If you love barbecue and smoking meat, you can appreciate the appeal of wood-fired pellet grills. They create the deliciously smoky flavor barbecue fans crave, yet require much less babysitting than traditional charcoal grills. Among them, the $1,200 Weber SmokeFire EX6 is particularly compelling because it doesn't just cook low and slow: This grill can belt out serious heat too, enough to sear your food hot and fast on command. Not all pellet grills can say the same.
The SmokeFire EX6 also offers lots of cooking space, so it won't disappoint if you often prepare meals in large batches. Additionally, you can connect the SmokeFire to your home's Wi-Fi or your phone via Bluetooth. Doing so lets you monitor and control the grill remotely. Weber includes two temperature probes with the SmokeFire EX6, and it supports up to four.
- Large cooking area
- Convenient app control
- Can sear at high heat levels
- Supports up to four meat probes
- Pellet hopper opening is relatively narrow
- Pellet flow can sometimes fail unexpectedly
All that, along with its relatively competitive price, helps the SmokeFire EX6 stack up well against other high-end pellet smokers. For example, it costs hundreds less than the $1,800 Traeger Timberline 850, which offers less cooking area and includes just one meat probe. The Timberline can't sear as hot as the SmokeFire, either.
The SmokeFire EX6 isn't perfect. Its pellet hopper has a long, narrow mouth that makes adding fuel harder than it should be. And like other pellet grills, the Weber's mechanical fuel system can run into problems from time to time. As of right now, Weber's number of online recipes is limited, especially compared with the vast library you get with Traeger. Even so, the SmokeFire EX6's strengths outweigh its shortcomings -- enough to make it a must for anyone shopping for a capable yet affordable pellet-powered cooker.
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Weber's take on a pellet grill
Barrel shaped and clad in shiny black steel, the Weber SmokeFire EX6 definitely has a fancy exterior. Adding to its premium looks are stainless steel accents on the grill's lid along with stainless steel handles. A steel shelf sits on the grill's right-hand side.
As the longest of Weber's two current pellet grill models, the SmokeFire EX6 offers lots of room for your food. The inside of the grill is 1,008 square inches of cooking area spread out across two grates. By comparison, the Traeger Timberline 850 provides a little less elbow room (850 square inches).
If you've used other Weber grills, the inside of the SmokeFire may look familiar. Six "flavorizer bars" -- long, metal heat deflectors -- run front to back under the grill grates, similar to the deflectors inside Weber gas grills. In those products, they're mainly designed to keep grease drippings from falling onto their propane burners.
The bars have the added benefit of vaporizing grease falling from the grates above. Weber says this process adds extra flavor to the food cooking overhead. Since the SmokeFire lacks gas burners, enhancing taste and reducing grease buildup are the bars' primary function. An ash and disposable grease pan sit on a pullout tray below the grill's fire box.
You'll find the SmokeFire's pellet hopper on its back edge. Unlike the square box hoppers Traeger grills have, the SmokeFire's hopper is long and rectangular. Flipping open its lid reveals a comparably narrow opening, too.
I found it tricky to pour pellets into the hopper directly from a bag without spilling. I don't have the same problems on the Traeger grill. I ended up transferring pellets to another container (box, bucket etc.) and using a scoop to fill the hopper.
The Weber's controls are on its right-hand side. They consist of a dial that also functions as a select button, plus an LCD screen. Below the controls are four ports for meat probes; Weber provides two in the box. It's a similar setup to what the Traeger Timberline 850 has, though that grill comes with only one probe.
App and smart controls
These days, many high-end grills come with smarts as well as app controls. The Weber SmokeFire EX6 is no different. The grill has both Bluetooth and Wi-Fi radio, so the grill can link to your phone directly via Bluetooth or to your home's wireless network. I found the setup process quick and painless on my Pixel 3XL Android handset.
Either way, you'll be able to use the Weber Connect app to monitor and adjust the grill's internal temperature. The app also allows you to set target temperatures for your probes and browse recipes. Additionally, you can instruct the grill to run cook programs for various proteins. They guide you through the cooking process and estimate total cook time.
Right now each of the five categories (red meat, pork, poultry, lamb and fish) have about five to seven programs. The exception is red meat, which boasts 17 program selections. It's a good start, but nowhere near the depth of Traeger's app library, which boasts thousands of recipes and programs.
Cooking and performance
Firing up the SmokeFire is a simple operation. With the pellet hopper full, and the grill plugged in and switched on, just spin the dial to your desired temperature. Once you push the dial in to confirm your selection, the grill begins a steady flow of pellets into its fire box. During my tests, the SmokeFire's heat levels rose quickly, fully preheating in about 20 minutes. That was the case no matter if I selected a low and slow 225 degrees Fahrenheit, 400 F or 600 F.
I'll admit I had doubts about the SmokeFire's temperature control since the Weber has less insulation than the Timberline 850. Even so, once the grill got going, temperatures generally stayed within 5 to 10 F of their target throughout cooking. There were a few exceptions, though.
When I cranked the SmokeFire up to its maximum temperature of 600 F, things got really hot. Thermocouple readings inside the cooking chamber confirmed sustained temperatures of 643 F. That's well beyond the SmokeFire's rated performance -- and it's hotter than the Timberline 850's maximum temperature setting (500 F).
On one occasion cooking chicken at 350 F, the pellet flow into the fire box was interrupted; the app pushed out a low-temperature warning midcook. I investigated and found that pellets were stuck on either side of the hopper. However, the area directly above the auger intake was empty. Pushing pellets from the sides of the hopper to its center fixed the problem.
Everything I cooked on the SmokeFire was excellent. For example, I used the app recipe for New York strip steak and was treated to a nicely seared exterior. Inside, the meat was a juicy medium/medium rare.
The same was true of whole butterflied chicken. At the app's recommended 400 F, an hour and 13 minutes later I had one scrumptious chicken: Its skin was crispy, and both the white and dark meat inside was succulent. Large cuts of meat I smoked yielded similar results. Both pork butt and a rack of baby back ribs came out moist, tender, smoky and delicious.
All in all, my experience with the $1,200 Weber SmokeFire EX6 was a positive one. It offers the low-and-slow temperature control you need for proper barbecue. It also generates the wood-fired smoke required for that genuine barbecue flavor. The grill can sear at temperatures higher than other pellet grills, too. And when you factor in its large cooking area and lower price compared with Traeger's flagship grill, the $1,800 Timberline 850, it's plain to see why the SmokeFire is a solid choice.
My main concerns are that the pellet hopper is harder to fill than it should be -- and that one instance when the flow of pellets to the fire box failed. A failure like that wouldn't be much of an issue during a short cook, but it could potentially ruin a long smoking session if you're not around (or awake) to correct the problem. If you're willing to roll those dice and save some money, then the SmokeFire is for you. If not, I suggest splurging on a Traeger.
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Weber’s SmokeFire Is a Do-Everything Grill and Smoker—With Some Risks
You’ve probably already perused other reviews of Weber’s SmokeFire pellet grill, which hit stores early this year. And you probably left those reviews thinking the SmokeFire sorta sucks. Fair enough. It’s got a temperature range that no other fancy pellet grill and smoker on the market possesses, but a variety of problems with the SmokeFire’s components and companion app at launch made it hard to justify dropping $1,000 or more on what was starting to look like a flop. But after a flurry of customer complaints and expert warnings, Weber got its flaming shit together and rolled out a series of fixes. With those fixes in place, is the SmokeFire now worthy of its Weber pedigree?
It’s a gamble—an expensive gamble. While my time with the SmokeFire EX4 (the smaller of the two SmokeFire models) has been excellent, there are too many tales of hardware and software problems still popping up on forums and product review sections for me to recommend the SmokeFire based on my experience alone. But if you’re willing to risk potential headaches—including the migraine of sending your grill back to Weber for a full refund, if you happen to get a lemon—the smoky, meaty goodness you get out of it may make it a solid bet.
Weber SmokeFire EX4
What is it?
Weber's first-ever pellet grill, and first wifi-connected grill.
$999 for the smaller EX4, or $1,199 for the larger EX6
Does it all, from low-and-slow smoking to hot-and-fast grilling. Produces excellent, smokey meats. Ability to control from anywhere through Weber Connect app.
Too many units on the market still have serious hardware problems that require customers to install replacement parts themselves. Harder to clean than some pellet grills. Not enough prep space.
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Part of the reason I wanted to review the SmokeFire specifically—as opposed to a Traeger, Memphis Grills, or one of the other wifi-connected pellet grills now on the market—is because I have years of positive experience using Weber grills, and I wanted to see whether the SmokeFire is what Weber positions it to be: a do-everything machine. You can smoke a brisket low and slow for 15 hours, or you can crank the heat up to a scorching 600 degrees Fahrenheit—at least 100 degrees hotter than many other competing pellet grills—to give that ribeye the crust it deserves. If true, this would basically make the SmokeFire my dream grill.
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While I still have the traditional Weber kettle grill and love it, my everyday grill for the past couple of years has been the four-burner Weber Spirit II, which won our Battlemodo challenge for the best gas grill under $500 back in 2018. Gas grills are particularly great if you’re busy and don’t want to heat up your kitchen during the summer, but they’re more akin to an outside oven with a grill-mark feature than a charcoal grill, which takes more patience but cooks objectively better for most standard grilling fare. The SmokeFire is, at least in some ways, the best of both worlds—and then some. It heats up fast enough for a quick dinner—about 10 minutes, give or take, depending on your desired temperature—but is a far superior way to cook a good steak than its propane-burning brethren. Most important, however, is its ability to smoke meat with the tap of a button.
