Z Grills Cruiser 200A Portable Pellet Grill Review

Z Grills Portable 200A Review

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There’s not much better than a weekend getaway to get your mind right and do some outdoor cooking, but it’s always a crapshoot on what cooking equipment awaits at your destination.

I’ve long packed up a smoker option when hitting the road, but it was at best portable-ish. Always cumbersome and hard to load in and out of a vehicle.

The Z Grills Cruiser 200A Portable Grill and Smoker promises to take care of those issues. It’s small enough for one person to handle, but has a large enough cooking surface to cook for a small group.

In this review, I’ll be sharing my experience living with the Z Grills 200A portable pellet grill, what I liked about it and what I think could use some improvement.

Z Grills Cruiser 200A Portable Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker
Pros:
  • Compact, portable and on-the-go ready
  • Efficient heat management system
  • Large hopper capacity
Cons:
  • Smaller cooking surface
Check Latest Price

Z Grills Cruiser 200A overview and first impressions

Z Grills keep flexing their muscle in the pellet grill space, and a truly portable option to rival the likes of the Traeger Ranger is a welcomed addition to their product line.

Z Grills Cruiser 200A with an open lid

It arrived in one box and came 90% assembled, only needing a few parts to be screwed into place. It’s ready to fire up in about 20 minutes out of the box.

 Let’s look at the specs:

Cooking Area202 square inches 
Pellet Hopper Capacity8 lbs.
Temperature Range180°F – 450°F
Shelves and StorageFront folding rack, removable side rack with three utensil hooks
ConstructionPowder-coated steel
Wifi/AppNo
Warranty3 years
PriceCheck Latest Price

It’s the perfect size for one person to handle, sporting two side handles and one more for the lid. The Cruiser 200A is extremely easy to lift in and out of vehicles and you don’t need a large truck or SUV to haul it around.

The Cruiser falls into the “fully portable” category of the pellet grill. There are also a few tweener grills like the Treger Tailgater and the Green Mountain Grills Trek that still look like a full sized pellet grill, but boast some portability features.

Under the hood, I was surprised by how much real estate the hopper takes up. This takes away from the cooking area but makes for long-lasting cooking capacity if you’re doing a brisket or pork butt.

I was thoroughly impressed with the smoke output of the Cruiser200. For such a compact piece, it puts out ample smoke without overpowering the food with a “dirty smoke” flavor.

What we like:

  • On-the-go ready – The Cruiser 200A is first and foremost a portable-friendly grill. It’s light enough for one person to load up at a moment’s notice, and compact enough to fit in most any vehicle.
  • Thermal efficiency – The heat management system is very consistent in the cooking chamber. That may be due to how compact it is, or how the air flows, but you don’t get those big temperature swings as with other pellet grills.
  • Hopper capacity – The large 8lb. hopper holds enough pellets for roughly ten hours of cook time. For such a small footprint, that’s a huge hopper. You won’t need to open the lid and let out precious heat to reload often. 

What we don’t like:

  • Smaller cooking surface – With such a large hopper, you do lose some cooking real estate. The 202 sq. in. of cooking area is mostly fine, but you might need to trim your rack of ribs a bit shorter, and might have trouble with a whole packer brisket. 

The grill isn’t just for smoking, and you could easily knock out burgers and hotdogs for a crowd. The grill caps out at 450°F, but you still get solid grate marks if you keep the lid closed and don’t move the meat around too much.

 Finally, the grill stores nicely in the garage or storage shed, but if you’re keeping it out in the elements, be sure to have it covered. 

What’s the build quality like?

The grill is constructed of high-quality powder-coated steel, giving it a rugged, durable feel. The lid latches keep everything tight-fitted as you’re moving it around from place to place. There’s no noticeable wiggle, or cheap metal contortion.

A metal lid latch on a Z Grills Cruiser 200A portable pellet grill

The powder coat is pretty standard on the Z Grill line, but it has an added bonus with the mobility of this product keeping it free from scuffs and corrosion, while easy to wipe clean.

Z Grills stands by their quality offering a factory a 3-year warranty and a 100% money-back guarantee.

How easy is the Z Grills Cruiser200A to use?

The Cruiser 200A is like any other pellet grill in the fact that it has a set-it-and-forget-it thermostat. It’s about as easy as you can get when it comes to grilling or smoking, just in a smaller package.

Z Grills Cruiser 200A thermostat

The temperature settings range from 180°F to 450°F. I tend to like the 225°F to 250°F range on this machine, and though its updated digital controller states it keeps the temperature within 15°F of target temperature, I barely had swings of 5° – 10° in each direction.

It grills well enough, but I really like the Cruiser for smoking. It’s perfect to knock out a rack of ribs or a single pork butt. 

Clean up

Cleaning the grill is similar to other pellet grills. The porcelain-coated steel grates are easily cleaned with a quick brush and wipe down.

The grease management system is simple, and leaves a little to be desired. It works as both a heat diverter plate over the firebox and a grease tray. The grill comes with a tiny metal pail that hinges off the back of the grease tray.

A grease bucket on the Z Grills Cruiser 200A portable pellet grill

It is highly recommended you wrap the tray with aluminum foil, which makes for a very easy clean up.

Every other cook or so you’ll want to vacuum out the ash in the firebox. This will keep the airflow adequate for clean combustion and prevent the pellets from being smothered out.

Z Grills Cruiser 200A tray wrapped with foil

Cruiser200A vs. Traeger Ranger vs. Nomad

With the Cruiser, Z Grills enter a relatively new line of portable-oriented smokers. One of the most popular – and one of the first of its category – is the Traeger Ranger.

The Ranger is very similar in spec and size, but there are some qualities that give the Cruiser200A advantages.

Traeger Ranger

The Cruiser has 202 sq. in. of cooking space whereas the Ranger sports 184 sq. in. That little extra is the difference between having to cook in batches or not.

They both have 8lb. hoppers, but the Cruiser is twenty pounds lighter than the Ranger, which makes it much easier to tote around.

You really can’t go wrong with either grill, but knowing Z Grills used to manufacture Traeger Grills, and come at a lower price point, I lean toward the Cruiser.

Nomad Grills play in the same category, but their grill is fueled by charcoal. As a smoker, it offers 212 sq. in. of cooking area, but if you want to grill directly over the coals, the grill folds open to double the cooking capacity.

It has a “suitcase” like handle that makes it easier to carry than either the Cruiser or the Ranger, but it lacks the ease of set-it-forget-it cooking of its pellet-fueled counterparts.

nomad grill

That being said, the Nomad Grill requires no power source, only charcoal for fuel. You won’t need to worry about locating electricity at a campsite. It also has a unique damper system that regulates heat once it’s dialed in.

It has the highest price point of the group, but it’s a good investment if you’re a charcoal purist. 

Final thoughts

The Z Grills200A is a fantastic grill at a fantastic price point. Despite its small stature, it performs admirably at home or on the road.

I’d put it toward the top of the class in terms of its key feature: portability. It’s lightweight, but durable, and has fantastic thermal efficiency in the cooking chamber.

If you do a lot of trips and need a portable solution, you can’t go wrong with the Z Grill Cruiser200A.

Z Grills Cruiser 200A Portable Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker
Pros:
  • Compact, portable and on-the-go ready
  • Efficient heat management system
  • Large hopper capacity
Cons:
  • Smaller cooking surface
Check Latest Price

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