By Dan Kidder
Not only is the Smoke Pro Deluxe Sportsman from Camp Chef the most versatile pellet grill on the market, it is a thing of beauty to behold. It sports a grayish silver Vain Finish that not only makes it a piece of art, it makes it easy to clean up and maintain.
The Sportsman provides all of the features that are found on the SG model, including the Slide & Grill Technology to provide either indirect heat or direct flame, just by sliding a conveniently placed handle. Jets cut into the grease tray allow flames from the firebox to directly lick your meat, providing the flavor of flame broiling or slide the guard in place and slow-smoke your food, capturing the flavor of your chosen hardwood pellets.
Pellet grills use compressed hardwood pellets for both fuel and flavor. The slow burning pellets are automatically fed from the hopper by way of a screw auger that leads directly to the fire box. A heating element ignites the pellets and an onboard computer maintains the correct temperature and feeds pellets as needed.
Camp Chef pellet grills provide a superior pellet grill experience because they use a larger auger for more reliable and consistent feeding resulting in fewer clogs. Additionally, the squared barrel shape of the smoking drum provides superior convection heating and circulation of smoke to avoid hot and cold spots that can create uneven heating and smoking.
Some other features of Camp Chef pellet smokers that set them apart include an angled grease tray that catches drippings and diverts them to a bucket to prevent slick stains on your patio or a greasy mess in the bottom of your grill. Also, with a Camp Chef, you will never need a shop vacuum to clean out your grill. Over time, the fire box will fill with fine ash and needs to be emptied. On Camp Chef grills, this is accomplished by pulling a handle that activates a scraper and opens a chute to dump the ash into a metal cup located under the fire box. It simply dumps out the ash so it can be easily discarded. This will prolong the life of the heating element because let’s face it, if it is difficult to clean out, we are less likely to do it as frequently. The Ash Cleanout is so simple to use, your firebox will always run at peak efficiency.
Another feature that sets apart a Camp Chef Pellet Grill is the ability to open a chute on the back of the pellet hopper to quickly dump your pellets. This means that if you last used mesquite pellets in your grill and want to switch to a milder flavor, such as alder, you can quickly empty the hopper and replace your pellets. No more vacuuming and scooping to change flavors.
The Sportsman includes all of these features as well as a few extras that are unique to the Sportsman’s Warehouse exclusive grill. A 17.5-inch wide by 5-inch high glass window lets you keep an eye on your food without opening the cover and releasing heat. Dual temperature probes let you cook different meats at the same time and gives you an instant readout of their internal temperature. A probe inside the cooking chamber gives you the chamber temperature. All of these added up mean you won’t have to open the cover and allow your flavorful smoke and accumulated heat to escape.
The Sportsman also features a window so you can see at a glance how many pellets remain in your hopper. It is large enough that you can even see it easily from across the patio, so you don’t need to climb out of your hammock to check it. The hopper on the Sportsman will hold 18 pounds of pellets, so you spend less time refilling it and don’t have to worry about a flame out from lack of fuel.
The Sportsman is also compatible with the optional Camp Chef Side Kick or the BBQ Sear Box by removing the side shelf and screwing your accessory into the same bolt holes, making it the most versatile pellet grill on the market. The Sidekick allows you to use any of the Camp Chef single-burner, 14-inch accessories with a 30,000 BTU propane burner. This means that you can use the griddle, BBQ box, Artisan Pizza Oven, stock pot, and much more. This VersaGrillity, as Camp Chef calls it, opens up a wide world of options for your outdoor kitchen. While the Sidekick is a great addition to your grill, it can also be used as a stand-alone, single-burner stove in your campsite.
The BBQ Sear Box features a 16,000 BTU propane burner and an infrared heat dispersion plate to evaporate drippings and ensure a hard sear on your meat. The 180-square-inch enamel coated cast iron cooking surface can get up to 900 °F for a hard sear and superb grill marks. It is the perfect way to finish a slow smoked steak and sear in those delicious juices. I use this feature frequently and have been hard-pressed to pay 50 bucks for a thick ribeye served on a 500 °F plate from a high-end steak house. When you add the flavor of smoke to the equation, coupled with a perfect sear and excellent grill marks, you will find yourself dining at home much more frequently.
The pellets from Camp Chef are made of the highest quality virgin hardwoods. This means that they are free of flavorings, waxes, oils or coatings. The flavor comes solely from the aroma of the hardwoods. For those charcoal purists, Camp Chef now offers a choice of charwood pellets with either cherry or hickory. This gives you that distinctive charcoal flavor as well as the addition of hardwood flavor. This is akin to those guys using their charcoal grill and adding wood chips, but with far more flavor imparted to the meat.
Camp Chef offers their premium hardwood pellets in six varieties; cherry, apple, mesquite, alder, oak and hickory. They also offer a competition blend of maple, hickory and cherry for a robust profile that imparts the flavor of the woods but doesn’t mask the taste of the meat. It is a favorite for all around grilling of a wide variety of meats. All of the pellets come in 20-pound bags and the competition blend is also available in a 30-pound plastic bucket for moisture-free storage and easy dispensing. For an extra kick of flavor, you can add a pound of their herb blend to every pound of standard pellets to impart a subtle added layer of flavor to whatever you are cooking. The options are nearly endless with all of the premium hardwood pellet offerings they provide.
Overall, the Sportsman provides a 3,778 cubic-inch cooking chamber with 776 square-inches of cooking surface. It is large enough for a turkey and I can attest that this is one of the best ways I have ever prepared Thanksgiving dinner. It is so good, people may want you to prepare this holiday bird in the middle of summer. I recommend the sage herb pellets if you do, as well as brushing the bird with melted butter and turmeric paste. Also, inject the bird liberally with Cajun Injector Creole Butter for an unbeatably delicious meal.
The Sportsman is only available at your local Sportsman’s Warehouse or online at Sportsmans.com and is just one of the many pellet grill options available. One of the knowledgeable camping associates is standing by to answer all of your outdoor cooking questions and run you through the multitude of options available, from pellet grills, to propane smokers, to electric options. This is the one case where we can say that smoking is good for you and will forever change the way you eat.