My Thoughts on the Weber SmokeFire Pellet Grill
Let me first start out by saying I DO NOT own a Weber SmokeFire, nor do I have any affiliation with Weber. I also have no axe to grind with Weber and I generally think rather highly of them as I know they make some very high quality products and have excellent customer service. They have built an excellent brand name over the years and you cannot do that by making bad products and having bad service. I have owned Weber products in the past and have loved them.
So, all that being said I will let you know that I have formed my opinion on the SmokeFire solely on watching YouTube videos of people who I trust, and I have looked it over at my local Lowes Hardware store. I also do understand some of the components and functionality of pellet grills and all grills and smokers for that matter. Take my thoughts and opinions as you like as I know some will understand them and some will defend the brand they know and love no matter what, but this is not a post to knock down Weber in anyway.
The Build Up and Hype!
This grill has been anticipated for awhile now and was hyped and built up a lot by Weber and many Weber brand lovers for many months. Weber even invited many "Influencers" who run famous barbecue websites, Blogs, YouTube channels, etc to their headquarters back in November a couple months before releasing it for retail sales to help build up the hype. They did this in a very controlled setting and they choose the food and how it was used. This was not pre-released to any real world test groups that I or anyone else knows of. All of the "Influencers" that attended the event came back with glowing reviews and videos praising the grill and giving Weber lots of kudos! This got many people really excited and looking forward to the grills release. They did a Fantastic Job and I have to admit I was excited for it as well.
First Signs of Trouble
After a couple months the excitement died down a little and people were just waiting for the release. Many people were holding off buying a pellet grill for over a year just to be able to get the new Weber! Thousands of loyal Weber fans and followers patiently waited until January when they could order it. Let me state right now that I know that new releases of products can have some minor issues that can be blown out of proportion, i have seen it with other products and with other companies. Some issues and concerns are legit and some are not. It happens with all companies. BUT I do not think anyone was ready for the amount of negative feedback and issues that came with this grill right off the bat. The first couple of YouTubes videos I saw where having some real substantial issues and I don't think anyone expected that. It was like splashing ice cold water in peoples faces.
The Snowball Effect
You can usually expect not "Every" review is going to be glowing on a new product for sure. There will always be people who have little experience and knowledge try and blame their lack of skill on the cooker, and I think a lot of people where trying to write off the first few negative reviews to that. "It can't possibly be that bad. Weber has their stuff together, they would not release a grill with so many problems." I was one of those people also. BUT when I started seeing guys who i know and trust, guys who actually went to the Weber event, and people who I knew for a fact were huge Weber fans started having the same issues, I took notice. At that point I think Weber also started to take notice as they started to release some short videos on YouTube addressing some of the issues in an "off hand" way.
Here is a list of the most common Issues that people were having from the start. Most people I had seen had ordered the larger 36" grill, so some of the issues may be exclusive to that one:
Uneven Heating on the grate area - people were testing the temps all over the cooking area and getting very large swings. the right side of the grill seemed to be getting most of the flame and heat.
Issues with the Firmware updating - some had this issue and some did not, I don't see this as a big deal.
The App was not fully functional - I do not know why Weber would release a Wifi based system that was not fully functional at time of release. The only thing you could do was monitor a cook with the app. You could not adjust temps, time, or anything else. That may have been corrected at the time of this writing though, but it is still not very good to release a grill with limited functionality.
Grease Fires! Many people were experiencing grease fires on their first cooks. Some were reporting the ash was mixing with grease in the bottom of the cooker and blocking the grease from draining, and since the grease drains close to the fire pot, grease fires resulted. Some were pretty bad from what I have seen. I do not know if Weber is addressing this issue yet. To me it seems like a design flaw to allow grease to flow that close to the burning fire pot.
Pellets Not Feeding - Another major issue was that the pellet hopper was not allowing the pellets to flow towards the auger, making it so the unit ran out of fuel much sooner than it should have. Over half of the pellets in the hopper would not slide down into the bottom. Weber has since come up with a fix for this, they are offering a "Hopper Insert" that they will send you for free and have an installation video on their YouTube channel on how to install it.
The Damage Done?
Like I said in the beginning, I think Weber is a great company and I feel confident that they will address any and all issues that may or may not be valid with the SmokeFire. There will be however some damage control that they will have to do. Most of this can be blamed on the shear amount of hype and anticipation that came with this grill, partly spread by Weber and the loyal Weber brand lovers. It is the old "The higher you fly the harder you fall" scenario for sure. I do not think it is anything that Weber cant get over.
What I like about the SmokeFire
There are definitely some great design aspects that I like about the grill. I love the ability to sear, I love the auger design and ash clean out, I like the exterior design, I like the double walled sides, I even like the enameled porcelain that makes it look like a Weber. I do think Weber will correct a lot of these issues and it will be one of the most popular pellet grills in the market just because Weber is Weber.
Personally I would hold off a couple months if I was looking to buy one just to give them time to make their corrections. I highly recommend you check out the many YouTube videos of the SmokeFire also. There are good and bad ones and I suggest you watch them all.