The Pit Boss Copperhead Vertical Pellet Smokers are an interesting product line. The smokers look handsome, are relatively affordable and have massive capacity. If you are looking at the Copperheads then the four main questions you need to ask are:
- What Do You Get with A Copperhead Vertical Smoker?
- Are the Copperhead Vertical Smokers Good?
- Should You Buy the 3, 5 or 7 Model?
- What About the Copperhead vs Sportsman?
Keep reading and I will make a case that you should skip the Copperheads and the only model you should consider is the Pit Boss Sportsman 5 Series.
And for the record, there are zero affiliate links on this page. I have absolutely no financial interest if you buy any of these products.
Three Versions of the Copperhead Pellet Smoker
Pit Boss makes three versions of the Copperhead, the Series 3, Series 5 and Series 7 and they are all covered by a five year warranty. All three versions are similar and the only meaningful differences between the models are outlined in the table below.
|Model||Cooking Grates||Grilling Area (sq in)||Hopper Capacity||MSRP|
|Copperhead 3||4||721||40 lbs||$549|
|Copperhead 5||5||1,513||55 lbs||$659|
|Copperhead 7||6||1,815||55 lbs||$799|
Here is a look at the smoking space inside the Pit Boss Copperhead Series 5.
All models of the Copperhead have a water pan/grease tray above the fire pot and an easy access front pull out ash pan.
Pit Boss says the 5 Series can hold:
- 16 whole chickens
- 18 racks of ribs
- 16 pork shoulders
I have talked with a few folks that have told me the practical capacity of these smokers is less than stated because they found the temperature at the bottom rack, closest to the fire pot, was significantly hotter than the other racks. As a result they use the bottom rack to hold another water pan for increased moisture and improved temperature distribution.
Real World Pit Boss Copperhead Reviews
I compiled the reviews for the 3, 5 and 7 series vertical pellet smokers from the following sites:
- Pit Boss
As of July, 2022 these amounted to 471 reviews. The number of reviews for each model are:
- Series 3: 102 reviews
- Series 5: 311 reviews
- Series 7: 14 reviews
Here is what the data looks like for each model.
The percentage of five star reviews is low enough to be alarming (58-36%) as are the percentage of one star reviews (22-14%).
When you combine the data sets from all three models it looks like this:
I am a fan of the Pit Boss brand and I love how they are fighting Traeger in the pellet grill wars (see Pit Boss vs Traeger for more information) so it is disturbing for me to see the low ratings on this smoker. Pit Boss is an excellent Traeger alternative and I want to see them succeed.
Why Does the Copperhead Get Poor Reviews?
I read through all of the 1 and 2 star reviews to see if I could find some recurring themes about customer dissatisfaction.
One trend was several people were upset that their smoker arrived damaged. However, I see those complaints for every model of grill from every manufacturer. Sometimes accidents happen in shipping and from what I read Pit Boss was very good at sending replacement smokers.
The real issue that emerged was reliability. Review after review talked about getting error codes after just a few uses. Control panels were burning out and circuitry was failing.
Here is an excellent video from one very frustrated owner of a Series 5 model where he walks through how he has attempted to fix some issues but is still having massive reliability problems. If you read the comments below the video there are about 70 people who responded that they are having the same issues.
At first the reliability issue was confusing since the Copperhead has the same control panel as the Pit Boss Austin XL. The Pit Boss Austin XL has a 68% 5 star rating which is considerably better than what we see for the Copperhead.
One reviewer left a suggestion that makes the most sense to me. The reviewer pointed out that the control panel on the Copperhead is located directly below the fire pot making it exposed to higher temperature conditions than normal. Looking at the location of the control panel below I can understand how it might become problematic.
More support for the idea that the controller location is the reason for the reliability issues comes from the newest vertical pellet smoker from Pit Boss, the Platinum 5 Series Brunswick pictured below.
The Brunswick has an upgraded PID control panel with WiFi and Bluetooth capability. I noticed that for this upgraded vertical smoker that the control panel is located on the TOP of the smoker where conditions will be coolest. This design feature was also mimicked in the Pro Series 4 vertical pellet smoker at Lowes where the control panel is located on the side of the smoker near the top.
Most People Love Their Copperhead Vertical Smokers
Everything is not gloom and doom for the Copperhead and there are a lot of folks who love theirs. When you combine the 5 and 4 star ratings you see that about 70% of buyers are pretty fond of this smoker.
These are massive, affordable, beautiful looking smokers and, when they work properly, can be used to make amazing barbecue. Pit Boss has excellent customer service and these smokers are covered by a 5 year warranty (you need to register your smoker first). If you do end up needing a new control panel then you can simply call Pit Boss up, describe the problem and they will send you a replacement.
Replacing the control panel is pretty simple and here is a video that shows you exactly how to perform the installation.
If this will be your only smoker or if you do not feel like you would want to deal with the hassle of replacing a control panel then this is not the smoker for you.
If this is going to be a secondary smoker or if you can grab one of these on a clearance sale then I would go ahead and take a chance. In the worst case scenario you will need to do some repair work every now and then and in the best case you might get an amazing smoker with no problems whatsoever!
Should You Buy the Copperhead 3, 5 or 7?
When it comes to choosing between these three models the decision comes down to capacity and budget. Personally I think the best option for most people is to go with the 5 Series.
Copperhead 3 vs 5
One of the main reasons to get a vertical smoker is capacity and, in my mind, it does not make sense to get a “small large smoker”.
While the 3 series has 721 square inches of cooking space you need to realize that the space is spread across four small grates. While each grate is big enough to handle a couple of five pound pork butts they are not big enough to fit a full size packer brisket.
Check out the video below as the guys have to use a foil wrapped brick to get a small, 10 pound brisket to fit into a Series 3 smoker.
I spent some time searching through this YouTube channel to see what else he was doing with the Series 3 smoker and the biggest thing I learned was that he upgraded to a Sportsman 5 Series.
Copperhead 5 vs 7
While I believe that the 3 is too small I will make the argument that the 5 Series is big enough.
The 7 Series costs about $150 more than the 5 Series and all you get for the extra money is a slightly taller smoker with one more cooking grate.
The 5 Series has plenty of room to handle five briskets at once. How many times are you ever going to need the capacity to cook even more than five briskets at a time?
Another downside with the 7 series is that since it has a larger internal volume than the 5 series it will take longer to get back to temperature after you open the door and will burn more pellets to maintain the same temperature.
Pit Boss Copperhead vs Sportsman
Pit Boss has another product line of vertical pellet grills, the Sportsman Series. The Sportsman and Copperhead grills are identical in terms of capacity, functions, etc and simply have different badging so they can be sold in different stores.
The reason that I would buy a Sportsman 5 Series instead of the Copperhead 5 Series is because I think the Sportsman looks sharper and it comes with a set of 5 meat hooks and 5 sausage hooks.
If the smokers are identical in price and function then it seems silly not to get the one with the extra accessories thrown in 🙂
This article was originally published in 2018 and was last updated in July, 2022.