Camp Chef Woodwind Pellet Grill Review
The Camp Chef Woodwind is one of the most highly recommended pellet grills on the market today.
You can pick one up for well under $1000, and because it’s been available for a few years there are no teething issues (cough Weber SmokeFire cough).
Camp Chef has continued to improve the grill with the release of the Gen 2 digital PID controller and a range of useful accessories and attachments.
In this review, I’ll be sharing my experiences cooking on the Woodwind over the last few months.
Update: Camp Chef has released the Woodwind Pro which promises offset smoker flavor with the convenience of a pellet grill. We have a detailed Woodwind Pro review where you can learn about all the differences.
Camp Chef sent me this grill for free in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Camp Chef Woodwind overview & first impressions
The Woodwind is available in two sizes. You can get the mid-sized 24″ model, which comes with a combined 811 square inches of cooking surface, or spend a little extra and get the 36″ model which will give you 1236 square inches to play with.
For this review, we went with the 24, which I think will be the model most people will go for.
Camp Chef has made a big deal about their new and improved digital PID controller. Setting your grill temperature is easy, but the more interesting addition is the option to set your smoke level.
Let’s get the main specs out of the way, run through my first impressions and then get stuck into my experience cooking on the Woodwind.
Camp Chef Woodwind 24 Specifications
|Cooking Area||811 sq in (429 lower rack + 382 upper rack)|
|Pellet Hopper Capacity||22 lbs|
|Temp Range||160º F – 500ºF (up to 650° with direct flame grilling)|
|Shelves & Storage||Two side shelves, one front shelf|
|Temp Probes||Four meat probes|
|Controler||Color screen PID controller|
|Price||Check latest price|
The Woodwind uses the same slide and grill technology as the cheaper SmokePro SG and is similar to what
Essentially this lets you create a high heat sear zone by exposing the direct flame.
I measured 650-700°F with the grill set on high and using direct flame mode.
This worked better than I expected, but I was much more excited by the promised searing capabilities of the SideKick attachment.
I’ll go through all my experiences using that attachment later in the review, but for now, I’ll just say I highly recommend getting it.
I recorded a reverse sear Picanha cook I did on the Woodwind if you want to see both the Sidekick and main grill in action.
When you opt for the sidekick attachment, you do have to give up some prep area. I’ll make that trade every time, but I did want to point that out. You can get an optional front shelf attachment which is easy to install and adds some much-needed prep area.
What I like:
- Ash Cleanout System – By far the easiest pellet grill to clean out of the many I’ve tested.
- Smoke Level Adjustability – Nice to be able to control the level of smoke when cooking different types of food.
- Accessory options – You can add some great functionality to this grill including the sidekick and front shelf.
- Direct Flame Slider Rod – Gives you decent searing capability if you decide not to get the sidekick add-on.
- Temp Probes – This is the only pellet grill I’ve seen that comes with 4 temp probes. Most grills only give you 1 or 2 temp probes.
What I don’t like:
- No cabinet door – You get a storage shelf but there’s no door to keep things protected from the elements.
- Some temperature accuracy issues – Not a deal breaker but I found a fair bit of variance between what temp I set and what was recorded.
The Camp Chef Woodwind is a feature-packed pellet grill and smoker.
The design makes it easy to adjust the smoke level, easy to manage your cook with the versatile upper rack system, and easy to clean up after the cooking is done.
- Adjustable smoke levels
- Sidekick adds versatility
- Ash cleanout system
- No cabinet door
Unboxing and setup
The Woodwind grill was packaged very tightly using plenty of cardboard, styrofoam, and clear plastic.
All bare metal was coated well with an anti-corrosion coating. All parts appeared to be protected quite well.
Assembly for this grill proved to be fairly simple and straightforward.
I completed the entire assembly in about 40 minutes using mostly hand tools and, occasionally, a cordless drill with a Phillips bit.
Camp Chef also include a recipe guide and Woodwind booklet.
All painted parts have thorough and smooth coatings. There were two parts that showed small nicks in the paint, but they were quite minimal.
The bracket for the rack system was slightly bent and required slight rebending. I’m not sure what happened here. I don’t believe they were damaged during transport. I believe they were already bent when the parts were packaged in the box.
