When it comes to all around versatility, the pellet grill is at the top of the list in terms of which type of grill is best. Pellet grills are incredibly easy to use, and impart delicious wood fired flavor into any food you choose to grill or smoke on them.
There are more than a handful of pellet grill brands to choose from, but in this article we thought it would be worthwhile to compare two of the most popular ones, Z Grills vs Traeger.
When comparing different brands, there’s a lot to take into account! In this article, we’ve compiled weeks of research and will present our complete guide of Z Grills vs Traeger pellet grills. By the end, you’ll have a better idea of which brand might be a better fit for you!
In a Hurry? Here’s Our Top Z Grills vs Traeger Picks
- Z Grills 700E Wood Pellet Grill – Best Value
- Traeger Ironwood 885 Pellet Grill – Best Overall Quality
- Z Grills 550B Wood Pellet Grill – Budget Choice
- Z Grills ZPG-10002B Wood Pellet Grill
- Traeger Grills Pro Series 575
Before we dive into grill comparisons, we thought it would be beneficial to provide a little background information on each of these two brands to help inform the rest of our article!
Z Grills History
Z Grills burst onto the outdoor cooking scene in 2017 thanks to an incredibly successful Indiegogo campaign that raised almost half a million dollars from over 1,400 backers. The idea was simple – bring a solid pellet grill to the market that utilized proven technology, but do it at an affordable price.
At the time, there wasn’t really a “budget” pellet grill on the market, let alone one that actually performed well. Z Grills aimed to fill this gap, and most would agree that they’ve done a really nice job at it. Even with only a few years of company history, they’ve already established themselves as one of the trusted brands in grilling.
They found a way to offer a truly quality grill at affordable prices. That’s exactly why their grills are consistently rated as best sellers across a variety of online platforms and types of grills.
In terms of brand history, Traeger’s story is quite different than Z Grills. Traeger has claim to the original pellet grill, which was developed, patented, and produced first in the mid 1980’s. The design of their grill resembled the barrel style of a traditional offset smoker, but they replaced the offset box with a hopper for wood pellets.
Wood pellet grill technology was brand new at the time, and Traeger Grills were the first to truly craft a grill around this concept. They found a way to easily feed wood pellets from the hopper, to a rotating auger, and then into the firepot to cook your food.
Wood pellets were a revolutionary way to cook at the time. They allowed for you to grill or smoke foods with wood fired flavor, without the hassle of managing a fire. Ease of use was the main selling point of the pellet grill, which allowed you to make delicious food without fuss.
For decades, Traeger was the leader in the pellet grill submarket until about 2007, when their patent expired. They still are a lead innovator in the industry and make quality grills, but now face stiffer competition to stay ahead of the game.
Z Grills vs Traeger Comparison
When it comes to the most important features for a pellet grill, temperature control is at the top of the list. Consistent and precise temperature goes a really long way for your ability to make great food, and your grill should be constructed in a way that allows for you to count on your temperature being right.
So when comparing temperature control quality, we look at two different aspects. First, we look at how well the grill is constructed and which materials were used for the build. This directly impacts how well the grill will retain heat and distribute it consistently while you cook.
Second, we look at how precisely you’re able to set your temperature on the dial. Especially for smoking meats, you want to be able to set your temperature down to the smallest increments possible.
Z Grills are made of a solid stainless steel material for the body and cooking chamber, which provides a nice anti rusting surface. We’ve read through countless customer feedback for various Z Grills products, and very rarely are there complaints about heat retention. Their products do a fantastic job of retaining heat, and actual temperatures are typically within 5°F of the chosen setting.
For precision, Z Grills can be set to 25°F increments – which is fine, but frankly nothing to write home about. We’d love to see a little bit more precision when it comes to choosing your temperature.
Traeger grills also do a fantastic job of retaining heat, and are fortified with two stainless steel layers to insulate the cooking chamber. You’ll be hard pressed to find a Traeger customer who has issues with how the grill retains heat.
As far as precision goes, Traeger grills can be set to 15°F increments – which is a definite step up from Z Grills. It might not sound like a lot, but an extra 10°F in between temperature settings makes a really big difference, and you can just get a little more precise with Traegers.
Verdict (Temperature Control): Traeger
While both Z Grills and Traeger Grills do a really nice job of providing consistent heating to cook your food, Traeger has a clear advantage in terms of precision. If you’re the type who prefers ultimate control over your cooks, you might lean towards Traeger in this department.
Pellet grills are known for their versatility – they work great as both a grill and a smoker all in one cooker. A wide temperature range is a crucial feature for any pellet grill to be able to perform all of these cooking styles well.
Typically, most meats smoke at temperatures around 200-250°F, whereas searing temperatures ideally should be at least 400°F. At a minimum, a proper pellet grill should be able to maintain a temperature range of 200-400°F.
