When Weber announced they were launching their first pellet grill the news took the barbecue world by storm.
Besides some slick marketing from Weber, we didn’t really know what to expect. Only a handful of people got to cook on the product before it’s launch, which led to a lot of hype and high expectations.
I’ve been cooking on the Weber SmokeFire EX6 for over a month now. Read on to find out if this grill lives up to the hype or if you should give this one a miss.
Click to jump straight to each topic
- Weber SmokeFire EX6 Overview
- Packaging and assembly
- Build quality
- Cooking on the Weber SmokeFire
- Who should buy this grill?
- Launch controversy
- The first wood pellet smoker from Weber
- Finally a pellet grill with built-in searing capability
- Improved grease and ash management
- Pellet hopper and auger design reduces jams
- WiFi connected smart grill
Weber SmokeFire EX6 Overview
It’s fair to say the SmokeFire has had a tumultuous launch. The initial hype turned into disappointment and canceled orders as early purchasers started running into issues from annoying “pellet bridging” (more on that later) to dangerous grease fires.
With so much controversy I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the SmokeFire to put it to the test. We shelled out $1200 of our own money for the larger EX6 model (The EX4 and EX6 are identical except for grilling area).
Unfortunately, my review was delayed when Amazon somehow lost my grill (how can you misplace a grill?)
The replacement grill finally arrived, and after completing several cooks and conducting some vigorous tests I’m ready to share my experience with the SmokeFire
SmokeFire EX6 Manufacturer specifications
|Total grilling space||1008 sq in|
|Bottom grate||648 sq in|
|Top grate||360 sq in|
|Fuel type||Wood fired pellet|
|Probes||One meat probe with capacity for four|
|Pellet hopper||22 lbs capacity|
|Materials||Porcelain-enameled lid, cookbox and heat distribution plate. Stainless steel cart frame, side table and flavorizer bars.|
|Price||Check latest price at Amazon or BBQGuys.com|
After getting the grill assembled my first impression was how good it looked. The paint job looks good and it definitely looks like a Weber and not a Traeger rip-off like a lot of other pellet grills.
I can understand if some people might find the design a little “tame” though, and the tiny coster wheels and lack of storage space or side tables is disappointing for a grill at this price point.
Although the quality of the parts looks good, unfortunately, I noticed a few defects.
- Two large chips of paint came off when I tightened down the screws that hold the front ashtray bracket on.
- There was a star shaped dent/scrape directly behind where the drip pan/ash tray slides in. There is no paint on this paint which tells me it happened at Weber.
Both issues are cosmetic and don’t affect the performance.
Size of cooking area: The EX6 that I tested is spacious on the inside. You can cook or smoke a lot of food at one time. To me, this is one of its shining features.
Temperature range: The grill is capable of 200-600°F. I was able to confirm the grill can hit these ranges, although I had some struggles on both ends of the temp range. More on this below.
Temp Control: The grill is capable of 200-600°F. I was able to confirm the grill can hit these ranges, although I had some struggles on both ends of the temp range. More on this below.
Searing Capability: Yes, it will sear! But there is a bit of a catch. It can only seem to reach these higher temps with more expensive pellets like Weber’s wood pellets. Not just any pellets will do.
Technology: The Smokefire comes WIFI and Bluetooth capable and communicates with an app on your smartphone.
I had already heard of a lot of folks having issues with “pellet bridging”. This just means that the pellets stop sliding down into the auger which can result in the temperature dropping, even though you still have pellets in the hopper.
To my disappointment, during my initial burn off, “pellet bridging” did occur.
I have heard that part of the problem can be the size of the pellets, but these pellets work just fine in all the other pellet grills/smokers that I have tested.
With that said, Weber now offers a complimentary hopper accessory that is supposed to help with pellet feeding.
In this review, I found myself focusing on a lot of the issues with this grill (and there are plenty of them!) but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to like about it.