Overall, the Woodwind showed to be good quality. All the parts installed just as designed. The grill comes with rubberized wheels, similar to wheels found on rollerblades. They appeared to be more than adequate to move the grill around and will last quite a while.
Most of the grill is made of painted steel. The legs and barrel of the grill are a little thicker steel and provide a sturdy foundation.
The pellet hopper lid is a thin steel, as expected, and as is common with most pellet grills. There’s also a narrow window on the front side of the hopper so you can keep an eye on your pellet level without opening the lid.
The lid is made like the barrel of the grill. The inner grill flame diffuser plate is made of thick steel but will warp over time. However, that shouldn’t actually affect the performance of the grill in any way.
Cooking on the Camp Chef Woodwind
Before writing this review, I put the Woodwind through its paces in a variety of different cooking situations.
I cooked pulled pork and chuck roast low and slow and seared steak and burgers. I also did chicken wings and quarters.
Here are my observations after a few months of regular use.
Ease of operation
This is the reason why you buy a pellet grill to begin with, and I’m pleased to say the Camp Chef Woodwind did not disappoint.
Just turn it on, set the temp using the dial, set the “smoke level”, and the grill will do the rest.
I found the temp probe design simple but effective. It allows the probes to be used without smoke and heat escaping from a large gap in the lid and closes off the hole when not in use)
Best of all, the phone app will notify you when the grill reaches the set desired temperature.
The slider rods and locking plates for the pellet chute, ash cleanout, and direct flame grilling are well designed.
The slider rod on the pellet chute opens a slot located in the bottom of the hopper. When you pull the rod, the slot opens and allows pellets to drop if you want to swap wood type or remove them for storage.
The ash cleanout feature is innovative making it the easiest to clean pellet grill I have tested to date. The slider rod attaches to the a flat plate below the burn pot. When the slider rod is pulled, it moves the plate and drops burnt pot ash into the cleanout cup. The locking plates prevent the slider rods from moving accidentally while the grill is in use.
The versatile upper rack system is also grilling gold. The two half-rack systems can be placed side by side to be used as a full rack or one rack can be slid under the other to open up access to more of the grilling area. I found this to be very useful.
The grill controller also has a feed function that I found to be very useful. The feed function allows the user to feed pellets without the igniter element being activated. This is great for not only feeding pellets initially through the auger system but also for clearing remaining pellets from the auger to prevent them from swelling and causing an auger jam.
Overall grilling performance
Getting the result you desire is easy on the Woodwind. You can set the grill temp with the turn of a knob.
And you can go from indirect flame mode to direct flame grilling with just the pull of a handle. I tested the grill using both methods and yielded pleasant results.
The steaks cooked below were done without using the direct flame. The grill was hot enough to get sear marks, but I would recommend using the slide system for searing.
Overall smoking performance
I was extremely pleased with the smoking ability of the Woodwind. Camp Chef takes it to the next level with the flexibility to adjust the smoke level from 1-10.
So, you can really dial in the level of smoke you prefer.
In my testing I found that increasing the smoke level did somewhat increase the temperature
What are the storage and prep areas like?
The Woodwind does provide a little bit of prep area in the form of a shelf, but that real estate is lost if you add the SideKick or sear box.
In my case, I had the SideKick installed. So I lost this area. You can still balance a plate or chopping board on it when not in use though.
There is a little bit of prep area on top of the pellet hopper, but it is minimal.
This means there are also no hangers for grill utensils, which to me, is disappointing. There is a shelf underneath the grill that could be used for storing a bag of pellets.
Like I mentioned in the intro, Camp Chef does offer an add-on front shelf for the Woodwind for additional prep area.
Add a convenient front shelf to your 24" Camp Chef pellet grill for more prep area. The shelf can be folded down when not in use.
How good is the temp accuracy & consistency?
While smoking at low temperatures, the accuracy seems to be pretty close.
But in my tests, the Woodwind appeared to be off quite a bit as the temps increase toward grilling temperatures. On the plus side, the grill was fairly consistent once it reached its set temperature.
