Z Grills vs Pit Boss: We Look at Performance, Build & Value

Z Grills vs Pit Boss

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 take a good look at these two brands to help you find the best smoker for your backyard.

First up, there’s a ‘cheat sheet’ overview of how Pit Boss and Z Grills compare. Then, we dive into more details on how different comparison points stack up against each other.

At the end of this article, you’ll also find a few of the most popular Z Grills and Pit Boss models put side by side so you can see what your actual dollar can get you.

Before we get started, just remember that both Z Grills and Pit Boss are great brands. Although we will chose a ‘winner’ here, we really think you can’t go wrong with either. And, the one that’s right for you more depends on what you’re planning on cooking, your budget and how much space you’ve got available to store it. But, we’ll walk you through all of that.

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The Quick Version: Z Grills vs Pit Boss

If you’re looking for great value for money, both Z Grills and Pit Boss are two must-see options.

Priced similarly, both of these brands have a good choice of sizes and features wrapped up in what doesn’t feel like a ‘cheaper’ pellet smoker alternative. Both also perform really well.

But, we have found that the temperature regulation on a Z Grills is a bit better than it is on Pit Boss. And, Pit Boss do better at grilling thanks to their Slide and Grill heat deflector plate, giving you the ability to grill over the open flame in the firepot.

So, if you’re looking primarily for a smoker, we’d recommend checking out Z Grills. And, if you want to grill regularly as well, Pit Boss does provide the better high-heat cooking experience.

Either way, both are good solid brands that, we feel, well outperform their price tags.

A Bit About Z Grills

Z Grills are one of the newer players in the pellet smoker industry.

They launched in 2017 after a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign, aiming to build high-quality pellet smokers that are great value per square inch.

But, as it turns out, Z Grills didn’t have a lack of knowledge when they got going. In fact, they’re a company that’s been working behind the scenes to help other BIG brands to build barbecues for more than 30 years. So, it’s fair to say they know a thing or two. And, as you’ll find out in this comparison, their experience and willingness to listen to customer feedback shines through in what are solid and dependable grills that are driving their quick growth and incredible user reviews.

Where are Z Grills smokers manufactured?

Like a lot of other companies, Z Grills produces their smokers in China. Their headquarters are based in the US and they have a warehouse in California.

A Bit About Pit Boss

Pit Boss have been around since 1999. In fact, they were actually one of the first pellet grill manufacturers that entered the market after Traeger’s patent expired.

Their company slogan is ‘bigger, hotter, heavier’ and reflects their aim to make affordable, but high-quality grills, that are larger, better built and have wider temperature ranges than their competitors do.

But, pellet smokers aren’t all that Pit Boss do. While Z Grills are currently focused on specializing in wood-fired pellet grills, Pit Boss have a pretty extensive range that includes charcoal and propane barbecues as well.

Where do Pit Boss make their grills?

Pit Boss’s are also manufactured in China with the company being based in the US.

Comparing Z Grills Vs Pit Boss Pellet Grills

Whether you’re looking at particular models yet or not, there’s a few major things you’ll be looking at when comparing pellet smokers. So, here’s an overview of how Z Grills and Pit Boss stack up against each other in terms of the offerings they’ve got across both of their ranges.

Construction

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 options.

Pit Boss, with the exception of their newer platinum series, are all powder-coated designs. There’s no choice of materials within each model variant. But, from what we’ve seen, the steel that they use is generally thicker and heavier than what Z Grills are built from.

Both are strong and quite sturdy. But, Pit Boss’s steel is a bit more heavy-duty.

In terms of grates, with both brands you’re looking at porcelain-coated steel. Rust-resistant and easy to clean, there’s nothing wrong with it although it’s not as ‘superior’ as stainless steel alternatives.

If you’re smoking in colder conditions, currently there’s only one Z Grills model (the 700D4E) that is built with double-wall insulation. And, Pit Boss’s vertical range is also an insulated design. Both offer improved efficiency in winter without having to buy, use and store a separate thermal blanket.

The bottom line – While there’s nothing wrong with the build quality of Z Grills, Pit Boss’s smokers are heavier duty – PIT BOSS.

Temperature Range

Z Grill smokers can sit anywhere between 180-450°F with settings in 25°F increments. That means you can smoke low and slow, bake, roast and even grill at a pinch.

With Pit Boss, there’s a bit more variation depending on which model you choose. Most range from 180-500°F with the same 25°F increments. Their vertical pellet smokers don’t get quite as hot (and can’t be used for grilling).