What I like:
- Size: EX6 is great for smoking or grilling lots of food at one time! I believe you could easily cook 30 or more burgers at a time. And it has a 2nd tier rack which really adds to its cooking capabilities.
- Smoking Ability: Aside from the grill internal temp not matching the grill display, if you get the temp to where you want it for smoking, it does an awesome job. It puts out a continuous amount of light smoke.
- Grates: While there is nothing amazing about these grates, they do tend to be holding up well. Better than some other grills that I have tested.
- Meat probe: The Smokefire EX6 comes with four temp probe ports and one complimentary meat probe. When tested, the meat probe is actually quite accurate. And the probe works with the Weber Connect App, so you can set an alarm when the meat reaches the set desired temperature. This is one of the shining features of the App.
- Pellet Hopper Sensor: This feature triggers an alarm if the pellets in the hopper get too low. This is a really nice feature. I think every pellet smoker should have one.
- Pellet Drop Chute: It’s nice when a grill/smoker has a chute to make changing flavor pellets easier.
Customer Service: Weber have been helpful and more than willing to work with me to get these issues resolved.
What I don’t like:
- Temp inaccuracy: It’s not that the temperature won’t stay consistent while cooking; it’s that the temperature I set on the grill is not even close to what I get inside. I realized that live fires are not COMPLETELY controllable, but I feel they could get closer than they have.
- Grease and dust trap system: It is really disappointing that this design doesn’t work as described. Other grills in this price range have much better ways of dealing with grease. And the Smokefire’s design seems to release a lot more pellet dust into the rest of the grill than actually goes in the dust tray. It looks good on paper, but it just doesn’t work as advertised.
- Poor startup mode / no shutdown mode bypass: I don’t like not having a way to bypass these modes in case the firepot never got going on startup. With that said, Weber claims that an update is coming that will include an improved startup logic and re-ignite logic in case the fire ever goes out.
- Shelf/Food Prep Area: Simply put, the shelf area is dismal. It needs more food prep area; more area to put a plate. While they are not the only grill manufacturers that get skimpy on the shelf area, they still don’t get a pass.
Weber App: There is not a lot you can do with this app currently. As far as grill app functionality goes, this is one of the more primitive ones, for now.
This grill has great potential, but it currently comes with almost as many negatives as positives.
Since I have been testing this grill, I have had to install: an updated auger system, pellet ramp insert, starting glow plug and assembly, and am about to replace a grill internal temp prob.
That’s a lot of issues for a brand new grill. With a pellet feed problem, a startup problem, a searing problem, and a temperature readout problem, it seems to me that they jumped the gun on the product launch of the Smokefire.
Packaging and assembly
The grill was packaged very well. Opening up the box, you could tell that a lot of thought was put into proper packaging for these grills.
There was plenty of cardboard and plastic wrapping used to keep everything safe.
Assembly was fairly easy with some simple tools.
After unboxing and unwrapping everything, assembly took about 32 minutes.
If I were assembling it again, I think the assembly time would be a little shorter. I got confused about how the flame tamer/middle heat hood mounting brackets installed into the interior of the grill so I had to study the pictures and instructions for a bit.
I really like the looks of the Smokefire. The main grill body and fire box appear to be well designed and built, as does the auger system.
I can understand some people might find the design a little “boring” especially compared to something like the REC TEC RT-700.
The stainless steel grates are nothing to write home about, but seem to be holding up well.
I found 2 or 3 small places where paint has flaked off of the grill body when I unpackaged it.
So, these spots occurred at the factory and not during grill operation or shipping.
Cooking on the Weber SmokeFire
In this section I’ll cover all of my hands on experience cooking on the Weber SmokeFire including what I liked and what I found annoying.
Temp Control and accuracy:
I have struggled to maintain the temps I’m aiming for and have found the grill internal temps to not be very consistent with what the grill displays.
