Most pellet grills on the market all share the same horizontal design.
These might look more “traditional” but there are some advantages to the vertical design of the Pit Boss 5 Series Vertical Pellet Smoker.
You can fit a lot more cooking space into a smaller foot print. This makes the Pit Boss a great option if you need to fit it into a small space on your patio.
I put this review together based on my experience cooking with the Pit Boss over the last several months.
Click to jump straight to each topic
Pit Boss 5 Series Review Overview
Simply put, this smoker delivers.
The food cooked in the smoker has great flavor. It’s easy to use. Clean up is far easier than any other smoker I’ve used to date.
These pellet smokers are great because they don’t bellow loads of smoke.
They produce a perfect, ever so slightly blue smoke, almost constantly in just the right amount.
This is what most smoking enthusiasts are aiming for.
If you’ve never used a pellet smoker, they tend to deliver two great aspects that people love: great taste and ease of use.
This smoker is no exception. Just fill the hopper with pellets, turn it on, and Bam! You are smoking and on your way to great tasting food.
What I like:
- Capacity – With the 40 lb hopper capacity, you can smoke for up to 24 hours continuously without having to add more pellets. This, of course, depends on the temp you are cooking at. This smoker is huge with 1,659 square inches of porcelain coated cooking racks and a large cooking chamber, you can house about as much mammal flesh in this thing as your heart desires.
- Adjustability – Whether it be the adjustable racks or the wide range of temperature adjustment, there is not much you can’t accommodate for with this smoker.
- Prime Button – This button is a nice feature to have. You can use it for a temporary boost in smoke or use it just after you open the door to get the internal temperature back up faster.
What I don’t like:
- Internal Temperature Swings – If the temp control knob was set to 225°F, it wasn’t unusual to see the internal temp to drop to 215°F and then rise up to 250-260°F. Granted, these swings only occurred momentarily and didn’t seem to negatively affect the outcome of the meat.
- Water Pan Capacity – Sure, you can cook for up to 24 hours continuously with the massive 40 lb hopper, but you can only go about 4 hours or less without filling up the water pan. The water pan will hold up to a gallon of water, but it’s always close to empty by the 4 hour mark. It would have been nice to see this capacity match closer to the hopper size, even if it ended up being only 8 hours.
- Hopper Grate – I assume this was included for safety reasons but it is a bit annoying. It prevents you from sticking your arm down in the hopper which would be helpful when you are trying to clean out all the pellets! I typically use a broom handle to help me move the pellets toward the rear hopper shoot to remove them or to push them towards the auger system to burn them.
One final nit pick I have is with the meat probe accuracy.
I found the meat probe that came with this smoker to be around 12°F off. This is extremely common with probes that ship with smokers, so I tend to just use my Thermoworks Smoke to monitor temps instead.
Otherwise, the pros definitely outweigh any negatives. While the temperature swings might sound concerning, they don’t seem to effect the taste. I see the swings as being the same as what you would see on a manual wood smoker.
The Pit Boss 5 Series tops our list of best vertical smokers.
Setup & Core Features
The Pit Boss came tightly packaged with plenty of Styrofoam protection making it a little bit of a chore to get out of the box.
But I’d rather they use extra packaging than have the product arrive damaged!
Let’s go over a few of the key features of the Pit Boss 5 series to see how well it performs.
This smoker has the ability to smoke between 150°F – 450°F which is fairly standard.
You can adjust temperatures in 25°F increments.
Some pellet grills can get up to 550°F but I found the temperature range on the Pit Boss fine for cooking low and slow.
You can use it like a wood oven for cooking pizzas, casseroles, or virtually anything else you can think of that would require higher temps.
Quick Removal Hopper Shoot
After mentioning above the hassles of unjamming the auger system, it’s nice to see that this smoker came with an easy way to empty the large 40lb hopper system.
I empty the hopper and burn out the remaining pellets through the auger system every time I cook with it.
Adjustable Food Rack Layout
I can’t express just how awesome I think this is.
