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.
Mike Henry says
I purchased a Copperhead 5 before Christmas , had 50# of venison summer sausage to smoke . I used maybe 10# of pellets in 12 hrs at temp of 225 degrees . It was below freezing out . Hope this helps . Mike
Mike, that is very helpful. Thank you! Do you have an estimate of how much fuel the smoker uses? Is it really 2 pounds per hour?
Based on my smokes so far I’m averaging 1.25 lbs per hour, buying 30 lbs of pellets for 13.99 plus tax at Walmart so 10 hour smoke costs me about $6. Also noticed the the temp control is much better at 250 rather than 225.
Mack, thanks a TON for the info!
Mark Leclair says
Mack, I just bought a Pit Boss series 5 smoker and found that it is shutting off on me when it gets hot. Is their anything you might know about it that would help me fix this?
My local Wally has the floor model out. It looks very solid well built. Wally was running some incredible Pellet deals on the Pit Boss 40lb bags = $15, in store. I saw a reviewer that liked the unit but said the temperate from the bottom rack vs the top rack varied quite a bit (hotter at the bottom). Has anyone else notice variance like this?
Jason, that temperature variation would not surprise me at all given the location of the burn pot. That thing is huge enough that I would probably just stick a giant water pan on the bottom rack and only use the upper racks for cooking.
This was something I saw on the unit at the store today. The temps vary so you can smoke a large variety of things at once. I like smoked cheeses as well as brisket etc. I can smoke a rack of ribs without having the cheese I smoke melt all over it. Since I’m only smoking meat for my wife and I, the versatility grabbed me.
PC RODRIGUEZ says
Thinking of purchasing the #5 from wally world, just wondering if after you reach your smoking satisfaction time, can you then just leave the temp as you wish to complete your meats as I do with my masterbuilt(which I have had for 5yrs) and use 3 or 4 times additionally throughout the year plus all of May-Sept, because I really want this large vertical…also can I use small wood chips on occassion . On my masterbuilt the chip tray is SO VERY SMALL,.(about a hand full is all, and its the large 40 masterbuilt). I have to keep reloading every few hrs, however swapping one refill will pellets, then no longer add either…. just leave temp do rest at 225 degrees until done. Eagerly waiting a reply from someone
PC, Pit Boss gets all of its heat from burning wood pellets. The Masterbuilt gets its heat from an electric heating element and the smoke from smoldering wood chips. The Pit Boss gets its heat and smoke BOTH from the wood pellets. The smoke flavor from pellet smokers is generally pretty mild since the pellets are so clean burning. The bottom line is that this does NOT operate the same way as your Masterbuilt.
I just bought the 3 series at Academy Sports because I had a $250 gift card I needed to use. I like smoking briskets, so the 5 Series would be better suited since the racks are large enough. I called Pit Boss to ask a few questions on getting the most smoke flavor, and their customer service is fantastic. They picked up on the 3rd ring, and it was an American on the other line. They guy told me to keep it on the smoke setting for at least 1 to 2 hours (180 degrees) before raising it to 250. I only asked this question because it was burning so clean at the high burn in temperature of 350. Has anyone started at 250 and got a nice smoke ring and smoke flavor?
Jim, please keep us posted on how this smoker performs. Would love to hear some updates!
Just got a copperhead 5 yesterday, gonna put it together tomorrow????☺☺
Awesome, John! I hope you love the smoker. Please keep us posted with updates. I would love to hear your thoughts on this guy after you have it broken in.
Got a copperhead 3, just used it to make pulled pork. Did an excellent job, I used competition blend which I bought for $20 at Menards for a 40 pound bag. Outside temp was around 22, i smoked at lowest setting for 2 hours and then 225, as stated earlier by another review $250 seem to hold temp better. Couldn’t be happier!
Chris, thanks for the update from the field! Are you satisfied with the size on the Copperhead 3?
It was a gift for me, but honestly for what i smoke it’s actually a good size. No complaints.
