The Z Grills brand entered the pellet grill/smoker market in 2016 with its budget product line. Pellet grills have grown significantly in popularity in recent years due to their ability to provide great wood-fired flavour while being convenient to control. However, they are generally more expensive than charcoal/gas grills due to the increased number of components, augers, fans, digital control panels etc. Therefore, Z Grills are targeting the budget end of the pellet grill/smoker and can be a great first pellet grill option.
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All Z Grills come under the Economy/Budget Class of pellet grills. Hence, while these grills are very affordable they do not feature heavy-duty steel/stainless steel construction and many models do not have PID/WiFi technology. If you are not aware of the different pellet grill/smoker classes please review my post on how to chose the best pellet grill to meet your needs/budget.
Introduction To Z Grills Wood Pellet Grills/Smokers
As I stated above, Z Grills first came into the pellet grill market in 2016. Anyone familiar with pellet grills will quickly notice that the control panel, auger feed system and firepot etc are very similar to first-generation Traeger pellet grills. Hence, Z Grills have been referred to in some cases as a ‘Traeger clone’. In one sense, as Traeger developed the first pellet grills in the 1980s all other pellet grills are Traeger clones.
However, Z Grills, in particular, have followed the design of earlier Traeger pellet grills very closely. However, Traeger products are now very different with their D2 Direct Drive control system and WiFire remote grill monitoring and control.
With this post, I want to discuss the different sizes of Z Grill pellet grills. However, I want to spend more time discussing the capabilities of these pellet grills compared to other pellet grills so you understand what a budget/affordable pellet grill is really capable of. Hence, what they can do well and what they will struggle with.
Z Grill Wood Pellet Grill Sizes
The lowest-priced and most affordable Z Grill pellet grills are the 450 and 550 series, these are also promoted as their portable pellet grill range. While they are small and compact the legs do not fold up on these pellet grills. Hence I’m not sure about their viability as a truly portable pellet grill. For instance, they will not be as convenient to move around as a Pit Boss Tailgater or Traeger Scout/Ranger.
The 450 Series are the cheapest/smallest Z Grill wood pellet grills: Image – ZGrills.com
In terms of cooking area, the 450 and 550 series provide 450 and 538 square inches of cooking area respectively. The 450 features a 15lb BBQ pellet hopper. With the 550 series though the pellet hopper situation is rather odd. On the product listing, they show two versions, the 550A and the 550B.
The 550A features a reasonably large 20lb pellet hopper, hence it can take a full 20lb bag of wood pellets in one go. The 550B, on the other hand, features a much smaller 10lb pellet hopper, hence a smaller hopper than the 450 series at 15lb?!
While the 550B provides a larger cooking area over the 450 series it actually features a small pellet hopper: Image – ZGrills.com
The next size up is the 700 series, and these are currently the most popular size of Z Grills. The 700 series as you have probably guessed provides 700 square inches of cooking area. In terms of pellet hopper sizes, every 700 series features a 20lb hopper, which as stated above is preferable as it can take a full bag of pellets.
The Z Grills 700 series comes in a couple of different colour combinations and cabinet options. You can get the 700 series pellet grills with either a black, bronze or silver lid. Some versions feature a stainless steel lid similar to that you would find on a Camp Chef Woodwind for instance. The 700 series is available with either an exposed lower storage shelf or an enclosed cabinet.
The 700 series all feature a 20lb pellet hopper and come in a range of colour and cabinet options: Image – ZGrills.com
Next up is the 1000 series, offering slightly over 1000 square inches of cooking area split over the main grilling area, mid and upper racks. As you will notice from the image below, with the 1000 series Z Grills have chosen to drop the barrel design to provide more width to the mid and upper cooking racks.
The 1000 series has some notable features not found on the 450, 550 and 700 series which include pellet hopper emptying chute and removable ash draw under the fire pot to making cleaning out the pellet grill more convenient.
The 1000 series Z Grills benefit from a pellet hopper emptying chute and an ash removal draw: Image – ZGrills.com
The latest range of Z Grills is the 6000 series. Why they are called the 6000 series though I have no idea. On previous Z Grills models referenced above, they have used the number to indicate the available cooking area on the grill. However, the 6000 series does definitely not provide 6000 square inches of cooking space, they are actually quite small grills providing 600 square inches of cooking area.