Yes, you can smoke just fine on a kettle grill (and poorly on a gas grill, in my experience), but a pellet grill like the SmokeFire makes it truly easy. And the results are just… damn. I just drooled on my keyboard even thinking about it. If it weren’t wildly unhealthy to eat smoked meat for every meal, I would. In fact, I might anyway. That’s how much I like the food the SmokeFire produces. It’s really, really damn good.
Part of what makes the SmokeFire (and other pellet grills like it) so user-friendly is that it’s connected to wifi and can be controlled by an app, Weber Connect. When it first launched, Weber Connect lacked a number of key features that have since been added, including the ability to remotely change the SmokeFire’s temperature or shut down the grill entirely. Those features are now standard. Weber Connect also taps into the SmokeFire’s four temperature probe connections, allowing you to monitor the progress of your food while, say, sipping a glass of whiskey in a hammock. If you take advantage of the app’s preset “cook programs,” which cover a dizzying array of different meats and cuts (but not everything), you’ll get an estimated time until whatever you’re smoking or grilling is done. (You can also just set a probe to whatever temperature you like and skip the presets.) The app also lets you activate Smoke Boost mode, which pumps more smoke out at low temperatures, in case you really want to max-out the smoke flavor. All of this is extremely handy and takes a lot of the guesswork out of low-and-slow smoking, which takes a good deal of skill and can otherwise leave you piddling around nearby for hours in case you need to tend to the fire.
Weber Connect links up with the SmokeFire via Bluetooth and/or wifi, and you’ll want to get this set up as soon as your SmokeFire is built. (It’s big and heavy, so make sure to have a friend around to help you build it if it’s not pre-assembled.) That’s because your grill will likely need a firmware update, which can take about 10 to 20 minutes. Once that’s done, load up some pellets—Weber recommends using its own brand, which is available in a number of different woods, but there are other brands out there that work just as well. Next, plug in your grill and crank up the temp to 600 degrees using the SmokeFire’s control panel on the unit itself. (You can’t start the grill from an app because nobody wants to butt-burn-down-their-house.) Let it blaze for a good 30 minutes to cook off any residue left from the manufacturing process—this is called the burn in and is important to do with any new pellet grill. Once your burn in is done, you can start smoking.
Overall, the Weber Connect app is basic but fine. I’m sure I’d have stronger feelings about it if I were writing this review in February when it still lacked key features like temperature control and had connectivity issues, but as it is now, it works. The app never crashed on me, never disconnected during a cook, and reliably alerted me when the SmokeFire hit its target temperature or when something I was smoking was ready to come off the grill. The main thing it’s really missing is a time estimate when you set a target temperature for a probe without using one of the in-app presets, and I hope to see this in future updates. Of course, you can also control the SmokeFire using its on-board control panel, but aside from changing the temperature or firing up the grill, I found it less intuitive than the app.
So, the pressing issues with Weber Connect have been more or less addressed. What about the grill itself? The main problems people encountered with the first SmokeFires off the assembly line involved the auger (the thing that moves the pellets to the heating unit, called a Glow Plug) and the pellet hopper. There were also some dangerous grease fire issues.
The SmokeFire’s first auger, which was so busted that Weber sent early customers replacements that they had to install themselves, was found to cause pellet jams and spray ash over the bottom, trapping in grease that could cause flare-ups. Overall, it sucked. The new auger, which is now included out of the box, appears to solve these problems, at least from my tests. You still need to clean the SmokeFire more than you would a gas grill (which you’re probably not cleaning frequently enough) due to the ash pellet grills create and the amount of drippings produced during a slow cook. And cleaning is a bit of a chore, since you have to remove the grates and the “Flavor Bars.” But for me at least, this isn’t a huge deal. Other SmokeFire owners are more annoyed by it, based on the forum comments I’ve read, and other pellet grills are supposedly less complicated to clean.
The second major complaint is caused by the pellet hopper, the slope of which can result in so-called pellet hollowing—basically, the pellets can fail to slide into the auger, which can, in turn, cause temperature fluctuations and even cause the flame to go out entirely. Weber addressed this by offering customers a free hopper insert that has a steeper slope, which helps with pellet flow. Mine came pre-installed, but other customers have had to request one from Weber and install it.
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Other problems include the Glow Plug burning out, flare-ups, and inconsistent heat across the grates, particularly at higher temperatures. So far, my Glow Plug is still glowing. Granted, I’ve only been using the SmokeFire for a little over a month, so we’ll have to wait and see there. And the flare-up problem seems, based on customer comments on various forums, to more severely affect the larger, $1,200 EX6 model. Plus, you can help mitigate this issue by regularly cleaning the grill and using drip pans on top of the Flavor Bars, especially during long, slow smokes. Also, I’ve basically been home the entire time I’ve been using the SmokeFire due to this little pandemic we’re having, so making sure the hopper is full of pellets and that the pellets are making their way into the auger hasn’t been a big issue. If you’re trying to run errands during a long cook, however, I can see how problems might pop up. They just haven’t happened to me.
The inconsistent heat across the grates is one annoyance I’ve experienced. There’s a clear hotspot in the middle of the grates, while the edges are a bit cooler. Most grills I’ve used or tested have this issue to one degree or another, and while it did cause me to burn some grilled vegetables the first couple of times, I was able to mentally map out the different heat spots easily enough to where I can use them to my advantage, placing more delicate foods in the cooler locations. As far as temperature fluctuations during low-and-slow cooks go, I experienced one drop from 225 degrees to around 180 degrees during a five-hour smoke of a whole chicken, but that appears to have been related to me activating Smoke Boost mode, which only works below 200 degrees.
During a 12-hour cook of a pork shoulder, the temperature briefly jumped to 285 degrees after I changed the temperature remotely from 200 to 225. Otherwise, it was steady, and I never experienced anything that messed up my meal. The onboard internal probe read exactly the same temperature as my Thermoworks Smoke probes. And while the Thermowork probes showed more detailed temperature fluctuations than the Weber, which only shows temps in five-degree increments, it was never more than a few degrees up or down.
As for build quality, it’s a heavy, solid-feeling grill. The lid, which closes tightly to keep the precious smoke inside, could be a bit heavier, and I’m curious to see how it holds up over time. The chrome handles and bands on the lid are a nice touch against the glossy black finish (it only comes in black). And the grates and Flavor Bars are good—what you would expect from a Weber product. While some users reported disliking the back-loading hopper, I didn’t find this problematic since I have enough room on my deck to reach it—but I could see how it could be annoying to load in a tighter space. My main complaint is the lack of shelf space, which doesn’t leave much room for all the food and tools you inevitably need to lug out from indoors. Weber offers an extra shelf that hooks to the front, but it’ll cost you an extra $70, and I really wish it came standard.
Faulty hardware, a crappy app, flameouts, and flare-ups —these are all problems Weber should have figured out before seemingly rushing the SmokeFire to market. Now, as we head into the end of prime grilling season for a lot of us, the company has largely fixed most of them—at least in the unit I received. There still may be some SmokeFires at stores around the U.S. that have the shitty auger and less-functional pellet hopper, which is a problem you can’t fix with a firmware update. So if you’re looking to buy a SmokeFire, ask your salesperson to confirm you have a model produced later in the year, and reach out to Weber to get that free hopper insert if yours doesn’t come with it pre-installed or at least included.
These problems ultimately detract from the main reason any of us care about any of this: the food. And on that front, the SmokeFire is excellent. I made many of my meals over the past month on the SmokeFire—steaks, burgers, whole chickens, salmon, bok choy, asparagus, potatoes, pork butt, tri-tip, bacon, and much more—and all of it came out way better than this amateur smoker deserves. I think I’ve used my gas grill just once since the SmokeFire arrived. Yet there’s something spiritually incongruous with relying on an app and a computer-controlled fire to smoke meat—an ancient practice—and I still haven’t shaken the weird feeling of plugging in my grill. But maybe that’s just me being old-fashioned.
There’s also the fact that you don’t need to drop $1,000-plus to smoke meat—a regular kettle grill or a less-high-tech smoker, something to catch on fire, and chunks of good wood to make smoke will do the trick. Throw in a good thermometer or two (I use the Thermoworks Smoke probes, as mentioned, and the Thermapen instant-read), and you can achieve the same results or better, at least with a bit of practice, for easily half the cost.
There’s no ignoring the fact, then, that the SmokeFire is a luxury tool for backyard cooks with money to burn. And while you can find other quality pellet grills for under $1,000, chances are those of you looking to drop a grand or more on a grill won’t mind spending a few hundred extra bucks to get a grill that’s tried and true from brands like Traeger, Green Mountain Grills, or Rec Tec. As far as I can tell, however, those options don’t offer the extra-high temperature range that the SmokeFire delivers while still allowing you to create superb low-and-slow meaty goodness. For someone who really wants one grill to do it all, that might make an otherwise risky decision downright simple.
- You’re really going to want to buy a cover for your SmokeFire. Mine withstood hurricane rains and a handful of other thunderstorms without busting, but leaving an electronic device out in the elements was stressful, to say the least. So add on that cost.
- You may need to get an extension cord as well, depending on where your outlets are.
- I find it annoying that Weber only includes one probe in the box when there are four probe slots available.
- Pellets for smoking meat aren’t as widely available as charcoal or full propane tanks, so you’ll need to plan ahead more than you would with other grills.
- Make homemade bacon however you can (even in your oven!). It will make you happy.
Clarification: The SmokeFire’s temperature range goes higher than other comparable pellet grills but not higher than standard gas or charcoal grills.
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The original SmokeFire was one of the most highly anticipated grills of all time.
While it did a lot of things right, it was plagued with serious issues including pellet bridging that would stop pellets from falling into the auger.
