The big knock against pellet grills has always been their lousy grilling abilities.
Different companies have attempted to resolve this weakness with various levels of success. Camp Chef themselves have offered grills with a “slide and sear” system that opens up the fire pot and the Sidekick, which converts one side table into a dedicated sear zone.
With the Apex, Camp Chef have made a full-sized gas grill that doubles as a pellet grill. In this review I’ll be sharing my experience cooking on the Camp Chef, and let you know if it’s worth the hefty price tag.
Camp Chef sent me this grill for free in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Apex overview and first impressions
The Apex comes in a couple of different configurations, so it’s worth understanding what your options are.
You can choose either the 24″ or 36″ model. The 24″ I got came with 811 square inches of total cooking area, which is plenty of space for my family.
You can also get the grill without the gas kit. I wouldn’t recommend this though, as without the gas option the Apex is just a seriously expensive pellet grill. You would be better off buying a Woodwind Pro and saving $600.
You’ve also got the option to add the Sidekick to really trick this grill out.
The 24 inch model gives you four gas burners and on the 36 you got six.
The Apex uses Camp Chefs “down and out” ventilation. It certainly smokes enough but it can be a little deceiving because of the way the smoke exits the pit chamber. As pellets burn, smoke exits along each side and then back down and exits through the vents
I didn’t see any leakage, probably thanks to the double walled construction and the lid has a gasket.
Underneath the burners you have an ash and grease catch along with heat deflector.
What I like:
- 30 pound hopper with pellet sensor – You’ll easily be able to do an overnight cook using this pit.
- LCD touchscreen & app – Easy to control and monitor temperatures, app is useful and easy to use.
- Four probes included – So many grills come with only one probe, it’s nice Camp Chef include enough for you to max out the ports
- Little touches – From the light inside the chamber, to the bottle opener and place to wrap the power cord, everything has been thought of to make using this grill easy
What I don’t like:
- Expensive – You could buy a quality gas and pellet grill for a little less, so you really pay for the convience of having a single grill that can do everything.
- Some grease dripping – Bit of a nit pick, but I did notice a little bit of grease dripping outside on the bottom shelf when I was grilling some burgers.
I’ve cooked a tremendous amount of food on the Apex, and it’s my favorite of all the pellet grills I’ve reviewd in 2022.
Unboxing and assembly
Due to this grill being a hybrid, there’s a lot of things to assemble. It took me and my two boys right around two hours to get it completely put together
it isn’t hard but most of the assembly time was spent on the gas insert you will need to remove a couple knockouts in the front to get the igniters in and make sure that they’re facing towards the actual gas burner.
All the parts are labeled with the the step that you’re going to be doing it, which makes it a lot easier to be able to follow along on the assembly by grabbing the parts and the screw bag that you need.
I would highly recommend you have somebody that can give you a hand putting this grill together.
Startup and burn off
After I got it the grill assembled, the first thing I needed to do was the burn off. You need to burn off all the junk and the debris from the manufacturing process.
Just fill up the hopper and then turn on the controller and set it at feed I really like this feature because I don’t have to sit and hold a button to prime it.
Once that cycle is finished, open up the ash release and let all the pellets fall into the little ash cup. Close it back up, set your temperature to 350°F and confirm to fire it up.
Once the pit has gone through the startup cycle close the lid and let it reach temperature. Once you’ve reached that temperature set a timer for 30 minutes and just let pit sit and burn.
Since I got the sidekick griddle I figured this would be a perfect time to season it. I used some flaxseed oil to coat the surface and then once it burnt off, repeated the process a couple more times.
When my 30 minute timer went off I started the 20 minute shutdown cycle, which gave me plenty of time to let that flaxseed oil burn into that griddle.
After it was all cooled down it was time to check out the gas operation by igniting the burners. I had to adjust a couple of the burners but that’s pretty simple, just loosen up the screws and adjust it.
You want that igniter to be kind of right in between the double hole. I suggest you do this right away when you’re doing the assembly. Just test it out and see that each burner works.
I also did a mini burn off with the gas option I just lit them all up put them on high and let them run for about 15 minutes
I’m sure for all of you that store your pit after each cook will appreciate that the Apex comes with four locking and rotating casters. Moving this pit around is a breeze, just grab it and move it wherever you want. They’re big casters so they roll around the surface really smooth.
We’ve covered the sidekick in great detail in our Woodwind review. I couldn’t see myself ever owning a Camp Chef without it.
You can get a couple different accessories for it, including the sear box. I was pretty impressed when I seared a prime rib. You can also get a pizza oven, but for my family the option that I like the most is the griddle. It worked great for cooking bacon while I smoked and grilled burgers.
The option to combine smoking, grilling and griddling is what I really love about this grill.
As far as cleanup, it’s pretty much the same as any other pellet grill. The biggest difference is that the grease catch/heat deflector has to be removed from a drop down cover in front of the pit.
Then you can get to the inside of that cooking chamber and vacuum it out.
There’s also an ash cleanout that dumps ash into a removable cup.
Wifi and app experience
I’m not really big into the apps that every company is putting in their grills nowadays, but they are a good creature comfort, and they keep getting better.
The Camp Chef app works pretty dang good I like that you can adjust the smoke mode on the fly on this pit so if you start out high and you want to back it back down a little later you do it right on your app. It also has the feature where you can adjust the probes to give you an alert when you’re reaching your doneness temp
I have a 2.4 gigahertz Wi-Fi network in my studio, so connection wasn’t a problem for me. Your experience will depend on the WiFi strength near your grill.
Should you buy the Camp Chef Apex?
The Camp Chef Apex is a versatile pit that would be perfect for anyone that doesn’t have a lot of space wants to be able to smoke and grill.
It’s also great if you don’t want to give up on the convenience of a gas grill but want to start smoking maybe some ribs or a pork butt.
This pit is also great for a family you want to be able to smoke up a pork loin and then make your glaze right on the same pit. Or maybe you want to grill some asparagus and be in the same spot so you don’t overcook your salmon or just add a little smoky flavor to a skirt steak that you’re gonna slice up for tacos.
To be able to do all that on one pit it is gonna come with a cost and this pit is not cheap.
But if you were going to buy a pellet grill and a gas grill of comparable quality, you would be spending almost the same, so if you think about it like that you are really only paying a small premium for the convience of having a single grill.
If you are worried about cost, you can always start out with the pellet grill, and then later down the road add the gas kit.
But if you don’t have the space, the Apex is the way to go.