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By: Max Good
Introduced in 2016, the Weber Summit Charcoal Grills were the first major departure from George Stephen’s original charcoal kettle design in decades. They were bigger, badder and more versatile: super kettles with price tags to match. These premium, high-end cookers were the first charcoal burners to carry the Summit name that adorns Weber’s top of the line gas grills. They were at once superb high temp searing grills, even better than the original kettles, and effective dedicated low and slow indirect heat smokers reminiscent of kamados. We struggled for a category label. Were they kamados? Kamettles? Kettlelados? Here was our 2016 test model beside a classic red 22 inch Weber Kettle. That big box on the side of the Summit Charcoal Grill is a gas ignition so you can start your charcoal with flames.
Grillers throughout the land quickly split into two passionate groups: those who absolutely loved these big black beauties and those who were appalled by the price, which was dramatically higher than any kettle they’d seen. The three legged model that we tested had an MSRP of $1,699.
The cart model was $2,299.
It was a tale of the haves and have nots in more ways than one. Those who had ’em loved ’em. Pretty much the only complaints we’ve heard about the Summit Charcoal Grills, even to this day, were about price, and those came from people who didn’t own one, and often had never even seen one.
Weber listened. In 2020 they rolled out new versions retitled Summit Kamados with way lower prices. The new three legged Summit E6 Kamado is $1,049 and the cart mounted Summit S6 Kamado is $1,799, knocking about one third off the original price tags! That’s pretty amazing because the new models are essentially the same with some minor changes.
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The new Summit Kamados, like their predecessors, are big steel kamados/grills. They are double walled and air insulated. Most kamados are heavy ceramic ovens with thick walls that hold temps steady for long durations, a blessing if you nail the desired temp, a curse if you overshoot because they take forever to cool down. With air insulation between the outer and inner walls, Summits hold temps well and they can switch gears much faster than ceramic or fiberglass insulated kamados, providing both agility and forgiveness when temperature changes are necessary.
Summit’s outer body is Weber’s signature black porcelain-enamel coated steel that has proven its durability for more than 60 years. The inner lining of the lower bowl is also black porcelain-enameled steel. It terminates, open-ended, at the lower coal grate position allowing hot air to be trapped between the outer and inner walls. The inner wall of the lid is aluminum and there is also an air gap between it and the outer wall. A gasket made of thin stainless steel thread woven into a braid runs along the lip of the lid and seals the top and bottom halves.
Though considerably lighter than a ceramic dome, Summit still employs a heavy duty spring assisted hinge making it easy to open and leave open.
We love the movable charcoal grate. It can sit at the bottom directly above the air intake dampers for low and medium temperature cooking.
Or be raised to four inches below the cook surface for super hot grilling.
With a couple of layers of briquets, you can have scorching infrared heat within 2 inches or less of your steak. We’ve long wished for Weber to provide a way of bringing the coal closer to the cook surface for improved searing in their kettle grills.
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A 24 inch diameter hinged stainless steel cooking grate allows you to easily add more charcoal and features Weber’s Original Gourmet Barbecue System which has a removable round center that can be replaced with various inserts like a pizza stone, griddle or wok.
An optional extender grate is available to increase capacity.
A slick “Rapidfire” damper crests the dome. It functions like a standard Weber disc-shaped damper but it is on a hinge and can be flipped up and out of the way for maximum exhaust to increase temps rapidly in conjunction with the lower intake vents.
Both models have Weber’s One-Touch Cleaning System with a snap on/off cup at the bottom that collects ash for easy removal. Metal sweeps inside the bottom bowl push ash through the lower air intake vents into the removable cup by moving a handle sideways from left to right.
The sweeps double as air intake dampers and regulate oxygen to the charcoal fire by opening or covering the intake vents. This makes them an important tool for temperature control. Click here to master the art of using vents to control temperature.Get a sneak peak at Meathead’s next book. He shares chapters with members of our Pitmaster Club as he finishes them. Click here for a free 30 day trial. No credit card needed. No spam. Click here to Be Amazing!
A nice related feature that didn’t change and is still included on both the new E6 and S6 Kamados is a temperature controller port located at the bottom of the bowl right above the One-Touch System.
Temperature controllers like the popular BBQGuru allow you to select and control cooking temperature for charcoal and wood burning grills and smokers. They become your smoke babysitter for long cooks and are especially useful for ones that go overnight. On Summits you place a probe near the meat and close all the air intake vents with the One-Touch damper system. Pop out that small metal disc in the picture and insert a controller fan. Both the probe and fan are connected to a small control box. The probe talks to the controller which turns the fan on and off to regulate the oxygen supply to the coals as needed to maintain your set temp. They work great and are popular with kamado users.
Summit’s ability to move the fire farther from or closer to the cook surface is another important feature for temp control. With the charcoal grate in the lower position, Summit Kamados excel at smoking meats low and slow at 225°F. Check out this beauty we did overnight on our test model.