I tested the grill internal temps using the highly reliable Thermoworks Signals with 3 ambient temp probes.
When the grill setting was a low temp, the internal temp would tend to be about 30-40° hotter than the temp on the display.
Example: I set grill to 210°F. Grill internal temp would be about 240-250°. When grill setting was higher, it would tend to be off about 50-65°.
Example: I set grill to 450°. Internally temp would be 500-515°. (It’s possible the grill temp probe is defective. I plan to call Weber and get it replaced to see if that is the issue). Currently, the grill display can’t be trusted.
The temperature from minute to minute on the grill is actually very good. There are very little temperature swings or drops.
The consistency is conditional though. I noticed very quickly when grilling at higher temps, you have to open up the lid, get in, and get out as quickly as possible.
The grill loses a ton of heat very quickly and cools down fast. It also takes several minutes to get the heat building back up again. I believe some of this is due to the large size of the grill and the fact that all of the heat is coming from 1 single source, unlike a gas grill that would have multiple burners.
Hot and cold zones
I monitored left, middle, and right sides of the grill during testing.
As you can imagine, the zones were different temps from one another with the outside zones being 15-25° cooler than the middle.
This isn’t surprising, but the lack of consistency was more troubling. Each section tended to vary by how much cooler they were and which side would actually be the coolest.
Although the temp varied from side to side, I didn’t find this to really be a problem. The temps only varied at higher cooking. At smoking temps, like say 225°, there was very little to no temp differences. The whole grill temp was stabilizing at that point.
The impact of these temperature issues will vary based on how you are using the grill:
Using as a Smoker
This is the easiest and most consistent way to use the Smokefire.
It puts out a thin amount of constant smoke and produces fantastic results.
But I was not able to trust the grill’s display for my actual firebox temps. When aiming for 240-250°F, I would have to set the grill to 205-210°F.
Even bumping the temp up by 5° could actually change the temp by another 20-30°, and I don’t mean just temporarily.
It would stay elevated for hours.
While this is annoying, I should mention that the temp in the grill, if left untouched, was actually very consistent. There were very little temp swings or drops which is exactly what you need for great low and slow cooking.
Using as a Grill
I finally was able to reach 600°F on the Smokefire, but only after getting an updated auger design from Weber AND using Weber brand pellets.
I also had multiple problems with pellets bridging and not sliding down the ramp.
Again, the temp was never where I actually set it. I could set the grill to 450° and actually be getting 500-515°F in the grill. Another issue that I ran into was keeping temps. More on this below.
Ignoring all temp issues, using the grill is pretty easy, if everything is working as it should.
Startup and Shutdown
I had multiple problems during startup mode where either the pellets would smolder and begin to heat up but the fire went out, or the pellets never got hot to begin with.
If this happens, you have no choice but to put the grill into shutdown mode and wait 15 minutes for it to shut down before you try to startup again.
SHUTDOWN MODE CANNOT BE BYPASSED.
If this happens more than once, you have waisted more than 30-40 minutes just trying to start your grill. This was one of the most frustrating problems when this occurred.
I should say that most of the time shutdown mode works as expected, and takes around 15 minutes to flush out existing pellets.
In the end I managed to fix this issue.
- I called Weber support. They sent me out a new glow plug and glow plug holder. Then the grill started trying to ignite again.
- In order to make sure the fire really got started, I would leave the lid up until I head the fire quietly roaring (about 4-7 minutes). This is NOT what the manual says in their instructions. It says to close the lid as soon as you start to see smoke. I am leaving it open for about 3-6 minutes longer than that. Since I have been using this method, I have not had another “fire went out” issue.
Shelf/Prep area and storage features
There’s no other way to describe Weber’s design here than a complete failure.
The shelf area to sit plates or get food ready on the SmokeFire is pitiful.
I’m told there is going to be a front shelf accessory sold in the future which is a joke. Why should people have to pay more for basic functionality when you are already paying a premium price point?