Z Grills have a temperature range of 180-450°F, which is a really nice range and better than most pellet grills on the market. Traeger pellet grills on the other hand have a temperature range of 180°F to 400°F, which is undoubtedly a nice range but a little more limited than Z Grills.
Verdict (Temperature Range): Z Grills
There’s not much to debate here, Z Grills offer an extra 50 degrees of heat on the hot end. If you’re like me, that extra temperature range can come in handy for those times that you’re looking for the perfect sear.
Cooking Surface Area
One of the first questions you should ask yourself before purchasing a grill is how many people do you plan to cook for on a regular basis? The answer to this question largely informs the type and size of grill you should be going after.
When we compare Traeger vs Z Grills cooking surface area, really we’re taking a look at the robustness of each brand’s catalogue. Are there different grill sizes offered to suit different needs?
Z Grills offers standard sized grills with either 450, 550, 600, 700, or 1000 square inches of primary cooking surface area. Each of these grills also features a warming rack, which provides additional cooking space to work with.
Traeger’s flagship Traeger Pro Grill comes in two sizes – 575 square inches of cooking surface area and 780 square inches of cooking surface area. However, they also have other grills that offer some interesting sizes. Namely, they offer a Renegade Pro Grill that has 380 square inches of cooking surface area and a line of portable Ranger pellet grills that offers around 300 square inches of cooking surface area.
Verdict (Cooking Surface Area): Tie
This category is a really close call – and we have a hard time choosing a distinct winner. Z Grills definitely has a more robust size selection when it comes to “standard” sized grills, and they also offer a great choice for a large capacity grill at 1,000 square inches of primary cooking surface area.
Traeger on the other hand has some great choices on the smaller end of the spectrum. Their “junior” sized grills and portable pellet grills are perfect choices for taking wood fired flavor on the go.
One of the most often overlooked features when it comes to comparing pellet grills is hopper capacity. Size definitely matters here! Think about it, it’s kind of a hassle to constantly have to refill your hopper, especially when smoking foods that can last for 12 or more hours at a time!
So with that in mind, pay attention to how big your grill’s hopper is. As a general rule of thumb, most pellet grills burn around 1-2 pounds of wood pellets per hour. When grilling on higher temperatures, the burn rate is faster and when smoking on low temperatures, the burn rate is slower.
Z Grills‘ hopper capacity varies based on the size of the grill. Their smaller units feature 10 pound hoppers whereas some of their larger grills have 20 pound capacities.
Pretty much all of Traeger’s pellet grills have a hopper capacity of 18 pounds – with the exception of their portable line of grills which have an 8 pound hopper capacity.
Verdict (Hopper Capacity): Traeger
The verdict here is pretty straightforward. Traeger’s pellet grills have a larger hopper capacity compared to most of their corresponding Z Grills sizes. You’ll spend less time refilling Traeger hoppers – with the exception of Z Grills’ 1,000 square inch grill.
Obviously, price is a huge factor in for any big purchase decision. And the price department is where Z Grills really separates itself from not only Traeger, but frankly the rest of the pellet grill manufacturers too.
At the core of Z Grills ethos is to create quality pellet grills that are affordable. With that in mind, they have done a really nice job of providing excellent bang for your buck. You get a lot of cooking surface area per dollar spent when looking at all of Z Grills’ product line.
Verdict (Price): Z Grills
That’s not to say that Traeger grills aren’t fairly priced – quite the contrary! Compared to other brands, Traeger prices their grills quite reasonably and you still get excellent value.
We always pay close attention to the terms of the warranty coverage for all of the grills we compare. Not only does a warranty protect your purchase, but it’s often times a signal that the underlying product is well made. Think about it, if you manufactured high quality products, you wouldn’t be afraid to stand behind them with a warranty, right?
In terms of warranties, Z Grills and Traeger’s are almost identical. Both cover a period of 3 years after your purchase, and the fine print on each is by and large the same. Just as a point of reference, a 3 year warranty is pretty standard for a quality pellet grill.
Verdict (Warranty): Tie
Overall Z Grills vs Traeger Winner
We’ve done a lot of comparison articles on Own The Grill, and I’m not exaggerating when I say that this is one of the closest calls I’ve ever seen when comparing two brands.
As much as it sounds like a cop out, I don’t think there’s really a clear winner here – simply because what’s best for you largely comes down to your personal needs and preferences.
For example, if you’re looking for a portable pellet grill – well, Traeger is clearly your choice. If you have a little bit more cash to work with in your budget, a Traeger will get you a few extra features than Z Grills, and that might be worth it to you!
On the other hand, if you’re looking for the absolute best value pellet grill, it’s hands down Z Grills. You simply won’t find a better bang for your buck on the market. As long as you’re ok without the extra bells and whistles – Z Grills is a fantastic choice.
Traeger also generally holds more brand loyalty since they’re the original and have been around for so long, if you care about that sort of thing. Traeger also has a strong history of delivering quality products to their customers. Z Grills are for sure the new kids on the block, but they haven’t exploded in popularity for no reason.
