Z Grills have been shaking up the pellet grill market ever since they stopped manufacturing grills for Traeger and started selling direct to the public back in 2016.
The 700E is their best selling grill, so I was keen to get my hands on it and put it through its paces.
In this review I’ll go through my experiences cooking on the Z Grills 700E, what I like and what isn’t so good.
Z Grills Australia sent me this grill for free in return for my honest review. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
Click to jump straight to each topic
Z Grills 700E overview & first impressions
The 700E is well priced for budget conscious shoppers looking to get started cooking with a pellet grill.
There are no fancy features like WiFi and App connectivity with this grill. Z Grills have focused on nailing the basics and keeping the price down. At the time of writing this review, the 700E is a full $250 cheaper than the Traeger Pro 575.
Prefer video? We have an in-depth video review where I share what I like and what I don’t about the Z Grills 700E.
That’s impressive considering you also get 694 square inches of cooking area (119 more than the Traeger), a closed cart, and a slightly larger hopper.
Let’s run through the full specs and get into the pros and cons and hands on testing.
|Cooking Area||694 sq in (504 main rack + 190 top racks)|
|Pellet Hopper Capacity||20 lbs.|
|Temp Range||180°F – 450°F|
|Shelves & Storage||One shelf on pellet hopper plus storage cabinet|
|Temp Probes||Two meat probes|
|Price||Check latest price|
The grill is made out of stainless steel although the insulation appears pretty thin and I noticed plenty of smoke leaking out of the door during start up. This isn’t surprising for a budget smoker and I didn’t notice any problem holding temperature.
What I like:
- Excellent value for money – There’s no arguing this is the stand-out feature with the 700E. You get a generously sized pellet grill that is super simple to operate and turn out decent food for less than competing brands.
- Split upper rack system – I like that you can decide to have one, two or none of the upper racks in use. There isn’t a lot of height between the upper and lower racks so this lets you pick different configurations to maximize your grill real estate for whatever you are cooking
What I don’t like:
- No way to drain unused pellets – Most manufacturers recommend removing unused pellets after cooking and grills like the Camp Chef Woodwind make this easy with a pellet chute. On the Z Grills you’ll need a small vac to do this.
- Need to be careful when closing lid – This will depend on your height, but I found a small (yet very hot) area below the lid handle kept coming too close for comfort when I was closing the grill.
- Temp screen hard to read in direct sunlight – The screen is quite small and I found the temperature difficult to read in the middle of the day.
It’s true you miss out on a few nice-to-haves including WiFi, proper searing capabilities and pellet drainage.
But if you just want a good-sized pellet grill that makes it easy to make delicious barbecue without a lot of fuss and without spending a tonne of money you won’t be disappointed with the Z Grills.
Sure it won’t last you for generations, but then plenty of the more expensive competition won’t either.
Unboxing and setup
The grill arrived well packaged in two large cardboard boxes. The main cooking chamber arrived in one piece with various components cleverly stuffed inside.
Z Grills includes a few tools you need (screwdriver & wrench) as well as all the screws you need in one tidy little package.
The instructions are easy to follow and it took about 90 minutes to put together from start to finish. It would be possible for one person to do it but there was a few parts where it helped to have an assistant (attaching the pellet hopper + auger for example).
Setting up the 700E
Once the grill was fully assembled I followed the initial setup and burn-in instructions. The process was straightforward and involved getting the fire started then letting it run at high temperature for 45 minutes to burn off any residual oil.
I did notice some oil on some of the components so I would recommend following these steps before you cook on your new grill.
Cooking on the Z Grills 700E
I tried cooking a variety of different types of food to see how well the 700E would perform at different tasks.
Most people will purchase this grill for its low and slow capabilities so that’s where I spent most of my time testing. It reportedly gets up to 450°F which is hot enough to roast but probably not get a really good sear.
Ease of operation
I found cooking on the 700E incredibly easy. The controls are fairly basic. The start up procedure involves switching the controller to smoke mode with the lid open.
The auger starts to turn and feed pellets into the burn pot. Once you can see smoke coming out you shut the lid and set the temperature anywhere between 180°F – 450°F.
You can monitor the temperature of your food while it’s cooking by plugging the probes into the controller, and then feeding them in through a special hole designed not to let heat or smoke escape.
The tiny LCD screen can only show one temp at a time, so you need to press the “probe temp” button to display that as it displays the grill temp by default.
The grill is easy to move around with four caster wheels, two of which lock to hold the grill in place.
How the 700E performs at smoking
With no direct searing options, this smoking is the primary use I would recommend for this grill.
I set the 700E up for a low and slow cook at 250°F and smoked a pork shoulder to make pulled pork.
The process was super simple, using the meat probe made it easy to monitor the temp during the cook.
I found the pork took on some nice color, although there wasn’t as much bark formation as I would get on my charcoal smoker.
The pork pulled nicely, was super moist and had a pleasant smoke ring.
My wife and I both agreed that the smoke flavor was much more subtle compared to pulled pork cooked on our Weber Smokey Mountain.
She preferred said she preferred the more subtle flavor of the Z Grills. Personally I like a little more but there’s no denying it was delicious.
You can leave the grill at the “Smoke” setting which keeps the temp super low and produces more smoke so I might try that for the first hour or two next cook.
But can you grill on it?
Z Grills claim “8-in-1” cooking and promise you can grill and sear. I was pretty skeptical of this claim given the temp maxes out at 450°F and there is no easy system to open up the fire pot for direct flame grilling like you get on some Camp Chef and Pit Boss models.
