You’re looking for a portable pellet smoker to use on the go? And, you’re wondering how the Z Grills Cruiser 200A really performs?
We’ve got your back.
Z Grills is one of our favorite pellet smoker brands out there because they simply perform so well, especially when you consider they’re that much cheaper than the competition.
The Cruiser is Z Grills’ first portable model. So, we wanted to have a good look at how they’ve wrapped up their value for money into this tabletop design. And, in this Z Grills 200A review, we dive into all the details.
Here we share how this compact pellet smoker really performs. We look at smoking and grilling and also cover the basics in terms of build quality, capacity and any optional extras you’ll need to help you decide if it’s the right choice for your next adventure.
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Table of Contents
The Quick Version of Our Z Grills 200A Review
If you’re looking for a portable pellet smoker that gives you a good mix of quality, price and performance, the Z Grills Cruiser 200A is a great choice.
No, it’s not fancy. But, what it is is solid and reliable.
With the impressively even Z Grills Updated Temperature Controller, the Cruiser creates the consistent cooking environment you need for effortlessly repeatable results every time you cook.
The 202 square inch capacity isn’t huge. But, is larger than a lot of the competition and is enough to cook for 2-4 people depending on what you’re doing. Plus, the 8 pound pellet hopper should be enough for most people to smoke what they want to on the go.
Outside, the Cruiser’s body is strong and durable enough to handle a bit of rough and tough. The side handles make it easy to pick up and the briefcase design, in my opinion, is so much easier than the folding leg, portable pellet smoker design.
Coming in at a price that’s a considerable amount less than the major competition, the Z Grills 200A definitely performs very well and is a great solution for oh-so-easy wood smoking on the go.
About the Z Grills 200A
Launched at the end of 2021, the Cruiser 200A is Z Grills’ first portable pellet smoker.
It’s brief-case style design competes with the more expensive Traeger Ranger, promising quality, durability and great performance in a more affordable package.
No, it can’t cook a heap of food at once. And, it’s 8 pound pellet hopper isn’t going to give you the same sort of extra long smoking sessions that a regularly-sized Z Grills will do. But, it’s large enough to cook for 2-4 people (maybe more depending on what you smoke).
And, because it’s so small, it’s a lot easier to transport and sturdier than a portable pellet smoker with folding legs.
So, if a smaller cooking space is workable for you, keep on reading.
Features of the Z Grills Cruiser 200A
- Powder-coated steel case
- Porcelain-coated steel cooking grates
- 202 square inch cooking capacity
- 8 pound hopper
Ease of use:
- Automatic temperature regulation keeps within +/- 15°F of your target
- 180 – 450°F temperature range
- Latched lid for easy transportation
- Port to connect meat probe (not included) for accurate monitoring of doneness
- Grease management system
- 100% money back guarantee
Construction and Build Quality
The Z Grills Cruiser is made from powder-coated steel. It’s briefcase-style design makes it strong and sturdy. And, although for the cheaper price point you’d expect it to be notably worse quality than the more expensive Traeger Ranger, it’s surprisingly well built and definitely durable enough to withstand a good life on the go.
There’s two latches to keep the lid locked shut during transportation. Plus, unlike most competitive models, it’s got robust side handles that make light work of lifting and moving it’s reasonable weight.
Inside, the porcelain-coated cooking grate is durable and easy to clean. And, most importantly, the steel of heat deflector and firepot is thick and strong enough to handle it’s max heat without damage.
On the Z Grills Cruiser 200A you’re looking at 202 square inches of cooking space.
That’ll do 6 burgers, 1 rack of ribs or 1 butterflied chicken, depending on it’s size.
You’ve got 6 inches in height between the cooking grate and the lid. So, that’s enough to do a pork butt or even a small brisket.
The hopper holds up to 8 pounds of pellets. Depending on how hot you’re cooking, that could give you up to about 8 hours of low and slow smoking time.
If you’re grilling at high heat, you’ll burn through the pellets a lot faster than that. But, as a portable smoker, you’re probably not going to need to be doing ultra-long smokes. And, if you do, you’ll be looking at 1-2 refills max.
Smoking on the Z Grills Cruiser 200A is really super simple.
Fill the hopper, set it to ‘smoke’ for startup, once the smoke is white, select the cooking temperature you’d like and let it heat for 5-10 minutes, add your meat and it’ll do the rest.
With the Z Grills Updated Temperature Controller, it’ll keep the heat within about 15°F of where you’ve set it. Because it’s such a small unit, the temperature is so even throughout that you get a great, consistent cook each and every time.
The rear exhaust vents pull the smoke nicely through the cooking chamber for great smoky flavor and a nice smoke ring.
To monitor the doneness of your meat without having to open the lid and rely on the ‘it looks done? test’, there is one meat temperature probe port on the Z Grills 200A.
The probe itself doesn’t come with the grill (you can get a generic one off Amazon here, or, use your existing one if you’ve got a full-sized Z Grills smoker). But, if you do use it, you’ll be able to see the internal temperature of your meat directly on the control panel so you’ll never over or under-cook your meat again.
Pulled pork, chicken, brisket and sausages; the Cruiser does a really great job. The meat comes off evenly cooked, tender and full of awesome, wood-smoked flavor.