Anyone venture a guess why the 3 is more than the 5?
Chuck Moreno says
Just got the #5. Does anyone know where to get the cover?
Tom Paonessa says
You can buy the cover on Amazon for $34 I just got my series 5 smoker yesterday and I’m gonna smoke pork shoulder,beef ribs and a chicken on Saturday
I’m doing my first burn on the 5 this morning. I’ve already started the modification process to try and improve the accuracy of this thing. See notes:
Easy to set up and get started
Meat probe appears to be pretty accurate
Ditch the emblem on the front door and put a $10 thermometer from Home Depot in its place. Helps to see what your temps are doing inside the box.
Temp on the control panel is all over the place. Running 225, just saw 325 actual. Thermometer in door is holding strong at 215 so it should be ok.
I am not a huge fan of the single fan speed. You could easily control the temperature variance if the controller were allowed to control the fan RPM similar to professional smokers. I may add a rheostat to slow the fan down a little and see what happens. My Louisiana smoker does the same thing.
I will post more after my first pork butt is done.
Thanks for the update, Dietr! Really great feedback!
First burn went well. Saw huge temp fluctuations on the main screen all day but the added door manual thermometer stayed roughly the same the whole time. Looking into a true PID pellet controller to modify this with. I will keep you posted if I do the mod.
**TIP** Keep the damn water tray full of water. It boiled off a lot faster than my other smokers and the drippings burned into it pretty good…. Really hard to clean those crispies out
Thanks a ton for the info, Dietr!
I just bought a Pit Boss 4 yesterday, looked for reviews on it but can’t find anything on a 4, Is this a brand new model?
Yes, the “4” model is new this year.
Looks like Louisiana Grills bought in somehow- they’re selling the big-boy version at Costco for $450 right now- I believe it would be the same as the series 7. It’s rebranded, but I’m 95% certain it’s the same smoker. It looks exactly the same and has all the same specs, but with a different badge.
I’m so tempted to go grab this to replace my tired char-griller pellet smoker. Anyone have and experience with longevity at this point, or at least ease of replacing parts?
Oh- it comes with a cover, too.
Steve, I saw that smoker about a week ago and I think that you are right! Louisiana Grills has a pretty good track record with Customer Service.
Mike Handley says
Hi there are you saying that the Pit Boss 7 and the Louisiana Big Boy are the same machine . Also is the Big Boy cheaper
Mike, Pit Boss and Louisiana Grills are both brands that are owned by Dansons. It look like Dansons has used the same design on both of these smokers and changed up some design elements and badging. Both smokers come with a 5 year warranty.
Cheryl Nelson says
David (and any others who are interested):
It’s taken me a while to get my Copperhead3 up and running. Had to replace the control panel right away, and it took some time to get someone here to help me with that. Used the unit for meatloaf, corn, and baked potatoes yesterday. (Hey….MY meatloaf is yummy!) 🙂 Seems my temp held pretty closed to setting, but my issue is lack of smoke. I see a couple of reviews/comments where it is indicated one should leave the unit on “SMOKE” for 1 to 2 hours. But I’m confused….my owners’ manual says to do the start up on SMOKE, then preheat at 350, and THEN set to desired cooking temp. SMOKE shows on the dial of my unit as below the 150* mark….certainly nothing cooks below 150*! So what am I missing? Should I be setting the unit back to SMOKE after the preheat at 350*, instead of going from the preheat to “desired temperature” for cooking, as per the manual? Approximately what temperature would I expect SMOKE to actually achieve at 1 to 2 hours?
I have 7+ years of smoking experience, but this is my first pellet smoker……..learning curves ahead!
Anthony S Millon says
I just got mine set up, but can’t get it to smoke??? I’ve followed the instructions but nothing is working. Anyone else have issues getting the unit to smoke?
Skup Dockery says
I got the Vertical 5, halfway through the first cook temp probe quit working, s o I put it into the second probe receptacle and still says no probe, help!