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Z Grills vs Pit Boss: We Have One Clear Preference

Two brands selling affordable pellet smoker options. They promise both promise a lot, even if their ranges don’t have all the bells and whistles that the high-end manufacturers do. But, how do they really perform? What’s the build quality actually like? And, which is better for you to buy?

In this comparison of Z Grills vs Pit Boss, we share our first-hand experience with these two brands to help you find the best smoker for your backyard.

I’ll break things down at a brand vs brand level. But, I’ll also give you a side by side of my favorite Z Grills and Pit Boss pellet smokers so you can see what your money can actually buy.

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Quick Summary

Quick Comparison of Z Grills vs Pit Boss

Table of Contents

Overview of Z Grills

Z Grills Logo

Z Grills is one of the most affordable pellet smoker manufacturers out there. I’ve been using their barbecues for YEARS and I’m consistently impressed with their performance and build quality, especially for the price.

My biggest pet peeve about Z Grills is that their range is so large that all the names and model numbers get confusing pretty quickly (we’ve deciphered the whole Z Grills range here).

But, even if they seem like a cheap, mass manufactured brand, they’re actually a solid purchase.

Overview of Pit Boss

Pit Boss Logo

Pit Boss’s point of difference is that they’re bigger, hotter and heavier. And, I’ve found that to ring pretty true.

Pit Boss pellet smokers are pretty well built with nice solid steel, and you get a decent amount of cooking space for the size.

Compared to Z Grills, their range is limited. There aren’t a lot of models to choose from. Most do, however, give you their slide and grill lever so you can grill over the open flame which is a big plus.

In-Depth Comparison of Z Grills Vs Pit Boss Pellet Grills

Yes, it does matter what model/models you’re looking at. But, you can get a pretty good idea of which brand to go for by looking at a few key points.

Here, I’ve given you a full comparison of what Z Grills and Pit Boss are like at a brand level so you can decide which way to go.

Price

Price-wise, the Z Grills and Pit Boss ranges are quite on par with each other price wise.

With both brands, you can buy one of their cheapest models for around about the $500 mark. Take note, Z Grills do go on sale a lot so you might save yourself some more cash when they do.

From there, there’s quite a bit choice when it comes to finding something that fits your particular price point. The top of the line Z Grills smokers will set you back significantly more than Pit Boss’s. But, they’re incredible value.

The bottom line – Z Grills and Pit Boss both have a good selection of affordable pellet smokers at similar price points.

Construction & Build Quality

Although neither Pit Boss nor Z Grills are top of the line brands, both do have a great build quality, especially for the price.

Z Grills give you some choice of materials (and prices) with some of their smokers being available in all powder-coated designs, or, a mix of powder-coated with a stainless steel cooking and hopper lid. It’s nice to have the choice and the added benefit of a bit more durability and rust-resistance where it’s really needed. But, if budget is a concern, there’s nothing wrong with the more basic Z Grill options.

Pit Boss, with the exception of the stainless steel lidded, Lockhart Platinum that we’ve reviewed here, are all powder-coated designs with porcelain-coated cooking grates. But, I’ve found that the steel used by Pit Boss really is thicker than most and is heavier duty than what Z Grills offers.

If you’re smoking in colder conditions, Z Grills do have models with built-in insulation. Going for one of those models gives a steadier temperature and improved fuel efficiency when smoking in cold weather. I’d 100% go an insulated model instead of using a separate blanket that always get a bit mucky after a while of regular use.

In terms of design, I do prefer most Z Grills smokers over the Pit Boss design. I’m not a big fan of the rear vents and find that the somewhat small cap on top of the Pit Boss vents does still let wind and rain in when the weather’s particularly nasty. I haven’t had any problems with Z Grills designs although some of their very cheap models don’t look the best.

The bottom line – Pit Boss has a nice, heavy steel build but, I prefer the design of Z Grills smokers while the quality is still perfectly adequate and durable.

Temperature Control

Temperature control and accuracy is a pretty important performance factor when you’re looking at a pellet smoker that automatically regulates the temperature for you.

Going Z Grills, most of their smokers have an updated PID-based temperature controller. It’s this type of controller that keeps the tightest leash on the heat and you shouldn’t see it deviate more than about 15°F of your target at any time throughout your cook. These days, they’re what most people are looking for and give you the most reliable temperature control.

In my use of Z Grills smokers, I’ve always noticed the temperature does pretty much stay within this range. Opening the lid up will of course create a larger drop. But, they’re very regular and consistent which is great for getting good results every single time.

Pit Boss currently use a regular temperature controller on most of their pellet smokers. Because it’s not a PID-based system, the heat will naturally fluctuate a lot more. I’ve personally seen variances of up to 40°F of our target temperature when smoking low and slow on Pit Boss smokers.