I would have much rather seen an additional shelf instead of where the grill handle is on the left side of the grill. Why does it need a handle??? How often do grills get moved?
I typically never move my grills once they hit the back deck.
One small positive: it does have two knobs to hang grilling utensils.
As far as grill storage goes, you can go ahead and forget about that. This grill has none.
Pellet loading and consumption
The pellet hopper is fairly narrow and pouring into the hopper is a bit awkward, especially if the grill is put up against a deck rail or wall.
This is a very minor issue, but annoying.
I have tested other pellet grills and not had the same hassles loading pellets and losing so many. Often I had pellets that would fall between the hopper and the grill (no man’s land) and/or land in the area between the hopper lid and the hopper.
Removing pellets is easy if you want to change them out (or store them in a dry place between cooks).
The pellet consumption while smoking is very reasonable and efficient. The consumption while cooking with high heat is pretty significant though.
When trying to sear food at 600°F, it is a bit of a pellet hog and you will tear through some pellets.
- Average consumption rate @ 250°F: ~1.25-1.5 lb per hour
- Average consumption rate @ 600°F: ~4-4.5 lb per hour
While I’m not thrilled with how many pellets the EX6 uses, I also understand that this is a big grill. A big grill trying to reach high temps for cooking is going to take a lot of pellets. So I put that into perspective as well.
You should get slightly better results on the EX4 model.
Pellet feed problem (pellet bridging)
I experienced two common problems with pellet feeding: pellets not sliding down the ramp and pellet bridging.
- The ramp in the hopper is not steep enough; so pellets don’t gravity feed well into the auger system. This problem continued until I installed the ramp insert that Weber created to address this problem.
- Pellet bridging is where the pellets bunch together and form a void where they normally enter into the auger shoot. This occurred multiple times, especially when grilling at higher temps.
Weber claims that the pellet bridging is due to not using their pellets, but I had the issue occur at least 3 times with their brand pellets as well.
I believe the cause is the finger guard that is fastened over the auger shoot. Since I have removed this finger guard, I have not had a pellet bridging problem with any brand pellets.
This is one of the most head scratching issues on the SmokeFire. I just don’t know how this wouldn’t get caught during their testing.
This is just one more sign Weber was too keen to rush this product to market. The fact they needed to quickly release a ramp insert to fix the problem on a brand new grill they just released is a joke.
It’s actually not too bad to clean up, but it’s not as easy as Weber claims.
Any grease from food ends up in the bottom of the grill barrel.
Very little, if any, actually makes its way into the grease tray. And I would say at least 50% or more of the pellet dust does not end up in the dust tray below the firepot.
It ends up in the bottom of the grill, typically all around the holes where the grease is supposed to drain.
So the grease and the dust mix and that is where it remains until you clean it out.
With that said, unless you have cooked or smoked something super fatty, It’s actually pretty easy to clean out the grill with a metal scraper and a cheap paint brush.
You can brush all the dust and debris down into the grease tray and then empty it out.
Some other reviews have mentioned issues with grease fires.
I smoked a Boston Butt for 18 hours with the meat sitting directly over the middle grate, and a grease fire never occurred.
I’m not saying it is impossible, but I’m not super concerned about it while smoking at lower temperatures. If something fatty was cooked at a high temp, yes, I believe it is possible.
But I could see that happening on any grill at that point.
Firmware update and using the Weber Connect App
Before you can start cooking you need to do a firmware update. Some earlier users had problems with this and couldn’t use their new grill, but for me it was not a big deal.
The App itself is extremely basic in functions so far.
It displays the temperature that you set the grill to as well as the grill’s current temp.
It can also be used to set the cook to temp for the included meat temp probe.
It will also send alerts if something occurs with the grill such as:
- Low pellets warning
- Cooking temp complete
- Grill reaches a set temperature.
But most of the alerts are generic and just say “ an error has occurred”. I am told there will be more functionality added to the App later.
