With this comparison article we’re going to compare two brands which are positioned behind the likes of Traeger and Pit Boss in terms of brand awareness (here’s proof). However, they are still well worth considering. The Camp Chef Woodwind range is one of my favourite all-rounders. However, for this comparison against Z Grills, we are going to be looking at the budget option from Camp Chef, their SmokePro range as it more closely aligns with the price point of the Z Grills range. Hence, we’re going to be looking at sub $500 pellet grills/smokers from each brand to see how they compare.
For Camp Chef, as the Woodwind range appears to be their most popular range, typically my Traeger vs Camp Chef and my Camp Chef vs Weber comparison article are more appropriate direct competition. Likewise, as Z Grills is purely a budget brand, a more obvious comparison is Pit Boss vs Z Grills. However, Camp Chef started with their budget SmokePro range and its still in production, therefore its worth comparing this budget option against the latest offerings from Z Grills.
Introduction To Camp Chef vs Z Grills
For anyone interested in experiencing the benefits of a BBQ smoker, its quite understandable they first think of electric smokers and kamado/charcoal smoker. These types of BBQ smoker people are very familiar with and they know how they work. However, not everyone knows how a pellet grill/smoker works, therefore dropping over a thousand dollars on one is just not something everyone is happy to do (or can afford to do). Hence, the budget end of the pellet grill/smoker market is very competitive.
So the first two models we’ll look at the are both available for $500, the Camp Chef SmokePro XT 24 and the Z Grills 7002B. We’ll then compare two slightly more expensive options while also being something a bit different, the XXL vertical pellet smoker from Camp Chef and the Z Grills 1000E which retail for $650 and $679 respectively. We’ll take a look at the core features/capabilities of these pellet grills/smokers including provided cooking areas etc. However, we’ll also discuss use case scenarios. In other words, when should you may be a consider a horizontal pellet grill vs a vertical pellet smoker?
Camp Chef SmokePro XT 24 vs Z Grills 7002B
Anyone who is looking to dip their toe into the world of pellet cookers should find that either of these pellet grills/smokers will serve them well. However, there are important differences between these two pellet grills/smokers and furthermore how they differ from more expensive models. For instance, neither of these pellet cookers are twin-wall insulted. Therefore, if you want to use either of them in the cold/winter months, you should definitely also consider an insulated blanket. Right, let’s get into this, first, let’s see how they compare on cooking area.
Provided Cooking Area (For Grilling and Smoking)
As I’ve written about many times now in my comparison articles, you have to be really careful when comparing pellet grills/smokers on cooking areas. The reason being marketing departments want to promote total cooking area figures which don’t really show the true capabilities of a pellet cooker. Remember, you can only grill on the main cooking surface, whereas you can smoke (go low and slow) on all of the cooking racks. So for instance, the Camp Chef SmokePro XT 24 provides a total cooking area of 570 square inches, but that’s divided up between 429 square inches on the main cooking grate and 141 square inches on an upper rack.
The Z Grills 7002B doesn’t quite provide a total cooking area of 700 square inches, but its not far off at 694 square inches. That’s divided up with 504 square inches on the main cooking area and 190 square inches on an upper rack. Hence, the Z Grill does provide an additional 75 square inches on the main cooking area (suitable for grilling) and an additional 124 square inches overall. While the Z Grill does provide more capacity for smoking and a larger area for grilling, that doesn’t mean its grilling capabilities match the Camp Chef, see below.
Temperature Range and Control Panel Technology
Probably the most significant difference between these Camp Chef and Z Grills models is their control panel technology. The Camp Chef SmokePro XT 24 is fitted with a version of their Gen 2 PID controller. The SmokePro XT also has a temperature range of 160 to 500 degrees. If you are not aware of what a PID controller is I would advise you read this post where I explain their benefits. Essentially they are a smarter control panel, which is constantly making adjustments to regulate the temperature inside the pellet cooker to within 5 degrees of the set temperature. I should note though, the particular Gen 2 PID controller fitted to this SmokePro XT 24 is not fitted with WiFi which some versions are.
The Z Grill 7002B, by comparison, is fitted with a pretty basic time-based control panel. These types of time-based control panel regulate the temperature based on turning the pellet feed auger on and off for a set period of time. It works ‘ok’, however, its cannot match the accuracy of a PID control panel. Therefore, the Z Grill will only be able to regulate the temperature to within 25 degrees of the set temperature. The Z Grill 7002B just like all other Z Grills currently has a temperature range of 180 – 450 degrees. Hence, as neither of these pellet grills provides direct-flame access the Camp Chef SmokePro XT 24 with its 500-degree temperature setting and PID control panel will provide superior grilling performance.
