Pit Boss vs Z Grills 2021 – Pellet Grill Comparisons


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

While Pit Boss now have their Platinum Series the main focus of the Pit Boss brand is on the value/budget segment of the pellet grill/smoker market. That’s also where Z Grills are focusing their product range, as entry-level wood pellet grills and smokers. Therefore, for this brand comparison, they are in direct competition which hasn’t been true to the same extent with my Traeger vs Pit Boss or Camp Chef vs Pit Boss articles. I’m going to pick a couple of models from Pit Boss and Z Grills that retail at a similar price point and see how they compare, what are their strengths and weaknesses?

Pit Boss vs Z Grills
How do Pit Boss pellet grills (left) compare against the offerings from Z Grills (right)?: Images – Pitboss-grills.com and ZGrills.com

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At the budget end of the pellet grill market, you shouldn’t expect certain features. You’re generally not going to find PID control panels or WiFi functionality. You are also unlikely to find twin-wall insulated construction, therefore for winter grilling it makes an insulated blanket pretty much essential. However, you can in some cases get features such as direct-flame access and I’ll discuss more about that below, as both Pit Boss and Z Grills do provide that feature.

Introduction To Pit Boss vs Z Grills Pellet Grills/Smokers

Pit Boss is by far the more well-known brand over Z Grills (here’s proof). However, over the last couple of years, Z Grills have been growing in popularity as a low-cost option to enter the world of cooking with wood pellets. Pit Boss has an extensive range of both horizontal and vertical pellet cookers. However, Z Grills purely sells horizontal pellet grills/smokers, therefore that’s where I’ll focus this comparison. The current range of Z Grills you can see in the image below.

Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Product Range
The current full range of Z Grill pellet grills/smokers: Image – ZGrills.com

Now, originally when I started to write this article I was going to pick the smallest Z Grills model (550B) and their largest 1000E and find two of the closest Pit Boss models which retail for the same price. However, as I’m writing this article (this may change) the 550B is not Z Grills cheapest pellet grill, its actually the 6002E at $353. Therefore, that’s the pellet grill I’m going to start with and I’ll compare it against a Pit Boss 440 Deluxe which retails for around $349. We’ll then look at how the largest Z Grill (1000E) which retails for around $680 compares to the Pit Boss Sportsman 820SP which retails around a similar price.

Pit Boss 440 Deluxe vs Z Grills 6002E

Neither of these pellet grills are portable, though they are relatively small so are only really suitable for a small family. Both of these pellet grills also cost significantly below $500 and are typically priced at around $350, making them some of the cheapest small pellet grills on the market. Along with the small size of these pellet grills as I’ve discussed above, don’t expect many of the premium features found on more expensive pellet grills (PID, WiFi etc).

Pit Boss 440D vs Z Grills 6002E
So how does the Pit Boss 440D stack up against the Z Grills 6002E? Images – Pitboss-grills.com and ZGrills.com

Cooking Area Provided (Grilling and Smoking)

As these are very small pellet grills/smokers every square inch counts. However, whenever you’re comparing pellet grills you need to check the detail on cooking areas. Typically, a manufacturer will state the overall cooking area. Though that commonly includes an upper rack(s) which are only suitable for smoking (low-temperature cooking). If you wish to cook burgers/steaks you need to find out if the main cooking grate is large enough for your needs. In this instance, the Pit Boss 440D provides a total cooking area of 440 square inches. However, the main cooking grate only provides 340 square inches.

Pit Boss 440D Cooking Area
It wouldn’t initially appear so, but the Pit Boss 440D actually provides a larger primary cooking grate over the Z Grills 6002E: Image – Pitboss-grills.com

The Z Grills 6002E you would guess provides a total cooking area of 600 square inches, however its actually 573 square inches. When it comes to the main cooking grate that’s 333 square inches. Hence, this is a prime example of how you could reasonably argue model numbers and ‘total cooking area’ figures can be misleading. As you would presume from looking at the model numbers the Z Grills would have a larger main cooking grate, when that’s actually not the case at all.

Temperature Control & Direct-Flame Access

Now both of these pellet grills are using basic time-based control panels, similar to the previous generation Traeger control panels. However, there is a difference between them in terms of their temperature range. The Z Grill 6002E has a temperature range of 180 – 450 degrees, whereas the Pit Boss 440D provides a range of 180 – 500 degrees. That additional 50 degrees would typically provide the Pit Boss with better grilling/searing performance over the Z Grill. However, in this instance, that’s not the case as the Z Grill 6002E also actually provides direct-flame access which will likely get the cooking grate up to 650 degrees.

Z Grills Direct-Flame Access
The 6002E is currently the only Z Grills model to feature direct-flame access: Image – ZGrills.com

Now, most Pit Boss pellet grills also typically have direct-flame access, that’s just not the case with the 440D. Oddly on the Z Grills side of things, the 6002E is their only pellet grill currently with direct-flame access. The larger Z Grills such as the 1000E discussed below don’t come with direct flame access. Also, I should note, only a very small area in the centre of the cooking grate on the Z Grill actually benefits from direct-flame access. Hence, slap in a set of GrillGrates in the Pit Boss 440D and with its higher 500-degree temperature setting the grilling/searing performance between the two pellet grills is likely very comparable.