It’s disappointing given the amount of hype Weber put into the app functionality. This frustration is clearly shown by the poor reviews on the Google Play and Apple stores where the Weber Connect scores 1.6 and 3.1 out of 5 scores.
I do give Weber the benefit of the doubt here though, as the original iGrill app experience was pretty terrible, and after continued enhancements it is one of the best apps available.
Who should buy this grill?
If you are an early adopter and don’t mind going through some teething pains, the SmokeFire has the potential to be a great grill.
I believe that Weber will get all these issues ironed out, and the grill will eventually become one of the best pellet grills on the market.
I also believe that the App will evolve into something more useful. But it’s not quite there yet. If you are willing to go on that ride, then go for it. If not, I would look at another grill or wait a while.
After several years covering the barbecue industry, I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a product launch with more controversy.
High level summary:
- Before launch, the SmokeFire was hyped up to insane levels
- Straight after launch, there was a rush of people uploading videos and bad reviews saying the product had serious design flaws and issues
- Not all of the complaints were valid, but this is definitely a flawed product.
- As of writing the EX6 has a 3.1/5 rating on the Weber website
While this isn’t strictly part of our review, I wanted to include a section that covered some of the details behind the product launch to help you understand why you get such strong emotions on both sides when it comes to this grill.
Before it went on sale, everyone was hyping the Weber SmokeFire up, saying how amazing it was going to be.
It didn’t help that Weber only let a handful of people test the grill out behind closed doors, in controlled conditions on tested prototypes.
Videos like the one below only stoked the excitement levels. I should point out that I don’t have anything against Baby Back Maniac, which is a fantastic YouTube channel which you should definitely check out.
When the grill finally started shipping in February 2020, excitement turned to confusion and disappointment as initial reviews started to come in.
The same person who made the video above posted an overnight cook video which ended in a grease fire.
Lots of people were also complaining about the design of the pellet hopper not being steep enough, resulting in pellets not dropping down into the auger.
People also questioned Weber’s decision to allow grease to fall directly onto the ‘Flavorizer’ bars and then sit at the bottom of the grill where it mixes with the ash.
To make matters worse, the companion app was clearly rushed and didn’t function correctly when the grill first shipped. A firmware update was also required, and if you didn’t do that you were hit with even more problems.
These initial negative reviews resulted in a rush of canceled orders
Things were looking bleak for Weber, until Meathead from amazingribs.com went off on his Facebook page, claiming that the initial testers didn’t know what they were doing, and we should all wait until they had time to publish their review before making up our minds.
Some other barbecue “influencers” like Harry So from SlapYoDaddyBBQ also posted more positive videos that didn’t run into any dangerous grease fires.
Now that it’s been out for a few months and the dust has started to settle the conclusion seems to be that the SmokeFire is a promising product, with some serious flaws.
It’s disappointing that Weber would ship a product with so many obvious flaws. Although when you think that they’ve have so many years to perfect the design of their gas and charcoal grills and smokers, it’s not surprising that their first attempt at a pellet grill isn’t perfect.
It really comes down to your personal preferences. If you’re happy to be an early adopter and don’t mind having to follow a few workarounds, the SmokeFire could be perfect for you.
NOTE: The below section is our initial write-up when we heard about the SmokeFire.
The first wood pellet smoker from Weber
Rumors have been floating around about this new grill for a while now so we were excited to finally get some details from Weber.
SmokeFire Specs & Features
- 22lb Pellet hopper
- Plated steel cooking grates
- Stainless steel flavorizer bars
- Easy-clean ash & grease drawer
- 200-600°F temperature range
- Includes one meat probe with capacity for up to four
- Porcelain-enamel heat distribution plate
- Weber connect smart grilling technology
We’re happy to say that the only difference between the two grills is the size of the grill grates so you don’t get punished for buying the cheaper option.
