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In today’s market, the pellet grill debate is well oiled. The Pit Boss Pellet Grill and the Camp Chef smokers are among the most popular. To compare these grills is not something that is easily accomplished by looking at the statistics on the boxes or websites. While there are other options out there like Traeger, Green Mountain, and Weber, I would like to offer my first hand experience with the Pitboss and the Camp Chef.
In recent years, I have personally purchased both. The first was the Pit Boss Austin XL. The second was the Camp Chef Woodwind 24. The comparison may be of different sizes. But, the entry level status of the 2 are similar. At the time, the price point was within $100 of each other.
Reviewing These To Determine The Superior Product
Based on my personal experience, I am providing my feedback regarding the quality, features, ease of use, and overall performance.
Features – What to expect at this specific price point. WiFi capability, maximum heat output, hopper size, meat probes, direct flame use for alternate cooking methods, etc. Both provide the same type of cooking methods, fan forced convection and direct flame.
Ease of Use – Pellet grills should in no way be complicated to use. We spend enough time honing our skills in the kitchen to make the meat we’re cooking mouthwatering. In addition, they should be easy to assemble. We’re looking for intuitive controls, maneuverability, ease of assembly, etc.
Quality – When it comes to quality, it can be felt in multiple ways. From the tight seals, operation of any moving parts including the levers that move interior parts, warranties, heat retention, and many more.
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- Durable and lighter
- Stainless steel lid
- Digital controller with Wifi and Bluetooth
- 797 sq inch of cooking surface
- 22 pound pellet hopper
- Current price w/out add on accessories = $899 ($599 when I originally purchased mine)
Pit Boss Austin XL Pellet Grill
I originally purchased this Pit Boss Pellet Grill as my entry level smoker from Walmart. It had the features I believed to be required at the time. To start, I believe this particular smoker does include all the basic features one needs when starting out.
On day one, I recognized that size isn’t everything then it comes to a smoker. This was a true unit for sure. Luckily I own a truck and was able to haul it home. It took the majority of the afternoon to assemble it. To be clear, it wasn’t due to the difficulty. When I say that it’s a unit, it comes in at 178 pound dry weight.
The size and weight of this pellet grill makes it awkward to handle and very difficult to assemble. I had to enlist the help of my wife and both kids. Once in place, it wasn’t too much of a hassle.
I got what I asked for when I bought “the big one”. The shear weight of this smoker coupled with a topped off hopper pushes it over 200 pounds. Luckily it comes equipped with (4) casters to help move it around. Your smoker will rarely stay in the same spot.
As noted above, the Austin XL comes with decent features for what I would consider an entry level grill and provides those that are a good value for the price point. Start-up and shut down are a breeze due to the automatic functions.
The 2 level cooking area, moveable flame shield, and single meat probe offer flexibility for what it can be used for. It’s not just a smoker. It can be used as a direct flame grill when the slide plate is moved over. This must be done manually. The removable side tray is a great feature as well. It can be washed in the dishwasher after use.
The 31 pound hopper provides a large enough tank for fuel allowing you to cook a brisket for 15 hours if needed. Not unique to this smoker, the hopper does include a purge system for changing out pellet types. If you absolutely need the cooking surface for parties, this is the ticket. It would easily fit (2) full sized briskets if needed.
Ease of Use
Once in place, and the hopper is full, the smoker doesn’t get much easier to use. The LED controller read out is simple to read and the temperature knob is straight forward. Setting the smoke can be a little confusing to learn but is intuitive. The smoke and temperature are able to be adjusted throughout the cook.
There is only 1 meat probe. While this is easy to use, a grill of this size needs more. For someone looking for this much cooking surface, this is certainly a drawback. I would recommend buying wireless meat probes for this one.
When it comes to heat retention, this did very well. It would hold a 350 degree cook throughout the day once the temperature and smoke were set correctly. The seals on the exterior members were very good. We didn’t lose much smoke or heat through the lid or screws. Pit Boss provides a 5 year limited warranty for their products to keep them in working order.
After roughly 5 cooks, I realized that the auger was having difficulty operating throughout a day long cook. I wasn’t able to “set it and forget it”. The auger wouldn’t feed and I had to prime the grill to get it started again. Without Wifi/Bluetooth, I wasn’t able to monitor the heat throughout the day without being on top of the smoker.
