I also just purchased a Summit after 7 years cooking on my Akorn. I loved the Akorn (still do) but wanted something that was portable/unbreakable like the Akorn but would "last a lifetime" as my Akorn is showing signs of wear. My decision came down to either the Big Joe II or the Summit. I chose the Summit not because of cost, but because in my situation I need to roll my cooker every time from under my deck out onto the patio over an uneven surface. I didn’t want to keep the Big Joe out on the patio (uncovered) permanently and I feared that at some point either me moving it every time or some mover was going to tip the Big Joe over. If that happens with either the Akorn or the Summit I just pick it back up and keep going; probably not so much if that happened to a Big Joe.
I have done a few initial cooks with the Summit and haven't noticed that it uses more charcoal compared to my Akorn. However, I haven't had it above 300 degrees except for the burn in. Friday night I wanted to see if I could do an overnight brisket cook at 225 degrees, something I had not been able to do successfully with my Akorn (even with a temperature controller). My Akorn will rock steady at 250/275 and above but struggled with temperatures below that. I bought a brisket at Kroger last week for $2.47/lb. so even if the experiment was a massive failure I wasn’t going to be out that much. I put the charcoal grate on the lower position and filled it up to the middle position/rack with lump. I lit the charcoal at 7 P.M., put the heat deflector in the middle rack and slowly brought the temperature up to 225 with my Fireboard 2 Pro Drive. I put the brisket on at 9 P.M. and went to bed at 11 P.M. I set an alarm to alert me if the temperature went above 260 or below 180 as I didn’t want the fire to go out or get out of control on the high side. I slept a solid 8 hours with no alerts waking me up and woke up to see the temperature had ranged between 192-226 overnight (see screenshot attached). Not as tight as my OCD would have liked, but perfectly acceptable in exchange for a good night’s sleep. I did the same experiment with my Akorn Christmas Eve/Christmas Day and was woken up a few times overnight when it went out of range. I wrapped the brisket about 9:00 A.M. and increased the temp to 250. It was probe tender by 11:30 A.M. (about 14.5 hours total cook time). It turned out great in my opinion (and my family concurred).
I decided to just let the Summit keep going at 250 degrees as we had the brisket for lunch. I increased the temp to 275 and put a beer-can (whole) chicken on the grill about 4:00 P.M. The chicken was done about 7:30 P.M. and I finally shut the grill down after that (over 24 hours after initially lighting the charcoal). I took off the heat deflector and noticed I still had a great deal of charcoal left (see photo). I probably could have kept on going for at least another 6-12 hours if I had wanted to.
Here are the differences I have noticed so far between my Akorn and the Summit:
· With the temperature controller on both, the Summit holds temperature much more precisely than my Akorn.
· I do notice that with my Summit it does take a bit of a push to keep the temperature up as it tends to swing to the low temperature side and the fan must kick in to bring it back up to the desired setting. The Summit seems to never race out of control on the high side. With the Akorn, it is the opposite; I must be very careful to bring the temp up slowly after lighting and lock down the top vent to barely open after achieving target temp or it will race out of control on the high side.
· After figuring out that the top vent on the Summit must be much more open than on the Akorn, the Summit held temps solid within a few degrees. On my Akorn, the top vent must be held barely open. On the Summit it needs to be at least a ¼ to half way open depending on the temp or it will tend to “go low” on temps necessitating the fan to kick in to bring it back up to the desired temp.
· I speculate these differences are because the Akorn is much more heavily insulated than the Summit (I believe the Akorn uses oven-grade fiberglass insulation whereas the Summit uses air). I think this is actually a design advantage in the Summit’s favor. Also the metal deflector plate on the Summit covers up a much higher % of the charcoal than the Smoking Stone deflector on the Akorn does which may explain some of the difference.
Sorry for the long post. Hope this helps you or someone else upgrading from an Akorn to a Summit.