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Camp Chef Portable Pellet Review

This impressive outdoor cooker offers the performance of a digitally-controlled pellet grill but folds down and has wheels for transport
camp chef portable pellet portable grill review
Credit: Camp Chef
Price:  $500 List
Manufacturer:   Camp Chef
By Ross Patton ⋅ Review Editor  ⋅  Nov 11, 2022
71
OVERALL
SCORE


RANKED
#2 of 15
  • Output Power - 25% 7.0
  • Control - 25% 9.0
  • Portability - 20% 2.0
  • Cooking Area - 20% 9.0
  • Wind Resistance - 10% 9.0

Our Verdict

Unless you are unfamiliar with the world of outdoor cooking, you've heard of pellet grills. This genre of cooker combines the smoky taste and juicy texture of food prepared on charcoal grills with a user interface that might remind you more of your kitchen oven than your backyard BBQ. The Camp Chef Portable Pellet takes this hugely popular pellet-grill technology and blends it with elements you'd see on a portable propane model. With a digital display, a primary digital thermometer, and two additional temperature probes that connect to the controller, it's unlikely that you're going to burn or undercook your meal if you're paying a reasonable amount of attention. Our biggest gripe with this model is that it requires power, so its portability is limited to RVs, power banks, or vehicles with inverters – you can, of course, also use this grill with an extension cord in your backyard. If you don't like the idea of being tied to an electrical outlet, our review of the best portable grills offers plenty of other propane and charcoal grill options.
REASONS TO BUY
Tons of control
Easy to light
Digital thermometers
REASONS TO AVOID
Cumbersome
Slow to warm up
Needs an electricity source
Editor's Note: The Camp Chef Portable Pellet was added to our review lineup on November 11, 2022.

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Pros Tons of control, easy to light, digital thermometersGreat burner system, quick to assemble, even cooking, rolls wellExcellent heat retention, convenient side tables, consistent ignitionSturdy, simple, good sized coal bed and grill spaceWell insulated, gas efficient, sturdy
Cons Cumbersome, slow to warm up, needs an electricity sourceBulky, heavyLess portable due to weight and lack of latching lid, hot even on lowest settingHandles get hot, vents are hard to adjust, requires more preparation than gas grillsPoor control of heat range, quick deterioration of grill surface
Bottom Line This impressive outdoor cooker offers the performance of a digitally-controlled pellet grill but folds down and has wheels for transportThis wheeled model offers top-tier cooking performance and a cooking area that is on par with many grills that aren't meant to leave the back patioFrom folding side tables to easy to clean cooking grates, this thoughtfully designed model makes grilling on the go fun and easySimple and highly effective, this portable charcoal grill will help you show-off your pit cooking skills away from homeWith a lot of heat output from a single burner, this compact powerhouse specializes in high-temperature grilling at a fair list price
Rating Categories Camp Chef Portable... Coleman Roadtrip 285 Weber Q 1200 Weber Go-Anywhere C... Cuisinart Grillster
Output Power (25%)
7.0
8.0
7.0
6.0
7.0
Control (25%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
3.0
Portability (20%)
2.0
5.0
6.0
6.0
8.0
Cooking Area (20%)
9.0
7.0
6.0
4.0
4.0
Wind Resistance (10%)
9.0
8.0
8.0
7.0
8.0
Specs Camp Chef Portable... Coleman Roadtrip 285 Weber Q 1200 Weber Go-Anywhere C... Cuisinart Grillster
Total BTU N/A 20,000 8,500 N/A 8,000
Weight (pounds) 82 pounds 47 pounds 31 pounds 12 pounds 13 pounds
Cooking surface area (inches) 501 sq in 285 sq in 189 sq in 140 sq in 148 sq in
# of Burners N/A 3 1 N/A 1
Grill material Stainless Steel Porcelain-Coated Cast Iron Porcelain-Enameled Cast Iron Plated steel Enameled steel
Packed Size (inches / cu ft) 38" x 18.5" x 21"/ 8.5 cu ft 39" x 14" x 19" / 6 cu ft 15" x 26" x 14" / 3.2 cu ft 14.5" X 21" X 12.2" / 2.2 cu ft 20.5" x 12" x 10.2" / 1.5 cu ft
Piezo Ignitor N/A Yes Electric No Yes

Our Analysis and Test Results

With the recent explosion of popularity in pellet grills, it was only a matter of time before a top manufacturer made a portable version. The Camp Chef Portable Pellet offers the folding legs, wheels, and transport handle of many portable propane grills but with the control of a backyard pellet model.