Plus there was the occasional grease fire to deal with.
I ordered a brand new SmokeFire Gen 2 to see if has managed to fix those issues.
After smoking and grilling on the larger EX6 for a few months I’ll be sharing what it’s like to own, what’s new and improved, and what still needs work.
Let’s get into the review.
- Fixes most of the issues with the 1st Gen
- Performs well at both grilling and smoking
- Handy features like pellet sensor and cleanout chute make life easier
- Grease drain system
- Limited prep areas without purchasing pricey accessories
SmokeFire EX6 overview & first impressions
At first glance, the 2nd Gen SmokeFire looks exactly the same as the original.
The design, footprint, and specifications are all exactly the same.
I went with the larger EX 6 model which was the same size that I tested out when reviewing the first-gen. You can also opt for the EX 4 which gives you a more compact 672 square inches of cooking area.
I’ll run through the basic specs and features, get into what I liked and what I didn’t like, and then go into detail on what it’s like to cook with 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, cook box, and heat distribution plate. Stainless steel cart frame, side table and flavorizer bars.|
|Price||Check latest price at 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 and not a Traeger rip-off like a lot of other pellet grills.
The basic grill has a serious lack of storage area or prep tables. I decided to remedy this by purchasing both the front and side shelves.
I consider the front shelf an almost essential add-on, while the extra side shelf is nice to have but not necessary. It definitely bumps up the price of the grill through.
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.
Searing Capability: Yes, it will sear! Rich grill marks on a pellet grill are a beautiful thing.
Technology: The Smokefire comes WIFI and Bluetooth capable and communicates with an app on your smartphone.
The Smokefire EX6 comes with four temp probe ports and one complimentary meat probe. When tested, the meat probe is actually quite accurate. The probe works with the 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.
What I like:
- Most original issues fixed – No more issues with pellets not feeding, unreliable temperatures or unability to hit those high searing temps.
- 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: Puts out a continuous amount of light smoke that gives food a beautiful taste
- Grill 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.
- 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 grill should have one.
- Pellet Drop Chute: It’s nice when a grill/smoker has a chute to make changing flavor pellets easier.
What I don’t like:
- Grease and dust trap system: It is disappointing (and dangerous) that this design doesn’t work as described. Luckily you can easily fix the issue by placing aluminum catch pans underneath the grates as now recommends.
- 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, 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: Unless you buy the pricey front shelf you’ll be limited for prep areas
The SmokeFire Gen 2 is not a major redesign. It’s the grill should have released to start with.
You get essentially the same grill but with most of the major issues fixed.
Packaging and assembly
The grill was packaged very well with lots of cardboard, foam, and clear plastic wrapping inside.
does a fantastic job protecting the grill components during shipping and transportation.
Putting this grill together was straightforward. I didn’t run into any surprises or difficulty with the assembly.
It took about 30 minutes to assemble the Smokefire by myself using basic hand tools and a cordless drill. I also found the instructions to be helpful and simple.
I didn’t find anything in the assembly or shipping to be any different from my 1st gen Smokefire.
I couldn’t pick up on any changes in the build quality with the Gen 2.
The grill has a high standard of quality. The fit and finish look well considered and the parts that need to be strong appear to be.
The paint finish is shiny, and unlike my Gen 1, scratch-free.
The castor wheels are heavy-duty and make it easy to move the grill around.
I really like the looks of the Smokefire. The main grill body and firebox 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.
Cooking on the SmokeFire
In this section, I’ll cover all of my experience cooking on the SmokeFire including what I liked and what I found annoying.
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.
On the Gen 1, I found that making small adjustments in temperature during a cook would result in large temperature swings.
Even bumping the temp up by 5° could actually change the temp by another 20-30°, and I don’t mean just temporarily.
I was pleased to see this wasn’t the case with the Gen 2.
There were very few temp swings or drops which is exactly what you need for great low and slow cooking.
Using the SmokeFire as a Grill
One of the big drawcard of the SmokeFire is its ability to grill. Something most pellet grills struggle with.
While companies like Camp Chef offer solutions like a Sear Box add-on or the “slide and sear” approach, designed the SmokeFire to be a capable grill out of the box.
The Gen 2 was easily able to hit 600°F in about 15-20 minutes. My original gen 1 SmokeFire struggled to ever reach 600°F, often maxing out around 560°F
I did eventually get this resolved after sent me a revised auger assembly and a firmware update, so I believe the Gen 2 comes standard with these fixes.
Actually using the grill is super easy.
Temperature control and accuracy:
One of the best things about cooking on a pellet grill is being able to set the exact temperature. There’s often a big difference between what the controller says, and what the actual temperature is across the grill.
I tested the grill internal temps using the highly reliable Thermoworks Signals with 3 ambient temp probes.
I’m pleased to report that the difference between the set temp and the temps I recorded were vastly improved from the gen 1.
When I set the grill at 225°F the average deviation was only 8 degrees.
The difference increased when I bumped the temperature up to 450°F, but was still reasonable.
Zone temperature variance test
The temperature from minute to minute on the grill is actually very good. There are very few 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 the left, middle, and right sides of the grill during testing.
As you can imagine, the zones recorded different temps with the left and right zones being 15-30° off the middle.
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 were very little to no temp differences.
The impact of these temperature issues will vary based on how you are using the grill:
Shelf/Prep area and storage features
The shelf area that comes with the Gen 2 is still small. It’s really only enough to hold a small plate and a beer, with two knobs for hanging tools.
finally released a range of accessories including a front shelf and additional side shelf.
I have tested both add ons. The front shelves are a huge plus and worth the money. The side shelf is still good if you want to go all out and get all the space that you can, but otherwise, I would get the front shelves over the side shelf.
As far as grill storage goes, the open car design means you don’t have anywhere to leave bags of pellets or your extension cord.
It’s also worth noting that the custom cover available for the Smokefire is well worth the money. I have had the cover on my 1st gen grill, and it has held up fantastic. seems to have done a good job picking out quality material for these covers.
Pellet loading and consumption
Due to the narrow profile of the grill hopper, pellets often fall in front of the hopper, when filling, and get trapped between the hopper and the grill in “no man’s land”.
This area can’t be reached with a brush or any normal tool to remove the fallen pellets. This issue revealed itself over time of using the grill. The only good way I have found so far to get the pellets removed is with compressed air.
The good news is: I have never had them catch on fire.
Even when I am careful, there are always a few pellets that fall into that area. This doesn’t really happen on other pellet grills due to most of them having hoppers on the end of the grill versus running along the back.
I have tested other pellet grills and not had the same hassles loading pellets and losing so many.
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)
With my original Gen 1 I experienced two common problems with pellet feeding: pellets not sliding down the ramp and pellet bridging.
- The ramp in the hopper was not steep enough; so pellets wouldn’t gravity feed into the auger system.
- 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.
While fixed this for free by sending out a ramp insert, I’m happy to say the 2nd gen comes standard with the steep ramp fix.
As I write this, I just finished up a 14 hour smoke on some Boston Butts, and the pellets fed with no issue for 9 straight hours. After that, I leveled them back out as a general practice.
It’s actually not too bad to clean up, but it’s not as easy as 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 paintbrush.
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.
Controling SmokeFire with the Connect App
At launch the app was extremely basic and lacked many of the promised features. While this doesn’t specifically apply to the 1st gen or 2nd gen, has continued to add features to the app including:
- More In-app recipes,
- SmokeBoost feature
- Additional phone alert capabilities while cooking
Many of these features were promised by , but not delivered at launch.
During a cook, the main screen shows your grill temperature, plus any alarms and timers you’ve set.
It will also send alerts if something occurs with the grill such as:
- Low pellets warning
- Cooking temp complete
- Grill reaches a set temperature.
The app is still missing some features I would like to see, such as temperature graphing and the ability to program temperature changes, or set SmokeBoost for a set number of hours.
You just download the Connect App for Apple or Android on your phone and follow the instructions.
Start up / shutdown mode
The start-up mode has been much improved. This time I have had no issues with the pellets not catching fire as I did with my Gen 1.
The grill not starting was a major issue for me originally until a new auger assembly and new firmware were installed. So this is a plus for the Gen 2.
However, there are two fundamental issues that still hasn’t addressed even on the Gen 2 Smokefire.
- There is STILL no “PRIME” button. It would be nice to be able to have a prime button on the grill so pellets can be primed through the auger system faster when changing pellets or just running low in the auger.
- There is STILL no way to BYPASS the shutdown mode. The shutdown mode will run for 15-20 minutes when turning off the grill no matter what.
It can’t be bypassed, even if you just unplug the grill, it will just give you an error when you plug it back in and make you run shutdown anyway.
This is especially frustrating if you happen to run out of pellets because there is ALSO no prime button to get pellets pushed through the auger.
So your fire will go out before you get more pellets feeding. THEN, you will have to spend 15-20 minutes shutting down the grill, just so you can restart the grill and get the fire started again.
Also, if the grill happens to get unplugged or your electricity goes off at your house, even for a few seconds, the grill will recognize the error and make you run shutdown mode.
This actually happened to me when smoking meats the other night. My power went off for about 5 seconds and then came back on.
The grill went into shutdown mode. And with no way to bypass it, I just had to wait for it to finish, turn it off, then restart the fire all over again.
It is claimed to be a safety feature, but I disagree. My Camp Chef Woodwind and grills have a bypass feature. To be fair to the Traeger Pro doesn’t have this feature either, but it’s something I see on most grills I test.
Did fix the grease drain?
One of the most dramatic issues with the original SmokeFire was its inclination to catch fire during a long cook.
This issue seemed to be caused by a design decision made.
