Oklahoma Joe’s vs Z Grills 2022 – Pellet Grill Comparisons


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

If you are looking to purchase a budget pellet grill/smoker two brands you have probably come across are Oklahoma Joe’s and Z Grills. I’ve previously discussed products from both brands in my best pellet grills/smokers under $400 article. However, with this article, I want to do a more in-depth comparison of a couple of products from each of these brands to discuss their strengths/weaknesses. You will then be able to determine for your specific needs which product from these two brands is going to provide you with the better value.

Oklahoma Joe's vs Z Grills
The budget end of the pellet grill market continues to get more competitive. So how to Oklahoma Joe’s (left) and Z Grills (right) compare?: Images – HomeDepot.com & 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.

In a rush? Jump to my conclusion on which Oklahoma Joe’s or Z Grills pellet grills are providing the best deal considering features such as temperature control technology, cooking area, weight, hopper capacity and price point.

Introduction To Oklahoma Joe’s vs Z Grills Pellet Grills

Both of these brands are currently firmly focused on their budget pellet grill offerings. Hence, you won’t find much if any stainless steel on the pellet grills from these two brands. You also are unlikely to find features such as twin-wall insulation or WiFi integration.

However, saying that in my updated Traeger vs Z Grills article I discuss how Z Grills do now have a WiFi pellet grill in their range. Though that particular Z Grill is far more expensive than any Oklahoma Joe’s pellet grill currently available, so its not relevant for this comparison article.

Oklahoma Joe’s Rider 600 vs Z Grills Pioneer 450B

Here we have examples from each brand that come in just under $400 and they are your typical small-sized backyard pellet grills/smokers for a small family or couple. After a quick run-through of the specs of each model, we’ll see how they compare on temperature control technology, cooking area etc.

Oklahoma Joe’s Rider 600

The Rider 600 is currently the smallest and cheapest model that Oklahoma Joe’s offers. While the Rider 600 does benefit from porcelain-coated cast-iron cooking grates found on all Oklahoma Joe’s pellet grills the Rider 600 is missing direct-flame access which is found on the larger Rider 900 and Rider DLX.

Oklahoma Joe's Rider 900
The Oklahoma Joe’s Rider 600 is not as easy to get hold of as many Z Grills models: Images – HomeDepot.com

In terms of availability, it was previously possible to order the Oklahoma Joe’s pellet grills from Walmart. However, it now appears that only Home Depot is carrying stock.

  • Total Cooking Area = 617 sq.in (380 sq.in at the main grate)
  • Pellet Hopper Capacity = 20lbs
  • Temperature Range = 180 to 500 degrees
  • Direct-Flame Access? = No
  • PID Temperature Control? = No
  • WiFi/App Control? = No
  • Typical Price = $399
  • Availability = HomeDepot.com

Z Grills Pioneer 450B

Now, there are lots of Z Grills models available at Walmart.com and HomeDepot.com. However, neither of those stores currently holds stock of what I believe to be the best Z Grill for under $400, the Pioneer 450B.

Z Grills Pioneer 450B
The Z Grills Pioneer 450B is different to many other small Z Grill models in an important regard: Images – ZGrills.com

The reason is the Pioneer 450B is a PID Z Grill. In other words, the Pioneer 450B features a much more advanced control panel than that found on the Z Grill pellet grills currently available at the big box stores.

  • Total Cooking Area = 459 sq.in (331 sq.in at the main grate)
  • Pellet Hopper Capacity = 15lbs
  • Temperature Range = 180 to 450 degrees
  • Direct-Flame Access? = No
  • PID Temperature Control? = Yes
  • WiFi/App Control? = No
  • Typical Price = $399
  • Availability = ZGrills.com

Temperature Control & Cooking Performance

Straight away let’s discuss the most significant difference between these two pellet grills, the Rider 600 does not feature a PID control panel where the Pioneer 450B does. You can read my article on PID pellet grills to understand the details. However, in the simplest terms, a PID pellet grill provides more accurate temperature control.

Now, the PID control panel found on the Z Grill Pioneer 450B is not the most advanced PID control panel on the market as it still only provides 25 degree jumps in temperature settings like the Oklahoma Joe Rider 600.

However, the Z Grill will have better temperature accuracy within 10 degrees of the set temperature, the Rider 600 could be up to 25 degrees off the set temperature.

I should note though, the Rider 600 can reach a higher temperature at 500 degrees. Along with the fact the Rider 600 also has cast-iron cooking grates not found on the Pioneer 450B, the Oklahoma Joe will be better suited to high heat cooking of steaks/burgers etc.

Cooking Area, Weight & Hopper Capacity

The Rider 600 is the larger of these two pellet grills providing a total cooking area of 617 sq.in compared to just 459 sq.in on the Pioneer 450B. However, the difference in the size of the main cooking grate is not that significant with 380 sq.in on the Oklahoma Joe’s model and 331 sq.in on the Z Grill.

As the Rider 600 is the larger of these two grills it shouldn’t be surprising its the heaviest at 149 lbs compared to the Pioneer 450B at just 75 lbs. The Rider 600 will also be the heavier of the two due to the cast-iron cooking grates.

As I discuss in my general Oklahoma Joe’s article I think they have the best hopper emptying feature currently on the market. The Rider 600 also has the larger hopper at 20 lbs compared to just 15 lbs on the Z Grill Pioneer 450B. Hence, only the Oklahoma Joe can take a full 20 lb bag of hardwood cooking pellets in one go.

Pricing and Value

When it comes to pricing both of these pellet grills have been retailing for quite a while now at $399, hence they are directly comparable on cost. Therefore, it comes down to which pellet grill is providing the better features and value.