Performance Comparison


camp chef portable pellet portable grill review - the camp chef portable pellet is about as transportable as this...
The Camp Chef Portable Pellet is about as transportable as this genre gets, and offers top-tier cooking performance if you're able to power it.
Credit: Ross Patton

Output Power


For this section of the review, we consider how much heat each model produces and how quickly the temperatures rise. While it's hard to compare charcoal grills to others because of the inherent process of lighting and tending to these old-school BBQs, we can draw a lot of comparisons when it comes to pellet and propane grills.


The Camp Chef Portable Pellet showed a commendable performance during our output power assessment. With an automated ignition sequence that takes five minutes, it doesn't heat up quite as fast as its gas-powered cousins. However, once it got going, the temperature rose quickly at a steady rate. Using an infrared thermometer, the Camp Chef reached 593°F after warming up for 20 minutes. This is well beyond the recommended searing temperature suggested by most professional grill master.

camp chef portable pellet portable grill review - the camp chef portable pellet offers a quicker startup process than...
The Camp Chef Portable Pellet offers a quicker startup process than charcoal and more heat output than many propane models.
Credit: Ross Patton

Control


In our many years of testing portable grills, we have seen dozens of different configurations of dials, knobs, ignitors, vents, and switches. The type and way that these elements are arranged will ultimately dictate how much control you have over the temperature of your grill.


The Camp Chef Portable Pellet has one of the best user interfaces of any model that we've ever tested, providing you an incredible amount of control over your grill temperatures. While you may be used to seeing mechanical knobs and dials on propane grills (or nothing at all on charcoal versions), the Camp Chef has a digital controller. This allows you to select precise cooking temperatures, which is great for cooking BBQ staples like beef ribs. Once the grill heats up to your desired setting, the computer regulates how many pellets are dropped into the burner in order to maintain that temperature.

camp chef portable pellet portable grill review - the digital controller on the camp chef portable pellet grill is...
The digital controller on the Camp Chef Portable Pellet grill is more akin to a kitchen oven than most portable grills.
Credit: Ross Patton

Other than the digital thermometer inside the grill, the Camp Chef Portable Pellet has two additional probes that display your food's internal temperature. This controlled setup essentially eliminates the guesswork when it comes to cooking large portions of meat, such as tri-tip or ribs. With this model, meals that used to require a seasoned grill guru to monitor a smoker all day can now be cooked by somebody with little to no experience with outdoor cooking. We smoked two rounds of ribs with the Portable Pellet grill – on the second round, we didn't even glance at them until the timer hit ten hours, and they turned out perfectly.

camp chef portable pellet portable grill review - the camp chef portable pellet has two digital meat probes that...
The Camp Chef Portable Pellet has two digital meat probes that display a live view of your food's internal temperature.
Credit: Ross Patton

To double-check for any hot spots or dead zones, we toasted white bread on each grill with the purpose of creating a visual heat map of each grill's cooking surface. Although the Camp Chef Portable Pellet isn't perfect, it showed some solid results in this experiment compared to most of the competition.

camp chef portable pellet portable grill review - the camp chef portable pellet showed some of the best results during...
The Camp Chef Portable Pellet showed some of the best results during our white bread heat mapping.
Credit: Ross Patton

Portability


For this section, we compared the sizes and weights of the various models. We noted any latches, storage areas, carrying handles, or folding side tables. For the biggest models, we considered whether or not the grills have wheels or rolling handles and how difficult they are to cart around.