But, most Pit Boss horizontal pellet smokers have a Slide Plate Flame Boiler that lets you open up the heat deflector plate so you can grill over the open flame. It’s obviously going to get much hotter than 500°F (they estimate more like 1000°F), and, definitely gives you the edge if you want to use a pellet smoker for regular grilling too.

Z Grills does have one series, the 600, that’ll get up to 750 °F with direct flame grilling as well. They are more limited in terms of size and features than the rest of Z Grills range though.

The bottom line – Pit Boss’s do have a wider temperature range than Z Grills so they take this category, even if the open flame grilling isn’t important to you – PIT BOSS.

Temperature Control

Temperature control is arguably a much more important factor than temperature range when you’re relying on it with an automated pellet smoker. Not only will it help get you consistent results every time you cook on it, good heat distribution means you won’t have one piece of meat ready before the rest.

In 2021 Z Grills updated most of their temperature controllers to the more precise PID-style. So, if you’re looking at any of the 2021 models, you can expect the temperature to stay within about 5°F of where you’ve set it.

Although the older Z Grills 2020 models don’t have the PID controller, the regulation is impressively reliable and, in our experience, stays within about 10°F of your target.

We’ve found the fluctuations on the Pit Boss to be much larger. At the time of writing this, they don’t use PID controllers. We often get fluctuations of up to 20°F.

The plus of that is that they’re really smoky. Having the temperature vary more means you get more smoke as the unit tries to heat up again. And, more smoke means a stronger wood smoked flavor if that’s what you’re after. But, the temperature distribution on the models we’ve used isn’t nearly as even as on the Z Grills.

The bottom line – With the choice of PID and non-PID models, along with impressively even temperature distribution, Z Grills takes the cake for temperature control – Z GRILLS.

WiFi

At the time of writing this, neither Z Grills nor Pit Boss offer WiFi on the majority of their ranges.

But, Pit Boss’s more recently launched Platinum Laredo does have WiFi so you can control the grill remotely.

You can also buy a whole new control panel with Bluetooth and WiFi if you do want to upgrade your current, or brand-new, WiFi-less smoker. It works on most Pit Boss models. And, while it’s not as good as the grill just having WiFi to start with, it’s a good option if WiFi’s on you must-have list.

The bottom line – Both Z Grills and Pit Boss don’t offer WiFi as standard. But, the additional controller you can get for the Pit Boss’s mean you can upgrade to this feature – PIT BOSS.

Cooking Space

The Z Grills range starts at about 450 square inches of cooking space and gets as large as 1000 square inches.

Their range is large enough that most people will find something that suits their needs with most people opting for the 700 Series which gives enough space for a family to smoke leftovers or for guests as well.

Pit Boss have a larger selection of sizes available.

There’s portable tabletop models that give you around 250 square inches of space, plenty of mid-sized options of around 700 square inches, and, larger vertical models that give a mammoth almost 2,000 square inches of cooking space.

The bottom line – For most people, there’s nothing wrong with the size of the Z Grills ranges. But, Pit Boss have more models and more size variety, offering everything from portable micro-grills to extra large pellet smokers that are ideal for hunters or those processing their own meat – PIT BOSS.

Pellet Hopper Size

Understandably, the pellet hopper size on both Z Grills and Pit Boss smokers changes with the size of the grill.

But, generally, Z Grills hoppers have either 16 or 20 pound capacities. The 600 Series is the exception to that with smaller 8 pound hoppers.

Pit Boss have even more variety in sizes but, except for the portable ranges, most are at least 18 pounds. Their largest holds a whopping 55 pounds in their vertical style cooker.

Most Pit Boss’s also do have a pellet clean out door so you can easily empty the hopper for proper pellet storage or to change flavors.

Z Grills are just introducing this feature to their ranges. Some do have a door and some don’t. If it’s something that’s particularly important to you, make sure you check the specs of what you’re looking at before you buy.

The bottom line – Both Z Grills and Pit Boss have adequately large pellet hoppers. Pit Boss’s can hold a little more, plus, generally have an easy way to empty them so… – PIT BOSS.

Warranty

Z Grills pellet smokers are covered by a 3 year warranty. Plus, they also have a 30 day money back guarantee for peace of mind.

They’re a step above what’s generally offered industry-wide and show that they’re confident they do have a good product.

But, Pit Boss have stepped it up even further with a 5 year warranty on all of their pellet smokers. It’s best in the class so, you can’t argue with that.

The bottom line – Z Grills have a good warranty. But, Pit Boss’s is better – PIT BOSS.