Upon further examination, the controller was starting to go bad. This was less than 3 months after my purchase. One afternoon I plugged it in to start it up, and the controller wouldn’t turn on. I was dead in the water. I didn’t bother with the warranty department as I wasn’t overly impressed with the pellet grill overall. I was looking for another option.
Ultimately, I sold it on Facebook marketplace at a relatively significant loss as it wouldn’t operate properly and my patience was worn thin with it.
Camp Chef Woodwind 24 Pellet Grill
I ordered my Camp Chef Pellet Grill from the Camp Chef website after reviewing the comparable size and price units. This particular pellet grill is definitely a rival to the Traeger in the same size class. Based on the reviews, I chose this one. Although I wouldn’t consider it an apples-to-apples comparison to the Pit Boss, due to the size and price, at the time I purchased them, they weren’t too far apart.
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At a size smaller than the Austin XL, this smoker offers 797 sq inches of cooking space with a dual level cooking grates. This has served to be plenty of real estate for all of my cooks for a family of 4 and more.
The 22 pound hopper gives this unit plenty of capacity for an all day cook. I’ve cooked multiple briskets on this smoker for 13-14 hours and the fuel efficiency is on point.
This smoker, without the additional accessories available, weighs in at 150 pounds. It is an awkward piece to build. Again, this is not a complicated smoker to assemble, just awkward and slightly heavy. That’s not all a bad thing.
This pellet grill offers a few more bells and whistles. While it offers a movable flame cover, this can be operated on the outside with a lever so you don’t need to touch it. The flame cup can also be emptied from the outside by a lever on the side away from the flame cover lever to avoid confusion.
The controller is digital and provides 4 separate stainless steel meat probes for monitoring internal temperatures. The PID controller allows you to modify heat and smoke settings during the cook. All temperatures and smoke can be monitored and adjusted via the app that connects through Wifi and bluetooth to your cell phone.
Like the Pit Boss, the hopper also provides a purge system to allow for quick pellet type change outs. And it has a bottle opener mounted on the front…. That’s a bonus for sure.
The Camp Chef offers add-on capabilities to make this an even more versatile smoker. Camp Chef offers Sidekick Flat Top and Sidekick Sear accessories allowing for additional cooking methods via propane.
Ease of Use
As noted in the features, all interior moveable accessories can be operated from the outside using the levers provided. This means you only have to access the interior to clean for general maintenance. You will have to do this to maintain proper and safe use of any smoker.
The controller is very intuitive and offers start-up and shut-down modes for safe use. With a full hopper, set the initial smoke and heat setting, hit start up, and you’re ready to cook once the start-up cycle is finished. Similar for shutting down. Once your food is removed, shut the lid and start the shut down cycle. Once it runs through this cycle, it will shut off automatically.
The Camp Chef warranty is simple. They offer a (3) year warranty for all material and workmanship defects from the date of the original purchase. This excludes paint of course.
My personal smoker has been working flawlessly for over 2 and a half years now. I couldn’t be more pleased with this one and I’ve since purchased additional Camp Chef outdoor cooking products.
As long as it’s kept clean and maintained properly, you shouldn’t have any issues. If you don’t maintain your smoker, regardless of the brand, you will have trouble. Take care of your stuff.
As you can probably tell by now, I certainly recommend spending a little more and getting a higher quality product in the Camp Chef. There are advantages through the add-ons and reliability. At the same time, I also understand that not every machine is made equally and my specific experience with the Pit Boss may not be the same as others.
A couple of other clarifications, when it comes to heat retention, those who live in the northern climates will definitely want to purchase a blanket. This is true for all brands of pellet smokers in this similar type. This helps mitigate heat loss on freezing days. Also, try different types of pellets. Not all flavors and brands work with what you might be cooking.
Pit Boss products can be purchased through big box stores such as Walmart, Amazon, Ace and a few others. These can be purchased using Affirm through multiple outlets.
I would recommend purchasing the Camp Chef products directly through Camp Chef.com. They offer a variety of ways to pay for your purchase including Affirm, where you can purchase the smoker above starting at $75/month.
If you’re starting your shopping, feel free to leave a comment below and I will answer any questions you have to guide you in the right direction. The point is to be able to provide the best guidance to allow you to purchase your smoker on the first try. If you’re in search of reviews or comparisons of other grill products, visit the folks at Better Grills.
If you’re interested in additional great products that every Dad should own, visit my article the 5 Most Useful Things Every Dad Should Own.