The 6000 series is very similar in design to the 1000 series and it also features the pellet hopper emptying chute and removable ash draw under the firepot. However, what the 6000 series does feature which all other Z Grills do not is the ability to flame broil/sear. There is a rotating section in the centre of the grease tray which can let through flames from the pellet fire below. When purely ‘low and slow’ indirect convection cooking and smoking is required the rotating section in the grease tray can be closed.
The Z Grills Digital Temperature Controller
One ff the reasons Z Grills are referred to as ‘Traeger Clones’ is how similar the temperature controller is on Z Grills compared to the previous generation Traeger pellet grills. If you review my post on how to replace a Traeger controller you will see what I mean. Many Z Grills use the same dial temperature controller with a digital temperature readout. This gives many Z Grills a temperature range of 180 to 450 degrees.
However, 450 degrees is not really hot enough for proper searing. Hence its why Camp Chef with their pellet grills offers the option of a propane Sear Box or Sidekick for high temperature searing. It is possible to get higher cooking temperatures than 450 degrees and superior searing performance on a budget/economy pellet grill though.
For instance, the Cuisinart Woodcreek and Twin Oaks can achieve 500 degrees. However, the Cuisinart pellet grills also feature cast iron grill grates which are not featured on Z Grills. Cast Iron grates help to hold and build up temperature which provides for improved searing performance. Therefore the actual ‘grilling’ performance of Z Grills is not best in class.
Replacement Z Grill Temperature Controller: Image – Amazon
As several Z Grills are using fairly basic controllers based on timed/pause settings they are not capable of holding that close to the set temperature. This is indicated by the 25-degree gaps in the temperature setting on the dial. Again, this was also true on previous generation Traeger controllers with the P-Setting.
This limitation is fairly common on other makes of pellet grill in the Economy/budget class. However, Camp Chef SmokePro pellet grills can be upgraded with the more advanced Gen 2 PID WiFi controller.
Update: There is now a range of Z Grills with PID Controllers for tighter temperature control.
Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill Reviews
Whenever I write my posts reviewing and summarising the features of a particular pellet grill I like to add in owner reviews where possible. When I can find them I particularly like to add in reviews from owners who have owned a particular grill for several years.
For instance, in my Green Mountain Grills post, I managed to find a review from someone who has owned their grill for 10 years! Z Grills have only been going since 2016, so no 10-year owner reviews for this post. However, I have managed to find a review from someone who has owned and used a Z Grill for 2 years.
I think David does an excellent job in his video review describing the pros and cons of a Z Grill pellet grill. First off, David is impressed with the deceptively large cooking area provided over the primary cooking rack. David also importantly notes, as the firepot is located on the left side of the grill even with the heat deflector and grease tray helping to spread heat over the cooking surface the left side of the grill, directly over the fire pot will still be the hottest area.
David is impressed with the smoking performance of his Z Grill. The ‘low and slow’ side of cooking is where basic/budget pellet grills really do perform their best. However, as is also referenced in the video, high-temperature searing is not where these pellet grills are going to perform to well. Though some charcoal pellets would likely help.
However, if you have a small propane grill you can flavour to the food on a Z Grill with the pellet fire and then sear at high heat on the separate propane grill. If you want to be able to high-temperature sear on an all in one unit that’s where you should be considering some other pellet gill options such as the Camp Chef units referenced above.
Conclusions On Z Grills Wood Pellet Grills
Z Grills are offering quite a significant range of wood pellet grills/smokers at a very affordable price point starting from just under $350. If you are on a tight budget and are looking for an entry-level pellet grill for smoking and cooking ‘low and slow’ a Z Grill is worth considering.
However, please be aware, these pellet grills are not ideally suited to high temperature searing. Though a set of GrillGrates on a Z Grill will dramatically improve their grilling/searing performance.
Context is always important though, as Z Grills is offering some of the cheapest pellet grills/smokers on the market right now. And as David states in his video review above, if you are looking for a pellet smoker on a tight budget a Z Grill will be competent in this regard.
You may also want to check out my article on Z Grills error codes. If you want to research your options a bit more before taking the plunge on a pellet grill please review 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.