When I first saw the Pit Boss Copperhead Vertical Pellet Smokers at Walmart a few years ago I was excited. The smokers looked handsome, were affordable and had massive capacity. The problem was that the product was brand new and there were not enough real world reviews to make an informed decision as to whether these were good smokers or not.
We are now up to November, 2020 and I have been able to find 471 reviews of the Copperhead smokers by real customers. Keep reading and see the if these smokers are right for you.
Three Versions of the Vertical Pellet Smoker
Pit Boss makes three versions of the Copperhead, the Series 3, Series 5 and Series 7. The only meaningful differences between the models are cooking capacity, how many pounds of pellets the hopper can hold, price and where the smokers are sold. All models are covered by a five year warranty.
|3 Series||5 Series||7 Series|
|Cooking Area (sq in)||900||1,513||1,853|
|Hopper Capacity (pounds)||40||50||55|
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 Reviews
I compiled the reviews for the 3,5 and 7 series vertical pellet smokers from the following sites:
- Pit Boss
As of November 3, 2020 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.
Most People Love Their Pit Boss 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.
Are the Vertical Pellet Smokers Right For You?
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!
If you have first hand experience with the Copperhead, positive or negative, then please leave a comment below to help us all learn as a community!