Essentially, pellet dust blows into the barrel of the grill and settles right in front of the grease drain holes. The grease from cooking meats mix with the pellet dust and forms a paste.
Because of that, the grease never makes it into the grease drain and can build up over time until it eventually catches fire.
I was curious to see if had addressed this, as it is really part of the whole design approach they took.
I’m afraid not.
I think is still in denial about their grease drain system. From all of my testing I can say it doesn’t work.
I have just accepted this fact and put aluminum catch pans underneath the grates as now recommends.
I think even they know that it doesn’t work and don’t know what to do about it.
Alternative grills to consider
At this price point, you start to be spoiled for choice so there are a lot of different grills you could consider, depending on what is important to you.
For my money, I would seriously consider the Camp Chef Woodwind. It has better adjustability, is easier to clean up, offers more shelf space, more versatility and a better app
I love being able to add different accessories with the SideKick like the Sear Box. The does offer more consistent temperatures and better looks (in my opinion).
You’ve also got the Traeger Ironwood for a bit more, or the Pro for a bit less.
Who should buy this grill?
So, is the 2nd generation Smokefire better than the 1st generation?
Yes and no.
It IS better than the 1st gen, but only because many of the issues were worked out through the 1st gen and incorporated into the 2nd gen grills.
If you have a 1st gen already, it’s not worth your time to get a 2nd gen. You basically already have it if you have performed all the fixes that provides to you through customer service.
If you don’t have one but are buying one, make sure it is listed as a 2nd gen model.
All in all, I believe the SmokeFire is a great grill and smoker. It has the best and most consistent smoking ability of any grill/smoker I have used, producing a small amount of constant smoke throughout the cook.
It does have its compromises though, just like any grill this large. It consumes quite a bit more pellets than a small grill would.
It requires a great deal more pellets to sear than other models that use a direct flame mode tip searing method. The grease drain is a little frustrating. The “no bypass” shutdown mode is A LOT frustrating if you ever happen to run out of pellets, the fire goes out, or the electricity ever shuts off or you happen to pop a fuse.
But being brutally honest, I think there are better grills out there. While the grill performs well, it still has several quirks/issues that make it less than rock-solid dependable, especially for the price tag that comes with it.
That brings an end to our review of the Gen 2 SmokeFire. We’ve left some of the initial content we wrote about the launch in case you need to refer back to anything.
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 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 SmokeFire up, saying how amazing it was going to be.
It didn’t help that 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 ‘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 , 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 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
Rumors have been floating around about this new grill for a while now so we were excited to finally get some details from .
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
- 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 are looking to compete with Traeger who is currently dominating the pellet grill market.
The looks competitively priced, with the more expensive model offering more grilling space than the Traeger Ironwood 650.
- Traeger Ironwood 650 – $1,199.99
- SmokeFire EX6 1008 – $1,199
- Traeger Pro 780 – $999.00
- 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 , 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.
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, 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
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 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
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 Connect App.
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.
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.
has clearly played to their strengths here, and by partnering with a food technology company the 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.
I won't lie. The first time I turned it on, I almost shoved the Weber SmokeFire down the hill and into the woods behind my house. The assembly isn't too bad, but it does take a while. When I was done, I was ready to cook. I was ready to dive into elemental things like fire and fat, the building blocks of human life and the keys to a meaningful existence on earth. But the SmokeFire? It wanted to do a firmware update.
This is the world we have created, everyone—but never mind. The firmware update didn't take too long, and I was able to do the initial burn-off and start cooking within the hour. Even better, the first thing I cooked on this pellet "smoker" wasn't smoked, or even slow-cooked. I seared some steaks for the family and smoked them for just a minute, to give them a little extra mesquite flavor.
The Best of Both Worlds
One of the great things about wood or charcoal cookers is that they're versatile. It's easy to use the same cooker as a grill—that is, for searing and other high-heat cooking—and then turn around and set it up to cook over indirect heat, for smoking or other slow cooking.
It's much harder to do the same with a propane grill. Technically, you can smoke on a propane grill, and it's not too bad if you have a dual-burner grill. But in my experience, the results aren't that great. Likewise, most pellet cookers are good at smoking but not much good at searing.
That's what Weber was hoping to change when it launched the SmokeFire last year. Unfortunately, the initial release had some problems, which prompted Weber to push out an update this year. The result is a great smoker, not terribly different in that regard from the Traeger Ironwood 650 (8/10, WIRED Recommends). It's a pretty good searing grill as well.
The basic principle of a pellet grill is that a small heating element ignites compressed sawdust pellets and then blows on them with a fan. Picture yourself blowing on a small pile of twigs to get a campfire started, and you have the basic idea. A small auger feeds more pellets from the storage hopper as they burn. You regulate the temperature by controlling how fast the pellets feed in and how much the fan blows, all via a phone app. The result is precision-controlled cooking, with very little effort on your part.
Yesterday was a work day, and I made ribs. It took me less than 30 minutes to cook them. Most of that time was making the rub and getting them on the grill. After that, all I had to do was set up the temperature probes—one to monitor the ambient temp around the ribs, another in the rack to monitor the temp of the meat—and set the temperature of the grill. The rest of the day, I went about my work. Come 6 o'clock, the ribs were ready. I'd never attempt weeknight ribs over charcoal; at least not until my Dogecoin hits the moon and I retire. In the meantime, there's pellet smokers to simplify life.
But what about when you don't want to smoke ribs? Say you just want to grill some burgers. The SmokeFire does quite well there too. It shares much of its grilling internals with Weber’s gas grills. It uses the same inverted V-shaped flame spreaders, which Weber calls "flavorizer bars." These spread the flames and help get more direct flame across the cooking surface, providing a better sear. Where it gets really interesting is that you can sear your burgers, cook them about halfway, then dial back the temp, turn on the Smoke Boost feature, and get a bit of smoky flavor into your burgers—the best of both worlds.
That's not to say the SmokeFire is grilling perfection. I have two gripes. The first is that a lot of ash floated in the air whenever I used it at high temperatures. The fan seemed overly aggressive sometimes. It's not a deal breaker, but it's something to be aware of, and a good reason to keep the lid closed.
My other issue is that the temperature varied considerably across the cooking surface in my testing. Of course, this can be used to advantage. The center is the best place to get a good sear, and you can do that while putting other things off to the sides so they cook slower and don't dry out. For example, you can do a surf-and-turf by searing steaks in the center and keeping the shrimp on the side. But you are limited on the number of things you can sear at once.
Those are relatively minor gripes, though. My biggest problem with pellet smokers is the requirement to use the brand's pellets. In this regard, the SmokeFire is no different than any other pellet cooker. For best results, you'll need to stick with Weber pellets.
Problems Mostly Solved
If you read customer reviews of the Weber SmokeFire, you may run across some angry people who had bad experiences with the original model, including a significant number of grease fires. I have not used that model, but I was very careful to test this new model to see if the problems had been solved. In my experience, the answer is both yes and no.
One of the big complaints about the original SmokeFire was that Weber's app didn't allow for much control. The app got off to rough start, which I have covered elsewhere. The current version is still not quite as slick as Traeger's app, but it does now allow you to control every aspect of the SmokeFire. It also has some extra built-in recipe templates to make ribs, brisket, chicken, and more. I think Weber solved the software problems that plagued the original SmokeFire.
To address the hardware issues, Weber added a panel to the pellet hopper to make it steeper, so the pellets slide down the auger easier. There's also a new auger. I had no problem with either, which addresses all the issues except possibly one: grease build-up.
In my testing, I did not have an issue with grease build-up, nor did I experience any significant flaring or fires. But it's easy to see how you could have problems, especially if you're cooking a lot of brisket or other fatty cuts. The SmokeFire's design just makes it easier for grease and ash to clog up the drain holes, and more grease means more potential flare-ups. The updated version doesn't eliminate that.
For many people, this will be a deal breaker. However, I still think this is a great cooker. Just realize you're going to have to clean it more frequently than you would with others on the market, including the Traeger. If you get a pellet smoker, get a shop vac as well. Trust me.
Also, the SmokeFire EX6 is a massive grill. The 1,008 square inches of cooking space can hold six racks of ribs with no problem, more if you use the upper shelf too (an extra 360 square inches of indirect cooking space). For people who aren't regularly grilling for a crowd, the slightly smaller EX4, with 672 square inches of cooking space, might be better choice. The EX4 is also a bit cheaper at $1,000, versus the EX6's $1,200.
In the end, I really enjoyed the SmokeFire. The food that came off it was absolutely fantastic. Against the Traeger Ironwood, it's really hard to pick a winner. They both produce great results. The Traeger doesn't suffer from the potential grease clogging issue, but the Weber seems to go on sale more often. So long as you're willing to clean it, the SmokeFire makes a great all-in-one backyard cooker.
Weber SmokeFire review: An intriguing work-in-progress
It has potential to be a backyard powerhouse, but the smart features need work.
In this article: barbecue, bbq, barbeque, smokefire, grilling, weber grills, cooking, smart grills, grill, weber, wifi, weber connect, smart grill, culinary, review, gear
Update 6/25/20: Since our initial review in April, Weber has released numerous firmware updates and added new features to its Connect app. These changes directly addressed several of the key concerns we had with the SmokeFire grills. You can now adjust the temperature remotely as well as initiate the shutdown cycle or SmokeBoost mode. The company made push notifications actually informative, so you’re not left wondering what just happened when you see one. The grill also preheats faster and handles temperature fluctuations more efficiently. For those reasons, we’ve updated the original score of 71 to 80. See our revised list of pros and cons below.
