When most people start to search for their first pellet grill online the brand they are most familiar with is Traeger. While the Traeger brand is where this whole idea of pellet grills originally started, there are many, many more pellet grill brands on the market today. For those looking to purchase their first pellet grill on a tight budget another brand which may have come up is Z Grills. Where Traeger started to make pellet grills in the 1980s, ZGrills is a much more recent entry into the world of wood pellets grills, founded in 2016. So how do Traeger vs Z Grills compare? What are the price and feature differences between these two wood pellet grill brands?
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Well, first I need to establish that at this point in time Traeger and Z Grills have only a few products which are at a comparable price point. Z Grills are offering products with control panels based on the technology used in previous generation Traeger pellet grills. Hence, Z Grills do not currently offer the precise temperature control and WiFi features of most modern Traeger pellet grills. However, Z Grills are considerably cheaper than most Traeger pellet grills. Therefore, all Z Grills pellet grills are Economy Class pellet grills, whereas the majority of Traeger’s pellet grills are in the Practical/Premium Class. You can read more about the class differences in my post on how to choose the best pellet grill for your needs and budget.
Introduction To Traeger vs Z Grills Pellet Grills
In this article, I’m going to pick a few grills from Traeger and Z Grills which most closely align on price and compare their features. As stated above, Z Grills is an economy brand. Therefore, I’m not going to be comparing Z Grills with pellet grills which are priced in the $1,000 – $2,000 category. Hence, the Traeger Ironwood and Timberline pellet grills will not be discussed in this article. I’ll be focusing on the best pellet grill offerings from both Traeger and Z Grills in the under $500 and under $1,000 categories.
Traeger Tailgater vs Z Grills 7002E
So the first two pellet grills we are going to compare are the Traeger Tailgater vs the Z Grills 7002E. Based on the current pricing from each manufactures websites, these are the largest pellet grills each brand offers for under $500. Now I should point out these two grills while comparable on price are aimed at very different uses. The Traeger Tailgater is obviously a portable pellet grill and the Z Grills 7002E is designed as a back yard grill. However, as they both retail for under $500 they are worth comparing.
As you would expect with the Traeger Tailgater the main cooking grate is pretty small providing just 300 square inches of space. Traeger claims you can fit 12 burgers on the grate. However, realistically it will be quite a few less than that that if you actually want to be able to turn them over during the cook, which you obviously do. The Tailgater is relatively lightweight at 62lbs so you can actually pick it up and place it in the back of your car/truck/RV. The pellet hopper on this small pellet grill is also very small at just 8lbs. However, a larger hopper on a pellet grill of this size would really be necessary. The Digitial Arc controller is a nice feature which can hold an accurate temperature within 5 degrees and has a maximum temperature setting of 450 degrees.
The Z Grills 700SE, on the other hand, is definitely not a portable pellet grill. In fact, its one of the largest pellet grills you can currently get for under $500. I have a full article on Z Grills wood pellet grills. Their closest competition in this price bracket is actually Pit Boss, but that’s a whole different comparison article which I’ll get to at some point. In terms of cooking area, the 7002E provides 513 square inches on the main cooking grate. Therefore, over 200 square inches more than the Traeger Tailgater.
However, the Z Grills 7002E provides an additional 187 square inches on an upper rack. In terms of hopper capacity, on the 7002E its 20lbs, hence it can take a full bag of BBQ wood pellets in one go. As referenced above, Z Grills use older time-based controllers, similar to the old Traeger Pro control panels. Hence, the Z Grill 7002E can only hold its temperature within 25 degrees of the set temperature, with a maxium temperature setting of 450 degrees, the same max temp as the Traeger Tailgater.
Final Thoughts On The Traeger Tailgater vs Z Grills 7002E
If you actually ‘needed’ a portable pellet grill, or you were looking for a pellet grill that you could use both in your backyard and for tailgating/camping sure you may want to consider the Traeger Tailgater. However, most people are just looking for a pellet grill/smoker for their backyard. In that scenario, with a budget of $500 to spend you are getting a better deal on the Z Grills 7002E. It has a significantly larger cooking area and a much larger pellet hopper. I will say the Traeger has a more accurate temperature controller, but both pellet grills are limited to 450 degrees. Therefore, both are going to struggle with good searing performance, and a set of GrillGrates should be considered for either pellet grill.
Traeger Pro 575 vs Z Grills 1000D
We are now going to compare two higher specification pellet grills from Traeger and Z Grill with both coming in under $1000. Specifically, the Traeger Pro 575 is priced at just under $800 and the Z Grills is priced at just under $750. However, Z Grills run various promotions from time to time on their website and its sometimes even priced below $600. First, let’s discuss the Traeger Pro 575 and why its very different to the Traeger Tailgater, its not simply a larger pellet grill. I have a separate post which goes into much more detail on the Traeger Pro Series pellet grills.
