and produce grill marks on your food.
On the EX4 and EX6, you are also able to flame broil your food with direct ‘flame kiss’ from the pellet fire below. Weber has used the same stainless steel flavorizer bars found on their propane grill range. The juices/grease/fat from your food drops down and hits these flavorizer bars. It then vaporizes back up into your food. This helps to keep your food moist while adding to the flavour.
WiFi PID Controller with Smartphone App
To compete with the Traeger Pro Series and Camp Chef Woodwind ranges which are the main competition for the SmokeFire pellet grills Weber realised they had to include a WiFi controller with PID temperature control. For instance, I have a post comparing Traeger WiFire vs Camp Chef Connect. The display is monochrome which is similar to that found on the Trager Pro Series and higher high spec models from Traeger such as the Ironwood.
Weber SmokeFire Pellet Grill Build Quality and Materials
I’ve not seen a Weber SmokeFire pellet grill in the flesh as yet. However, from what I can tell from the image/videos of the grill the build quality and materials used are above average for this price point. For instance, there is extensive use of galvanized and porcelain-coated steel. This is not commonly found with pellet grills in this price range and will make the pellet grill easier to clean and increase its lifespan. Stainless steel is also used for the side shelf, handles and accents on these grills. Again this is not commonly found on grills at this price point. Granted, they are not stainless steel lined on the interior such as a Traeger Timberline. Then again, the SmokeFire range is whats classed as a ‘practical grill’, whereas the Timberline is a more expensive ‘luxury grill’.
Something that should be noted though is the cooking racks while they appear to be stainless steel are actually chrome-plated steel grates. They are not ‘bad’, however, they will not last as long as true stainless steel cooking grates. Again though, its relative to the price point of these grills. Most competing pellet grills/smokers will also be using chrome-plated or porcelain-coated grill racks/grates.
Weber SmokeFire Reviews and Room For Improvement
Now, I don’t want to ‘bash’ Weber and their SmokeFire pellet grills. However, there are areas of their design which I do think need to be improved/re-designed. I do believe Weber is a company with the resources and engineering experience to look again at the EX4 and EX6 to make them a compelling choice. However, at this point in time when spending close to and over one thousand dollars, I do think there are currently better alternative pellet grills available. I do believe the content and reviews below are constructive criticism which hopefully Weber takes on board to improve their pellet grills. For instance, the BBQGuys later released a video highlighting some the issues they had experienced with the Weber SmokeFire pellet grills and their recommended solutions.
Grease Build Up In The Base of the Grills
Weber chose not to use a grease drip tray on the SmokeFire EX4 and EX6 so that the grills can provide direct flame searing/broiling and the high cooking temperature of 600 degrees. The SmokeFire grills have two grease channels in the base of the grill which should direct the grease into the central grease tray below. As stated in the video above BBQGuys are recommending users to clean these pellet grills after every cook. The reason for this is that grease appears to be building up in the base of the SmokeFire pellet grills, potential leading to grease fire issues.
The SmokeFire pellet grills do feature a powerful combustion fan which is why they can reach such high cooking temperatures. However, this also appears to be blowing most of the ash out of the firepot and around the base of the grill where the grease channels are. Hence, the ash and grease mix together, which turns the grease from less of a liquid consistency into more of a paste. The solution that the BBQGuys recommend of placing a grease drip tray under the grates and on top of the flavourizer bars would stop most of the grease landing in the base of the pellet grill. However, this is obviously not how the Weber SmokeFire pellet grills were originally designed to be used.
Pellet Hopper Not Emptying Properly
In the video above from the BBQGuys they discuss the issue of the pellet hopper on the EX4 but more so on the EX6 and the issue of ‘hulling’. Essentially this is where the pellets are not naturally flowing into the base of the hopper and into the auger. As someone who has worked with wood pellets for over a decade, this didn’t come as a surprise when I looked at the shallow angles used within the hopper. In the pellet industry its also commonly referred to as ‘bridging’. I would often state to customers/clients that ‘pellets flow like water’. And that’s true for the most part, but pellets aren’t a liquid. Therefore you do have to be careful when designing hoppers so that pellets continue to flow, even when the hopper is nearly empty.
As stated in the video above, you can obviously use your hand to move the pellets down towards the pellet feed auger. However, this problem creates a secondary issue. The purpose of having a pellet grill with WiFi integration is so as long as the hopper has enough pellets you can monitor and control the pellet grill remotely. Well, if the pellets do not flow into the feed auger unassisted, it means you cannot leave the grill unattended. If Weber intends to keep the rear hopper design with shallow angles they will have to add an agitation/vibration motor. This will effectively create a small vibration to assist the pellets to move down into the bottom of the hopper.
The Pellet Sensor Problem
While I do think Weber had a good idea by integrating a pellet sensor into the hopper, I also think they need to reconsider its design/implementation. As the pellet sensor is in the base of the hopper its simply an on/off readout. It can simply state when the hopper is low on pellets, it cannot tell you what percentage of pellets remain in the hopper. The Traeger Pellet Sensor, by comparison, is mounted at the top of the hopper and reads from 100% down to 0%.
Due to the shallow angles used within the pellet hopper which are the cause of the pellet ‘hulling’ issue discussed above the pellet sensor may not be providing accurate feedback. Hence, there may still be pellets in the hopper, but they have become stuck and are no longer flowing to the feed auger. I believe Weber along with adding a vibration motor to the pellet hopper to avoid hulling should consider a top-down optical pellet sensor such as that used by Traeger.
Weber SmokeFire Pellet Grill Owners Reviews
I believe its evident that the current version of the SmokeFire pellet grills from Weber needs to be re-engineered to address the issues discussed above. In terms of owners reviews, if you check out the reviews left on the BBQGuys website, you will see many of the issues above discussed in more detail. I generally like to include owner video reviews into my posts. With regards to the Weber SmokeFire pellet grills, the most balanced/fair review I’ve come across is from Everyday BBQ & Cooking. I believe its an honest assessment of the SmokeFire pellet grills at this moment in time. Though as I have stated above, I believe Weber have the resources and engineering capability to address all of the issues raised above with the next iteration of SmokeFire pellet grills.
Conclusions On The Weber SmokeFire Pellet Grills
I do believe that Weber makes some of the best quality propane/charcoal grills on the market and have done for decades. However, at this moment in time, with the first version of the SmokeFire pellet grills, I believe they need to look again at the design and re-engineer them. Once Weber has done that and there is sufficient feedback from owners and the wider pellet grill owner community that the issues have been corrected I will happily add in/update more information above. However, as of right now, I do not believe that the SmokeFire pellet grills can be recommended. At this price point, you could get a large WiFi 36 Camp Chef Woodwind pellet grill with either a Sear Box or Side Kick propane attachment which are proven/reliable units. Hopefully, Weber takes the issues customers are experiencing with the SmokeFire pellet grills on board and use that feedback to come back with a best in a class pellet grill.
That it! Thanks for reading. I have lots of other posts about many different makes and models of pellet grills. Please review my wood pellet grill/smoker guide. 🙂