Set at it’s maximum temperature of about 450°F, you can grill up a steak, burgers, sausages, fish, or anything else you’d like on the Z Grills Cruiser 200A.
Just keep in mind that it’s indirect heat. The heat deflector can’t be removed so it’s kind of like you’re trying to grill in a really hot oven. It definitely does the job and it’s honestly, surprisingly decent. But, you’re not going to get that crispy, seared up steak flavor that you’d get oven an open flame.
You’ll also use a lot of pellets getting to and maintaining that high heat.
So, if you’re mainly looking to grill, we wouldn’t recommend the Z Grills 200A. But, if you want to occasionally throw a burger or two on although you mainly use it for smoking, it’s nice to be able to quickly fire up a patty or two. It’ll taste a little smoky and you should be able to even get some nice grill lines going.
Unlike a lot of other Z Grills smokers, the Cruiser 200A comes with nothing in the way of extras.
There is the option of grabbing the 200A + grilling bundle. With it you get a bag of pellets, burger press, tongs and basting brush. Or, the 200A + 2 bags of pellets. Both are great value and since you’ll need to grab some pellets anyway, check them out before you hit buy now.
At the time of writing this, Z Grills aren’t actually selling them anymore. So, if you’ve got one lying around from a full-sized pellet smoker, you can use that. Or, grab a generic one from Amazon.
Also keep in mind that you’ll need a power source to use a portable pellet smoker.
It’s not so much an issue if you’re using it at home. But, if you’re taking it out and about then you’ll need a power solution. We generally use this Traeger inverter.
Even though it’s a portable model, Z Grills gives you it’s standard 3 year warranty on the Cruiser 200A.
Of course, you’ve still got to be careful with the unit. But, if there’s any problems, Z Grills should be able to help you out. We’ve always had great experiences with their customer service.
Cleaning the Z Grills 200A Cruiser
If you’re familiar with full-sized pellet smokers, cleaning the Z Grills portable 200A is pretty much the same.
Scrape the grates down (we like this tool) and wipe the ambient temperature probes after each use.
Then, every few cooks, or earlier if needed, wipe the heat deflector plate and surrounds to remove grease (absolutely cover the heat deflector with foil like Z Grills recommend if you want an easier time cleaning it). You’ll also need to clear the firepot of built up ash. A shop vac is the easiest way to do that and you might want a dedicated one just for your smoker to avoid contaminating your cooking surface.
Pros and Cons of the Z Grills 200A
What We Like About the Cruiser 200A
- Really strong and sturdy box-like design that can actually hold up to an adventure-filled life
- Decently large cooking area for this type of portable smoker
- Good sized pellet hopper
- Side handles and latching lid make moving it really easy
- Simple digital control panel is all you need for easy operation
- The fact that you can cover the drip tray with foil makes clean up so much easier
- Reliable temperature control
What We Don't Like About the Cruiser 200A
- It doesn’t come with an internal meat temperature probe…? (We just use our wireless MEATER but still…)
- The whole unit weighs 40 pounds which is pretty typical for this type of smoker. But, is more than a lot of people expect
Should I Buy the Z Grills Cruiser 200A?
The Z Grills Cruiser 200A is ideal for people who are looking for:
- Easy portability
- Don’t need a large cooking capaicty
- Enjoy a lightly smoked real wood flavor
- Don’t want to have to mess around with lighting it and maintaining the right temperature
- Aren’t fussed about extras like WiFi
- Appreciate some good value for money
It might not be the right smoker for you if you:
- Prefer a strong smoky flavor (check out the Pit Barrel Cooker)
- Want to sit there with a beer checking the temperature, adding fuel and adjusting vents (try the Weber Smokey Mountain)
- Need to cook for a crowd, even sometimes (try the Traeger Tailgater)
- Must have WiFi (maybe the GMG Davy Crockett)
- Don’t have access to power (the Pit Barrel Cooker is a set and forget charcoal smoker)
FAQs About the Z Grills 200A
Q. Does the Z Grills Cruiser 200A have WiFi?
Q. How do I empty the hopper?
You can’t really empty the hopper on the 200A. You can try to pick the whole unit up and tip them out. But, really you’ll just need to burn them through.
Q. Can I grill on the Cruiser 200A?
Yes. The Cruiser’s temperature maxes out at about 450°F. That is hot enough to grill on. But, keep in mind that it’s indirect heat. There’s no open flame so it’s a bit like grilling in a really hot oven. It does do an okay job. It will use a lot of pellets to run that hot though.
Q. What type of power do I need to run the Z Grills Cruiser?
Q. Do I have to use Z Grills pellets in the 200A?
Q. Can I use the Z Grills Cruiser at home?
Of course! If you’re smoking for 1 or 2, the smaller size of the Z Grills Cruiser will be more efficient than running a bigger pellet smoker. You’ll probably just want a permanent table to set up on.
Specs for the Z Grills Cruiser 200A Pellet Smoker
Barbecue type: Wood pellet grill and smoker
Barbecue material: Powder-coated steel
Grate material: Porcelain-coated steel
Cooking capacity: 202 sq. in.
Pellet hopper capacity: 8 lbs
Heat Range: 180-450°F
Fuel type: Wood pellets
Price guide: $$
Model: Cruiser 200A
Assembled size (in): 25 L x 20 W x 13 H
Weight: 40 lbs
Warranty: 3 years