I’ve included more detailed testing details in a section below.
How useful is the App?
The Camp Chef App has a lot of functionality, allowing the user to change the temp and smoke level on the fly, set up to four meat probe doneness temperatures, and shut down the grill.
The probes can also be named in the App.
The App has WiFi and Bluetooth capabilities.
With all that said, this App is not without its issues either. I found the App randomly lost connection on a regular basis. It’s easy to get it connected again, but it is a little aggravating.
However, this seems to be a problem that many pellet grill manufacturers tend to struggle with when it comes to their Apps.
Interestingly there seems to be a big gap in performance between Apple and Android users as the Camp Chef app rates an impressive 4.3/5 on the Apple App Store and a disappointing 1.8/5 on the Google Play store.
It looks like the App was last updated on July 16th 2020, so its good to see Camp Chef are actively improving the experience.
Ease of cleaning
Here is where the Woodwind shines. The people at Camp Chef put enough forethought into their grills to come up with a far superior way to clean out the ash left in the burn pot.
The quick cleanout “coffee can” and sliding rod/base plate mechanism makes it super easy to clean the grill after use. Most other pellet grills require a shop vac.
Grill grate performance & quality
Everyone has their preference when it comes to grate material, as do I. These grates left me split down the middle.
While I was not super excited about their ability to leave grill marks, the porcelain coated finish does allow the food to release with ease.
I would have also preferred if the diameter of the bars been a little larger, but being fair, that still did a fine job.
Is the SideKick worth it?
All pellet grill manufacturers love to wax lyrical about how versatile their grills are.
Despite claims of “6 in 1 cooking”, the truth is most pellet grills make far better smokers than grills due to their inability to sear at high enough temperatures.
The slide and sear is one option to get around this limitation, but Camp Chef has come up with a clever attachment that goes a step further.
The Sidekick is essentially a propane burner that attaches where the prep shelf would normally be.
The Sidekick replaces the popular Sear Box attachment. While the sear box was a dedicated sear station, the Sidekick gives you more versatility:
- Use the burner to warm sauce or boil water for vegetables or pasta.
- Use the included steel griddle to fry bacon, onions, eggs, or anything you wouldn’t want on the main grill.
- Add extra add-ons like the grill box and pizza oven.
If you are going to get the Woodwind, spend the extra and opt for the Sidekick.
It is worth the extra! Yes, it runs off of propane and it doesn’t disappoint. It put out 30,000 BTUs of heat and IT IS NOTICEABLE.
I cooked breakfast on the included heavy duty griddle. I also tested it out by searing some steaks on it using the Deluxe Grill Box. Believe me when I say this beast of a burner can be used to heat up anything, including a stock pot.
I was pleasantly surprised by the usefulness of the grill box when used with the Sidekick.
The grates are made of enamel coated cast iron and very sturdy. A little goes a long way when it comes to heat from the Sidekick.
I accidentally turned it up too high and left it for only a few minutes. When I returned, the temp gauge was maxed out. I measured the temp with my IR temp gun at almost 1100°F! Needless to say, I didn’t make that mistake again.
You can purchase the Woodwind and sidekick as a package, or buy it on its own.
The propane powered 28,000 BTU single burner attaches to most Camp Chef pellet grills, allowing you to griddle, grill, sear and boil.
Besides the Sidekick and Grill Box, Camp chef offer a range of other accessories.
BBQ Tool Set- These accessories, while nothing exotic or exciting, are built sturdy to last for years of grilling. If you can pick these up for a reasonable price, go for it, especially if you can use them for camping gear also.
Grill Cover- I consider a grill cover a must-have for pellet grills to protect the electronics. The Woodwind grill cover is made of a tough material that fits snugly over the grill to keep your prized possession well preserved. From the grill covers I have tested, this is one of the strong ones.
Testing the Woodwind
I used my trusty ThermoWorks Signals to test the real temperature of the Woodwind at different locations on the grill.
Time to come up to temp
After initial startup, it takes about 11 minutes to reach 225°F. For grilling, it will take you a little longer, about 18-21 minutes for 450°F.
