How To Cook Burgers On A Z Grill


Hi, I’m Chris I started PelHeat.com back in 2007.

I’ve previously produced my article on what I think is the best method of how to cook burgers on a pellet grill/smoker. This article is going to be more specific about cooking burgers on a Z Grills pellet grill/smoker and their recommended methods. We’ll discuss how to produce a smoked burger but also how to properly sear/grill burgers on a Z Grill. Z Grill pellet grills/smokers are not designed for high-temperature grilling. Therefore, some additional special grates and some specific pellets are required for the best results.

How To Cook Burgers On A Z Grill
Is it possible to produce both smoked and grilled burgers on a Z Grill with the right kit/pellets: Image – ZGrills.com

Disclaimer: Hey! By the way… any links on this page that lead to products on Amazon or other sites are affiliate links, and I earn a commission if you make a purchase.

Key Takeaways

  • Cooking Time Grilling: Typically 15 to 18 minutes
  • Cooking Time Smoking: Typically 30 to 45 minutes
  • Z Grill Temp: For smoking around 225 F, for grilling 450-500 F
  • Direct/Indirect Heat?: Smoking indirect, grilling direct flame (if you have it)
  • Burger Internal Temp When Done: 160 F (we’ll discuss this)
  • Best Pellets For Burgers: Oak, Hickory, Mesquite, maybe Charcoal pellets

I’m no BBQ expert, my expertise is how pellet grills/smokers work and the range of makes/models on the market. When it comes to how to cook on a pellet grill/smoker, I’ll be referring to the professionals.

Z Grills Recommended Approach For How To Cook A Burger

When I write these brand-specific articles on how to cook a burger, like I’ve done for Traeger, Pit Boss and Camp Chef already, I first reference the manufactures advice, as I have for Z Grills below.

Now, whether you actually want to follow that advice is up to you, but below I’m going to suggest in one important regard you don’t follow Z Grill’s advice.

An ‘interesting’ burger patty recipe here by Z Grills, but literally no advice on how to cook the burger: Video – ZGrills.com

I found the burger patty recipe above a bit odd, its the first time I’ve seen someone put milk into a burger patty, but the 80/20 ground beef I agree with.

Anyway, there is a pretty big problem with the video above. There is no advice on temperature settings for the Z Grill or general cooking time at all.

Therefore, below I’ll be providing that information to guide you along. I also have a problem with the finished burger, which is cooked to 145 F. That’s not good advice.

1: Why The 80/20 Ground Beef Is Important

To start with, we have to talk about the ground beef you’re using. To produce a good burger, you are going to need a sufficient amount of fat in there.

Is that because ‘fat means flavour?‘, sure, but its also for a couple of other reasons. You need sufficient fat to actually hold the burger patty together.

Fat is also vital for keeping the burger moist once its fully cooked, which is 160 F, and we’ll discuss that more below. So which ground beef contains 20% fat?

Well, if you use ground beef rounds or ground beef sirloin, the fat percentage will only typically be up to 10%. If you use ground beef chucks, that’s where you get that 80/20 from, as the fat percentage is 15 to 20%.

Wagyu Beef Burgers
The next step up is a Wagyu beef burger patty with 20 to 30% fat: Image – SnakeRiverFarms.com

If you really want to treat yourself, you can pick up some Wagyu beef burger patties from a supplier such as Snake River Farms, where the fat percentage of the burger patty is 20 to 30%.

Wagyu beef cattle are originally from Japan. However, Snake River Farms, which is based in the US Northwest, imported some Wagyu cattle to breed with their own cattle.

I can tell you from personal experience Wagyu beef tastes amazing, but I can also tell you its on the pricey side. However, for a special occasion, its a great treat.

2: Preparing The Burger Patty & Seasoning For The Z Grill

So you have got your ground beef, and now you have to shape it into a patty. While the Z Grills video above adds lots of ingredients to the ground beef, I’m going to keep this simple.

I’m not a fan of the Z Grills burger patty press. For one, I think the burger patty is too large. Second, I think it encourages people to over-squeeze the ground beef into a burger patty.

In my main article on how to cook a burger on a pellet grill/smoker, there is an excellent video on how to shape the patty and the importance of pressing your thumb down in the centre of the patty.

Now you need to season the burger patties. Personally, I like to keep things simple with a bit of sea salt and black pepper. However, some people like to add BBQ rubs etc.

You can add BBQ rub to your burger patties for seasoning if you wish, but don’t overdo it: Video – BBQGuys.com

If you are going to apply some BBQ rub either in the ground beef that made up the patty or on top of the burgers, go gentle with it. Rember, you’re not cooking a brisket here.