Weber is admittedly late to the game. The company is years behind the likes of Traeger, Pit Boss and other companies when it comes not only to pellet grills but also smart grills in general. With the SmokeFire line, Weber offers its unique spin on both. The company says it took its time and put its decades of expertise to work on its connected-cooking products and addressing the “pain points” of pellet grills. While the SmokeFire grills create insane smoke flavor and some of the features are handy, there’s still work to be done.
- Creates incredible smoke flavor
- Guided cooking presets with Weber Connect
- Unique design features
- Supports up to four probes
- Cleanup isn’t as easy as advertised
- Pellet hopper cavitation is a nuisance
- Weber Connect’s estimated completion times are a work in progress
- Key cooking presets are still on the way
Gallery: Weber SmokeFire EX4 review | 34 Photos
The SmokeFire EX4 ($999) looks like what you’d expect from a Weber pellet grill. The exterior is a mix of black enamel paint and silver accents, like the company’s gas grills. SmokeFire models have an oval, barrel-shaped chamber, not unlike recent options from Traeger. One key difference is Weber opted to put the pellet hopper around back rather than on the side. Other companies, like Rec Tec, have also done this, and the location has its advantages. Primarily, the auger path -- or the channel that feeds pellets to the fire pot -- is much shorter. That means there’s less room for a jam to stall your cook. Weber made the auger path even shorter by opting for a slide that drops the pellets to their final spot rather than a moving part that carries them the entire way.
Inside, Weber chose its trademark Flavorizer bars instead of a solid stainless steel drip tray to direct grease to a small bucket. This is both a good and bad thing. First, not having a sheet of aluminum for the smoke to meander around means your food gets a lot more direct exposure. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never had an issue imparting flavor with other pellet grills, but what SmokeFire is capable of is a whole other level. The Flavorizer bars also heat up, since they’re metal, so when any grease hits this and smokes or sizzles, that too adds flavor to your food.
And now the bad news. Grills with those metal sheets catch all the grease from your food, directing it to a catch can that’s typically on the outside of the grill. It’s easily accessible and emptied. It’s also usually contained and insulated from the flame. The Flavorizer bars are triangular, so they direct any significant runoff to the bottom of the grill. On Weber’s SmokeFire, there’s a tray that slides out from the front with a catch pan for grease and an area for ash. The company says cleaning the grills is as easy as pushing ash through two small openings in the bottom of the cook chamber. Well, I can tell you it’s not that easy. In fact, it takes me much longer to clean the SmokeFire EX4 than it does any Traeger grill I’ve reviewed.
One reason is that there are several more pieces. The bottom grill grate is in two pieces, plus there’s the top/secondary grate. Then there are the four Flavorizer bars, the center fire-pot shield and the fire-pot cover. That’s five more parts to remove than with the Ironwood each time I vacuum it out.
I can deal with that though. The real headache is when the grease and ash mix in the bottom of the cook chamber. They combine to create a thick paste you have to scrape into the two exit holes and into the collection tray. If it were just ash, you could vacuum it out quickly and move on. This is much more time-consuming and much more frustrating.
Weber argues that gas grills require similar cleaning, and we probably don’t do it often enough. While that’s probably true, pellet grills objectively create a lot more debris than gas. The company recommends that if you want to keep the bottom of the SmokeFire from becoming a nasty grease trap, you put a disposable aluminum pan on top of the Flavorizer bars or on the bottom grate. Sure, it’s a workable solution, and I often do it on a Traeger to make cleaning up easier. However, those pans are an extra expense you’ll need to consider. I should be clear that I’ve never had an issue with a grease fire. My gripe is with the mess.
The main fire-pot shield is a metal pedestal that’s one of two guards keeping grease and other debris from going into the heat source. All pellet grills require you to “burn-in” at a high temperature for about an hour, and Weber’s SmokeFire is no different. A lot of the interior parts of these grills have oil from the factory. The first time I took apart the SmokeFire to clean it, I noticed that the pedestal was peeling on the inside directly over the fire pot and on the top. Weber said this was caused by the mix of oil, metal and high heat and that I should scrape off the chips and direct them to the cleanout bin. Still, it’s pretty alarming to see this the first time you clean a grill. If you choose to buy one of these, you should absolutely clean that pedestal thoroughly after the burn-in and before you put any food on the grill.
None of this has any impact on performance. The SmokeFire works well for both cooking pork shoulder or brisket low and slow and for searing steak hot and fast. The grill heats to 225 degrees (a common temperature for smoking) in just over nine minutes, which is on par with what I typically see on the Traeger Ironwood 650 (10-15 minutes is the norm). Impressively, the SmokeFire took less than seven minutes to go from 225 to 600 degrees for a high-temp sear. The only real issue I noticed was fluctuations in temperature at the bottom grill grate.
The main probe for monitoring ambient temperature is situated dead center above the bottom grate. It’s pointed upward, so it’s recording the temps between the lower and upper grate. To double-check the grill temperature, I used the ambient probe from Weber’s Smart Grilling Hub and plugged it into one of the four probe jacks on the SmokeFire (the built-in probe doesn’t take up one of the slots). I observed figures 10 degrees above and below the set grill temp during a 10-hour pork-shoulder-cooking session.
All grills fluctuate based on factors like weather and how many times you open the lid to peek, but a 20-degree swing is pretty big -- especially when I was careful only to lift the door when I had to. I’m used to seeing a five-degree variance in either direction, but 10 is the most I’ve seen. That being said, none of my cooks were extended, or shortened, by these fluctuations. Pretty much everything I prepared was finished in a timely fashion. In other words, the grill compensated for these swings, no matter how alarming they were for me as a spectator.
Weber has already addressed one issue with the SmokeFire since it went on sale: the pellet hopper. The company now offers grill owners a ramp that can be installed to reduce cavitation when the grill is in use. Basically, the pellets don’t slide toward the auger like they should. Unless you keep watch and push them toward that spot, they will eventually stop going into the feeder. The result is the grill will think it’s out of fuel when it’s really not. The add-on definitely helps with this, but it is a separate thing you have to request and install yourself. It’s free, quick and easy but still some added work on your part to coordinate it all.
The SmokeFire grills run on Weber Connect, which is built on JuneOS -- the same software that powers June’s smart ovens. It can monitor the grill and internal food temperatures to guide your cooks. Like the Smart Grilling Hub, Weber Connect will lead you through cooking a variety of meat and seafood, from prepping to final slicing, and every step in between. The app will tell you when to complete each step, estimate how long until the next one and offer video how-tos if you need a visual aid.
You can also run Weber Connect in a more manual mode, with the target-temperature option. Here, you’re overseeing the process on your own without the step-by-step instructions. As you might expect, you can control everything on the grill itself -- including setting and adjusting temperature, timers and more. However, if you want to employ the estimated-doneness times, you’ll need to select a meat or seafood preset and send it to the grill.
Even though Weber Connect gives you a specific cooking temperature, picking a preset doesn’t send that info to the grill for you. You have to manually set it yourself before beginning the ignition process. This sounds like an inconvenience, but it’s not. No WiFi pellet grill will allow you to start it remotely, for safety reasons. Some grills, like Traeger’s, will send temperature info, but you still have to physically push the ignite button, so it’s not exactly a huge time saver.
When I reviewed the Smart Grilling Hub, I didn’t have any issues with the estimated cooking times. Almost always, the time frame the device provided once the grill recovered from me putting the meat on was accurate. There were fluctuations when I’d lift the lid to check, or if there was some other environmental trigger, but both short and long cooks were finished pretty close to the initial estimate.
With the SmokeFire, that wasn’t always the case. Notifications to flip and remove quickly seared steaks were fine, but the time estimates on both of the smoking sessions that lasted eight hours or more were way off. Weber Connect said a brisket I was cooking still needed another two hours, even after it hit an internal temperature of 200 degrees. I had a similar outcome with a pork shoulder. The time estimate to wrap was also slightly off on the latter, showing an hour and a half about 20 minutes before pinging my phone that it was time to complete that step (of course I had left the house to run an errand). These time estimates can be handy for longer cooks, and they were a welcome feature on the Smart Grilling Hub. However, on the SmokeFire grill, there’s room for improvement.
Weber has pledged to do just that. The company committed to adding more cook profiles to the app on a quarterly basis. Like I mentioned in the Hub review, there are some limitations and omissions right now (specific steak cuts and pork ribs, for example). Weber Connect is also missing key SmokeFire tools like the ability to adjust the grill temperature from your phone. That’s a basic feature that nearly every other WiFi-enabled pellet grill has onboard. Weber has already pushed software updates to improve how SmokeFire runs, so I hope it can move quickly to add the temperature adjustment as well.
This all sounds like there’s a lot of bad with the SmokeFire. And it’s true there’s a lot of room for fixes, especially when it comes to the Weber Connect app. But even with the caveats, the SmokeFire EX4 helped me cook some insanely good meat. Everything I threw at it turned out great. From pork shoulders for pulled pork to brisket and beef ribs, the amount of smoke flavor in slow-cooked barbecue meats is simply incredible. I also reverse-seared tri-tip steaks multiple times by smoking them until they were close to the target doneness and then quickly searing the outside over high heat. The smoke ring on those steaks after just an hour is unlike anything I’ve seen on a grill like this. If getting as much smoke flavor into your food as possible is your primary goal, you won’t be disappointed here.
Despite all the good food, it’s hard to recommend the SmokeFire EX4 or the larger EX6 ($1,199) with the state of Weber Connect. I have no doubt the company will iron out the wrinkles over time, but until it does, SmokeFire isn’t quite as compelling as the Smart Grilling Hub. That’s especially true in terms of ease of use and offering aspiring pitmasters a full suite of tools. The alternatives from Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Rec Tec, Green Mountain Grills and others offer WiFi as a standard feature, and several of them will cost you less than $1,000.