I fired the grill up to maximum, let it come up to temp and then put a few chicken thighs on.
I was excited when I heard a nice sizzle when the thighs hit the grill grates.
However, by the time they were done they only had line grill lines on the outside and not much of a crust to speak of.
Now don’t get me wrong, the chicken was moist and delicious with a very light smoke taste.
If you want deep grill marks and proper searing to maximize the Maillard reaction you’ll be disappointed.
But if you want something fast, easy and tasty then it does the job.
I also found that marinated meat cooked very well, as the sugars in the marinade didn’t burn and stick.
Storage and prep areas
The 700E has pretty good storage with a closed cart design. That’s the main upgrade over the slightly cheaper 7002E.
The enclosed storage cabinet is large enough to store a couple of bags of pellets, the meat probes, and a couple of barbecue accessories.
Prep area isn’t as generous. I wish they had included a side shelf. As is the only prep area you have is on top of the pellet hopper. It’s large enough to hold a plate (and a beer) but it’s a little to high to use for any prep work.
Grill grate performance
The grill grates are made out of porcelain-coated cast iron. They felt quite light and cheap in the hand.
As I mentioned in the grilling section, I wasn’t able to get good sear marks although I did find food didn’t stick and the grates were easy to clean after each cook.
You get one large grill grate on the bottom, and then two smaller ones for the second level so you can set it up with just the bottom, or just one grate above depending on what you need to cook.
At this price point you can’t be too fussy when it comes to build quality. You’re just not going to get super heavy, well insulated construction so I was more interested to see how well everything fit together and if there were any obvious defects or weak points.
The lid is made out of stainless steel and the chamber is cast iron. Everything feels pretty light, but fit together well during installation.
I did notice some weld marks around the screw holes.
How tough is the Z Grills 700E to clean?
Z Grills recommend adding a layer of aluminum foil over the top of the grease tray.
I found this worked well to catch most of the drips and after a few cooks it was easy to scrunch up and throw out.
Some grease will drain into the bucket on the side, so that can be cleaned out with soapy water.
You’ll need to remove the tray and baffle plate and use a shop vac to clean up all the pellet dust.
You could probably sponge it up, but it would be much easier with a vac.
This video from Z Grills Australia does a good job showing the entire cleaning process.
Z Grills recommend removing any unused pellets after each cook (pellets getting damp is a big cause of issues). Unfortunately, there’s no easy to way empty pellets out.
You can remove the auger guard and scope them out and then use a vac to clean out most of the auger.
Testing & benchmarks
We put every grill we test through a couple of standard benchmarks to measure how fast it comes up to temperature and how much temperature variance you will experience.
Time to come up to temp
From when you first start the initial startup it took me 11 minutes to get to 225°F.
While the grill recorded 225°F, it took an extra two minutes until our thermometer measured 225°F in the middle of the grill.
This involves switching the grill to “Smoke” mode until you see smoke and hear a whooshing sound from the pellets igniting. That initial startup takes a few minutes, and then you can switch to your desired temperature.
From startup it took about 25 minutes to get to the maximum temperature. Even after running for an hour at max the grill hadn’t reached the advertised max of 450°. Instead it maxed out around 420°F.
Temperature accuracy test
Using my trusty ThermoWorks Smoke X setup a temperature probe on the left, middle and right of the grill.
I wanted to see what the real temperature was at different points on the grill, compared to what the grill was telling me.
The Z Grills probe that is hardwired to the controller is located on the far left side of the grill closest to the hopper.
I was pleased to see at a standard low and slow temperature of 225°F the grill temp was very even.
As you would expect, the hotter things get, the more variance in temperature we saw. When the grill was set to max temp there was a discrepancy of 25°F between the middle and the right.
This is about what I would expect in terms of variance, although I was disapointed the grill didn’t hit the max advertised temp.
It was a warm day at 74°F although there was strong wind which may have had an impact.
It’s important to note that these results will vary based on your climate and potentially the type of pellets you are burning.
Z Grills offer a range of standard accessories that you would expect. BBQ gloves, bear claws for shredding pork and a basting brush.
If your grill didn’t include a cover I would highly recommend picking one of those up.
You definitely want to protect your investment and keep the electronics and any pellets left inside dry.
You can get Z Grills brand oak wood pellets for $25 per 20Lb bag, or use any brand you like.
Other grills to consider
If you want to stay in the budget range, there are a few other Z Grills options to consider.
Outside of Z Grills, Pit Boss is probably your best option in the budget space. The Sportsman 820 that we recently reviewed is a little bigger and includes a slide plate for direct flame searing (although the zone you can sear in is pretty small).
If you can increase your budget by a few hundred dollars then I would recommend the Camp Chef Woodwind which gives you better build quality, and a good slide and sear system for a bit more versatility.
If you want an easy to use smoker without a lot of bells and whistles then the Z Grills 700E is a great entry point into the world of pellet grills.
We went so far as to name the 700E our top pick for best budget smoker.
It makes an excellent smoker, and while the versatility is a little over-exaggerated it can bake and grill, you’re just not going to get the same level of crust you would on a hotter grill.
Sure there’s no WiFi app for controlling the grill on your phone, but we’ve found that even grills that sell for over $2,000 can struggle with buggy apps that constantly disconnect.
The best place to buy a Z Grills is from their official website as they often throw in freebies like grill cover, thermometer and free pellets.
As always, feel free to ask questions in the comment form below if there’s something that you want to know about this grill. Reader feedback is always welcome too!