Temperature accuracy test
|225°F (smoke level 1||229°F||233°F||252°F|
|225°F (smoke level 10)||235°F||239°F||258°F|
There is a noticeable temp variance between the left, middle, and right side of the grill.
These numbers aren’t the end of the world, but are helpful to know and understand as to how to use the grill. There must be a natural pull of heat toward the right side of the grill, even when smoking low and slow. It could be possible that my grill was not quite level, but I don’t believe this to be the case
- At lower temps, actual gill temp accuracy was off by 0~8° in the middle of the grill
- At high temps, actual gill temp accuracy range was 0~100° off in the middle of the grill
I’m a little surprised by these numbers at higher temps. I would have expected them to be a little closer. A user would need to be aware of this while grilling so they do not overcook their food.
Although the accuracy is off at times, I will note that the temperature consistency is spot on. There is very little swing in temperature once the grill gets to the set temperature.
Wood pellet usage per hour
For these tests, I used Camp Chef premium hardwood pellets but I would assume similar performance with other pellets.
The tests were conducted on an 80°F day.
- Average consumption rate at 225°F: ~¾ lb per hour
- Average consumption rate at 500°F: ~1¾ – 2 lb per hour
I’m happy with these results, although you should expect worse efficiency with the larger Woodwind or if cooking in cold weather.
Alternatives to consider
The $800-$1000 pellet grill price range is pretty crowded with competition. Check out our full guide to pellet grills for a comprehensive list, and here are a few of the main Woodwind alternatives worth considering.
We had a lot of hope
The SmokeFire is available in two sizes. The EX4, which offers 672 square inches, and the EX6 which comes with 1008 square inches of cooking space.
That puts the Woodwind 24 right in the middle.
The famous grill manufacturer promised some innovations to allow for a better grilling experience.
A rushed release led to a number of problems and a flood of bad early reviews.
Camp Chef DLX 24
If you can’t quite stretch your budget for a Woodwind, the DLX 24 is a popular choice that gives you most of the same features.
You get the exact same updated digital controller with adjustable smoke settings although you only get two meat probes included.
The cooking surface and hopper capacity are also the same.
You can add on the Sidekick or Sear Box, and the App and clean up experience is the same as well.
You are giving up the large color screen and easier to use interface on the Woodwind. The lid on the SmokePro is made from powder coated steel compared to stainless steel on Woodwind which will last longer.
Given the small price difference, I would recommend spending a little extra and getting the Woodwind. Even though the differences are minor.
If you are in the market for a portable grill, then you should check out the Camp Chef Pursuit 20 as well.
Oklahoma Joe’s Rider 1200 DLX
If WiFi isn’t important to you, but you still want a pellet grill that can sear like a champ, you should look at the Rider 1200 DLX from Oklahoma Joe’s
We reviewed the second generation of the Rider, which comes with an improved PID controller and dual temperature sensors in the cooking chamber. Something we don’t often see.
The sear plate on this grill is one of the best we’ve seen, getting hot enough for a really good sear.
While you don’t get WiFi, you do have some nice quality of life features like an ash catcher, two grease drain buckets, plenty of shelf space and great wheels.
Should you buy the Camp Chef Woodwind?
By now it should be clear that I like the Woodwind.
Yes, the temp accuracy of the grill is a bit off and the temp variation can be high from one side of the grill to the other, but the more pellet grills I test, the more I am seeing similar results.
I cooked chicken quarters, wings, chuck roast, Boston Butt, New York Strips, pork chops, and cheeseburgers without overcooking or drying anything out. Everything turned out juicy with a nice smoky flavor.
If you are looking for a pellet grill/smoker that is easy to use, easy to clean and maintain, and is going to last for years then you should give this grill a hard look.
You’ll be able to cook great food with minimal effort with the base model.
The Woodwind really comes into its own when you combine it with the SideKick attachment
Camp Chef offers a large range of accessories and options for the Woodwind line.
If the temperature accuracy and variance concern you greatly, I would look toward a different option.
- Adjustable smoke levels
- Sidekick adds versatility
- Ash cleanout system
- No cabinet door
As always, feel free to ask questions in the comment form below if there’s something that you want to know about this grill. Reader feedback is always welcome too!