Most of my pellet grill experience is with the Traeger Timberline and Ironwood series. Both of those have WiFi connectivity that allows you to monitor the grills from your living room or while you run to the store for supplies (with someone still at home in case there’s trouble, of course). The Traeger app also lets you adjust grill temperature, set timers (including a dedicated sauce timer), activate Super Smoke mode (under 250 degrees) and select a Keep Warm setting. The company also updated its app this week to include video guides and cooking tips on top of more than 1,000 recipes. Those recipes go well beyond a simple meat preset, and there are categories for sides, baked goods and even cocktails. The cheapest of these is more expensive than the priciest SmokeFire though, at $1,200. If you’re willing to give up some of the more advanced features, Traeger’s most affordable grill with WiFi is the Pro 575 at $800.
Of course, you don’t need any of these to make great food. You can set up a solid smoker with a kettle-style charcoal grill that will help you cook solid barbecue in addition to its regular high-temp function. You can easily add a remote-monitoring device like the Smart Grilling Hub or something like the ThermoWorks Smoke ($99) to give you the ability to keep tabs from a distance. A kettle grill and one of those devices will cost you around $200. WiFi pellet grills are the Bentleys of backyard barbecue. They’re nice, but most people are fine with a Ford Focus.
Weber doesn’t need to copy Traeger to make SmokeFire a complete smart grill. It already generates strong smoke flavor; it doesn’t need a Super Smoke setting. But it’s clear companies like Traeger have been at this a lot longer and have had time to iron out issues and build a versatile set of grilling tools for backyard cooks of all levels. Weber has made the first step, and SmokeFire shows a lot of promise. Now it’s time to keep tweaking and refining until it nails the basics and makes its Connect app a worthy grilling companion that works consistently with both the standalone Hub and the pellet grill. I’m looking forward to revisiting SmokeFire in the months to come, but right now it’s a machine with unrealized potential.
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Weber SmokeFire EX4 (2nd Gen) Wood Fired Pellet Grill Review
We purchased the Weber SmokeFire EX4 (2nd Gen) Wood Fired Pellet Grill so our reviewer could put it to the test in her backyard. Keep reading for our full product review.
Grills and smokers are great for cooking a variety of foods from burgers to chicken wings to pizza. Pellet grills combine the best of these two appliances and allow users to have a one-stop appliance for all their grilling, roasting, and smoking needs. I’ve smoked food using everything from an indoor smoker to a kamado grill to an electric smoker, so I looked forward to testing the Weber SmokeFire EX4 (2nd Gen) Wood Fired Pellet Grill. Steaks, burgers, and sides were planned, pellets were ready, and I found a perfect place to set up the grill. After thorough testing, I’ve got the details you need.
Setup Process: Assembly required
This grill came in a large, sturdy box with mostly recyclable packaging. It required assembly and suggested that it would require two people. Great suggestion, but I decided to attempt it solo. There were two times—when laying the grill on its end to attach the legs and when standing it up on its legs—when a second person would have been useful simply because of the weight. But with careful handling, it was possible to do it on my own. The total time for the assembly was two hours, working at a comfortable pace. None of it was difficult, and the only extra tool needed was a Phillips head screwdriver. When the assembly was done, I was left with an Allen wrench and two spare ignitors.
Once the grill was assembled, I downloaded the Weber app, connected the grill via Bluetooth, and then connected the grill to my home wireless network so it could be monitored from a greater distance. The last step was seasoning the grill. The app walked me through the steps and notified me when it was done and again when the grill had cooled enough to turn off. After the initial seasoning, there was just a little bit of ash in the drawer, so it’s obvious this can be used for long cooking sessions without worrying about how much ash is generated.
While it may be possible to purchase the grill assembled or pay extra to have it done, the upside to do-it-yourself assembly is that now I know exactly how easy it is to replace the igniter when it’s necessary, and I know which parts are removable.
The 9 Best Weber Grills in 2021
Grills aren’t built to be a fashion statement, but this grill looks attractive enough for anyone’s yard or deck. It’s mostly shiny black with a stainless steel side table and a digital control panel.
Inside, there’s a lower rack for higher-heat cooking and an upper rack for more gentle cooking or warming. While it’s not a huge grill overall, there’s plenty of cooking space to feed a crowd.
Below the grill, disguised by a panel that’s the same shiny black as the rest of the grill, is a tray that collects ash and a pan that collects grease and drippings. The grease pan is disposable, so there’s no need to actually clean it. Unfortunately, only one disposable pan is included, but they’re inexpensive.
The pellet hopper runs across the back of the grill and is easy to access from either side. Since pellets come in a variety of wood “flavors,” this has a pellet release door that allows the pellets to drain out of the bottom of the grill. The door is a bit stiff to operate, but that’s better than having it too loose and prone to accidental release.
Thanks to WiFi, it’s possible to monitor the grill temperature, recipe progress, and temperature probes from a distance, so there’s no need to hover over the grill to see what’s going on.
While the hopper holds 20 pounds of pellets, it’s wise to keep extra on hand. I had the hopper completely filled at the start of testing, and went through grill seasoning followed by cooking burgers, potatoes, and chicken before I decided to do a long and slow cook of baby back ribs. About an hour before cooking was done, I got a notice from the grill that it was low on fuel. I checked the hopper and pushed the remaining pellets down their ramp, but ran out of pellets before the cook was done. A small plastic spatula is included that can be used for moving pellets, but it’s not necessary.
The recipe continued, even though the grill had started cooling off, and when I opened the grill I got a temperature drop error that told me to close the lid and check the hopper. Shortly after, the grill shut itself off for safety. It’s good to know what will happen when the grill runs out of pellets, but it’s better to have a spare bag tucked away.
The grill was easy to move on flat surfaces thanks to the wheels, but it was a little less easy on bumpy ground. Still, there shouldn’t be much need to move the grill very far since it needs to be close to an electric outlet.
This grill doesn’t have a bottom shelf or any kind of enclosed storage, so the only place to hold food or condiments is on the side table. That was fine while grilling, but I would have loved a place to store the power cord and temperature probes when they weren’t in use.
There are four connections on the grill for temperature probes, but the grill only came with two probes. For many people, two will be enough, but it would have been nice to have extras, especially considering that temperature probes tend to fail.
Features: App control
Like so many new cooking products, this grill comes with an app. While it’s not as comprehensive as some I’ve used, there were enough selections to cook the basics. Thanks to WiFi, it’s possible to monitor the grill temperature, recipe progress, and temperature probes from a distance, so there’s no need to hover over the grill to see what’s going on.
The app reminded me when the grill was up to my preset cooking temperature, and when foods needed to be flipped over during cooking, it announced that as well. When the food reached the proper temperature, it gave me another nudge.
After cooking, the grill needs to cool down before it is turned off and unplugged, so that was yet another reminder, and possibly the one I found most useful because it was easy to forget that I needed to unplug the grill once dinner was over.
The cooking programs and recipes were nice, but I also liked that I could set my own cooking temperatures when I wanted to.
The app also can be used to set a timer or set a custom temperature for food. The SmokeBoost feature is used for low-and-slow cooks. It adjusts the temperature at the beginning of the cook to add extra smoke flavor.
The 8 Best Pellet Smokers in 2021
While the app allows some customization for the thickness and doneness of specific foods, I would have liked that option for more foods. Some food types were missing, too. For chicken programs, I could choose boneless or bone-in chicken breasts, ground chicken thighs, and whole chicken. I’m fond of chicken wings on the grill and can cook them without an app, but it would have been nice if wings, thighs, and legs were included.
While there are instructions for cooking red meat, pork, poultry, lamb, and fish, there are no cook programs or recipes for vegetables or sides. It’s easy enough to throw a potato on the grill to cook it along with the main dish, but it would have been nice to have some non-meat options in the app.
Performance: It practically operates itself
Overall, the grill was super easy to use, thanks to the easy lighting and the fact that it controlled the temperature on its own. The probes made it a breeze to watch the temperature of the food. The cooking programs and recipes were nice, but I also liked that I could set my own cooking temperatures when I wanted to.
When I cooked half of a chicken, I opted to use the bone-in chicken breast program since my chicken was very small. I put a probe in both the breast and thigh. One probe was assigned to the recipe while the other simply monitored the temperature. The result was a nice smoky chicken.
While the chicken was grilling, I cooked some cheesy potatoes in a small cast iron pan, first putting it on the upper rack to warm through and get smoky, and then finishing it on the grill next to the chicken to melt the cheese on top. It all worked well.
The burger program and the cheeseburger recipe both suggest well-done cooking with no option to change it. While I like my burgers less done, I used the cheeseburger program anyway. The burgers were indeed well done and the cheese melted nicely. Next time I’ll cook them my way, but for people who do like a well-done burger, the program worked.
This grill retails for around $999. There are plenty of pellet grills that come in at a lower price point, albeit with fewer features. While this might not be a beginner’s choice because of the price, it would be a great upgrade when it’s time for something better.
The 9 Best Inexpensive Pellet Grills in 2021
Weber SmokeFire EX4 (2nd Gen) Wood Fired Pellet Grill vs. Traeger Grills Pro 780 Pellet Grill
The Traeger Grills Pro 780 Pellet Grill is very similar to the Weber I tested and has nearly the same price point (it retails for $1,000). On the plus side for the Traeger, it has two larger wheels that would be better over rough ground, has a slightly larger cooking capacity, and can be controlled using Alexa. On the plus side for the Weber, it has a side table, the grease collection is internal and easy to clean, and it can heat to 600 degrees compared to 450 for the Traeger. While I love voice-controlled gadgets, I have to give a slight nod to the Weber for the higher heat for searing.
