Z Grills Wood Pellet Grill Review – Are they a Traeger Killer?

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I can’t think of another grill brand that has appeared virtually out of nowhere and gained so much attention as fast as Z Grills.

Bursting on to the pellet grill scene back in 2017, Z Grills raised almost half a million dollars from 1407 backers on the crowdfunding platform Indiegogo.

People quickly realized that Z grills weren’t just a plucky newcomer. They had quietly been manufacturing more expensive grills for companies like Traeger before deciding to sell their own brand direct to the public.

The prospect of buying a Traeger quality grill at a severely reduced price proved tempting for many, and Z Grills have quickly become one of the most popular pellet grills available.

In this review, we’ll take a detailed look at their most popular pellet grills, and see how they compare with other brands like Traeger.

How Z Grills Work

If you are familiar with how pellet grills work, feel free to skip ahead.

The Z Grills design is very similar to brands like Pit Boss and Traeger. The grill works by burning wood pellets (Z grills sell their own brand but any brand of pellets will do) to create heat and smoke to flavor your food.

In our video review of the Z Grills 700E we show how this popular design works, and what we think of it after grill and smoking on it.

The pellets are stored in a hopper located on the side of the grill. A mechanical auger feeds the pellets into a firebox where a rod ignites them.

A sensor keeps track of the temperature and works with the digital controls to maintain the temperature you set by controlling the flow of pellets and airflow.

This design allows you to load up your hopper, set the temperature and effectively ‘set it and forget it’.

While they are often called “pellet grills”, I really think of them as smokers or ovens since they specialize in maintaining steady temperatures over long hours.

Pellet Grills are great for people who don’t want the hassle or mess of cooking with charcoal but want more smoke flavor and convenience than gas or electric smokers can provide.

We have a more detailed guide which includes our favorite pellet grills for every budget here.

The Z Grills Lineup

Z Grills currently sell three different categories of grills in a few different configurations.

You have the “basic series” which includes the smaller 450, 550 and 600 grills.

The 450A which comes with (you guessed it) 450 square inches of cooking space.

In the middle is the 700 series which includes the highly popular 700E and the new and improved 700D4E.

Rounding things out is the 1000 series where you find the largest grills like the 1000E. Within each series you have plenty of choices with different color configurations and storage options.

If you need help choosing Z Grills has a handy comparison tool that lets you plug in up to 3 different models and compare the specs.

Z Grills ZPG-7002E Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker Review

Z Grills 7002E Pellet Grill

The 7002E is the base version of the most popular model, with a total cooking area of 700 square inches and a 20-pound hopper.

The cooking area is split with 504 sq in for the grilling area and a 190 square inch warming rack.

You also have the almost identical 700D and 700E models which include an upgraded cart with two doors for extra storage, and upgraded caster wheels.

The difference between these two models is a bit confusing, the main thing we could find is the 700E has a top temp of 475° while the 700D maxes out at 450°.

In terms of price, you’re looking at roughly half the cost of the Traeger for a similar set of features.

Everything ships in two carefully wrapped packages and assembly is fairly straight forward with detailed instructions provided.

You can choose a few different color configurations including silver, black or silver and black cover.

The materials are made of stainless steel

What we like:

  • Outstanding value for money – The combination of size, construction, updated digital control system free grill cover at this price point makes the Z grill the best value for money pellet grill on the market.
  • Easy to clean – The grease bucket collects drained grease, and if you wrap the pain it’s very easy to cleanout
  • 3-Year warranty – Matches the Traeger warranty. Pit Boss grills sold after 2018 have a longer 5-year warranty.

What we don’t like:

  • Struggles to get hot enough to sear – All pellet grills are marketed as “do everything” machines. The one area most struggle is searing. The Z Grill is no different with a max temp of around 450°F you are going to struggle sear.
  • Cleaning ash and unused pellets – Some greasy ash tends to build-up and there’s no easy way to remove unused pellets. It’s worth investing in a small shop vac so you don’t ruin your household vacuum cleaner.

Other than those two points, the grill is great for smoking meat, temp control is easy and the grill construction is top-notch.

Confusingly these options are all listed on Amazon under the same listing so make sure you pick the cart option you want.

Get the latest price on the Z Grills website.

Z Grills ZPG-450A Review

Z GRILLS ZPG-450A 2020 Upgrade Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker 6 in 1 BBQ Grill Auto Temperature Control, 450 Sq in Bronze

The ZPG-450A and 550B are like little brothers to the 7002. They are virtually the same grill in either 450 or 550 square inch configurations.

Both options are available in all black or bronze and black.

Like the larger model, the grilling area is split between the main grilling area and a warming rack.

The hopper capacity is slightly lower 15 pounds, and the cooking temperature is 160-450°F.

This grill competes in a pretty crowded field of mid-sized pellet grills like the popular Camp Chef Smoke PRO SG 24.

What we like:

  • The same upgraded digital controller – Z Grills have used the same temp and pellet feed control system as the more expensive model.
  • Value for money – As we’ve come to expect from Z Grills, this grill retails for a few hundred under similar sized pellet grills.

What we don’t like:

  • Temperature variance – There seem to be more issues with temperature control on this model. Many users have reported about 30°F of variance from the set temperature.

Get the latest price at Z Grills (Free Shipping).

Z Grills VS Traeger

People always want to know how a brand compares with Traeger, the original pellet grill brand.

This is especially true for Z Grills, since there’s a lot of evidence that they used to manufacture grills for Traeger.

So the question is, can you buy a Traeger replica for half the price?

The annoying answer, as usual, is it depends.

For this comparison, we’ll compare the Z Grills 7002E with the Traeger Texas Elite 34.

  • Price – At the time of writing, the Z Grill is significantly cheaper than the Traeger, and even includes a grill cover whereas the Traeger requires an additional purchase. You can check the latest price on the Z Grill 7002 here, and the Traeger Texas Elite here.
  • Design – Both grills share a similar design and are made with high gauge steel and both are powder coated. The 7002 is slightly less portable with only 2 wheels compared to 4 casters on the Texas Elite (you can get 4 wheels on the 700E and700D)
  • Grill & Hopper size – It’s almost a tie for grill size, with the Traeger offering 646 square inches compared to the 700 on the 7002E. Worth noting that the Traeger has a single grill, whereas the Z Grill splits it’s space between grill and warming rack.
  • Temperature probe – Neither grill comes with a temperature probe so you will need to buy your own.

Traeger Texas Elite 34 VS Z Grills 7002E – Side by Side comparison

Traeger Texas Elite 34Z Grills 7002E
Dimensions 22 x 54 x 49 inches 22 x 48 x 51 inches
Cooking surface area (sq in)646694 (504 + 190)
Hopper capacity18 lb20 lb
Temperature range150 – 450°F180 – 475°F
Warranty3 years3 years
Price Check latest priceCheck latest price

We found more people reported temperature control issues on the Z Grill than the Traeger, however, this was addressed with the new models Z Grill released.

Traeger gets the edge when it comes to customer support. This isn’t surprising since they are a US-based company that has been around since the 1970s.

That’s not to say they are perfect. Like any large company, there are lots of complaints of rude/useless customer support.

If you want to find out more, we have a detailed Traeger Reviews post.

The bottom line

If you are happy with a large grill that doesn’t include some of the more modern features, the Z Grills 7002E is better value than the Traeger Texas Elite.

If you want more features like WiFi connectivity, built-in meat probes and easier pellet removal you should consider the Traeger Pro.

Last update on 2021-04-17 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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