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Open up the dampers a bit to get in the roasting range of around 350°F and Summit is similar to grilling with a standard Weber Kettle. Grilling with the charcoal grate in the upper position is also similar, only a lot hotter because the charcoal is much closer to the food.
The 24 inch wide cooking surface provides a surprising increase in capacity, and makes 2 zone setups really easy. In a 2 zone setup, you have one side of the grill that is hot and producing direct radiant heat, and the other side is producing no heat. Food on that side cooks by indirect convection heat. Click here to learn how these different cooking methods work.
Summits come with Weber’s Char-Baskets that isolate fuel to either side to create an indirect zone in the center.
We consider 2 zone cooking a crucial technique for outdoor chefs. Most round kamados are not well suited for 2 zone setups because their cooking surface is small and the charcoal is far from the food. Summit Kamados do it with the greatest of ease. Click here to learn more about the importance of 2 zone cooking.
Reverse searing steak is one of our favorite 2 zone tests. With reverse sear you bring the internal meat temp up slowly over moderate convection heat, then finish it off over red hot radiant heat. Click here to learn how to make steakhouse quality steaks with reverse searing.
With the Summit charcoal grate up high, we piled charcoal on one side for hot direct radiant heat and left the opposite side empty for a warm indirect zone. We slowly cooked our 2 inch thick strip steaks to about 110°F internal temp over indirect heat, then seared the snot out of them over the red hot coal on the opposite side, flipping often to create an even dark brown crust. As eagerly anticipated, the blazing fire just 2 to 3 inches beneath the meat browned the steaks beautifully.
That delicious brown crust is caused by the magical Maillard reaction. Click here to learn why brown is beautiful.
Kamado cookers typically use a ceramic disc between the charcoal and the cook surface to block direct radiant heat and even out temps for low and slow cooking, especially smoking. Weber opted to use stainless steel instead of ceramic and the new Summit Kamados are different from the previous models. The old Summit Charcoal grills had a double walled hinged stainless steel disc. The hinged sides allowed easy access to tend the fire and add charcoal.
The new, lower cost version is a one layer, one piece stainless steel disc with holes around the perimeter.
Weber says their surveys showed some owners didn’t like the hinges because greasy food drippings gunked them up and most didn’t use them anyway. Indeed, even kamado owners of modest skill quickly learn how to run low and slow smoking sessions overnight with little effort and a large kamado like Summit can already hold a good amount of fuel.
Both of the old Summit Charcoal Grills had gas ignition. Now it is only included on the S6 Kamado Cart Model. A small burner is mounted inside the bowl just below the lower charcoal grate location. It runs off a 16 ounce propane cylinder located in an enclosure under the work table.
The ignitor can be used to fire up charcoal in either the lower or upper charcoal grate position, although it takes longer to get the fire going when using the upper charcoal grate.
What else is different for these new 2020 models? Not a lot really. But there are a few things worth pointing out.
When the new three legged models first appeared they had wobbly legs. We know Weber was trying to reduce the price by cutting costs, but this change raised a few eyebrows including ours. The problem was that Weber eliminated the triangular frame at the base of the legs.
Early adopters were disgruntled and Weber may have sensed a social media rebellion could ensue. They quickly called in the cavalry, updated all existing inventory to include the original triangular frame, and sent new parts to all owners. We’re surprised Weber allowed this to happen but it looks like they addressed the situation. Here’s the E6 with solid legs reinstated.
On the upside, perhaps, the original Summit Charcoal Grills only had one locking caster and two large black plastic wheels. The new models have three locking casters.
The previous cart model had Weber’s swing out charcoal bin and a more substantial lower shelf.
There was a slot under the lower storage rack on the right side to store the diffuser. The new model has a lighter lower shelf with no diffuser storage slot.
And a charcoal bag that seals shut with velcro.
Is it a Kamettle? Is it a Kettalado? OK let’s just call it a Kamado dag nab it! And a hell of a good one at that. Weber knew they had a great product in 2016 but too many consumers just wouldn’t accept the price.
How could the few, peripheral downgrades for 2020 reap such a large cost reduction? Was it overpriced to begin with as some claimed? People who bought them didn’t think so. Plus they were right in line with price tags on comparable models from other top kamado brands.
The new complaint from a shrinking number of detractors is that Weber cheapened the construction to lower the price. They didn’t do themselves any favors with the wobbly leg on the first batch of E6s but they dealt with the situation quickly. Like the first Summit Charcoal Grills, these new Summit Kamados aren’t made from tin cans in distant lands. They are high quality porcelain enamel coated steel manufactured by Weber in Illinois. We won’t speculate the how and why of what transpired behind closed doors at the castle in Palatine to bring the prices down so dramatically. From where I sit, all I see is a big win for our readers.
Iconic Weber Kettles are some of the most popular and respected backyard grills in the world. Those who’ve mastered a kettle can do everything on it from grill a steak to bake a cake and these Summit Kamados are kettles on steroids. If you like your Weber Kettle, you’ll love their Kamados. We give these babies our AmazingRibs.com Best Value Platinum Medals!
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.
Published On: 9/20/2021 Last Modified: 9/23/2021
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