Smoke signals say yes.
Overall, I liked the Weber SmokeFire EX4 (2nd Gen) Wood Fired Pellet Grill but wished the app was more robust. Still, I’ve grilled for years without needing an app, so it’s a minor quibble, and the app may be updated in the future. For someone looking for solid performance, I’d recommend this, perhaps along with a cookbook for grilling and smoking.
The 7 Best Wood Pellet Grills of 2021
- Product Name Smokefire EX4 (2nd Gen) Wood Fired Pellet Grill
- Product Brand Weber
- MPN 22510201
- Price $999.00
- Product Dimensions 47 x 43 x 33 in.
- Dimensions (Lid Open) 62 x 43 x 33 in.
- Material porcelain enameled steel, stainless steel, and plated steel
- Warranty Electric components, cooking grates, pellet slide, burn pot, heat baffle, pellet grate, and controller bezel, 3 years; Cookbox and components not listed, 5 years
- What's Included 2 temperature probes, 2 spare ignitors, 1 plastic spatula
- Cooking Area 450 sq. in.
- Temperature Range 200-600°F
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Pellet grills have a particular appeal. These electric-powered grills are usually more expensive than gas or charcoal grills, but they’re efficient and easy to use. The wood pellets used for fuel offer the same flavor benefits of charcoal grills but without the fuss. Users can select the desired temperature from the control panel and walk away, making wood pellet grills accessible to grillers of all skill levels.
But until now, pellet grills have had one major disadvantage when compared to other types of grills. They’re perfect for low-and-slow smoking temperatures, but they’re not known for direct-heat grilling, like searing steaks or cooking flame-kissed burgers. Most models contain a heat deflector plate that keeps the food from being exposed to the flames. That creates an indirect heat environment inside the grill, while a fan inside the unit circulates hot air and smoke around the food as it cooks.
Weber’s SmokeFire pellet grill promises to resolve this issue with a unique design that allows it to smoke at low temperatures and sear at high temps. We tested the first-generation SmokeFire right after it was released. Since then, Weber discontinued that model and released a second generation of both the SmokeFire EX4 and EX6 with enhancements to the hardware, firmware, and software.
After spending a full week cooking on the second-generation SmokeFire, we can say with certainty that it’s capable of producing delicious food. We also love many of the bells and whistles on this Wi-Fi–capable grill, but we’re wary of a few quirks we encountered along the way.
What changed between the 1st-generation and 2nd-generation SmokeFire?
Improved control panel connectivity
We experienced some issues with the first-generation SmokeFire, and we weren’t the only ones. Weber confirmed that customers who were experiencing issues with the control panel or Weber Connect connection received firmware enhancements, and replacement parts were sent to several customers.
The feedback was so positive they decided to pull all first-generation SmokeFire units from retail stores and send them back with updates. The SmokeFire grills available today are the second generation version that reflect these enhancements and adjustments.
No more pellet chute issues
Other than connectivity, the biggest change we experienced was in the pellet chute. In the first generation, the pellets didn’t slide down the ramp towards the auger. After receiving a low-fuel alert halfway through smoking the brisket, we found the hopper half-full! We had to push the pellets down towards the chute with our hands, repeating the process every few hours. We were pleased to see the second generation didn’t experience this issue.
What is a wood pellet grill—and how is it different from other types of grills?
Wood pellet grills have been around since the mid-‘80s when a wood-pellet stove manufacturer thought to use the technology to fuel grills. The biggest name in pellet grills is Traeger, the original manufacturer, and they were the only game in town for decades. When Traeger’s patent expired in 2006, the competition emerged, but it took several more years for Weber to introduce a pellet grill to their line.
Pellet grills are distinctive because they’re fueled by wood pellets but powered by electricity. When used at low-and-slow cooking temperatures, the pellets smoke and smolder, creating flavors similar to grilling over wood or charcoal. They can also be used at higher temperatures, and most manufacturers cap out at maximum temperatures between 400°F and 500°F. That’s not far off from gas grills (which often cap at 550°F), but the use of heat deflector plates prevent direct searing and grill marks.
The real benefit of a wood pellet grill is its set-it-and-forget-it functionality. There’s no need to fiddle around with dials or vents to reach the desired temperature like with other smoker grills. Simply ensure the hopper is full of pellets, select the temperature from the control panel, and let the grill do all the work.
How does a pellet grill work?
Pellet grills are powered by wood pellets. They’re similar to the pellets used to fuel indoor pellet stoves—made by compressing wood that’s ground into sawdust—but they're either made with 100% hardwood or contain food-grade oils to add flavor.
To use the grill, the pellets are loaded into a hopper to the side of the grill. An electric-powered auger transfers the pellets to the firepot inside the grill. The ignited wood pellets produce flames until the box reaches the set temperature, and the auger slows to drop fewer pellets into the pot to maintain the heat. When the grill has a heat deflector plate, it acts as a physical barrier to keep the food from being exposed to the flames. The food is heated via the grill’s internal fans that disperse the heat and smoke around the grill, similar to a convection oven.
Why are wood pellet grills so expensive?
Pellet grills tend to cost over $500, with some in the $1,000 to $1,500 range. They have more moving parts than other types of grills, and controlling the temperature is a bit more complicated than a grill that uses dials or vents. The thermostat and an onboard computer control the grill’s auger, fan, and ignition system. If it doesn’t come together correctly, the automated pellet delivery system will fail to deliver pellets to the firepot, and the grill won’t reach appropriate heat levels. Worse yet, the grill could turn off mid-session.
Many modern pellet grills are also smart-capable. Their built-in probe thermometers connect to smartphones via Bluetooth or Wi-Fi, allowing users to remotely monitor long-cooking items like brisket or pulled pork. That’s convenient, but it comes at a price.
What is the Weber SmokeFire pellet grill—and what makes it different from other pellet grills?
The SmokeFire is like other pellet grills with one notable exception: It has an open grill design. The heat deflector plate we talked about earlier is very small and only covers an 8-inch area directly over the firepot. The rest of the space is occupied by four flavorizer bars (similar to the ones found on Weber gas grills) designed to funnel any dripping grease down toward the designated collection area. This design allows users to use the grill as low as 200°F temperature for smoking ribs, or they can choose higher temperatures up to 600°F for searing steaks and burgers. It’s a grill and a smoker, all in one.
The SmokeFire is also a smart grill, so it uses Wi-Fi or Bluetooth technology to connect to the Weber Connect smartphone app (compatible with iPhones on iOS 12.1 or later and most smartphones on Android 7.0 or later). The app has the same functionality as the stand-alone Weber Connect probe thermometer, but it includes additional features like remotely monitoring the temperature of the four probe thermometers, changing the grill’s temperature, activating the SmokeBoost function, or shutting down the grill.
Finally, the center location of the SmokeFire’s auger (and its shorter design) makes this pellet grill quick to heat and less likely to jam. Inexpensive pellet grills are notorious for failing to deliver pellets to the firepot, stopping the grilling session short. We started the SmokeFire dozens of times, running it for hours at both low and high temperatures, and we didn’t experience any pellet issues. Their 10- to 15-minute shutdown sequence is an additional safety feature that runs the auger through a reverse cycle, pulling the pellets far away from the firepot to prevent burn back issues.
How we tested
We tested both the first-generation Weber SmokeFire EX4 and second-generation Weber SmokeFire EX6 using a iPhone XR on iOS 13.6.1 to connect to the WeberConnect app. The wider Weber SmokeFire EX6 has a larger grilling surface area (1,008 square inches of dual grilling space), but we were equally impressed by the amount of food we could fit on the EX4’s 672 square inches of dual grilling space.
The SmokeFire has four thermometer probe ports, so we used an ambient grill probe to check the grill’s internal temperature against the set temperature. We also used a meat probe to measure the cooking meat’s temperature (double-checking the latter’s accuracy with a ThermoWorks ChefAlarm, our top pick when we tested probe thermometers).
After we cycled the grill on and off dozens of times to test ignition times and see if there were any issues with the pellet auger system, we were ready to cook.
Our first set of tests revolved around the SmokeFire’s ability to work at low smoking temperatures. We wanted to see how the SmokeFire could handle tough cuts of meat with lots of intramuscular fat and connective tissues. If these cuts are cooked too quickly, they turn out chewy and tough instead of juicy and tender.
We set the SmokeFire to 250°F and added a whole packer brisket, trimmed to have a 1/4-inch fat cap. When the brisket reached an internal temperature of 165°F on the Weber probe (about 5-and-a-half hours later), we compared the temperature with the ChefAlarm, wrapped the brisket tightly in aluminum foil and changed the temperature to 225°F. We returned the brisket to the grill until it reached 202°F, an additional 4-and-a-half hours.
We were able to assess several crucial elements of a good smoker during this test: Did the pellet grill maintain its target temperature during the entire smoke time, or did we have to fiddle with the settings to keep it where we wanted? Did the grill quickly adjust to temperature changes? Did we have to refill the pellets during a long cooking session, and were there any issues with pellet jams? Most importantly, did the brisket turn out juicy and moist, and did it have a smoke ring or a deeply smoky flavor?
After the brisket was finished, we smoked several racks of ribs and a pork shoulder to see how much food could fit on the dual grill grates at once. We also took a moment to assess the SmokeFire’s aesthetics and build quality, looking to see if it wheeled around easily without rattling and whether it was built to last. The ease of cleaning the grease and ash pan, grill grate design, and the location of side tables were also factored in.
