If this promising newcomer looks familiar, there is a reason. It is an English/Canadian knockoff of the venerable Weber Smokey Mountain. It comes in two sizes, the Napoleon Apollo AS300K being the largest. Like the WSM, it is a bullet water smoker, and like the WSM, it is black porcelain coated. Unlike most knockoffs, this unit has a couple of clever design innovations and improvements over the original. But like all the rest it has the mandatory inaccurate, built-in heat indicator.
At the bottom is a bowl with a steel basket for the charcoal. The basket design seems to be an improvement over the WSM because it is a single integrated piece. On the WSM there is a grate and a ring that sits on top. The bowl has three adjustable air intakes, just like the WSM. In this configuration, insert a grate, and it can work as a simple grill. The lid can fit on it so it looks like a Weber Kettle. The lid design is also better than the WSM in that it is harder for rain to get into the body. It also latches on so the whole unit can be lifted by the handle. There is also a bar in the lid with five hooks so you can hang rib slabs or fish. That's another nice feature because the 20" diameter cooking grate is long enough for one slab of ribs, but if you want to put two or three on the grate, you will need to roll them or cut them in half. Read more about setups for Bullet Shaped Charcoal Smokers.
On top of the base you can add two rings to raise the lid and insert a water bowl and a second grate. The WSM has only one ring in the center, but I'm not sure there is much need for the second ring. There is a nice improvement in that the rings can also be latched on to make it easier to move. Each ring has an eyelet predrilled to allow users to insert a thermometer probe at grate level (probe not included). We also like the fact that the two access doors in the center sections are hinged. On the WSM the single door slides in and out awkwardly.
Another nice feature: It is a little less expensive than the WSM. What is unknown is how they will last. Weber is legendary for making solid, well-built, long lasting BBQ cookers. Time will tell if this one will equal or surpass the original.
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.
Napoleon is a Canadian company that manufactures a wide variety of grills, smokers, accessories and books. They started in 1976 as a small steel fabrication company in Ontario, Canada, then branched out into making fireplaces and grills. Although Napoleon sightings are rare south of the Canadian border, they produce quality products and are essentially Canada's answer to Weber. In fact it's hard not to draw comparisons between Napoleon and Weber, even their logo and website are similar. But Napoleon comes up with just enough distinctive ideas to make them a viable contender.