There is something deeply ingrained in the human spirit, especially in most men, that calls us to cook red meat on an outdoor grill. In a time when men are supposed to be softer, more in touch with our feelings and eating more salads many of us have gone the other way and found new and better ways to cook meat. There is nothing like the taste of a slice of smoked brisket, tri-tip or a perfectly seasoned and cooked rib-eye fresh off the grill. We are living in the heyday of grills and smokers so if you don’t have a good one yet, you need to get on the train ASAP!
When I was a kid, we always cooked meat outside, whether it was in a pit BBQ, on my dad’s custom built block fire pit or over an open fire at deer camp. As soon as I moved out on my own at 18, one of my first purchases was a small gas grill. It wasn’t much and it was all I could afford but it let me cook meat outside. Since then it seems I have been replacing and upgrading my grill every 5 years or so. A couple of years back my good friend gave me an electric smoker for a gift and I was hooked on smoking my own meat. I was looking into replacing it with a pellet smoker but didn’t know much about them. As fate would have it, I was attending an event at SHOT Show this year where Camp Chef was one of the sponsors. They were cooking wild game on their grills on an outdoor patio at the Palazzo hotel in Las Vegas. Over drinks and deer sausage, Camp Chef’s Travis Simon educated me on wood pellet grills and why Camp Chef is leading the industry with their new models. After a few minutes and a few bites I was convinced and couldn’t wait to get smoking.
Camp Chef Wood pellet grills are easy to set up and use. Essentially, the grill has a pellet hopper on one side which holds the wood pellets. These are the fuel source for the fire. An electronic ignition starts the pellets burning, then an automatic auger feeds pellets to the burner as needed. You may ask, “How does it know when it needs more pellets?” This is where the quality and features of Camp Chef grills really stand out. An electronic control box runs the whole operation. Simply turn the dial to your desired temperature and the control box keeps the grill at that setting for hours on end. The only thing you need to do is make sure the hopper stays full of pellets. This is easy to do since a full hopper will typically run for 12-20 hours depending on your temperature setting.
I obtained a Camp Chef SmokePro SG Pellet Grill along with the Sear Box add on. The SG is one of Camp Chef’s newest models with some of their latest features. One of the most unique of these features is the ability to switch from smoker to grill. It has a sliding plate above the heat source allowing you to switch from direct to indirect heat. So you can smoke meat all day, then slide the grill knob out and grill burgers or steaks. To start the unit, you simply press a button and the electronic auto start ignition does all the work. The SG has two built-in meat probes so you can check the internal temperature of your meats without needing to open the lid. The digital display will give you dual LED temperature readouts of both the internal temperature of the smoker as well as the probe readings.
One thing I had heard from my buddies who have owned pellet smokers was that they wished theirs had more room inside. Camp Chef heard these concerns and built the SG with a taller cooking chamber containing two levels of racks to give you twice the cooking space. It actually has a total rack surface area of 811 square inches and a total volume of 4850 cubic inches. If this still isn’t big enough, the SmokePro SGX model is even larger! Another complaint I heard from guys who owned other pellet smokers was that the ash clean out on their models was tedious. Camp Chef solved this by inventing a new (and patented) ash cleanout system. After you are done cooking and the unit has cooled down, you simply pull a lever and the ash drops into a cup located underneath the unit. I was amazed at how efficient the SmokePro SG was at burning pellets. I had about a half a cup of ash after 16 hours of cooking!
When cooking with wood pellets, there is a multitude of pellet flavors to choose from to best go with whatever meat you are cooking. The pellet hopper on the SG holds 22 pounds of pellets. This is usually plenty for several sessions of smoking. Where you run into a problem is if you want to change the flavor of your pellets. You then have to scoop out all of the pellets from your hopper. At least this was a problem in the past. Camp Chef solved this issue by building their new SG with a pellet hopper cleanout. This allows you to easily switch out pellets so you get just the right flavor for whatever you are smoking.
The sear box is a great accessory and well worth the price. I have had sear grills before on other BBQ units but the Camp Chef model takes it to a whole new level. It starts out with a high heat 16,000 BTU stainless steel burner that gets the infrared heat diffuser plates up to 900 degrees. Typical sear burners may hit 500 degrees if you’re lucky. This makes a big difference when trying to get a good but quick sear on the meat. The built in ignition makes lighting easy and the cast iron grill grates are enamel coated so they get super hot but can still be cleaned. The instructions said to heat up the grill then put the meat on for 30-45 seconds, turn 90 degrees and heat another 30-45 seconds then flip and repeat. I thought this sounded a little quick until I tried it but it actually works perfectly. I used the sear burner to sear steaks before cooking and meat after smoking and it really gets a nice char on the outside while helping to seal in the juices.
Smoking meat is an art form and I am by no means an expert. There are thousands of people who have been doing it for decades and are still trying to perfect their recipes. Camp Chef has created smokers that are so easy to use us rookies can be turning out amazing pieces of meat with very little effort. I have done steaks, brisket, tri-tip and ribs and it has all tasted great. That’s the beauty of low and slow, even if it doesn’t come out perfectly, it still comes out great.