I'm passing on SmokeFire for now

Chris Allingham

Administrator
Staff member
As you may have noticed, I am not an early adopter of SmokeFire. My plan was to purchase an EX6 through my brother's Ace Hardware store.

He got in four EX4s yesterday. The EX6s were coming in later this week. I told him they were getting bad publicity on social media. He took one home and cooked with it. He saw many of the same flaws that people are reporting, minus the controller freezing and a grease fire. He's a long-time Traeger user, is on his second Traeger, and thought that SmokeFire would replace his Traeger.

Let's just say the EX4 will be heading back to the shop and the Traeger is safe for now.

His first comment was on assembly. It took him 45 minutes to put together SmokeFire, as compared to the Traeger where he says you screw on four legs and you're pretty much done. He was shocked that the glow plug was not already installed. He said the way the Flavorizer bar supports snap into the front and back of the grill is really stupid.

He said fit and finish and heft is not the same as his Traeger. He thinks the slope of the pellet hopper is problematic. He has experienced pellet bridging in his Traeger, so he's sympathetic to that problem in the SmokeFire.

He didn't fully read the instructions and skipped the 600*F burn-in. Bad dog. First cook, he ran it at 350*F and cooked burgers. No problems. Next day, he was surprised at the amount of ash covering the grill inside and out. Lots of ash coating the unused upper grate. Ash on the control panel and work surface. Ash on the lid. I can only assume this is due to the fan?

Tonight, we connected over Facetime and he ran the grill up to 600*F. I could see for myself the blowtorch of flames coming out of the right side of the fire pot and about half as much flame out of the left side. It was dark outside and I could see the burning embers flying out from around the grease/ash drawer. Not good!

I asked him to pull out the grates and Flavorizer bars and look at the bottom of the grill, to see how grease is routed away. He thought the bottom surface looked awfully flat and that if your grill was not on a level surface, grease might even run toward one of the corners. For a company that knows how to route grease down and out of a gas grill, you'd think they'd be able to engineer a foolproof method for a pellet grill.

My brother will play with the EX4 a bit more before taking it back to the store, but out of good conscience he won't be selling any to customers for the time being. He is going to have a conversation about his experience with the Weber rep.

And I told him I would pass on the EX6 for now, while we wait and see how things play out.

My Questions
  • How could anyone at Weber see the amount of ash and embers flying out of this cooker and think that it was not a problem? Was this not a problem with pre-production units?
  • Pellets have to be "helped" down the bin toward the auger intake. Did anyone see this as a problem, or was this a design trade-off in order to achieve the long narrow bin hidden behind the unit?
  • Did Weber load these grills to the max with untrimmed pork butts to see how they handled grease during low & slow cooking? I would assume they did, but...
  • Were actual customers involved in usability testing of these grills early in the design process? You can't bring people in after the design is complete and hope to solve any significant problems that are found.
 
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J Grotz

TVWBB Pro
Great questions, Chris. The slope of the grease catching system and the amount of ash in the cooking chamber are so basic that they should have been sorted out before the first physical prototype was built; it’s shocking that they weren’t. I think the hopper design was form over substance.

Weber should do what your brother did; stop sales immediately.
 

Chris Allingham

Administrator
Staff member
I was just reading the Engadget article in which Weber's CEO Chris Scherzinger is interviewed. They write:

In order to clean most pellet models, you have to completely remove everything from the inside. When you count the grates and other protective pieces, we're talking six or more items. Then you have to break out the shop vac. Yes, most companies advise you to clean out the ash and dust that accumulates during the cook with a vacuum. It's fine if you already have one, but if you don't, that's an additional purchase on top of a pricey grill. Either way, the the cleanup process is awful, and you need to do it after every third or fourth cook to keep your grill running smoothly and safely. And, most importantly, to keep ash out of your food. Trust me, I'm speaking from experience: It's the worst thing about these grills.

Weber realized this wasn't a great experience, so it did something about it.

"We developed a different design in our engine, and in our shields and filters (emphasis is mine), inside the grill box that prevents the ash from flying up and landing on top of the food," Scherzinger noted. "All of the ash lands in the drawer." That drawer is a slide-out compartment that's easily accessible from the front of the grill. Here, both ash and grease collect for easy removal. Sure, you'll want to take the SmokeFire's internal components apart and give it a deep clean from time to time, but if what Weber claims is true, you won't have to do it nearly as often. That's a welcome change.
What's this "filter" he speaks of?

I've got a sneaking suspicion that tight fitting pieces that were supposed to keep ashes under control aren't so tight fitting.
 

Bobby P

TVWBB Super Fan
Well I'm out. My wife was planning on gifting me the EX6 for my birthday next month. Looks like I'll have to hold off until Weber fixes these issues. What a shame I was looking forward to playing with my first pellet pooper this year.
 

Rich Dahl

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
I agree completely with your analysis and reasoning. This is a monster that Weber may never live down. One can only image what a fire started on a wood deck with a SmokeFire could result in a tragedy that Weber might be held accountable for.
Weber should and needs to immediately stop the sales of both SmokeFires before the unthinkable happens.
I can imagen that the other pellet manufactures are ramping up damage control to assure their customers that all pellet grills aren't a hazard like the Weber appears to be.
My daughter has owed a Traeger for many years and has had no issues at all. My new camp Chef I've done six cooks so far with 0 issues. So it appears that there are safe and reliable pellet grills available.
 