While the less steady temperature can seem like a problem, you can still cook great food on them. In fact, those spikes an dips cause the smoker to put out more smoke for a stronger flavor which some people do prefer. Personally, I’d go with a PID. But, don’t feel that you have to rule out the Pit Boss based on the control panel if you don’t mind going with the flow and having smokier meats for it.

The bottom line – Z Grills smokers keep a steadier temperature while the fluctuations in the Pit Boss result in more smoke.

Overall Performance

Either way you go, you’re getting a decently built, fully automated pellet smoker. You can smoke really great food on both brands and it won’t take you a long time to master it.

I do, however, prefer using Z Grill smokers over Pit Boss’s. I just prefer the more precise PID temperature controller you get on most Z Grills smokers, and I’m not a fan of the rear vents on the Pit Boss because I find they let wind and rain in when the weather’s rubbish.

The bottom line – You can smoke great food on both Z Grills and Pit Boss smokers. I prefer the smoking experience on Z Grills.

Grilling Setup

With the exception of a couple of 600-series Z Grills smokers, grilling on a Z Grills is just turning the temperature up to max and using the indirect heat to grill as best as you can. There’s no open flame.

Pit Boss, on the other hand, give you open flame grilling on most of their models. Simply slide the lever over and the slots in the heat deflector open up to let the hardwood fire lap through the bottom plate giving you access to higher heat, and better flavor.

The bottom line – With open flame grilling, Pit Boss has the superior setup for grilling.

WiFi

Z Grills are just starting to introduce WiFi into their ranges by upgrading their current models to a new WiFi control panel. At the moment, there’s not a huge selection of smokers that do have it. But, you do have a bit of choice.

I haven’t personally used the Z Grills WiFi app yet. I have heard that it’s not the best. Being new, I’m assuming they need a bit more time to iron out any kinks. But, Z Grills are so responsive to customer feedback that I do expect them to get there to a pretty decent wireless experience.

Pit Boss are even later to the WiFi party. They’re just starting to add a wireless controller to one of the Navigator models. Like the Z Grills one, expect a few quirks while they get the app better developed.

The bottom line – Both brands are fairly new to offering WiFi but, Z Grills currently offer a larger selection of grills with wireless connectivity.

Extra Features

Neither Z Grills nor Pit Boss are trying to be the top dogs in terms of fancy, nice to have features. Instead, they’ve mainly focused on doing the basics really well and don’t offer too much in the way of extra features. This also helps to keep the cost down.

With both brands, you can expect wired meat thermometers to be included with a lot of their models. They work well and give accurate readings without having to buy a separate thermometer unit.

You’ll also see pellet hopper windows and cleanout features.

Z Grills do take the lead here though with their latest and greatest Multitasker model. It’s very much feature-filled in what I can only assume is an attempt to rival a much more expensive Traeger. The Multitasker packs a whole heck of a lot of value into it’s affordable price tag.

The bottom line – Z Grills offer good basic extras in their cheaper ranges while their top of the line models have a lot of nice to have features.

Warranty

Z Grills pellet smokers are covered by a pretty standard 3 year warranty. They’re really focused on the customer, always listening to feedback real users have, and responding to any issues people experience with their smokers.

Pit Boss do have a longer warranty period though with 5 years of cover. It’s better than a lot of more expensive pellet smokers so, you can’t argue with that.

The bottom line – Pit Boss has a longer warranty period with 5 vs 3 years.

Z Grills vs Pit Boss Models Compared

Whether you’ve decided which way to go, or you’re still on the fence about it, check out some of my favorite Z Grills and Pit Boss pellet smokers so you can compare.

What Would I Buy? Z Grills or Pit Boss?

Pit Boss definitely aren’t bad smokers. But, unless the open flame grilling is an absolute must-have for you, I’d go Z Grills every single time.

I’m so impressed with how Z Grills pellet smokers have performed for me over the years. The temperature regulation is right where it should be, the smoke production is clear & plentiful, the build quality is good enough to last, and on top of that, they’re undeniably great value for money smokers.

Kate Brown, the founder and voice behind Burning Brisket, is not your typical pitmaster or restaurateur. Her expertise in barbecue grew from a humble desire to cook exceptional meals for her family. From overcoming burnt brisket mishaps to establishing her boutique cattle ranch, Kate shares her passion to help 'ordinary' individuals cook extraordinary barbecue, believing that simplicity often yields the best flavors. Kate is commited to making great barbecue accessible to all with the right resources and some tasty practice.

About Burning Brisket

Burning Brisket is one of the leading, independent authorities on all things barbecue. Family-owned and run, it's our mission uncomplicate the art of smoking to help you enjoy making incredible food at home for your family and friends to create memories over.

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