Z Grills vs Traeger – Grill Reviews
We thought it would be helpful to go over a few reviews of each brand’s most popular models, so that you can get an even better sense of which is best for you between these two brands.
Note, you can also check out our resource on the Z Grills 700 Series of grills if you want a closer look at one of their top lines of grills.
Z Grills 700E Pellet Grill
The Z Grills 700E is the most popular grill by a pretty wide margin that Z Grills offers. As far as bang for your buck goes, you’ll be hard pressed to find a better grill that walks the line of performance and affordability.
Here, you’re afforded a total of 694 square inches of cooking surface area to work with. Additionally, there’s a temperature range of 180 to 450°F on this grill that really lets you do just about anything you want on the grates! Smoking, searing, grilling, and even baking cooks are very easy to accomplish on this grill.
In addition to all of that, this grill is well built and backed by a three year warranty, so your purchase is also protected. There’s a really nice sized cabinet where you can store tools, and the grill also comes with a cover which is a must have accessory.
Traeger Grills Ironwood Series 885 Pellet Grill
The Traeger Ironwood 885 Pellet Grill comes off of Traeger’s premium line of grills, and is absolutely loaded with features. It is without a doubt one of the highest quality pellet grills on the market, regardless of brand.
The downside is that these extra features come at a cost – this grill is on the steeper end of the price spectrum.
But if that’s in the cards for you, you’re rewarded with a beautiful grill that has 885 square inches of cooking surface area.
On top of that, it comes kitted with the WiFIRE technology we discussed earlier. Every aspect of your cook can be managed and monitored from the convenience of your smartphone. You can also set your grill using voice commands via Alexa!
The other significant upgrade of the Ironwood 885 is “under the hood” so to speak. It includes Traeger’s new D2 Direct Drive, which runs on direct current (DC) power and allows the grill to vary the speed of the auger. It can even go in reverse if it detects a jam!
Practically, this means that maintaining a steady temperature is much much easier for the grill to accomplish. The difference is especially noticeable in adverse cold or windy weather conditions. Were some other budget grills (like Z Grills) might have trouble maintaining temperature, the Ironwood Traegers will still perform beautifully.
Z GRILLS ZPG-550B Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker
The Z Grills ZPG-550B Wood Pellet Grill is one of Z Grills’ best sellers thanks to a quality build offered at an incredibly low price.
First and foremost, you’re given 538 square inches of cooking surface area to work with, and a temperature range of 180-450°F. That’s enough space and range to handle just about anything you could ever want to throw at a grill or smoker.
An automated electronic feed system and intuitive LED display allow for you to easily set your temperature and forget about it! No babysitting is required for your grill at all, which is a great thing no matter whether you’re a complete beginner or bona fide professional.
This grill also has a 10 pound hopper, a foldable side shelf, heavy duty wheels built in, and a rust proof stainless steel cooking chamber with stainless steel cooking racks.
Traeger Grills TFB57GZEO Pro Series 575 Grill
In the Z Grills vs Traeger conversation, you’d be hard pressed to find a better overall choice than the Traeger Pro Series 575 Grill. It comes at a decently higher price, but offers a markedly more premium grilling experience.
Perhaps most notably is the connectivity with Amazon’s Alexa and Traeger’s phone app, WiFIRE. From the convenience of your phone or with audio commands, you can actually set your grill’s temperature and timers – as well as monitor pellet levels and the internal temperature of your food while it cooks.
Those are the sort of features you just won’t get with a more budget friendly grill like Z Grills.
This Traeger grill offers 575 square inches of cooking surface area along with an 18 pound hopper, stainless steel cooking grates, and a rust resistant exterior.
Z GRILLS ZPG-10002B Wood Pellet Grill
If you’re looking to maximize your cooking surface area, the Z Grills ZPG-1000 Pellet Grill is a fantastic choice. You’re afforded 1,000 square inches of cooking surface area across 3 cooking racks – which is plenty of space to feed a large gathering.
The hopper is also upgraded, with a 20 pound capacity you’ll be refilling less. As with other Z Grills models, your temperature can be set anywhere between 180-450°F for all of your smoking and grilling needs.
A built in front shelf and side shelf offer extra space to organize your cook. You can also store BBQ accessories or ingredients when they’re not in use. All around, the ZPG-1000B is a practical and affordable choice that’s suited for everyday cooking needs.
Z Grills vs Traeger – Final Thoughts
I hope this round up of Z Grills vs Traeger has helped to point you in the right direction! Even though these brands make similar looking grills, their products are different from one another. Either brand could be a great fit for you depending on what your needs are!
If you’re more budget conscious, Z Grills truly is a great choice. They offer one of the best values in grilling, regardless of which type of grill we’re talking about.
Traeger has the history and offers a more premium grilling experience. If you’re into that, you can’t go wrong with a Traeger either.
Which one did you end up with? We’d love to hear about it in the comments section!
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