When you’re a brand as iconic as Weber, with a history that parallels America’s love affair with backyard barbecue, releasing a new grill is bound to stir interest. It’s not surprising, then, that when Weber began teasing its new #grillofalifetime, the buzz was deafening, with Weber devotees and the BBQ world at large speculating on what the mystery grill would be.
On April 6, Weber revealed the Summit Charcoal Grill, a steel kamado tricked out with a propane ignition and stainless steel trimmings. Available in two configurations, it features the same grill on different carts. The standard model comes on a basic three-wheeled cart with a wire lower shelf, while the Grilling Center comes on a larger work cart with a stainless steel tabletop, wire basket, bottom wire rack, and a weatherproof charcoal storage bin.
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A Case of Mistaken Identity and Misinformation
At first glance, the Summit Charcoal didn’t look all that different than other Weber charcoal grills, and a higher-than-expected price tag only added to the confusion. In the days after the unveiling, social media was flooded with comments labeling it an overpriced Weber Performer by those who weren’t familiar with kamado grills, as well as comparisons to smaller eggs from those who hadn’t seen an accurate comparison between the Summit Charcoal and its competitors.
To be fair, information on the Summit Charcoal was scarce, with Weber keeping it’s new grill secret until the morning of its release. Even now, there are very few resources that detail how the Weber Summit Charcoal performs, what it includes, and how it compares to other popular kamado grills. Having had the opportunity to use it, we can provide those answers.
Introducing the Weber Summit Charcoal Grill
Laying eyes on the Summit Charcoal, it’s easy to see why some confused it for an extra large Performer. It’s egg shape and black porcelain-enameled finish are close enough to Weber’s classic design that even a BBQ pro would be forgiven for mistaking it for an updated kettle. It also lacks the telltale trait that separates most kamados from other grills: it’s not ceramic.
A steel kamado, the Summit Charcoal features double-walled air insulation that allows it to retain heat as well as a traditional kamado. However, because it’s made of steel, it’s lighter and more durable than ceramic. The steel construction isn’t the only non-traditional feature. The Summit Charcoal is outfitted with Snap-Jet™ propane ignition for quick and easy lighting, as well as an innovative Rapidfire™ Lid Damper that flips open and acts like a chimney to help temperatures climb quickly. If those extras should fail to get your attention, there’s also plenty of eye-catching stainless steel.
A Kamado Loaded with Durable Stainless Steel
With its 24 inch cooking grate, the Weber Summit Charcoal is one of the larger kamado grills around and is comparable to the Big Green Egg® XL and the Kamado Joe® Big Joe™. The stainless steel grate is hinged for easy access to the firebox, while the two-position fuel grate can be adjusted for smoking or searing. That’s just a hint of the many stainless steel features that come standard with the Summit, including the upper and lower dampers, bands, handle, and tool hooks. Two of the more impressive inclusions are the stainless steel braided gasket that’s more durable than the felt gasket found on most eggs, and the hinged air-insulated stainless steel diffuser plate, a necessity for low-and-slow smoking.
Cooking on the Weber Summit Charcoal
Thanks to Weber, we were able to cook on the Summit Charcoal for a day and run some practical tests with an eye towards finding out how it performs and how it compares to traditional ceramic kamados.
Kamado grills can be intimidating—they get hot incredibly fast, require some finesse, and are difficult to cool down if you overshoot your desired temperature. Weber designed the Summit Charcoal with ease in mind, integrating as much convenience as possible so that novices and pitmasters alike can enjoy kamado cooking. Not only did Weber outfit the Summit Charcoal with a quality propane ignition that’s identical to the one found on their Summit Gas Grill, they developed a step-by-step cooking system that makes it simple to hit the right temperature and make the perfect meal. Everything from how much charcoal to use and how long to keep the lid open after lighting to what your damper settings should be is explicitly spelled out. (Once you register your Summit Charcoal, Weber sends the step-by-step manual/cookbook free.)
Following Weber’s instructions, we used the included scoop to measure the charcoal (Weber recommends briquettes, because they’re uniform and easier to measure) and started the Snap-Jet™ ignition, which uses a disposable propane tank. After 7 minutes the charcoal was lit, so we shut off the propane, mixed the coals through, inserted the diffuser plate and grill grate, then closed lid. The Rapidfire™ Lid Damper can be used 2 ways: it can be spun to fine tune airflow or flipped open to raise the temperature quickly. One of the things we had heard was that, unlike other kamados, the Summit’s temp could be lowered fairly easily. So even though we wanted to be at 250°F to reverse sear steaks, we flipped the Rapidfire™ Lid Damper open. In minutes, the temperature climbed to 350°F, at which point we shut the Rapidfire™ Lid and closed the dampers to a sliver, choking the coals. Sure enough, in about 10 minutes the temperature came back down to 250°F.
The steaks went on and cooked until they reached an internal temperature of 115°F. We then set up for direct cooking, flipping open the Rapidfire™ Lid and opening up the lower damper. In 10 minutes the Summit reached 600°F. Here’s where things got interesting. We wanted to finish the steaks over an open flame, but had no gloves or tools handy to safely remove the diffuser. No problem. Since the diffuser plate is hinged, we just flipped open one side and, voila, we had a direct cooking zone and perfect steaks.
So far we had quickly gone from low-and-slow to high-heat, which any kamado should be able to do. We had also successfully lowered the temperature 100° to simulate a person overshooting the temp. But now we were in the mood for smoked jalapeno poppers and needed to go from 600°F to 250°F. For a ceramic grill this would take hours, but we closed down the dampers and waited. In 50 minutes the Summit hit 250°F and was ready to smoke. (Note: we believe the Summit would have warmed up faster and cooled down quicker had we used lump charcoal rather than the suggested briquettes.)
Weber® Summit® Charcoal vs Big Green Egg®
A question people often ask when considering a kamado grill is how it compares to the Big Green Egg, since that’s the best-known kamado on the market. The answer, though, is not always simple. Because kamados come in a variety of sizes and include different features, it’s important to compare similar sized grills and take into consideration what, if any, accessories are included.
The Summit Charcoal is comparable to the Big Green Egg XL. Although you can buy a standard Big Green Egg XL for less than a Weber Summit Charcoal, it comes with less. Unlike the Summit Charcoal, the Big Green Egg XL doesn’t include a cart (which you probably want) or diffuser plates (which you definitely want) or a stainless steel cooking grate. All of that must be purchased separately. Nor does Big Green Egg offer propane ignition or any stainless steel options beyond the grill grate.
Ultimately, we were impressed by the Weber Summit Charcoal and enjoyed cooking onit. Weber successfully introduced convenience and easy-to-use features to a kamado grill, making it more accessible to beginners while maintaining the performance pitmasters demand.