FQ guest contributor, John Ryan, shares his thoughts on one of the latest Weber barbecues.
Today I am reviewing the Weber SmokeFire EX4 (Generation 2) Pellet Grill. The current RRP at the time of this review is £1,468.95, and I see it selling online in the range of £1,322.00, depending on which websites you are looking at.
I don’t claim to be a pitmaster when it comes to barbequing, but I have been perfecting my skills over the last 20+ years. Friends and family do rave about my food, and I do consider myself a Weber enthusiast. I will look at the quality, performance and features of the SmokeFire EX4 (Gen 2). I am also going to compare this with the other Weber BBQs I have owned or used to see what the positives and negatives are, and let you know if I think the SmokeFire is worth buying. I won’t be comparing the SmokeFire with other pellet grills on the market.
For reference, I have the following BBQs:
- Weber Genesis II E-610 GBS (Gas Grill) bought three years ago to replace an old Weber Spirit 210 (Gas Grill) (15yrs old), which I gave to a friend.
- Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker 47cm (Charcoal Grill)
- Weber Master-Touch GBS E-5750 57cm (Charcoal Grill)
- Genesis 1000 (Gas Grill) (24 yrs old) – still going strong!
Weber released the first edition SmokeFire in early 2020. Unfortunately, from my research, there was a lot of negative PR for these grills, with many faults reported. However, Weber has spent a lot of effort to remedy these issues in the second generation.
I want to briefly touch on how the grill functions. It runs on wood pellets and electricity. It comes with an electrical cable that needs to be plugged in. Once hooked up, fill the hopper with wood pellets and then turn on the grill. Once you set the grill, it will heat up to your desired temperature, allowing you to cook your food with a subtle wood-fired flavour. The grill has a temperate range of 200-600deg F (95-315deg C). So you can smoke, roast, bake and sear – all using one grill.
Before ordering, make sure you think about where this grill will go and how you will move it through your property – measure everything twice! The EX4 is a large piece of equipment! I chose the EX4 over the EX6 simply because my Weber Genesis II E-610 takes up a lot of space, and I didn’t think I needed the grill capacity of the EX6. I live in a flat in London, and I knew it was too wide to fit down my hallway. I was expecting to disassemble it further to get it through my property, and I was right.
The grill was very well packaged, instructions are easy to follow. Try to have someone else help, as it will make it easier to set up – but I managed independently. There is a handy app called BILT; I recommend installing this onto your phone as it helps. It is not too complicated for anyone who faces the same issue with access as I did to remove the back hopper. I managed it in about 10 minutes, and only six screws had to be removed. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any instructions in the manual on how to do this – I just winged it.
Make sure you season the grill – instructions are in the manual, and there are some online videos you can watch. One thing I found useful is that some people have installed BBQ Gasket Grill Tape to the underside of the lid to keep more smoke and heat in. This is because there were some complaints that the grill was maxing out at the 550deg range and not consistently hitting 600deg. It costs £7 for some generic gasket tape, so I got myself a roll and installed it before I even fired up the grill. After that, I had no issues getting the grill to 600deg. Was it down to the tape? I’m not sure, but it keeps a lot of smoke in the box.
Also, be prepared to update the firmware on the Weber Connect at initial setup; it seems to always ship out of date firmware.
Looking at the quality of the Weber, I am not disappointed. The company is renowned for producing some of the highest quality BBQs, hence why I have stuck with them as a loyal customer.
What I like about the EX4 is that, as standard, you get a stainless steel cooking grate in addition to stainless steel flavorizer bars. You don’t get the porcelain enamelled versions that come with most other Weber grills. It also has an excellent operating system – all part of the Weber connect smart grilling technology. And, as with many Weber grills, the porcelain enamelled lid and chrome trim really makes it pop.
One disappointment, but nothing major, is that the lid seems ever so slightly raised on the left side compared with the right. The gasket tape helped resolve it, but I need to spend some time adjusting the lid fittings and see if the problem is there, or if the lid is a bit bent somewhere.