This is one area where the Camp Chef Portable Pellet falls really short in a few key ways. The biggest reason we docked points is that this pellet grill needs to be connected to an AC power outlet. If you're looking for a portable grill that will serve as your primary backyard BBQ but can also get stored when it's not in use, this model is ideal. If you're travel-ready with solar panels, power banks, or an outlet on your RV, you're good to go. However, if you're looking for a version to roll with you to the beach or an off-grid picnic area, this reliance on an electrical outlet will probably be a deal breaker.

camp chef portable pellet portable grill review - the main drawback that we found while testing the camp chef portable...
The main drawback that we found while testing the Camp Chef Portable Pellet is that it requires power.
Credit: Ross Patton

Aside from the electricity requirement, the Camp Chef is also big and heavy. It has folding legs, wheels, and a handle for rolling, so it gets much smaller than the average backyard BBQ. But it's bulkier than most portable grills that we've tested, and a bit of a pain to haul around.

The Camp Chef Portable Pellet folds down to a manageable size, but...
The Camp Chef Portable Pellet folds down to a manageable size, but it's not the easiest to move.
The legs on the Portable Pellet fold up, but the process is not as...
The legs on the Portable Pellet fold up, but the process is not as easy as some of the other wheeled models we've tested.

Cooking Area


Considering that some people might be looking for a grill to tote along for tailgating, base camping trips, or parties, we want to compare the total real estate each model offers for cooking.


The Camp Chef Portable Pellet has a massive cooking area. The main grilling surface offers an area of 250 square inches on its own, but this model also has a removable upper shelf that's the same size. The upper shelf is two individual pieces, so you can choose to only use half if need be.

camp chef portable pellet portable grill review - between the main grill and the upper deck, the camp chef portable...
Between the main grill and the upper deck, the Camp Chef Portable Pellet has tons of cooking space.
Credit: Ross Patton

Wind Resistance


Wind resistance is an important factor to consider depending on the location and time of the year you plan to use your grill. If you're in a fenced-in backyard, the wind might not be as much of a problem as if you're camping in the mountains. We primarily tested this particular model in the high desert of Southern Utah – an area where the wind won't just blow flames out, it can completely blow your grill away.


The Camp Chef Portable Pellet is one of the few portable grills that we've tested that is capable of withstanding gale force winds. This is one aspect where its size and weight are actually a benefit – because it's so heavy, it's pretty unlikely that it will get blown over. But the main reason that we awarded it such a high score for this metric is how well it continues to cook in high winds. The burner is located deep in the grill body and well protected from the elements. With an electric ignitor, slow-burning pellets, and a flame deflector, it's already more wind resistant than most gas models. Add in a large heat distribution plate that doubles as a grease trap, and the actual cooking flame is hardly affected by wind gusts.

camp chef portable pellet portable grill review - we used the camp chef portable pellet to grill this rack of ribs in...
We used the Camp Chef Portable Pellet to grill this rack of ribs in high desert winds for 10 hours -- the ribs were perfect, and the winds had no effect on cooking performance.
Credit: Ross Patton

Should You Buy the Camp Chef Portable Pellet?


The Camp Chef Portable Pellet is a fantastic option if you don't mind the AC power requirements or its size and weight. There's no doubt that this grill is cumbersome, and the need for electricity is not ideal. But the cooking power, cooking area, and wind resistance offered by this model are awesome. The combination of a digital user interface, a self-regulating electric pellet dispenser, and three individual digital thermometers offer an unparalleled level of temperature control. We heavily recommend this model to RVers looking to add a pellet grill to their travels. But this model is also enticing for serious base campers, tailgaters who want to impress, and people who want a high-performance backyard smoker that they can pack away when it's not in use.

camp chef portable pellet portable grill review - the pellet hopper on the camp chef makes for a great shelf.
The pellet hopper on the Camp Chef makes for a great shelf.
Credit: Ross Patton

What Other Portable Grills Should You Consider?


Pellet grills are certainly not for everyone, especially if you're looking for a highly portable grill. If you want a large grill but don't like the idea of being tethered to power, the Coleman Roadtrip 285 is a similarly sized propane option. For those that aren't interested in wheeling around their grill, the propane-fueled Weber Q 1200 offers high all-around performance in a reasonably small package. If you're grill shopping on a budget and you don't mind a smaller cooking area, check out the Weber Go-Anywhere for a charcoal option or the Cuisinart Grillster for a propane-powered tabletop grill.

Ross Patton
 
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