Camp Chef XXL WiFi Vertical Smoker vs Z Grills 1000E
If you have a bit more to spend then two other options you could consider from each brand is the Camp Chef XXL WiFi Vertical Smoker or the Z Grills 1000E. Now, the Z Grills 1000E is a horizontal pellet grill/smoker, hence it can grill (sort of), whereas the Camp Chef XXL is purely a pellet smoker. However, as I’ve discussed above, the grilling/searing performance of the current Z Grills range isn’t its best attribute due to the low 450-degree maximum temperature setting and no direct-flame access. Therefore, as the main strength of the Z Grills 1000E is as a pellet smoker and not a grill how does it compare against dedicated pellet smoker from Camp Chef for a similar price? (The Camp Chef is a little bit cheaper at $650)
Provided Cooking Area (For Smoking)
As I’ve stated above, as we are mainly comparing these two pellet cookers on their smoking ability the total cooking area provided on these two models is what we are comparing. When it comes the Camp Chef XXL WiFi it provides a massive 2,408 square inches over 8 racks. Now granted, if you wish to cook something tall like beer can chicken you would have to remove several of the racks, hence a lower total cooking area will be available. Though the point remains, that’s a lot of cooking area for this price point. Furthermore, its important to note the Camp Chef XXL does have a twin-wall body unlike all the horizontal pellet grill/smokers discussed in this article. Hence, cooking performance will be more consistent and pellet consumption will also likely be lower. Though Camp Chef still recommends their fitted insulated blanket to achieve the best performance.
The Z Grills 1000E by comparison provides a total cooking area of 1060 square inches over two racks. Obviously the main cooking grate can be used for grilling as well, even if its grilling performance is not its particular strong point. While the cooking area is considerable down on that provided by the Camp Chef XXL vertical pellet smoker, the Z Grill 1000E does have a width advantage on its side. The racks in the Z Grill 1000E are 3″ wider than that found in the Camp Chef XXL. Hence, if you had a particularly long cut of meat that you wanted to keep in one peace while it cooked that may provide a benefit.
Temperature Range and Control Panel Technology
Where the Camp Chef XXL WiFi vertical pellet smoker has a significant advantage over the Z Grill 1000E as before on the smaller pellet cookers above is with its PID controller. However, in this instance, the difference is even more significant, as the XXL is fitted with a WiFi version of the Gen 2 PID controller which benefits from Camp Chef Connect. Hence, you can monitor and control the XXL with your phone from anywhere with a WiFi/Celluar connection. This additional level of convenience is what is making pellet grills/smokers so popular. You could let the XXL get on with the cook while you are at work, down the shops or any other activity which would be a better use of your time than standing next to the pellet cooker to monitor it.
As the Camp Chef XXL is a dedicated pellet smoker its temperature range is limited to between 150 and 350 degrees. The Z Grills 1000E being a horizontal pellet grill/smoker has a wider temperature range of 180 – 450 degrees. However, as the Z Grill does not feature a PID controller, it does not benefit from the 5-degree temperature accuracy of the Camp Chef.
Conclusions On Camp Chef vs Z Grills
So what are my final thoughts? Well, Z Grills are one of the lowest cost options to enter the world of pellet cookers with some of their smallest models costing as little as $350. However, in a direct comparison against Camp Chef, until Z Grills upgrade their control panels to PID its hard for them to compete. While adding WiFi would be a bonus on the Z Grills, its really PID control which every potential customer should be requesting first and foremost. In terms of the comparison of the Camp Chef XXL vertical pellet smoker vs the horizontal Z Grills 1000E pellet grill/smoker, the Camp Chef XXL is by far the superior pellet smoker. However, as it can only smoke you really need to match it with a gas grill to provide you with the ability to grill/sear. However, if you already own a gas grill I often think a vertical pellet smoker is the better option than getting rid of your gas grill for a budget horizontal pellet grill/smoker.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found this Camp Chef vs Z Grills comparison interesting. You may also want to check out my Pit Boss vs Grilla Grills or my Grilla Grills vs Z Grills comparisons. Grilla Grills are often seen to the same as Z Grills, though the reality is they are built to very different specifications. Ultimately though I’d encourage you to check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide to get a full picture of all your pellet grill/smoker options on the market today. 🙂