By now you may know that Camp Chef stirred up a lot of chatter in the pellet grill community earlier this year when they launched their Camp Chef Woodwind Pro – the first pellet grill to be able to burn both pellets and wood/charcoal at the same time.
Well, they’ve doubled down by launching a Pro version of their XXL Smoker: The Camp Chef XXL Pro. It’s a vertical pellet grill with an integrated smoke box that allows you to add wood chunks or lump charcoal during the smoking process.
I got my hands on the XXL Pro to give you the scoop on everything from specs and features to performance and quality to let you know if it lives up to the hype.
Camp Chef sent me this smoker for free in return for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
Camp Chef XXL Pro overview and first impressions
The Camp Chef XXL Pro packs everything you love about a pellet grill and a vertical smoker into one. It has a ton of room and includes four meat racks, three jerky racks, and a sausage rack with 12 hooks.
This is a great smoker whether you’re cooking for your family or cooking for a crowd.
Camp Chef XXL Pro specifications:
|Dimensions||55”H x 24”L x 15.5”W|
|Cooking Rack Area||301 sq. in.|
|Total Rack Area||1806 sq. in.|
|Chamber Size||7920 sq. in.|
|Hopper Size||30 lbs|
|Number of Racks||8 (304 sq. in per rack)|
|Temp Range||150°F to 350°F|
|Price||Check Latest Price|
The first thing that impressed me about the Camp Chef XXL Pro was the size. I didn’t realize how much room this smoker had until it was assembled, and I was immediately impressed. It is a big grill – and I don’t say that lightly!
I also love the capacity of the hopper. I was able to fit a 20lb bag of pellets in the hopper, and it was only about ¾ of the way full. It could easily fit 25 to 30 pounds of pellets.
This is especially useful if you want to do overnight cooks. You can start the smoker, go to bed, and rest assured that I’m not going to run out of pellets overnight while you’re sleeping.
The ability to add wood chunks or charcoal is also a huge plus. For years people have complained that pellets don’t give off enough smoke, and they miss the “real wood” flavor that wood and charcoal provide.
Camp Chef offered a solution to this issue with the Woodwind Pro, and doubled down on the concept with this new XXL Pro.
The smoke box isn’t huge, so you can only fit a few chunks of wood or charcoal at a time.
They burn relatively quickly depending on how far open you have the damper on the box. If you want to add wood and charcoal you need to plan to add more chunks every hour or so during your cook.
I use the smoke box to add extra smoke flavor, and since it’s not required to actually generate heat you can just reload when you remember.
Another great thing about this smoker is its small footprint compared to your standard pellet smoker. Because of the vertical design, it doesn’t take up a lot of floor space, yet it still has more cooking area than just about any other pellet smoker I’ve ever used.
What I like:
- Tons of space
- Pellet capacity allows you to cook for 10+ hours without adding pellets
- Easy ash cleanout
- Ability to add wood chunks and/or charcoal
- Small footprint without sacrificing cooking area
What I don’t like:
- The door takes some force to shut completely
- The door handle gets hot, need gloves to open/close
The door is very lightweight, which at first I really liked – but when you go to shut it, it’s hard to get it to close. You have to almost “slam” it shut. Once you get used to it, it’s not a big issue, but I wish it closed more easily.
Also, the handle on the door isn’t very insulated. It has a bit of insulation, but the edges get pretty hot – so plan to use gloves if you’re opening and closing it at higher temperatures.
Overall, I’m a big fan of this grill. There are a few small things that I don’t love, but for the most part, I think it’s a solid investment if you’re in the market for a pellet grill.
Assembling the Camp Chef XXL Pro
Assembling the Camp Chef XXL Pro was a little different than assembling a horizontal grill, but overall the process was very similar. I would recommend having a second person nearby to assist with assembly, as it’s a large and bulky grill and can be difficult to manage on your own.
The grill’s body comes mostly assembled, and you lay it on its back to attach the legs with bolts, then attach the wheels. Once done, you can stand it back up and attach the hopper to the side.
One thing that’s a bit different than other pellet grills I’ve assembled is that you have to bolt the rack holders in. They don’t come pre-installed.
Overall, assembly wasn’t too difficult and shouldn’t take longer than 45 minutes or so.
Why choose a vertical smoker versus a horizontal model?
I’ve always thought that a vertical design (e.g., a vault) would be a better design for pellet smokers, so I was excited to check this pit out.
In all pellet grills, the heat comes from below. This is similar to an offset smoker in most pellet grill models. But, on most pellet grills (including the Camp Chef XXL Pro), the exhaust is located on the back of the smoker.
This means that you can lose a lot of smoke (and heat) through the back of the grill. This is why a vertical model can be really beneficial.
The Camp Chef XXL Pro utilizes a “down and out” exhaust design, meaning that the smoke has to rise to the top of the chamber before being released out of the top. This allows your meat to have the most exposure to smoke and heat throughout the cooking process.
Cooking on the Camp Chef XXL Pro
The grill gets up to heat quickly – it only took about 10 minutes for the grill to get up to 225°F. I started with some Sweet BBQ Pellets from Bear Mountain BBQ, and then I added a few chunks of hickory wood to test out the smoke box.
The grill holds a very steady temperature. It didn’t swing more than 5° to 7° on either side of the set temperature throughout the entire cook. I got a beautiful smoke ring and good bark on both cuts of meat and could taste the smoke flavor throughout.
I also cooked a few side dishes on the smoker to see how it handled higher temperatures. I did some Potatoes au Gratin and Smoked Asparagus at about 350°F and the smoker had no issue handling the higher temperatures.
Final thoughts: Should you buy the Camp Chef XXL Pro?
If you are planning to truly smoke meat (e.g., low and slow cooking) then I think the Camp Chef XXL Pro is an amazing choice. The capacity is far higher than almost any other pellet grill on the market and it allows you to cook different meats at different distances from the fire box with ease.
If you’re looking for a grill that can smoke and also grill at high temperatures, then this may not be the grill for you. This grill is a smoker – so you can’t reach that high-temp sear that you can get on other models. But if you want to cook things like briskets, pork butts, or even smoke cheese or beef jerky, this is an amazing addition to any collection.