How well the EX4 performs is the make or break for me. Will it cook low and slow for those large cuts of brisket and beef ribs? And, how well will it direct flame access, getting up to 600deg, for searing steaks? I am using the “Weber SmokeFire Wood Pellets Grill Academy Blend”, it appears to be the best all-around pellet – 34% Maple, 33% Hickory, 33% Cherry, so it’s worth a go starting with that.
For the first cook, I put on a tray of chicken wings and some Cumberland sausages; something I would typically put on the Gas grill. I decided to cook at 225deg for the first hour. Then I turned up the heat to finish off. I didn’t move the wings around, and it didn’t feel any different than cooking on the gas grill. I was impressed with the even heat distribution. I only noticed a small cold spot at the very back two to three inches of the grill. Food tastes great with a subtle smoke flavour.
The second cook was chicken thighs (with my special paprika rub) and some fat prawns. I wanted to replicate cooking on my gas grill where I just wanted to fire up on a medium heat to cook the chicken and then high heat to cook the prawns quickly. Again, the SmokeFire performed well and had some subtle smoke flavour.
The third cook was beer-braised smoked beef short ribs. Rather than cooking for hours on the EX4, I followed a weber recipe from their book for cooking on a charcoal grill. I braised the ribs for over one hour, cooled them in the fridge, and then transferred them to the grill. The recipe said indirect smoke for 30min at a higher temp was needed. I decided to use the smoke boost setting for two hours, then I took the temperature up to 270deg to finish off the ribs. I used two temperature probes from my Weber igrill 2 (they are compatible with this grill) to test this feature using the app. The smoke flavour penetrated the ribs. However, the smoke ring was a bit lacking. I need to try this again, forget the braising and smoke them for the entire eight to ten hours and see how they turn out.
The fourth cook will be port ribs, to compare with the gas grill. But, for me, the fifth cook, Brisket, will be the ultimate test to compare with the smokey mountain. Then, my sixth cook will be steaks to compare against charcoal.
Would I recommend buying this grill? It’s a difficult one. In my opinion, it all depends on what you are looking for in a grill and how much you have to spend.
For me, I grill a few times a week, from spring until late autumn. My general rule is that if it’s meat, it’s going on the grill. I look for a few things; I wanted a Gas grill for convenience, something I could fire up, cook, and be done quickly but still get great flavour. I upgraded my 2 burner to a 6 as we entertain a lot, and with many kids birthday parties on the horizon, I knew I needed a larger grill and chose to invest in the long term. I also wanted a charcoal grill to get that enhanced flavour that you cannot quite get with a gas grill. Finally, the smoker comes out a few times a year and is just great to cook that large piece of meat low and slow for a perfect brisket or pulled pork, something you would struggle to achieve on the gas or kettle grill. I thought with all three, I was set, then the SmokeFire came along.
If I had one choice, the all-around best BBQ you can go for is a Weber gas grill. I would not rely on the SmokeFire as my only grill, but it’s more than capable of doing the job. Now, say you have a gas grill already and you are looking to get into smoking, then this is when it becomes problematic. Would I buy a SmokeFire? The answer is, yes, all day long. However, now that I have one, I don’t see that I would use my Smokey Mountain or Charcoal ever again.
If money is a concern, but you still want to get into smoking, then I would suggest an alternative to the SmokeFire. For example, for 40% of the cost, I had the following kit:
- A digital thermometer linked to the phone (Weber igrill 2 £100).
- A PitmasterIQ 110 kit, which is affordable and the easiest-to-use automatic barbecue temperature control unit that is designed for use with charcoal grills.
- A Weber Smokey Mountain Cooker (47cm @£349.00).
In essence, the SmokerFire provides all this functionality out of the box and is more convenient to the user. It is still a lot of fun setting up the charcoal smoker, and it’s a real art getting the cook right, but it won’t dent the wallet as much.
All said and done, the SmokeFire is a great BBQ. I enjoy cooking on it; I don’t need one, but I’m glad I have it.
I hope you find this review helpful.