These racks can be easily spaced out in the smoker box any way you desire. So if you are cooking a large turkey you can create extra height, or if you want to pack in several slabs of ribs you can do that too
This is definitely one of the main advantages of vertical smokers.
Digital LED Display
This unit utilizes one large simple display for relaying the smoker internal temperature and the meat probe temperature right next to the temperature control knob.
The controls are easy to read and easy to use.
I would give the build quality a 4 out of 5 stars. I have used this smoker quite a bit now, and it is holding up well. Most things seem to be well made, sturdy, and a bit on the heavy side.
I have two small gripes with the smoker that I received:
- The door was a bit crooked on the smoker box frame. So there was a place on the upper right side that the door was not contacting the rubber seal very well. Plus, it didn’t look real good either. (Could it have been bent down from poor handling during transportation? Possibly). I ended up fixing it by pulling on the outer right bottom edge of the door until the hinges bent up slightly.
- The 2nd meat probe port broke within a few days of using the product rendering it useless. (Maybe just bad luck? Could be).
Other than those two issues I’ve found the quality of the smoker to be very good.
Like I said, it seems to be well made, and it has held up quite well.
Alternatives to consider
Another smoker I spent a lot of time using was a Masterbuilt 40” Series electric smoker. I was excited for it’s convenience, but found it a bit tiresome.
The wood chips would only smoke for about 20-30 minutes. So it would constantly need more wood. It was also extremely difficult to clean as many of the components were permanently mounted in the smoker and it was difficult to clean in all the crevices.
I consider this Pit Boss pellet smoker to be a great upgrade over that electric smoker.
The Pit Boss is far easier to clean with all the components easily removable from the smoker box. It doesn’t require constant attention as the hopper holds a large quantity of pellets.
Don’t get me wrong, the Masterbuilt electric smoker has its place, especially from a price standpoint. If you are just dabbling in the idea of smoking foods and don’t want to dole out much money, consider the Masterbuilt.
I believe they have addressed some of these issues in the new versions.
But for now, my preference goes to the Pit Boss pellet smoker.
Should you buy the Pit Boss 5 Series?
And now for the cold, raw truth. Would I buy this smoker again?
Dang sure would.
I really like this smoker. It’s easy to use. It produces great flavor (along with that coveted smoke ring appearance).
It has a very large food smoking capacity. It requires minimal effort to use and only slightly more effort to clean.
If you are a purist wanting to stoke your own fires, meticulously enforce your will on the smoker box temperatures, and sit and drink beer while enjoying your man vs smoker battle, then this smoker is probably not for you.
However, if you want a great smoking experience by producing salivating flavor with minimal effort and don’t mind spending a little dough for the pellets for fuel, then this smoker is for you. ( And yes, you can still sit and drink beer while admiring your pellet smoker doing all the work. I do!)
A couple of final take points:
Don’t leave your pellets in the smoker for more than a few days without using it! ( Have I mentioned how bad it sucks to unjam the auger?)
I hope you heed my warning or you will hate life. Ok,ok, enough joking. Yes, this hazard is no fun, but don’t let it detract you from getting a pellet smoker.
The good news is if you can work out how to assemble this smoker, you will also have the ability to unjam the auger system if, God forbid, you happen to leave pellets in there.
Pit Boss customer service was excellent when it came to helping me with this. They are open 7 days a weeks and emailed me detailed instructions on how to unjam the auger.
If you want to know more about the brand we have a lot more details in our comparison between Pit Boss and Traeger.
If you have decided on getting a Pit Boss Vertical Smoker, consider the various sizes they offer, not just this size.
They have a 3,5,7, and a new 4 series size smokers. Pick one that matches your needs and budget.
If you cook for large groups, you may need a 5 or a 7 series. If it is only a few of you, check out the 3 or the 4 series. I will say this, I have yet to fill up my 5 series.
I have cooked 6 pork butts at once, which equated to about 48 lbs, and STILL had room for more.