With Traeger’s latest Pro Series pellet grills which the Pro 575 is the entry-level grill, they have moved away from time-based controllers and AC motors over to a PID controller and DC motors. With DC motors for the auger and combustion fan, they provide more power while at the same time can be operated at a variable instead of a fixed speed. PID stands for Proportional, Integral, Derivative. What a PID controller does (which a time-based controller doesnt) is constantly monitor the temperature inside the pellet grill and make constant adjustments to the pellet feed auger motor and combustion fan. This constant monitoring and adjustment provides more accurate temperature control within a 5-degree temperature range. Traeger has branded its new control system D2 Direct Drive.
The D2 control panel fitted to the Pro 575 also benefits from Traeger’s WiFi system called WiFire. From your phone, you can monitor and adjust the temperature of the grill. You can also set timers and even turn off the grill from your phone. If the Pro 575 is upgraded with the Traeger pellet sensor you can also check the percentage of pellets left in the hopper from your phone. In terms of the hopper size on the Pro 575 its 18lbs. Why Traeger didn’t include a 20lb hopper to match the size of their 20lb BBQ wood pellet bags, I have no idea.
The numbers within pellet grill model descriptions often indicate the cooking area provided. This is the case with the Traeger Pro 575, sort of. As you can see from the image above it provides a total cooking area of 572 square inches, so not quite 575. However, its important to note from the image that the cooking area provided is divided between the main cooking rack at 418 square inches and the upper rack with 154 inches. Remember you are only going to be grilling on the lower/main rack, upper racks are purely for smoking/going ‘low and slow’.
The situation with the cooking area provided on the Z Grills 1000D is similar to that of the Traeger Pro 575. While the Z Grills 1000D does indeed provide a total cooking area of around 1000 square inches (1060 square inches in total), that doesn’t tell the whole picture. The main cooking grate on the 1000D is actually 432 square inches, and the rest is made up with two upper cooking racks of 374 and 255 square inches. So a couple of points to note here. The main grate on the Traeger Pro 575 and the Z Grills 1000D is actually very similar at 418 and 432 square inches respectively.
Also, you really need to consider how much value you will get from those upper cooking racks. If you want to use your pellet grill for primarily ‘grilling’ its the size of that main cooking grate which is most important. Also, if you are smoking large cuts of meat such as brisket, you will likely have to remove the upper racks anyway. I should quickly note, the Z Grills 1000D does actually benefit from a 20lb pellet hopper.
All Z Grills currently use the same time-based control panel, which is really the weakest feature of the Z Grills pellet grill range. First, the maximum temperature the controller can achieve is 450 degrees, which is less than the 500 degrees of the Traeger Pro 575. However, more importantly, the Z Grills time-based controller will fluctuate around its set temperature by on average 25 degrees. Whereas the Traeger can hold temperature within a much tighter 5-degree range.
Furthermore, the Z Grills controller has no WiFire functionality, where the Traeger benefits from the best WiFi/App solution currently on the market (my opinion). Though there are a few nice features the Z Grills 1000D has which the Traeger Pro 575 doesn’t. For example, an ash cleanout feature and lower cabinet with doors for storing bags of wood pellets etc.
Final Thoughts On The Traeger Pro 575 vs Z Grills 1000D
As I have discussed above, the model numbers on these grills on first impressions would lead you to believe the cooking areas provided on these two pellet grills are significantly different. The reality is while the Z Grills does provide more cooking area, its mainly found on its two upper cooking racks. Where there is a clear win for the Traeger is the control panel, both in terms of temperature accuracy/max temp and its WiFi functionality. The Z Grill pellet grill does have advantages with regards to the additional storage and an ash cleanout feature which the Traeger doesnt have. To clean a Traeger pellet grill, you need to take out the grate and get in there with an ash/shop vac each time.
I don’t think the Z Grills 1000D priced at $749 is good value compared to the Traeger Pro 575 at just under $800. However, if you are on a tight budget and you come across the Z Grills 1000D on sale for just under $600 which is the case as I write this post, that makes it much more compelling. If you felt you were never going to use the WiFi features on the Traeger you may be more inclined to put up with the less accurate temperature control of the Z Grills 1000D for the $200 saving.
Conclusions On Traeger vs Z Grills Pellet Grills
From the above, it should be pretty clear where the strengths of Traeger and Z Grills are. For under $500, if you are looking for a pellet grill/smoker for your back yard you are getting a much larger/more usable grill from Z Grills. On the more expensive Z Grills such as the 1000D whether its a good deal I think it really depends on what its priced at/whether its on sale. At just under $600 compared to the $800 for the Traeger Pro 575, if you are not bothered by WiFire, then I think its a compelling option. However, if you find the Z Grills 1000D priced at just under $749 and the Traeger Pro 575 is just $50 more, I think the Traeger is a better option. While the Traeger does have a smaller cooking area the PID control panel will provide much more accurate temperature control. Furthermore, if you do want to do quite a bit of ‘low and slow’ cooking I think you would find the benefits of WiFire provide you with value.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found this analysis/comparison of Traeger vs Z Grills interesting/useful. I’m building up quite a collection now of my comparison posts such as Traeger vs Camp Chef and Traeger vs GMG pellet grills. However, to check out all your pellet grill options please check out my wood pellet grill/smoker guide. 🙂
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 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.