Hopper Capacity & Run Time (Smoking/Grilling)

As these are very small pellet grills they also come with pretty small hoppers. The Pit Boss 440D can hold only 5lbs and the Z Grills 6002E doesn’t hold much more at 8lbs. If you check out my pellet usage article you’ll see that means for smoking/low-temperature cooking the hopper on the Pit Boss 440D should last for around 3 and half hours and the Z Grills 6002E should run for around 5 hours. However, when it comes to grilling (450-500 degrees) you would need to pay close attention to these small hoppers.

Z Grills Pellet Hopper
While the Z Grills 6002E has the larger hopper at 8 lbs its not much bigger than the Pit Boss 440D at 5 lbs, both are very small hoppers: Image – ZGrills.com

When grilling/searing on the maximum temperature setting you can be burning through around 3lbs per hour, potentially more in winter/cold weather. Hence, the Pit Boss 440D when grilling may last less than 2 hours and the Z Grills 6002E will probably run out after around 3 hours of grilling. Hence, on these small pellet grills, you frequently need to check the level of BBQ wood pellets in the hopper. However, don’t be tempted to leave the lid open so you can see the level of pellets. If rain gets into the hopper you’re going to regret that decision, as it may end up causing an auger blockage.

Pit Boss Sportsman 820SP vs Z Grills 1000E

Now we’re going to look at the largest pellet grill/smoker that Z Grills currently offer and compare it against a Pit Boss pellet grill at a similar price point. The Sportsman 820SP is by no means the largest pellet grill Pit Boss produces, that’s the Lockhart. However, the Lockhart is more expensive than the Z Grills 1000E, hence why I haven’t chosen it for this comparison. Both the Pit Boss Sportsman 820SP and Z Grills 1000E retail for just under $700, so let’s see how they compare shall we?

Pit Boss Sportsman 820SP vs Z Grills 1000E
So how does the Pit Boss Sportsman 820SP (left) compare against the Z Grills 1000E (right)?: Images – Pitboss-grills.com and ZGrills.com

Cooking Area Provided (Grilling and Smoking)

Again, this is a similar situation to the smaller grills. For instance, Z Grills promote the ‘massive’ 1060 square inches of cooking area on the 1000E, however, that’s provided over three racks. Hence, the main cooking grate (suitable for grilling and smoking) is only 431 square inches. So what about the Pit Boss Sportsman 820SP? Well, the Pit Boss may seem less impressive on first review, stating a total cooking capacity of 849 square inches. However, as we have already established, these ‘total cooking capacity’ figures don’t tell the whole story. That 849 square inches is provided by just two racks, not three. Furthermore, the main cooking grate on the Pit Boss is 593 square inches, hence quite a bit more than the Z Grill.

Temperature Control & Direct-Flame Access

In terms of the control panels, the Pit Boss Sportsman 820SP and the Z Grill 1000E are fitted with the same versions as their smaller siblings. Hence, again you are looking at a temperature range of 180 – 450 degrees on the Z Grills and 180 – 500 degrees on the Pit Boss. However, the difference comes with direct-flame access. In this instance, the Z Grill 1000E does not benefit from direct-flame access where the Pit Boss Sportsman 820SP does. Furthermore, its one of Pit Boss’s better integrations of the direct-flame access functionality, where the grease tray can be opened and closed by a lever on the outside of the pellet grill. This is much safer than some Pit Boss models where you have to lift up the cooking grates to open and close the grease tray for direct-flame access.

Pit Boss Sportsman 820SP Direct-Flame Access Lever
Direct-flame access lever on the Pit Boss Sportsman 820SP: Image – Pitboss-grills.com

Hopper Capacity & Run Time (Smoking/Grilling)

Both of these pellet grills from Pit Boss and Z Grills are much larger than the first models we looked at above. Therefore, they also have considerably larger BBQ wood pellet hoppers. The Pit Boss Sportsman 820SP features a 21 lbs hopper and the Z Grills 1000E features a 20 lbs hopper. Hence, importantly, both of these pellet grills can take a full 20lb bag of pellets in one go which is handy. In terms of run time as they basically have the same size of pellet hopper you would be looking at around 13 hours of smoking (going low and slow) and roughly 6 hours of grilling/searing.

Conclusions on Pit Boss vs Z Grills Pellet Grills/Smokers

So what are my final thoughts? Well, when it comes to the smallest units (Pit Boss 440 Deluxe vs Z Grills 6002E) I think the Z Grill is better value for money. While it does have a slightly smaller main cooking grate compared to the Pit Boss, it does feature direct-flame access which the Pit Boss does not and it also features a slightly larger hopper. Furthermore, the stainless steel lids on the grill and hopper on the Z Grill 6002E are also a nice touch which I think just give it the edge in terms of value for money.

With the larger pellet grills though (Pit Boss Sportsman 820SP vs Z Grills 1000E) I think is currently a different story, with the Pit Boss offering better value for money. It provides a main cooking grate which is larger, higher maximum temperature setting (500 degrees) and direct-flame access which the Z Grills doesnt.

That’s it! I hope you found this Pit Boss vs Z Grills article useful. I have lots of other comparison articles such as Pit Boss vs Oklahoma Joe’s and Z Grills vs Grilla Grills for you to check out. I also recommend you review my Wood Pellet Grill/Smoker Guide to understand all your options, no matter what your budget is. 🙂

Click above for our suggestion tool to help you find a pellet grill/smoker within your budget

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

Hi, I’m Chris. I started PelHeat.com back in 2007. This website is intended to be an educational resource on how pellets are made and their various uses. I hope you find the information useful.

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