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Hands-on Gear Review
Camp Chef Pro 60 Review
Cons: Heavy, very large, requires five-gallon propane tank, has pieces that do not pack into the stove
Bottom line: The Pro 60 is a luxurious freestanding set-up with two powerful burners and fold-out side prep tables, allowing you to cook for large groups with ease.
If your idea of a perfect camping trip is good food with a lot of people, then the Camp Chef Pro 60 is very likely a great choice for you. With a freestanding design, two powerful 30,000 BTU burners, and side tables to prep and store your food and cookware, it's almost like you're in a real kitchen. This stove provides enough room on the cooktop for very large pots and pans and the grate is accommodating to small cookware items as well. We were able to boil water fast but also simmer more delicate items with confidence. While the Pro 60 is quite heavy and requires a few extra steps for setup and cleaning, it's a small price to pay for what you get. This stove is the clear winner for our Top Pick for Group Cooking Award. Last year's winner was the Camp Chef Pro 90, the same stove as this one but with one more 30,000 BTU burner. Depending on the number of people you tend to camp with, that might be a better choice. Whichever you choose, we think you'll be satisfied all around with the performance of these impressive stoves.
RELATED: Our complete review of camping stoves
Analysis and Hands-on Test Findings
This free-standing two-burner stove with side prep tables is ideal for large group cooking situations. Its power and ability to handle all sizes of cookware make serving up a feast as easy as if you were in your kitchen at home. This stove is bulky, heavy, and expensive though, so be sure that it's really what you need before making the sizable investment.
Time to Boil
The Pro 60 boiled water very fast when there wasn't a breeze to contend with. We noticed that depending on the direction of the wind, this stove would either do very well or struggle quite a bit. On a non-windy day, the Pro 60 boiled a quart of 60-degree water in three minutes. The only stoves that were faster were the Stansport 2-Burner and the Camp Chef Everest, both at 2:30. These models are more compact and therefore the flame is physically closer to your cookware, providing better wind resistance. But with 30,000 BTUs on each five-inch burner of the Pro 60, we weren't surprised at all by this excellent time, despite the less compact design.
Be aware of the fact that on large propane tanks there is a regulator with a safety mechanism that will engage if you turn on the gas too fast. So if you find that your burner output seems low, read the warning label on the regulator to learn how to keep the BTUs high.
This stove has a really nice low setting, but medium is quite high and the flame jumps up pretty quickly. However, as we used the stove more and became progressively more used to fine-tuning the knob, finding those delicate in-between temperature settings became easier. The flame does go very low and cooks beautifully with practically the same feel as cooking on an indoor stove. Cooking a full-size meal, the Pro 60 really shines and it's clear what it's meant for.
That said, the design is such that the flame is several inches away from your cookware, so if a breeze comes from the right direction and is able to penetrate the recess where the burners live, the flame will whip around a fair bit. For the most part, even when this happened our flame would stay lit, but we did have several instances where it went out and we had to reignite. This happened far less with the Pro 60 however than it did with our other large freestanding model, the Stansport Outdoor Stove, which was much more susceptible to the wind when simmering.
This Pro 60 also comes with an air vent on each burner to control the amount of oxygen reaching the flame, but we struggled to actually see the benefit of this feature for intermittent and unpredictable wind. Ultimately, we felt decently confident simmering on this stove, but if there is a breeze about and you happen to be cooking something very delicate or something on low for a long time, just be sure to keep an eye on your flame. The compact tabletop models with windscreens and high BTUs like the Stansport 2-Burner and the Camp Chef Everest were much better at contending with the wind when cooking low and slow.
In all the stoves we tested this time around, there was no better one for group cooking than the Pro 60. With five-inch burners and a cooking area measuring 32 x 14 inches you can cook with very large pots and pans on both burners. The only other stove that offered anything even close to this was the Stansport Outdoor Stove with a cooking area measuring 30.5 x 15.5 inches. But the Stansport has a much more minimal grate design, so it's not possible to shuffle pots and pans around or set them off to the side. You also can't use pots smaller than six inches and there are no side tables, so even though it's comparable in overall size, it doesn't provide nearly as many options as the Pro 60.
Another benefit to this stove for group cooking is the fact that it requires a five-gallon propane tank. Though this is more money up front and more to lug around, the large tanks are refillable, which is of both environmental and economic benefit. There's absolutely a reason that this stove wins our group cooking award year after year. Nothing else comes as close to making us feel like we transported our home kitchen to the great outdoors.
That being said, you can buy an adapter for most all compact tabletop two-burners that allows you to use a large propane tank. One option we liked for group cooking, if the Pro 60 seems like overkill, is having a powerful compact two-burner like the Stansport 2-Burner, along with the Coleman Butane Instastart one-burner, which is super cheap and very competent. This will provide you with three burners if you need them and the ability to leave one at home if you don't. As long as you can afford the table space to set all of this up, it's a good group cooking option for a lot less money than the Pro 60.