Extra Features

Both Z Grills and Pit Boss don’t try to be the top player in the market. Instead, they’ve focused on doing the basics really well and don’t offer that much in the way of extras.

If you go Z Grills, a lot of their smokers come with 2 meat probes that plug straight into the control panel. They’ll give you accurate readings on the meat’s internal temperature so you’ll know exactly when it’s done without opening the lid.

Almost all of their smokers also come with a waterproof grill cover included. A nice thing not to have to buy…

Pit Boss’s generally come with a single meat probe although there’s another probe port for a second (you can buy extras here). You probably won’t get a cover either.

The bottom line – If you’re looking at cheaper options across both brands, Z Grills include more extras – Z GRILLS.

Price

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

They’re both one of the cheapest pellet smoker options on the market, without being poor quality and hopeless.

The smaller models are obviously cheaper with the larger and more feature-filled options costing more.

The bottom line – Both Z Grills and Pit Boss are priced similarly – Z GRILLS and PIT BOSS.

So, Which Is Better? Our Z Grills vs Pit Boss Decision

Two different brands, two similar price points, both with a good offering of different sizes and models… it’s a hard one!

So, which one’s better? Which one should you buy?

If you look at our in-depth comparison of Z Grills vs Pit Boss above, you’ll notice that Pit Boss took the lead in almost every category including construction, temperature range, cooking space, and, warranty. But, in our experience, Z Grills has better temperature control with a very even temperature distribution and minimal fluctuations, creating the consistency you need to very easily recreate exactly the same awesome results every single time.

Because we feel that Z Grill’s temperature control is that little bit better than Pit Boss’s, and, they do perform just fine in all the other areas, we’d ourselves actually lean towards buying a Z Grills over Pit Boss.

The exception would be, though, if you want to be able to grill as well as smoke on your pellet barbecue. Pit Boss’s Slide and Grill feature giving you access to the actual wood pellet fire mean the results are completely next-level. And, you won’t just burn through the pellets trying to create enough heat throughout the whole pellet smoker to do so.

So, that’d be our pick. Z Grills for smoking, baking and roasting. Or, Pit Boss for the added awesomeness of being able to grill over open fire as well.

But really, buying a Z Grills or a Pit Boss are great budget-friendly choices and we don’t feel like you can go wrong with either. In fact, we do own and use both regularly. So, if you’re leaning towards one brand, trust your instinct and grab it. Both are great grills and you won’t regret the ease of pellet smoking!

Z Grills vs Pit Boss Real Grill Comparisons

The theory’s all very well. But, there’s nothing like seeing what your hard earned cash can actually get you side by side. So, here you’ll find a comparison of some of the most popular Z Grills and Pit Boss models by side and budget.

Z Grills vs Pit Boss - Smaller or Budget-Friendly Options

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Powder-coated steel with porcelain-coated steel grates

Powder-coated steel with porcelain-coated steel grates

180 - 450°F

180 - 500°F

538 square inches of cooking space

542 square inches of cooking space

10 pound hopper

15 pound hopper

3 year warranty

5 year warranty

  • PID temperature controller

  • 30-day money back guarantee when purchased through ZGrills.com

  • Flame Broiler Lever for direct and indirect cooking

  • Stainless steel side shelf

Z Grills vs Pit Boss - Mid-Size and Mid-Range Options

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Powder-coated steel with stainless steel lid and porcelain-coated steel grates

Powder-coated steel with porcelain-coated steel grates

180 - 450°F

180 - 500°F

697 square inches of cooking space

879 square inches of cooking space

20 pound hopper

27 pound hopper

3 year warranty

5 year warranty

  • PID temperature controller

  • Manual feed for faster heating

  • Hopper window

  • Hopper clean out

  • Free waterproof cover

  • Enclosed storage cabinet

  • 30-day money back guarantee

  • Flame-Broiler Lever for direct or indirect cooking modes

  • 1 meat probe

  • Large pellet hopper window

  • Hopper clean out

  • Front and side shelf

Z Grills vs Pit Boss - Larger, Top of the Line Options

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Powder-coated steel with stainless steel lid and porcelain-coated steel grates

Powder-coated steel with stainless steel grates

180 - 450°F

180 - 500°F

1,060 square inches of cooking space

1,158 square inches of cooking space

20 pound hopper

32 pound hopper

3 year warranty

5 year warranty

  • Free waterproof cover

  • Enclosed storage cart

  • 30-day money back guarantee

  • Flame-Broiler Lever gives direct & indirect heat modes

  • 2 meat probes

  • Front and side shelves

  • Large hopper window with clean out door