The Smokefire EX4 is barbecue behemoth Weber’s first foray into the world of pellet grills and it’s a picture of beauty compared to the Pit Boss Classic which looks very rustic and a little bit clunky by comparison. Where the Weber Smokefire boasts a clean, elegant profile with a shiny, high-quality look, the Pit Boss is a bit on the agricultural side – as if the manufacturer simply pulled out a four-legged stand from behind the shed, bolted an oil barrel to the top and painted it a rusty brown.
Nevertheless, when it comes to evaluating pellet smokers, looks aren’t everything because it’s what goes on under the hood that really makes one pellet grill stand out from another.
Both of these models will smoke, grill, roast and sear, and both make it into our best smokers buying guide, but which one will suit your needs best? This guide will help you decide.
Weber Smokefire EX4 vs Pit Boss Classic: Features
Both of these models are classified as medium sized grills and they’re both equipped with dual grilling grates – a large one for general smoking and grilling duties and a smaller top grate for certain types of ingredients and keeping food warm. The Weber sports 662 square inches of cooking space against the Pit Boss’s 700. Put another, they both have enough meal estate for six whole chickens or two briskets or four to six rib racks. The Weber’s heavy-duty stainless steel grates are much better quality than the porcelain coated options on the Pit Boss. Also, the Weber’s grate is designed to accept the company’s selection of Gourmet inserts – simply remove the centre section and pop in the griddle, Dutch oven, poultry roaster or specialised steak sear grate.
Like all pellet grills, the Smokefire and Classic require an electricity supply use them. This is to power the onboard computer that regulates temperatures, the auger (a large corkscrew) which delivers the pellets from the hopper to the burn pot, and a fan to aid pellet combustion. The Weber’s auger is unique in that it leads to a four-inch chute into the fire pot. This is to prevent that most rare of instances when an overzealous fire ignites the pellets in the hopper which in turn leads to a full-blown hopper fire. Needless to say, this scary scenario has never happened to this writer with any pellet grill. The Pit Boss package includes two ports for meat probes but the Weber comes with four!
Where the Weber’s control display is a snazzy LCD affair with lots of menus and submenus and the wherewithal to adjust temperature in small increments, the Pit Boss is simplicity personified. Aside from a few digital menus, its interface is mostly comprised of a single knob with temperatures that go up in increments of 25˚F – simply turn the knob to the illustrated number and that’s it.
Weber Smokefire EX4 vs Pit Boss Classic: Steak searing
When Weber decided to produce its first pellet grill it noticed that the majority of models didn’t reach high enough temperatures to properly sear a steak like a charcoal barbecue at full bore. So, instead of going to around 260˚C or 500˚F like most pellet grills, the Smokefire reaches 315˚C (600˚F).
Temperatures notwithstanding, the main reason most pellet grills don’t scorch food to a cinder is because they’re equipped with full-width heat deflector shields that are positioned above the burn pot and below the main cooking grate. This is brilliant for every other type of ingredient but not so good for steak. With this in mind, Weber’s R&D bods set out to create a pellet smoker that could genuinely sear a steak with the aid of a naked flame. So they ditched the heat shield and installed a series of stainless steel ‘flavorizer’ bars with spaces between each bar. This allowed the fire from the burn pot beneath to sneak a look at the steak above and kiss it with its naked flames. Voila, a properly seared steak as it should be done.
However, what Weber hadn’t gambled on is the way most people use a barbecue. That is to say they never clean it. And, like all pellet grills, the Smokefire requires even more regular cleaning than the norm or the surfeit of fats dripping from any meat above may mix with burnt ashes in the drainage tray where they could merge together to form a congealed mass of fat and ash that doesn’t drain away as it should. In the worst case scenario, this thick oily gloop could catch fire. Granted, this issue will likely never rear its head if just searing a few steaks but you will need to be a little cautious if piling on anything with a high fat content like a brisket, a chicken or a bunch of plump sausages. As long as the bottom of the grill is clean before use, you shouldn’t have any issues.
Conversely, Pit Boss has nailed the steak-searing quandary with a much better design that is unbelievably simple in structure. Like most pellet grills it has a full-width heat deflector shield mounted at an angle for the excess fats to run safely into a bucket on the side and this system is proven to work very efficiently without issue. Nevertheless, this isn’t just any old deflector plate because a section of it can be slid across to expose the open fire beneath. Since steak only take a few minutes to cook, the amount of fat it generates will rarely be enough to cause a fire pot conflagration because most of the fats evaporate immediately. So, a major win to Pit Boss in this respect.
Weber Smokefire EX4 vs Pit Boss Classic: Performance
Both models are designed for smoking as much as grilling and in that respect they both perform remarkably well. In fact you’d need to be a true smoking aficionado to tell the difference between the results of an 8-hour smoke-off. Put another way, both models will produce amazing tear-apart brisket replete with deep pink smoke rings. They will also produce the best ribs you have ever tasted and the most succulent roast chicken that even your indoor oven may have trouble beating. And yet they will also perform mundane tasks like grilling chicken legs, burgers and sausages to utter perfection with almost zero input. Simply turn the dial to your preferred temperature, bung on the grub, shut the lid and go and relax. The Weber Smokefire can even connect to an app on your phone for even less fuss.
Weber Smokefire EX4 vs Pit Boss Classic: Cost
Now this is where it gets really interesting. The Weber Smokefire EX4 retails at around £1,300 and roughly the same figure in dollars. By huge contrast, the Pit Boss Classic ships in at around £700 in the UK and a ridiculously cheap $396 at Walmart in the US. And that, in a nutshell, is the ultimate clincher on Pit Boss’s behalf.
Weber Smokefire EX4 vs Pit Boss Classic: Verdict
The Weber Smokefire EX4 is superbly built and uses much higher quality materials in its construction than the much cheaper, industrial-looking Pit Boss Classic. But when it comes down to the actual cooking part, it’s simply too close to call – both models excel at grilling, smoking, roasting and searing. So, if you have money to burn and want something that graces a patio with a bit of style then the Weber Smokefire is for you. But if you just want a damn decent pellet smoker-cum-grill that’s cheap to buy and does what it says on the box, grab yourself the Pit Boss.
- Smokers are great, but you may be better served by one of the best barbecues