Ease of Setup
This is one area where the mighty Pro 60 came in at the bottom of the pack. It's not that setting up this stove is hard, but compared to the other stoves we tested it's just more involved all around. For starters, the stove weighs 47 pounds and requires you to flip it either upside down or on its side to unscrew a large hand screw, take out a set of pins, and fold out the legs. After flipping the stove back upright, there's a leg stabilizer that you need to nest two of the legs into and tighten. Then the side tables get folded out and the windscreen attached.
If the propane hose isn't already attached, this is the next step and the manufacturer recommends tightening it down with a wrench. Finally, the hose can be screwed onto your propane tank. Once you know the drill it's really no big deal, but the consensus was that if you're not going out with a sizable group it's probably not worth the trouble to lug this beast along. Bringing something compact but formidable like the Stansport 2-Burner or something that allows you to hook up additional stoves or accessories like the Eureka Spire LX may be a better choice.
Ease of Care
Unsurprisingly for a stove of this size, cleaning and maintenance is a bit more involved. The main extra step is that you can't simply lift out the cooking grate like you can on most compact stoves. There is a hook on one side tightened down with a wing nut that must be loosened in order to remove the grate and reach the recessed area that houses the burners. This area will have collected all of the food bits from cooking, unlike the Stansport Outdoor Stove that has an open design allowing all food spills to simply hit the ground.
We did also have an issue with one of the barrel nuts that attaches the side table falling out. Fixing this required two Allen wrenches, something most people probably aren't going to have with them while car camping. Not a huge deal and probably something the average user will never have to contend with, but it illustrates that sometimes the price of more fancy features is that there are more things that may require repair down the line. That said, this stove simply has a bit of a learning curve and the more you use it and get to know its intricacies, the easier caring for it will become.
Despite the Pro 60's high BTUs, it did struggle with the wind a bit. It comes equipped with a windscreen, but the breeze is still able to get into the recess that houses the burners via vents on the side of the stove. This stove's response to wind was as variable as the wind itself, sometimes handling it with ease, sometimes really struggling. During our box fan test, where we set up a fan 24 inches to the side of the stove and ran it continuously while trying to boil a quart of water, the Pro 60 did great, clocking in at four minutes, just a minute longer than without the fan. It was the third fastest stove in this test, after the Stansport 2-Burner and the Camp Chef Everest.
On one chilly morning with a variable breeze, it took the stove 11 minutes to boil a kettle of water (this water wasn't measured, so it may have been more volume and a lower starting temperature, but regardless, 11 minutes is a long time). The design on this stove is just susceptible to certain kinds of breezes. We don't think this is a reason not to buy the stove by any means, but just something to be aware of. In most situations the powerful burners were definitely adequate.
No surprise here, the Pro 60 scored the lowest of all stoves tested for packed size. With measurements of 33 x 14.5 x 9.5 inches, not including the windscreen, leg stabilizer, and propane tank, you need to be prepared for this stove to take up a pretty large chunk of your car. If this worries you, perhaps think about buying two compact models instead. If you doubled up on the Stansport 2-Burner, you would still have spent $20 less than the Pro 60. Obviously you would sacrifice some BTUs and those fancy fold-out prep trays, but if you have a tiny car, it's an option to consider.
This stove is best suited for large groups of at least four or more. It's absolutely not necessary for large groups, but it sure is nice. But for decidedly less money you could get two of another affordable two-burner stoves and have four burners available for less money. Another option is purchasing a two-burner, plus a competent one-burner, like the Coleman Butane Instastart. A sweet stove like the Eureka Spire LX, that allows you to attach a second stove or JetBoil, is another option. There are lots of options for creative group cooking that don't necessarily involve a giant and pricy outfit like this. But if your thing is big groups and lots of food, and you don't mind the price and size of this stove, well you really couldn't pick a better setup.
At $250, this stove isn't cheap; however, depending on your needs, it might be perfect for you. If you dig into reviews online for this stove, you will find that people buy it for all sorts of reasons outside of just car camping. People use it for various kitchen projects like canning and preserving or as their second outdoor kitchen in place of a grill. Value is relative. For many people this stove will be overpriced, but for the right kind of camper or outdoor foodie, the price might be right for all you get.
This stove is definitely a luxury item. There are a plethora of ways to get creative, pool your resources, and happily create a feast for lots of people without this stove. But just because you can do something on the cheap doesn't mean you always should. If you cook outside in large quantities on the regular, why not have a setup that provides an awesome experience? This stove is really a joy to cook on no matter what you're making and the prep tables are invaluable. While it's large and heavy and sometimes struggles with the wind, overall this stove provides a professional cooking experience that is hard to beat.
Other Versions and Accessories
Camp Chef makes a Pro 90 version of this stove with three burners, as well as the Pro 30 one burner. There are also quite a few neat accessories you can mix and match for this these stoves, including a BBQ box, flat top griddle, and grill box.
— Penney Garrett
OutdoorGearLab Member Reviews
Most recent review: December 26, 2016
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