Before we wrapped up our tests, we wanted to know how the SmokeFire could handle hot, direct heat temperatures. We cranked the dial up to 600°F and added slices of white bread over the entire grill grate surface. This allowed us to map the heat patterns, determining if the grill had any cold or hot spots.
Then, we reduced the heat to 450°F and cooked a dozen chicken wings, hoping they would crisp up as well as they do in an indoor oven. As a bonus test, we cooked a few steaks and burgers for good measure.
What we like about the Weber SmokeFire pellet grill
It’s capable of searing and smoking
We were pleasantly surprised that the SmokeFire was able to sear, just like a gas or charcoal grills. The stainless-steel grill grates got hot enough to create clear grill marks on chicken and steak, and our chicken wings turned out wonderfully crispy.
When it came to smoked food, the SmokeFire nailed it. The brisket was juicy and had a smoke-forward flavor, and our pork shoulder was tender and shreddable. We’ve cooked on a lot of smokers over the years, and we thought this pellet grill created some of the most flavorful food we’ve had.
The WeberConnect control panel and app
Early reviews of the Weber SmokeFire complained about the functionality of the smart grill panel. It was so problematic that Weber’s CEO issued a statement months after the grill’s release promising to make updates. It seems the team has worked to resolve many of these issues because we didn’t experience any problems here.
The grill does require a firmware update right out of the box to ensure it’s running the latest software version. From there, the app connected quickly to the grill via Bluetooth, and it was easy to extend its range by hooking it up to our Wi-Fi network.
We loved the ability to view any of the connected probe thermometers from inside the house, and we could also adjust the grill’s temperature and turn off the unit remotely. The app delivered notifications to our phone (and any connected devices, like my Garmin watch, alerting us when any of the probes reached their target temperatures. We also got an alert when the pellet hopper was low on fuel.
The optional SmokeBoost mode
SmokeBoost is a flavor mode that smolders pellets at lower-than-normal heat, causing a boost of smoke. Weber recommends using it for the first hour or two of cooking to enhance smoky flavors, so we tried it out on some of the chicken wings. The first set of wings was cooked on SmokeBoost for an hour, while the second set was cooked at the grill’s lowest smoking temperature, 200°F. After the hour, we cooked them at 450°F until they reached the proper internal temperature. The wings cooked on SmokeBoost were significantly smokier than the other wings, so we would call this setting a success.
It had ample grilling space
We found the first gen SmokeFire EX4 to have more than enough grilling space for regular use, but you may want to upgrade to the EX6 if you host a lot of backyard barbecues. The EX4’s main grill grate measures 18 by 24 inches, providing 432 square inches of grilling space.
On its own, that’s a lot of space—enough to fit about 20 burgers, six vertically-roasted chickens, and a gigantic turkey (or two smaller turkeys). The sliding top rack is easily removable and can be positioned in the front or back of the grill, adding an additional 240 square inches.
The EX6 is much wider than the EX4, measuring 18- by 36-inches, and the main grate contains 648 square inches of grilling space. That extra space means you could cook two large turkeys at once! It also has a sliding, removable top rack that adds 360 square inches.
The large-capacity hopper
The hopper—the container that holds the pellets before they’re fed into the grill—was large enough to hold an entire 20-pound bag of pellets. We also like that the hopper has an access panel that makes it easy to drain the pellets, a nice feature that kept us from hand-scooping pellets when we wanted to change pellet flavors.
It was quick to react to temperature changes
The preheating times on the SmokeFire were impressively fast. We ran it through its start-up mode several times, timing how quickly it reached the target temperature and averaging the results. It reached 250°F in about 10 minutes, and 600°F in 17 minutes.
Changing from low to high temperatures was equally reactive (although we had to open the grill lid to let out excess heat when going from high to low temperatures).
We were also impressed by the SmokeFire’s fuel efficiency. After 10 hours of smoking at 250°F, we had only gone through half of the pellets in the hopper (about 1 pound of pellets per hour). Of course, higher temperatures used more pellets, but it was good to see that one bag can get you through several grilling sessions.
What we don’t like about the Weber SmokeFire pellet grill
It can start a grease fire
We encountered a big problem with the SmokeFire’s grease collection method. The open grill design makes it possible to sear at high temperatures, and it also gives the food increased access to smoky flavors at low temperatures.
Unfortunately, it also creates grease issues. You see, there’s no deflector plate to keep grease away from the firepot. Since the SmokeFire’s grease bucket is located below the grill, the grease has to slide down the grill’s interior (and close to the flames) to get there.
When we cooked fatty items like brisket, ribs, or pork shoulder, the dripping grease mixed with the pellet ashes and caked onto the bottom of the grill, blocking the drain holes. We didn’t notice it before we fired up the grill for our next session—we just assumed the grease had drained. When the firepot ignited the pellets, sparks flew around the grill’s base and caused a grease fire.
Luckily, as a professional chef, I’m no stranger to grease fires, so I calmly turned off the grill and stood by with a box of baking soda, just in case. The fire went out shortly after the fan kicked off, and we were able to clean out the grill and use it again like normal.
When we reached out to Weber technical support, they recommended two things to prevent these grease fires from occurring. First, placing a drip pan below the cook grates (on top of the flavorizer bars) will catch the excess drippings and make cleanup easier. More importantly, they recommend cleaning the bars and the bottom of the cook box, pushing grease and ash into the collection system using a provided long-handled plastic scraping tool.
This isn’t a deal breaker, as grease fires can happen with any grill. But it can be scary, especially for new cooks. If you decide to move forward with the SmokeFire, we recommend cleaning the grill after every session to avoid this issue.
There were a lot of ashes and glowing embers
The SmokeFire’s start-up procedure produces a large flame in the firepot, and it’s more visible than other pellet grills because of the open design. The flame is fueled by a powerful fan that’s capable of getting the grill to searing temperatures. That’s not necessarily a great thing because the fan also whisks ashes and embers around the cooking area.
Weber says these embers have a low thermal energy (similar to ashes and embers that fall into a charcoal grill’s catch pan). But we already found out the hard way that these embers can ignite grease inside the cook box, so we know they could potentially cause issues if they flew outside the grill. It’s best to follow Weber’s recommendations and keep the grill lid closed start-up.
It experienced temperature swings
All grills (and indoor ovens, for that matter) have temperature variability. Setting an indoor oven to 350°F doesn’t guarantee it’ll stay there the entire cook time; it just means the oven will hover around that temperature.
With that in mind, we were expecting the ambient temperature probe to hover about 25 degrees around the set temperature. At lower temperature settings, the SmokeFire’s internal temperature was often 50 degrees above the set temperature (or as high as 80 degrees at higher temperatures). We were able to use the SmokeBoost function at times to get the temperature a little lower, but we didn’t expect to have to set the grill to 200°F to stay below 250°F.
Inconsistent heat patterns
While we were thrilled at the grill’s ability to sear, we didn’t find it all that useful because the heat was wildly inconsistent. When we mapped the heat pattern by spreading slices of bread across the grill grates, we found that the bottom left quadrant burned, the top right quadrant was blonde, and areas in the top and middle had a perfect toasted color.
When we cooked steaks and burgers on the grill, we kept them centered around the middle with pretty good results. But to use the entire surface area, you’ll have to use good grill management and move each item around frequently to ensure they cook evenly.
It rattled when we moved it
The cook box itself felt nice and sturdy, but the ash collection area uses a lighter gauge metal that rattles around loudly when we wheeled the grill around. That rattling also caused the ash drawer to slide out, and if ashes from the grill fell behind the container, it was hard to slide back in.
Overall, how does the Weber SmokeFire pellet grill perform?
There are certainly pros and cons to the SmokeFire’s design. We loved that there wasn’t an unsightly grease bucket hanging off the side of the grill, but we didn’t love the way the open grill design caused grease to drip into the grill’s interior.
The sensor that alerted us when the pellets ran low was a great anxiety reducer, and we loved the Wi-Fi-connected app because it allowed us to walk away from the grill with ease. But, while the open grill design created some incredible smoke-forward food, the inconsistent heat patterns and inaccurate temperature display make us wary of using the searing function on the regular.
We’re pretty torn when it comes to our opinion on this grill. We’ve already seen Weber come out with a second generation version of this grill, so we can only hope that they’ll also listen to feedback about some of the grill’s other drawbacks.
For now, our biggest concern is the grease fire potential. This grill may be a good fit for grillers who don’t mind spending extra time cleaning out grease and ashes.
The SmokeFire is covered by a five-year warranty, and the electrical components, cooking grates, pellet slide, burn pot, heat baffle, pellet grate, and controller bezel are covered for three years. The warranty covers material defects, but it doesn’t apply to normal wear and tear (cosmetic damages, discoloration not related to material defects, scratches and dents, surface rust, etc.). Like most warranties, it isn’t transferable, so it applies to the original owner only.
Is the Weber SmokeFire pellet grill worth it?
It’s not unusual to spend over $500 on a pellet grill, but $1,000 is certainly a lot of money. That said, the SmokeFire EX4 is comparable to the Traeger Ironwood 650, which retails for $1,200. If we’re comparing the Weber SmokeFire to Traeger, the SmokeFire EX4’s $799 price tag is certainly attractive.
Of course, we had some issues with the grill, so we’d love to see those ironed out before we can solidly recommend spending this much money. But, if you only have the storage space or money for one grill, you want it to be able to smoke and sear on a single grill, and you don’t mind working with a few idiosyncrasies, the SmokeFire certainly fits that niche.
Get the second-generation Weber SmokeFire EX4 at BBQ Guys for $799
Get the second-generation Weber SmokeFire EX6 at BBQ Guys for $999
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Prices are accurate at the time this article was published, but may change over time.