Pit Boss 5-Series Wood Pellet Vertical Smoker

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5-Series Wood Pellet Vertical Smoker

The Pit Boss 5-Series Wood Pellet Vertical Smoker is a vertical cabinet smoker fueled by wood pellets that provide smoke and heat to the cooking chamber. It boasts a significant 1,513 sq. inches of actual cooking area over five cooking racks and a hopper capacity of 55 lbs. It is designed to cook a lot of food in one session with relative ease. The insulated cabinet provides fairly even temperature profiles throughout the cooking chamber and optimal efficiency in cold temperatures. Click here to learn why set it and forget it pellet smokers are gaining popularity.

One of the highlights of the 5-Series is its small footprint coupled with a large cooking capacity, a signature asset of the vertical smoker design. It's a great space saver for those of us with more than one smoker or grill in their stable. The unit is equipped with five 26 inch x 13 inch, porcelain coated, adjustable height, removable cooking racks that allow a great deal of flexibility with the interior set up. If you need more space in between grates to accommodate a large brisket or turkey, just remove a grate or two. Smoking 10 racks of ribs? No problem.

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The front door seals well and ensures that the smoke and moisture stay locked in the cooking chamber until escaping the stack at the top of the unit. The door’s locking mechanism has a snap-back design that works pretty well most of the time, although it must be kept clean to ensure it stays locked. I did have some issues when the latch became greasy. During one cook, it tended to slip open and become unlocked. I cleaned the latch and no further problems occurred. 

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Pit Boss has a temperature range of 150°F to 420°F. The interior of the smoker is lined with thin sheet metal that should hold up under normal use. There is a "flame tamer" that covers the fire pot to prevent a hot spot and make sure grease, water or other foreign materials do not fall in. 

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The 5-Series is also equipped with a removable, porcelain-coated, interior water pan. The pan sits just above the firepot and is held in place by the same type of runners that hold the racks in the cooking chamber. I found that a full water pan lasted 8 hours when cooking at 250°F. Click here to learn all about water pans.

A rear loading pellet hopper provides easy fuel replenishment. A window on the side of the hopper also allows you to see how many pellets you still have without peeking under the hopper lid.

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The hopper holds 55 lbs. of pellets, more than enough for multiple 12 hour cooks. I never had any bridging or sticking of the pellets in the hopper, which can be an issue with some units.

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The unit comes with one integrated meat probe, but has two probe inputs should you want to purchase a second probe. I used my FireBoard Labs thermometer to monitor the cooking chamber temps as well as the meat temp. The controller display was fairly accurate when compared with my FireBoard, although the temperature probe for the interior of the unit was off by about 10°F (lower) at the time I recorded it. Notice in the photos how the Pit Boss “Actual” temp reads 265°F, while the FireBoard recorded it as 274.3°F.

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Build Quality

Weighing in at 127 pounds fully assembled, the Pit Boss 5-Series is built pretty solid for the money. For the average backyard cook, this unit will hold up just fine. The legs on the unit are made from thin, crimped sheet metal that do leave a little to be desired from a quality standpoint. However, if you are not loading the unit into a trailer every weekend or moving it around the patio every day, there is no reason they should not hold up well over time. The door on the unit is solid, seals well and the glass front window lets you see the food cooking without opening the door (although the glass must be cleaned after every cook). 

The control panel works pretty well. The display is large and easy to read from a distance. However, a protective plastic cover over the control panel started peeling after a few uses. This protective layer is important to keep moisture out of the electronics and should be upgraded. 

Start up and Operation

To fire up the 5-Series the first time, simply take out the water pan and the cover over the fire pot. Next, turn on the unit and set the smoker temperature to “SMOKE” to initiate startup. Pellets will begin feeding into the firepot almost immediately. The unit has a “PRIME” button as well, but it is only needed for the first time you start the unit, or if you let it run out of pellets. PRIME feeds pellets into the auger system when starting from an empty hopper. Once startup is initiated, the igniter engages, and you can smell and see smoke within seconds. During the startup phase, I left the door open, as instructed. Once the smoke started billowing, I closed the door and set my cooking temperature using the temperature dial on the unit’s control panel. I never had any issues with the unit flaming out, nor did I have trouble getting up to temperature within a reasonable amount of time. Generally, it would take about 15 minutes for the unit to stabilize and be ready to have cold meat added to the cooking chamber. I found that keeping the water pan in the unit and then filling it with hot water prior to start up was the best method of operation. Once I had the water pan full and the smoker was up to temperature, I was ready to cook. 

