Summer time isn’t just about shooting, and training your kids to shoot. It does help that they are on summer vacation, but the temperature outside often makes an afternoon at the range or skeet field unbearable. Trust me, if it wasn’t in my job description, I wouldn’t be out there either. Having taught CQB in the Carolina sun, and now testing guns in the high desert in July, I really need to take some time and evaluate my decision making dynamic. But that is neither here nor there. The point is what else do you do with summer? So in a radical departure from my usual fare of guns, stuff that goes on guns, or stuff that comes out of guns, this week I am taking a look at the Camp Chef Smoke Pro SGX.
When you get right down to it, there isn’t a lot more American than grilling. Especially when you add in driving to the meat store in your oversized, gas guzzling, monster truck, and knocking back a domestic beer not favored by hipsters in skinny jeans while you do it. The grilling, not the driving. Unless you happen to live in Wyoming, aka New Texas. Maybe Marylin Monroe singing happy birthday to JFK, or shooting a Red Coat in the face with a magazine fed assault rifle chambered in a dinosaur slayer round ( bayonet lug intact, obviously), but not a lot else. And your choice of grills does matter.
My Traeger grill was worn out, and I was due for a replacement, so off to the internets I went. In addition to being worn out, my old grill was lacking in some features, and definitely lacking in size. I have grown to love the pellet as my fuel of choice, which limited my options. Also, given the disaster of Yeti a few months ago, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t funding some Commie, NRA hating corporate lackey soy boys. My search led me to Camp Chef in pretty short order.
Besides addressing my grill needs, I can rest assured that Camp Chef is on our team. Their parent company is Vista Outdoors, which is also home to Savage Rifles and Federal Ammunition, amongst others. After the REI debacle with Vista a few months ago, and Vista’s praiseworthy refusal to fold, I am a fan of the company in general. And as the battle lines are drawn in the economic sphere, I am definitely not siding with the smelly hippies and assorted SWJ chuckleheads. I’ll get my outdoor gear from Cabela’s and Brownells from now on.
So, having found a brand that aligns with my moral values, the question still remained, was the product any good? Pellet grills are not cheap, this is an investment. And I needed to find out if the Smoke Pro was high quality. I am familiar with Camp Chef from some other products, such as Denalli Pro camping stove. I have friends that use that model for camping and tailgating, and it works great. Online reviews looked solid, so off to the order page I went. And I am happy to report, the Smoke Pro is bad to the bone.
First off, the Smoke Pro is solid in construction. The hinges are large, which usually means durable. The steel is thick. You aren’t going to dent the grill box by looking at it hard, unlike some contenders. Everything from the pellet hopper to the chimney feels well put together. A lot can be said of the entire construction by looking at the wheels. A grill this size is heavy, hands down. And often times that means hard to move, wheels or no. The front has castor wheels, for easy maneuvering in tight spaces, and they aren’t cheap and flimsy. The rear wheels, instead of the cheap plastic that looks like it came off a kids big wheel, are real wheels. They are rubberized hard polymer, with some give, of the variety you see on expensive tool boxes. That is a small detail, but it matters. Not only does it make this industrially sized cow cooker easy to move, it speaks volumes about the overall build quality.
As far as assembly goes, you learn a lot about an object by how easy or difficult it is to put together. From cars to furniture, good design is easy to spot. If it requires drift pins, crowbars, and dozens of hands to fit together, it is probably not very good. If you watch a Ferrari going together, at no point is brute force used for alignment. Now given my moving habits and long stay in the Southeast, I have actually assembled quite a few grills over the years. Many of them from the big box stores like Home Cheapo. And more than once I have given up and ordered a pizza in my 9th hour of grill assembly, steaks left to marinade for another day. Usually with bleeding knuckles and a very bad attitude by that point. The Camp Chef exhibited none of those problems. The assembly process for the Smoke Pro can be summed up in three words. Big Ole Bolts. No tiny sheet metal screws and 6mm nuts for this project. This was all grown boy sized hardware. And assembly could not have been easier. With the exception of Mrs. Very Pregnant Off The Reservation’s help flipping the grill over once the legs were on, I was able to complete the project in about 45 minutes, alone. In fact, the only unclear part of the directions was the handle installation, and it was easy to spot the problem when I did it wrong. In the simplicity of assembly, I give the Smoke Pro an A+.
The last bit of testing involved burn rate and ability to hold a temperature. One of the features that drew me to the Camp Chef was it’s claimed ability to control temperature. Unlike a normal Low/Medium/High dial configuration, the Smoke Pro has exact temperature settings from 160-450. The output is an easy to read blue LCD display. As an added bonus, the Smoke Pro also comes with built-in meat thermometers. These dual probes feed in through the side of the grill and offer real-time food internal temperature at the press of a button. In keeping with the recommendation in the directions, I ran the grill for a half hour at 350 to burn off any residual packing oils. The temperature spiked to 170 about ten minutes in, and then leveled off at an 345-351 for the rest of the cycle. I put an oven thermometer in the grill to double check the calibration and was pleased to find the grill held true. The pellet burn rate was great, I would give this a rating of high efficiency. After an hour of run time, the movement out of the pellet hopper was almost nothing.
All in all, I am very happy with my purchase. The bronze color looks great, and I do recommend the two-tone. The build quality is top notch, which I would expect at this price point. The usable grilling surface is enough to feed an army, and the features are rife. Just the patented ash dump from the bottom is worth a look. No more taking the grill apart every other month to shop vac the ignitor cup, like you do with competitors. If you are looking for a new grill this summer, Camp Chef should be on your radar.
Visit Camp Chef by clicking HERE.