Pros: Easy to use, construction solid, holds temp fairly steady, PitBoss cust service was friendly and responsive
Cons: Dented in shipping, somewhat low smoke flavor (as pellet smokers tend to do)
My last smoker was a MES 30. I loved it overall, but wanted to be able to get better bark and better crispy skins on my poultry, so after a lot of studying pricing, I found the Pitboss 700FB.
I got this from Amazon for $398 a few weeks ago.
First, it showed up damaged in transit. One of the grates had a dent that was exactly the same as several other customers. Also, the hopper cover was dented up pretty badly. I swear that the UPS people toss them around like they are bales of hay. The fact that at least 3 of us had grates that were dented in exactly the same way tells me they need to change the way the grates are packaged.
I took pics of the damage and sent them to Pitboss customer support, who quickly replaced them (within a week) and they threw in a set of pretty tasty rubs for free.
Replacing the hopper cover was about a half hour job, not too difficult but it took a little detective work to make sure I connected the right wires, as they all fit each other and some of the wires didn't quite match the wiring diagram.
After all the initial issues, I did my first smoke (3 chickens). They came out tender and juicy, with the nice crispy skin I could never get with the MES. I was a bit underwhelmed with the overall low smoke flavor, so I went out and picked up an Amaz-n-Smoker 12" tube smoker to supplement the smoke levels. I added the tube smoker to my next smoke, (a corned beef brisket flat pastrami, pork tenderloin, and Boston Blade roast). That made all the difference. They came out absolutely perfect, with fantastic smoke flavor and beautiful smoke rings, etc.
All 3 meats were absolutely delicious. I'm now on my 3rd smoke with it, a 9lb blade roast. It smells fantastic and I can see the thin blue smoke coming out of the vents. I can't wait to taste this.
As far as operation, it is a snap. Just fill up the hopper, plug in the unit, and set your temp. The auger will push pellets into the burn chamber and the temp probe/controller will add air/pellets to maintain the temp. After shutdown, the fan blows air for about 15 mins to help force the burn chamber to burn up anything left in there before it goes. out.
You need to use a vacuum (shop vac) to suck out the ash before using it. I am a stickler to always keep mine dry to avoid a) hurting the electronics and b) so the pellets remain pellets and not wood mush.
This is important with the amount of rain we get herein WA state.
There is a big arched baffle sitting above the burn chamber that is a little cumbersome to move in and out and to clean. Meat drippings will fall onto that where they are channeled down its sides. It has a second sliding one that covers the slotted main baffle. The second one can be moved away from blocking the slots to allow for direct heating (searing). I haven't used it in that mode yet. The drippings got these 2 pieces stuck together on mine. Cleaning them up solved that issue, but it might be a little problematic if you want to start with the slots covered then uncover them later in the cook.
While at first I was disappointed by the lack of smoke with the pellet smoker alone, in hindsight I llike the combination of the pellet smoker with the amaz-n-smoker. I now look at it as a plus - having the amaz-n-smoker on hand lets me do cold smokes as well as hot smokes, and I can get more or less smoke by using both, shortening the burn time, or leaving it out altogether.
Overall, I like the results I get with the unit. Pit Boss stood by their product and made things square with no fanfare. It has the ease of use of the electric, and with the amaze-n tube supplementing the Pit Boss the flavor is outstanding.
I recommend this for anyone who wants a reasonably priced, easy to use smoker.