Shut down is fairly easy. You close the door and set the temperature dial to 350°F. Pit Boss recommends letting it run for 5 to 10 minutes to go through a “cleaning phase.” If the foods are extra greasy, run it for 15 to 20 minutes. Once you have taken the time to complete this step, you simply turn the dial down to 200°F and it will cool down in about 5 minutes. After that, press and hold the “Power” button and the unit will begin its automatic cool down cycle. The rest is hands off and the smoker will auto shut off once this cycle is complete.

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Cook Tests

The Pit Boss 5-Series did a fine job at smoking a variety of meats. I was able to cook brisket, chicken, pork shoulders and ribs with little muss or fuss.

For my first cook, I decided to make two full, spatchcocked chickens. I was able to fit two birds side-by-side on one rack, so doing a full load of 10 birds is entirely possible. I also found that it was very easy to place the birds on the racks and still have enough space in between to allow for proper airflow. While some vertical smokers require that you cram food onto the cooking grates to make everything fit, this was not the case with the 5-Series. There is a lot of available cooking space in this unit.

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For the chicken cook, I ran the unit at 400°F. It had no problem reaching and holding the set temp. I found that the unit had temperature fluctuations of about +/- 15°F, which is acceptable. Both birds were done in about an hour and twenty minutes. The results were very good. The chicken was tender and juicy and the skin was nice and crispy with a light smoke flavor that complemented the white meat. 

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For my next cook, I wanted to see how well this Pit Boss maintained temperatures when it was loaded down with heavier meats. I made two whole packer briskets and two pork shoulders at the same time (the 5-Series could actually hold about twice that much meat at once). This cook went off without a hitch, and the smoker performed well the whole time. Total cook time was about 13 hours at 250°F and I didn't wrap the meats with foil (aka the Texas Crutch) to speed up cooking. Even with roughly 40 lbs. of meat in the cooking chamber, the 5-series was able to maintain steady temps. 

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I achieved a dark and moist bark on all the pieces of meat. The flavor profile was also very good. While the smoke flavor was lighter than what you would get from a traditional charcoal or wood burning unit, it was pleasant and certainly noticeable. The smoke ring on the brisket was also very pronounced, which gave the slices a gorgeous presentation. Click here to learn how to make this tough Hunk 'O Meat soft and succulent.

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The pork shoulder came out moist and tender, and I was able to pull it easily. Again, the smoke flavor profile was a bit lighter, but it was excellent. Click here for our Easy Pulled Pork Recipe.

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For my final cook, I smoked up some chuck roasts and made Meathead's Famous Last Meal Ribs. I cooked them both at 275°F and was really impressed with the bark, the smoke ring and the smoke flavor on the chuck roasts. Both the beef and pork were tender and moist. Overall cook time was about 4 hours for the ribs and 10 hours for the chuck roasts. 

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Packaging and Assembly

The Pit Boss comes in one large box packed with styrofoam to protect the unit from damage while shipping. I did not notice any cosmetic or structural damage when I took the smoker out of the box. 

Assembly was easy. With the instructions and simple tools included, one person can put together the whole unit in about 30 minutes. One word of caution: Do not over tighten the screws on this unit. The fasteners and hardware are not heavy-duty and the heads can be sheared off with too much torque. 

Conclusion

All in all, the Pit Boss 5-Series Vertical Cabinet Smoker is a very good unit for this price point. It's easy to use and maintain, produces great results on a variety of meats and has ample capacity. Some of the components are a little light in construction, but for most applications, this unit will perform well for years. I give the Pit Boss 5-Series Vertical Cabinet Smoker our AmazingRibs.com Best Value Gold Medal. 

Warranty

Pit Boss 5-Series carries a five year limited warranty from the date of purchase by the original owner.

Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price: 
$470
Primary Function: 
Smoker
Fuel: 
Wood Pellets
Primary Capacity: 
1,513 square inches
Made in the USA: 
No
Review Method:

Cooked On It

We have hands-on experience testing this product. We have also gathered info from the manufacturer, owners and other reliable sources.

Pit Boss Grills

Pit Boss Grills is owned by Dansons, the same company that makes the popular Louisiana Pellet Smokers. They are headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona. Along with Traeger, Louisiana was one of the early entrants to the pellet smoker market. They produce a wide variety of pellet smokers, accessories and are getting into the kamado business as well.

The Pit Boss line was developed to offer a decent, affordable pellet smoker to major retail chains that competes with Trager at a lower price. Dansons claims Pit Boss has catapulted past all competitors except Traeger, and sales have surpassed their Louisiana Grills.

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- Larry Olmsted,
Senior Contributor (Forbes)


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