Burgers benefit from light seasoning. You don’t want the flavour of the rub to be overpowering. Also, too much rub is going to make a dry burger patty which nobody wants.

3. The Best Z Grill Pellets For Cooking A Burger

When it comes to pellet choice, the first place to start is to decide whether you are going to be smoking your burgers or grilling/searing them.

You see, many people don’t actually know this, but you will get more heat output from Oak pellets compared to, say, Apple blend pellets, and the pure Oak pellets are typically cheaper.

Also, when purely grilling/searing, very little smoke is going to be produced from the pellet grill/smoker. So using a flavoured pellet blend doesn’t really make much sense.

But let’s assume you’re going to smoke your burgers. You’ve purchased a smoker, after all. Well, you first have to decide what type of smoke flavour you would prefer.

The Best Z Grill Pellets For Cooking A Burger
Depending on whether you want to smoke or grill your burgers, the best choice of pellets varies: Images – ZGrill.com

If you’re looking for a bold/stronger smoke flavour, then the Z Grills Hickory pellets would probably be your best option. But what if you want a lighter/sweeter smoke flavour?

Well, Z Grills also offer an Apple blend, a Cherry blend and a general Fruitwood blend. These will produce a lighter smoke flavour with sweeter flavour tones.

However, in terms of price per lb for blended pellets, Z Grills pellets are actually pretty expensive, which is odd for a budget brand. Check out my best value smoking/grilling pellets article.

When it comes to grilling on a Z Grill, as it needs more help to get to higher temperatures, using some 100% charcoal pellets is probably going to be a good idea.

Pellet Usage When Smoking/Grilling A Burger

Generally, Z Grill pellet grills at lower smoking temperatures will consume between 1 to 2 lbs of pellets per hour. When grilling, pellet usage can jump up to 3 to 4 lbs per hour.

When smoking burgers, the total cook time will go up to maybe 45 minutes. If purely grilling at a higher temperature, the cooking time will be between 15 to 18 minutes, typically.

Therefore, when cooking burgers on a pellet grill, due to the relatively short cooking time, even when smoking, pellet usage will be fairly minimal.

However, in the winter months, due to the lack of twin-wall insulation on a Z Grill, I would definitely recommend an insulated blanket to reduce your pellet costs.

4. Smoking A Burger On A Z Grill

Ok, so whether you own an older generation Z Grill or a more modern Z Grill with PID temperature control, you will have a Smoke Setting on the control panel.

On a Z Grill, the smoke setting will produce a temperature between 158 to 194 degrees Fahrenheit. Hence, a longer cook time for the burgers and more smoke production.

Therefore, the burger has more time to absorb the smoke. Note though, that even on Z Grills with PID temperature accuracy, on the Smoke Setting, there will be wider temperature swings.

Smoking A Burger On A Z Grill
Whether your Z Grill controller looks like the one on the left or the right, you will have a Smoke Setting: Images – ZGrills.com

Its just the nature of the game. A pellet grill/smoker can only produce more smoke if the fire is burning inefficiently (smoulder pellets), which will produce less accurate temperature control.

Now, you could purely cook on the Smoke Setting if you wish too, but the cooking time will also be long, potentially up to 45 minutes typically.

However, before the burger patties are fully cooked (160 F), maybe around 140 F, you may choose to up the temperature on the Z Grill, and sear/grill them to finish.

5. Grilling A Burger On A Z Grill

While all Z Grills are reasonably capable pellet smokers, especially for their price point, grilling/searing is where many Z Grill products struggle.

The typical maximum temperature on a Z Grill pellet grill/smoker is 450 degrees. While some of the latest versions can be set to 500 degrees, that’s still bearly on the edge of being able to grill.

While there are some Z Grills models that have direct-flame access, even then, the area on the grate that can let flames through for higher grilling/searing temperatures is very small.

Therefore, to get the best grilling/searing performance from a Z Grill, they need a little help. The first thing is to get some GrillGrates.

Tom shows how with a set of GrillGrates, the cooking surface temperature in a Z Grill can get up to around 550 degrees

The principle of how GrillGrates work is very simple. They hold on to heat and build-in temperature, unlike the thin wire grates typically found on a Z Grill.

So the second change you may want to make I’ve already referenced above. If you are going to be grilling your burgers and you want the hottest temperatures possible, use some 100% charcoal pellets.

Now, when buying ‘charcoal’ pellets, there are blended pellets (Oak/Charcoal), and there are 100% charcoal pellets. To get the best heat output possible, its the 100% charcoal pellets you want.