It always annoyed us that Traeger reserve some features for their more expensive models.
At first glance, the design of this grill looks similar to the Traeger Ironwood series. It’s clear that Weber are looking to compete with Traeger who is currently dominating the pellet grill market.
The Weber looks competitively priced, with the more expensive model offering more grilling space than the Traeger Ironwood 650.
- Traeger Ironwood 650 – $1,199.99
- Weber SmokeFire EX6 1008 – $1,199
- Traeger Pro 780 – $999.00
- Weber SmokeFire EX4 672 – $999.00
The SmokeFire offers a few features that look to set it apart from the rest of the competition.
You can see an overview in this marketing video from Weber, and we’ll go into more detail in the sections below.
Finally a pellet grill with built-in searing capability
We’ve always objected to the name “pellet grill” as these cookers make far better smokers / outdoor ovens.
Simply put, most pellet grills we’ve looked at struggle to properly sear a steak.
Manufacturers have tried to get around this limitation. Camp Chef is known for its searing station attachment, although you have to purchase that separately.
Pit Boss pellet grills use a sliding plate to allow searing over an open flame, but the flame area gives you limited space for searing.
The Smoke Fire gets around this design flaw in two ways.
First off you have the higher max temperature of 600°F (most pellet grills top out at 450-500°F).
More importantly, Weber has made good use of their stainless steel flavorizer bars (used on their gas grills) to help direct heat from the firepot to the cooking grate.
If they can pull this trick off, the SmokeFire will quickly become one of the best grill smoker combos available.
Improved grease and ash management
Cleaning up grease and ash has always been a major problem for pellet smoker owners. The SmokeFire has a few nifty looking innovations that look to help solve these problems
- The angled flavorizer bars and heat deflector channel ash and grease separately through the center of the grill, before it is divereted into a removable pan that slides out from the front.
- The deflector over the firepot helps ash from getting in the cooking chamber
- The bottom of the firepot has perforations to allow ash to drop down into the pan
Weber refers to this feature “Bucket-free grease & ash removal” which is a reference to the grease bucket commonly seen on pellet grills.
We’ll have to wait and see how well this system works in the real world. In the photo above it looks like the ash and grease are separate, but it will be interesting to see if this is actually the case or if it ends up making more mess.
Pellet hopper and auger design reduces jams
If you were wondering why the box on the side was so small, it’s because Weber has placed the 22-pound pellet hopper at the back of the grill.
This allows them to use a shorter, inclined auger which is aimed at reducing pellet jams.
We’re happy to see you can open the hopper at the bottom to remove unused pellets or if you want to swap to a different type. This is a great feature as many pellet grills require a shop vac to clean out old pellets.
The auger includes a sensor to let the companion app know when pellets drop below a certain level.
WiFi connected smart grill
Weber has already dabbled in this area with the acquisition and development of the iGrill Bluetooth thermometer line, however, this is their first attempt at a truly WiFi-connected grill.
The grill will connect to your WiFi and then you’ll be able to control it through the Weber Connect App.
Weber has partnered with smart cooking technology company June to offer an app with temperature doneness reports and ETA on when food will be done based on food and grill temperature.
None of this sounds revolutionary, with all current-generation Traeger grills offering similar capabilities.
Weber hope to set themselves apart with detailed recipes and step-by-step instructions built into the app.
One feature that caught our eye was “flip notifications”. That could definitely come in handy.
We’ll have to wait until the release of the SmartFire on February 10, 2020 before we can reach a final verdict, but from what we’ve seen it looks promising.
The searing capability looks like the killer feature that will make this grill stand out from the competition.
Weber has clearly played to their strengths here, and by partnering with a food technology company the Weber Connect features look to be at least as good as the best smart grill offerings from other brands.
The price makes this grill competitive with Traeger, although starting at $999.00 this definitely isn’t a budget option.
The Smoke Fire goes on sale February 10, 2020.