I would boil it down to two scenarios. If you primarily want to cook ‘low and slow’ and do more smoking than grilling then I think the Z Grill Pioneer 450B has the edge due to its more accurate PID control panel.

However, when it comes to grilling/searing the Oklahoma Joe’s Rider 600 will definitely have the edge. It has a 50 degree higher temperature setting up to 500 degrees and cast-iron cooking grates which will hold that heat much better than the thin wire racks found on the Z Grill.

Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX vs Z Grills 700D3

Now we’re going to see how the top of the range Oklahoma Joe’s pellet grill the Rider DLX compares to a Z Grill around a similar price point, the 700D3. Are these two grills just larger versions of their smaller siblings above? Not quite.

Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX

The Rider DLX features the same control panel as the smaller Rider 600 above, therefore it unfortunately still lacks PID temperature control technology. However, the Rider DLX does feature direct-flame access which can be controlled by a Smoke/Sear lever on the front of the grill.

Oklahoma Joe's Rider DLX
The Rider DLX is currently at the top of the Oklahoma Joe’s range: Images – HomeDepot.com

In terms of availability, it can be tricky to get hold of a Rider DLX. While I’ve provided links to Walmart, HomeDepot and Lowes below they never seem to stay in stock long. I’m not sure if that’s a sign of strong demand or limited available stock.

  • Total Cooking Area = 1,200 sq.in (578 sq.in at the main grate)
  • Pellet Hopper Capacity = 20lbs
  • Temperature Range = 180 to 500 degrees
  • Direct-Flame Access? = Yes (650 degrees)
  • PID Temperature Control? = No
  • WiFi/App Control? = No
  • Typical Price = $649
  • Availability = HomeDepot.com, Lowes.com & Walmart.com

Z Grills 700D3

The 700D3 features the same PID control found on the smaller 450B, hence it will provide higher temperature control compared to the Oklahoma Joe Rider DLX and it also provides more storage with its lower storage cabinet.

Z Grill 700D3
The Z Grills 700D3 features a PID control panel and lower storage cabinet: Image – ZGrills.com

In terms of availability besides the manufacturer’s website, I did actually also find this model at Walmart. However, its important to compare the prices between the two. While the 700D3 typically retails at $639 they do love to run promotions/discount days over at Z Grills.

  • Total Cooking Area = 697 sq.in (504 sq.in at the main grate)
  • Pellet Hopper Capacity = 20lbs
  • Temperature Range = 180 to 450 degrees
  • Direct-Flame Access? = No
  • PID Temperature Control? = Yes
  • WiFi/App Control? = No
  • Typical Price = $639
  • Availability = ZGrills.com & Walmart.com

Temperature Control & Cooking Performance

So above, I’ve stated that these larger versions of Oklahoma Joe and Z Grill are fitted with the same control panels found on their cheaper and smaller siblings. Therefore, they surely have the same capabilities then? Well, yes and no.

The Z Grill 700D3 with its PID control panel but lower maximum temperature setting of 450 degrees means its good at accurate lower temperature smoking. However, its going to struggle with high-temperature searing/grilling.

The Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX benefits from the higher 500-degree temperature setting and cast-iron cooking grates. However, the Rider DLX also benefits from direct-flame access, therefore the centre of the cooking grate can get up 650 degrees.

Cooking Area, Weight & Hopper Capacity

In terms of total cooking area, the Rider DLX is significantly larger providing 1,200 sq.in compared to just 697 sq.in on the 700D3 from Z Grills. However, when you look at the sizes of the main cooking grates the difference is far less significant with the Rider DLX providing 578 sq.in and the 700D3 providing 504 sq.in.

The weight of the Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX at 223 lbs is quite a lot more than the 132 lbs of the Z Grills 700D3. As before with the smaller grills, its the cast-iron cooking grates on the Rider DLX which will be the cause of the significant weight difference.

Unlike the smaller models in this instance, both the Rider DLX and the 700D3 feature a 20lb pellet hopper. However, as before, only the Oklahoma Joe comes with its best in class hopper emptying feature which includes a plastic bucket with a lid to keep the pellets in top condition.

Pricing and Value

I typically find these two pellet grills priced around $640, that’s why it makes for a good comparison. Though, as I’ve stated above, Z Grills love to run promotions, so if you’re lucky you may get the 700D3 at a lower price point. But which grill is providing the better value?

Well, its a similar story to the smaller grills really. The Z Grill 700D3 is the superior smoker due to its more accurate control panel, though the Oklahoma Joe’s Rider DLX can smoke more meat in one go due to its larger cooking area.

However, when it comes to grilling/searing the Rider DLX clearly has the advantage with its higher 500-degree standard temperature setting and cast-iron grates. Add in the fact it also offers direct-flame access for 650 degrees at the grate, its an easy win on grilling for Oklahoma Joe’s.

Conclusions On Oklahoma Joe’s vs Z Grills

So what are my concluding thoughts/recommendations on the above comparisons? Well, its going to be pretty much the same advice whether its the smaller or larger versions of the Oklahoma Joe or Z Grill pellet grills above.

If you primarily want to slow cook/smoke meat, fish and vegetables I would probably recommend either the Z Grill 450B or 700D3. The PID control panel fitted to those pellet grills will maintain a more accurate temperature, especially with changing weather conditions such as when the wind speed or direction changes.

However, if you will be spending most of your time cooking burgers and steaks etc, well either the Oklahoma Joe Rider 600 or Rider DLX will be the better option. First, off they provide a higher maximum temperature of 500 degrees. Second, the thermal mass of the porcelain-coated cast-iron cooking grates will pay dividends. If you can afford the Rider DLX its direct-flame access will further aid grilling performance.

That’s it! Thanks for reading, if you want to up your budget a bit further my article on the best pellet grills under $1,000 may be of interest. Alternatively please check out my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide 🙂

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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