The new SmokeFire Sear+ continues to improve upon the many impressive features of Weber’s innovative, one-of-a-kind pellet grill design, the most striking of which is the high temp searing performance that smokes other pellet “grills.”
We have always referred to pellet cookers as pellet smokers, never pellet grills, because ever since they were introduced in the 1980s, they have functioned as indirect heat ovens similar to the way an indoor oven works. In most pellet smokers, the heat source (firepot) sits beneath a metal plate as pictured below. Notice that the metal plate is slightly tilted to divert grease into a tray and/or bucket. This design does a great job at grease management. If you love smoked turkey, ribs, brisket, salmon, and more, it doesn’t get any easier than cooking on a pellet smoker.
Until SmokeFire, if you wanted a perfect sear on a steak or burger, you had to put the meat in a hot pan, on a griddle, or a griddle-like surface such as GrillGrates. Why is this important? Because brown tastes good. When foods sear and brown, chemical reactions called the Maillard reactions and caramelization happen, and they create desirable flavors. The browner the merrier, which is why we prefer to see an all-over browning of the surface rather than the partial browning of grill marks. Click here to learn more about these chemical reactions, why brown is beautiful, and why we don’t want grill marks.
Unfortunately, hot air does not deliver enough energy to properly brown the surface of a steak. Browning is best done by hot metal, like a griddle or by infrared radiation (IR), from glowing coals or a flame. Think about how your toaster browns bread but your oven doesn’t. Lots of IR in that toaster, not much in an oven. Most pellet smokers are like ovens. Click here to learn more about the thermodynamics of grilling.
Some pellet smokers are designed to expose a section of the cooking surface to direct flame called a sear zone. But that sear zone just never seems to properly sear a steak, and certainly no more than one or two, due to its small size.
SmokeFire is designed like Weber’s gas grills with inverted V shaped “flavorizer bars” so that the meat is exposed to a lot more direct flame and IR across the entire cooking surface.
As a result, you can actually get a good sear, especially in the center where the heat source is located. With fan and flames blowing, it feels like a gas and charcoal grill rolled into one.
The flat drip trays on other pellet smokers collect almost all greasy drippings and divert them into a grease bucket. When the first SmokeFires appeared, many were irate that the flavorizer bars allowed grease to drip to the bottom, where it could mix with ash and create a flammable sludge. Bloggers leapt over each other to declare this an outrageous fire hazard. We too were concerned. But it didn’t take long for us to adapt and just place a foil pan on top of the flavorizer bars, under the cooking grate to collect grease from fatty hunks like pork butts. That’s something we often did anyway with all pellet smokers to make clean up a little easier. And we now feel the tradeoff of dealing with SmokeFire’s unique design is well worth the excellent searing performance.
Another complaint with the original SmokeFire was the pellet hopper, which is located at the back rather than off to one side as on most pellet smokers. That’s not an issue, but instead of a tall box shape, the hopper is long and shallow with the auger feed opening on the left side as shown in this photo of an older model. Pellets on the left easily enter the auger feed door just below the depression in the pellets in the photo below, while those on the right linger in a pile. This “funneling” happens to a degree on all pellet hoppers, but funneling on SmokeFire was more pronounced than any we’ve seen.
Weber says they have addressed this issue with the new versions.
Sear+ will not be available until sometime this spring, but we were treated to a sneak peek at Weber’s test kitchen.
It comes in two sizes: the mid-size ELX4 (771 square inches of capacity across upper and lower racks – MSRP $1,399) and large ELX6 (1.156 square inches total cooking capacity – MSRP $1,599). Both sizes have left and right side shelves and a large, fold-out warming rack (seen in the photo) to extend capacity.
Sear+ will be compatible with the Weber Crafted Outdoor Kitchen Collection. The Crafted Collection consists of a variety of optional accessories, such as a griddle and WOK, that fit into a special frame that replaces the standard cooking grate. This photo shows a Crafted Dutch Oven on the Genesis EPX-335 Smart Gas Grill.
When using the Crafted system you can store the unused, standard cooking grate by hanging it on hooks under the right side shelf.
Weber throws in their Crafted Dual-Sided Sear Grate as a package deal with this model. You won’t get this kind of high heat sizzle from other pellet grills.
An interior light is useful when cooking after dark. Of course, Sear+ will use Weber Connect which controls and monitors your cooking from a control panel on the right side of the grill or an app on your smart phone. Additionally, the app features a library of guided recipes.
We’ll test Sear+ and publish our full, detailed review soon. Stay tuned.
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SmokeFire Sear+ LX4
Made in USA:
Looked Closely At It We have seen this product up close and we have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners, and other reliable sources.
771 square inches
Large(about 38 burgers)
Weber-Stephen is one of the oldest and most respected manufacturers of BBQ equipment and related accessories in the world. Weber grills and smokers cook beautifully and have great features that are clever, effective and easy to use. As popularity and demand for BBQ gear grows worldwide, Weber continues to earn their long standing reputation for quality, durability and outstanding customer service and support, (7 days a week from 7am to 8pm CST), in an increasingly competitive environment. Even in this crowded marketplace, many consumers are still willing to pay more for the Weber name and they are rarely disappointed. They make a variety of cookers and smokers. Their iconic black charcoal kettles are known throughout the world. Indeed Weber is expanding globally.
Weber-Stephen was family owned since it was founded in 1952 by George Stephen. At the end of 2010 the Stephen family sold a majority stake to Chicago investment group BDT Capital Partners. In 2012, Weber settled a class action suit out of court regarding their use of the phrase, “Made in USA”. Weber previously qualified the “Made in USA” statement by specifying their products are assembled in the USA with some components that are sourced globally. Here is an excerpt from Weber’s statement “Weber believes that because all Weber grills and the disputed accessories are designed and engineered in the USA, and all grills save for one line [Spirit]* are manufactured and assembled in the USA using component parts primarily made in the USA, it did nothing wrong and therefore has valid defenses to plaintiff’s claims. The court has not held a trial or ruled in favor of either party on any disputed issues. Weber and the plaintiff have agreed to settle the matter to avoid the costs of continued litigation.” As a result of this suit, Weber can no longer claim to be made in America.
Since then Weber, like many others, has outsourced manufacturing of more product lines. Things change, but we believe Weber’s commitment to quality and innovation has not.
The biggest barrier for many folks is price. Webers are not cheap, but when you consider that they last decades, the price is easy to justify. Many some cheap grills fall apart after three years or so.
Our main complaint: All Webers have the obligatory bi-metal dial thermometer in the hood that gives you a ballpark reading of what the temperature is high above the meat. Since we cook on the grates, though, it’s always better to bring your own digital thermometer and place a probe there. It appears this is beginning to change as Weber enters a new era of digital technology and software based products.
Max Good, Full time grill tester - Max Good, AmazingRibs.com's Vice President of Product Reviews & Keeper of the Flame, is the man in charge of finding the best products for the AmazingRibs.com Equipment Reviews section. Max bottles his own barbecue sauce recipes and now sells them around the country.