6. But When Is A Burger ‘Done’ Cooking?

Right, whether you choose to smoke, grill or smoke, then grill burgers on your Z Grill, we need to talk temperatures, not of the Z Grill, but of the burger patties themselves.

I know in the Z Grills video at the start of this article they cook their burgers to 145 degrees. Please don’t do this, its just not worth the risk.

Ground beef, any ground meat for that matter, if not cooked to 160 F, carries a potential risk of E. coli bacteria which can poison you and in some cases, even lead to death.

Therefore, the only advice I’m willing to give is to cook your burger patties to 160F, following advice from the CDC and FDA.

Instant-Read Thermometer For Burgers
An instant-read thermometer is your best friend when it comes to food safety: Image – Thermoworks.com

To know when your burgers are properly cooked at 160F, your best friend is going to be an instant-read thermometer, an example being the Thermopen above.

You can quickly test what the internal temperature of the burgers is to avoid E. coli poisoning, but at the same time, you can avoid overcooking the burger patties and making them dry.

If you have used 80/20 ground meat to produce the burgers, or Wagyu with even more fat content, your burgers will not be dry when cooked properly to 160 degrees.

How To Cook Frozen Burgers On A Z Grill

If you’ve not got the time to make your own burger patties and you just want to slap some frozen burgers on your Z Grill, here is some advice.

Don’t bother to take the time to try and smoke frozen burger patties, you’ll use more pellets than just grilling them, and you probably won’t even be able to taste the smoke.

Why? Because frozen burger patties are usually pretty thin and dense. Hence, they are going to cook quickly, and the smoke will have a hard time penetrating the surface of a frozen patty.

How To Cook Frozen Burgers On A Z Grill
Even with these better than average ‘fresh frozen’ burger patties, don’t bother trying to smoke them: Image – Walmart.com

Therefore, on your Z Grill, when cooking frozen burgers, just grill/sear them to get them up to temperature (160 F). It makes far more sense than trying to smoke them.

Final Thoughts On How To Cook Burgers On A Z Grill…

You can both smoke or grill burgers on any Z Grills product. When it comes to grilling though, its likely you’ll need some GrillGrates/charcoal pellets to get the results you’re after.

The first thing to check though, is you are working with a ground meat with sufficient fat content, ideally 20% plus fat, and gently form your patties without overworking them.

Smoking is obviously going to take more time, so it might not be a weeknight method of cooking your burgers, but I would definitely encourage you to try smoking them on a weekend.

Pellet choice will come down to smoke flavour preferences but also whether you are smoking or grilling, as discussed above.

Finally, you may want to toast your buns on the Z Grill before making up your burgers with your choice of toppings, of which there are just so many options to choose from.

That’s it! Thanks for reading. I hope you found the above information and videos above useful on how to cook a burger on a pellet grill/smoker.

Please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide to learn more. However, I’ve also produced an FAQ section below, which you may also find useful.

A to Z List of Pellet Grill/Smoker Brands

A to Z List of Pellet Grill/Smoker Brands

Back in 2007 when I first become aware of pellet grills and smokers the only brand I was really aware of was Traeger. Traeger is really where this whole concept of cooking with pellets started in the 1980s. It was a ‘slow burner’ (pardon the pun) but since the 2010s is really when pellet grills and smokers started to get mainstream awareness, discussed alongside gas and charcoal grills. There are now over 30 pellet grill/smoker brands that I’m aware of, and the link above goes to my A to Z list of brands article.

Now, you may already be aware of a few of the other brands such as Pit Boss, Camp Chef, Z Grills and I’m sure you are aware of Weber, though you may not have known they have entered the pellet grill game. However, they are now many, many more brands to look into. Some may be what are commonly referred to as ‘Traeger clones’, but many others are offering their own unique designs and features.

A to Z List of The Best BBQ Wood Pellets

A pellet grill/smoker is only as good as the BBQ pellets you put into it. The type/quality of the BBQ wood pellets you use will impact temperature performance and smoke flavour. There are many pellet flavours including Apple, Hickory, Mapel, Oak and Walnut to name but a few. However, some brands are hardwood blended pellets whereas others are 100% single wood species.

In this article, I provide details on over 20 brands of BBQ wood pellets, their range of flavours, whether they are 100% single wood species or hardwood blended pellets, their typical price and where they are available. I also provide tips on how to get the best deal when buying BBQ wood pellets and how to test pellet quality. Finally, I discuss the new kid on the block, charcoal pellets and their special attributes compared to all other hardwood BBQ pellets.

Chris - PelHeat.com

Hi, I’m Chris. I started PelHeat.com back in 2007. This website is intended to be an educational resource on BBQ pellets, pellet grills & smokers. I hope you find the information useful.

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