I have always held that the best propane smokers were made by Masterbuilt but the Red Rock Series 2 and Series 3 from Pit Boss recently grabbed my attention. These smokers cost between $200 and $250 and are covered by a one year warranty.
The Pit Boss propane smokers are, in my opinion, a little undersized. The Series 2 smoker has 3 porcelain coated cooking grates that are about 14 x 15 inches. The Series 3 smoker has four of the same sized grates. From this standpoint these smokers look like just about all of the other undersized propane smokers on the market.
Let’s take a look at what caught my attention about these two products.
What is Different About These Propane Smokers?
What grabbed my attention about these smokers is that they have two burners that serve very different functions.
The primary 10,000 BTU/hr burner is used to heat the cooking chamber while a second 3,500 BTU/hr burner is used to heat the smoker box that holds the wood chips.
Both of these burners are controlled by a single knob on the front of the smoker. According to the Owner’s Manual:
- When the control knob is set to HIGH both burners will be fully lit. This will give you smoke the fastest and will take the smoker to its highest temperature (about 350F).
- When the control knob is set to MEDIUM the main burner is on LOW and the smoker box burner is lit. This will give you an intermediate temperature in the smoker with plenty of smoke.
- When the control knob is set to LOW the main burner is OFF and only the smoker burner will be lit.
This burner configuration means that you can run this smoker at temperatures as low as 100F.
The ability to run this smoker at low temperature while also generating smoke might make this the best smoker for making beef and pork jerky!
Many people use 30 inch Masterbuilt electric smokers for making jerky because of the ability to dial in and maintain temperatures in the 150F range. While high quality electric smokers can hold these temps just fine they struggle to generate smoke at these low temperatures. People often resort to adding cold smoke generators to their electric smokers to get the jerky flavor profiles they desire.
While I always call smokers of this size too small that is in reference to cooking ribs and brisket. If what you are interested in is making jerky then the size of the grates are not a problem.
The downside of the Pit Boss propane smokers is going to be the same for any propane smoker and that is the need to refill the wood chips every 30-90 minutes. On the plus side, the Pit Boss smokers have a nice slide out wood chip tray that makes refills easy.
Real World Reviews
I compiled all of the reviews from Walmart and Amazon on these smokers. I tried to use the reviews from the Pit Boss website but those reviews were combined with the Pit Boss vertical wood pellet smokers.
Since the only meaningful difference between the Series 2 and Series 3 is size I went ahead and combined both data sets to end up with 451 real world customer reviews (as of November 14, 2020). Here is what the data looks like.
These smokers have received a 69% 5 Star rating and a 19% 4 Star rating. Combined this gives an overall satisfaction rate of 88%. Given the ratio of 5 Star to 4 Star ratings it seems like people think that these smokers are pretty good but not awesome.
What Do People Not Like?
12% of owners gave these smokers a 3 Star or lower ranking. The negative comments had some consistent themes.
Many people reported that it took the smokers a long time to reach high temperatures (275-300F) while others said that in cold or windy conditions that achieving high temperatures was not possible.
On a related note, other reviewers complained about the difficulty in controlling temperatures. The three position dial (Low, Medium, High) did not give them the flexibility of control that they wanted.
One last common theme concerns difficulty with using the wood chip tray. Some people had problems with the wood catching on fire while other people said the tray was hard to use and was extremely hot when you needed to refill the wood chips mid-cook.
Should You Buy One?
As long as you go into the purchase knowing that the smoker performs better at low temperatures than high temperatures and are not obsessed with precision temperature control then I think you will be happy with one of these. If this is going to be your first smoker then you ought to read this article on Electric vs Propane Smokers to see if a propane fired smoker is right for you.
The 3 Series is priced at $250 while the 2 Series comes in at $200. Considering the low price points of these smokers and the general satisfaction levels they appear to be a good budget purchase.
I have had the Series 3 smoker for a little over 2 months now and have a pretty good feel for it, for what I do, I have not had an issue with size, however if you were doing a whole Brisket, a large racks of ribs, etc. I could see it being too small.
The 2 burner system is nice, I have not had an opportunity to try it on its lowest setting yet but I cannot foresee any issues with it. The control is finicky, and in colder weather below 30 deg. F. the statement of 350 deg. F is a stretch the way it is set up you would be hard pressed to achieve 300 deg. F. The regulator failed and I contacted Pit Boss (Dansons) and they had a new one out to me within a couple of days. However I told them not to bother as I would just replace it with my own, as the hose is to short and awkward to hook up, especially in the cold. I replaced it with a slightly higher pressure regulator and although the flame is not what you would consider an ideal flame for propane it did improve the higher heat characteristics to the point at 28 deg. F the cabinet will get to over 360 deg. F.
I find if you use the slightly courser wood chips and soaked, with a cabinet temp. of 225– 250 deg. F. you get approximately 1 hour of smoke, and the way the tray is set up you have minimal cabinet temperature loss when adding.
This smoker is not for the hard core smoker but for someone like myself who uses it once or twice a month it is great, the higher temperature may not be an issue for most but I do a smoked Turkey on Christmas day and smoke it for about 4 hours then would finish it in the oven so I am hoping I can eliminate moving it to the oven to finish. I bought it for its simplicity, and lack of electronics.
Also I would like to put a plug in for Pit Boss (Dansons) their customer service was great, being from Canada I thought it would take them forever to get me my parts but I had them within a few days.
Thanks for the user update! Glad to hear that Dansons treated you right!
John McKisson says
Thanks for the article great coverage. I would like to note to your readers that there is more to smoking beyond the scope of the article. Temperature control is very important depending on what you are smoking. Typically you are using lower temperatures and when smoking outdoors, the ambient temperature becomes a factor. That’s why manufacturers use low, medium and high. Smoking chips are supposed to be soaked in water before you put them into the smoker box. They will catch fire if you don’t. One factor is grease collection. You do not want it to catch fire or your product will taste bad. So examine how that is controlled in the smoker you are going to purchase. Last, read as much as you can about smoking from the competitive experts, determine which method suits your taste and concentrate on that path working on your consistency.