LMichaels

TVWBB Hall of Fame
Yeah the grease fire thing is not necessarily too scary. Heck we've all had occasional grease fires in our Genesis, Summit, what have you gas grills. Thing is those fires pretty much stay contained with no embers leaving the grill (yes I know they can and do cause an occasional melt down and then all bets are off), but pretty much the only thing ruined in my Genesis from a grease fire is my ego and the food.
I need to edit this, because while I indicated a grease fire is not too scary it is VERY undesirable and unacceptable expecially in a cooker supposedly designed to run for long periods in a "hands off" method
 
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BFletcher

TVWBB Wizard
Did the high profile names who received these units over the past couple months speak candidly about bad experiences? Or were they not permitted to speak of issues (which I would hope would not be the case because it would cost their credibility)?
 

Lynn Dollar

TVWBB All-Star
Did the high profile names who received these units over the past couple months speak candidly about bad experiences? Or were they not permitted to speak of issues (which I would hope would not be the case because it would cost their credibility)?
If you're referring to the social media influencers , then to my knowledge, they were never allowed to cook with one without Weber supervision.
 

BobJ

TVWBB Super Fan
Just want to thank all the early buyers, helps those of us that are in the market for a pellet grill. I was planning on comparing the Rec Tec, which I'll be seeing shortly, with the Weber. No need for that now so my decision is just to pick the size of grill I want.
 

Lynn Dollar

TVWBB All-Star
Just want to thank all the early buyers, helps those of us that are in the market for a pellet grill. I was planning on comparing the Rec Tec, which I'll be seeing shortly, with the Weber. No need for that now so my decision is just to pick the size of grill I want.
Agree, I'm not even in the market for a pellet pooper, and I've learned more about them than I ever knew before. Learning about a lot of problems with them that's not readily discussed, also.
 

J Grotz

TVWBB Pro
If you're referring to the social media influencers , then to my knowledge, they were never allowed to cook with one without Weber supervision.
17 of them were flown to Chicago for the reveal in November of last year. As Lynn stated, no unsupervised cooking at that event. From looking at the videos of the event, it was all high heat grilling, except for a brisket that looked like it was cooked elsewhere and placed in a clean new cooker. To my knowledge, none of them had any access to a Smokefire until the release last week.
 

Bob Swaskoski

TVWBB Fan
17 of them were flown to Chicago for the reveal in November of last year. As Lynn stated, no unsupervised cooking at that event. From looking at the videos of the event, it was all high heat grilling, except for a brisket that looked like it was cooked elsewhere and placed in a clean new cooker. To my knowledge, none of them had any access to a Smokefire until the release last week.
That's my understanding as well buy BBM is the only one to my knowledge that acknowledged Weber's offer of a free unit and turned it down to remain independent. I have not seen any of the other influencers that were there speak publically about if they were offered and took a free device and what their experiences were.
 

Rich Dahl

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
Been a member for almost 7 years on this forum and I've never seen anything like this mess before. I know Weber watches this forum and others and they have to be getting some good feedback from our members who preordered as to what the problems are.
You would think they would be in the full bogie panic mood, but somehow I don't get that impression.
 

Jon Tofte

TVWBB Honor Circle
I agree completely with your analysis and reasoning. This is a monster that Weber may never live down. One can only image what a fire started on a wood deck with a SmokeFire could result in a tragedy that Weber might be held accountable for.
Weber should and needs to immediately stop the sales of both SmokeFires before the unthinkable happens.
I can imagen that the other pellet manufactures are ramping up damage control to assure their customers that all pellet grills aren't a hazard like the Weber appears to be...Been a member for almost 7 years on this forum and I've never seen anything like this mess before. I know Weber watches this forum and others and they have to be getting some good feedback from our members who preordered as to what the problems are.
You would think they would be in the full bogie panic mood, but somehow I don't get that impression.
Rich,
I agree that this shaping up to be an ultimate disaster for Weber. I don’t think I was too far off in saying earlier that if this keeps unfolding this way it could well lead to the demise of Weber as a company. The things many here have reported all point to slowing gas grill sales. I would have to feel that kettles are also no longer a huge seller. Weber had much of their future riding on this late to the party entry. I think all of us were excited about what we were seeing leading up to the release. Now it is burning up and flaming out into a catastrophe 😮 ...

It is hard to see any quick solution for Weber to implement. They may not be able to afford a complete recall. Even if they do that, what can they do to overcome so many design issues? The software can - and will - be fixed, but some of these problems seem to be inherent in the daring design ideas utilized. You are talking massive scrapping of already manufactured parts, disassembly costs to keep what could be salvaged and engineering that obviously needs a lot more time to design, test and implement any changes. And where will all this work to rebuild theses things be done? Will it be outside Chicago or crated and shipped to China? I feel really bad:cry:...

One thing, Rich: Hidden away in their corporate offices, I have to believe they are boxing up the champagne and are instead in “full bogie panic mode.”
 
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