Home Reviews Z Grills vs Traeger: Can This Brand Save You Money?

Z Grills vs Traeger: Can This Brand Save You Money?

by Burning Brisket
Z Grills vs Traeger

Traeger is clearly a market leader when it comes to pellet smokers. They invented them, made them well-known, and now take one of the top spots on the food chain, promising quality, performance and reliability.

And, while we’re not denying that they deliver, just like Nike and other major brands, you definitely pay more for the Traeger stamp on the side of these smokers.

Enter Z Grills. One of the more recent companies to venture into the pellet smoker arena, they’re way cheaper and comparable with Traeger in so many ways. But, a heap cheaper is still wasted money if they don’t perform as well and you end up upgrading down the road.

So, to help you choose the right smoker for your backyard, our Z Grills vs Traeger comparison takes a detailed look at the similarities and differences between these two brands in terms of construction, performance and extra features. Towards the end of this article, you’ll also see real Z Grills and Traeger grills taken head to head to show you what you really get for your money.

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A Bit About Z Grills

We said that Z Grills is one of the newer players in the pellet smoker market. And, yes, that’s true. In 2017 after a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign, they launched their own line of grills. But, before that, Z Grills was actually working behind the scenes, helping other reputable companies build barbecues for more than 30 years.

So, while they’re kinda new, they do have the knowledge and years of experience to know how to produce great products.

Today, Z Grills pride themselves on being one of the best value per square inch pellet smoker manufacturers out there. But, value for money doesn’t mean cheap and nasty. Z Grills focus on providing high-quality, multi-purpose grills that are stable and durable. They reckon you shouldn’t have to spend a lot of money to get that. And, it’s this philosophy that has driven their reputation, backed by literally thousands of amazing real user reviews across their ranges.

Where are Z Grills made?

Z Grills smokers are manufactured in China but have a warehouse in California.

A Bit About Traeger

Traeger are the brand behind the very first pellet grills. In the early 1980’s, they developed the technology behind the set and forget wood smoker, and, recognizing how awesome it was, patented the idea in 1985.

This patent allowed Traeger the time to establish themselves as the original manufacturer of the pellet smoker, marketing their promise of quality, reliability and consistently incredible results that literally anyone could achieve.

After Traeger’s patent expired, other barbecue manufacturers jumped on the pellet smoking bandwagon, creating healthy competition and innovation in the market. Despite that, Traeger have held onto their image as one of the most premium and popular brands available today.

Where are Traeger grills made?

Traeger’s were originally made in the USA. But, as demand increased, they moved their production to China to keep up and they’re still there today. Their headquarters are based in the USA.

Comparing Z Grills Vs Traeger Pellet Grills

Before we compare grill vs grill, here’s how Z Grills and Traeger sit next to each other overall in terms of these major areas.

Price

Z Grills and Traeger pretty much sit in two completely different price points.

At the time of writing this, Z Grills are one of the cheapest pellet smokers on the market. Their smaller models start at about $400 USD while their larger ones top out at below $900 USD with an insulating cover as well.

Traeger’s main range starts at about the $800 USD point for a smaller grill with less features. As you work your way up to their top of the line, all the features and largest size, you’re looking at just below the $2,000 USD mark.

The bottom line – For the money, you will get a lot more with a Traeger. But, if you’re on a budget, Z Grills is great value for money – Z GRILLS.

Construction

Most of the Z Grills range is made from single-layered powder-coated steel. There are some stainless steel components for added durability. And, some models have a stainless steel lid for hardly any extra cost.

Inside, you’re looking at porcelain-coated cooking grates which are pretty standard but for a good reason; they’re durable, easy to clean, don’t stick too much, and a rust-resistant.

Overall, Z Grills do have a strong and sturdy feel to them, especially for their price point. Although they’re not insulated, you can buy insulation blankets if you live somewhere colder. The wheels aren’t huge and can be a bit harder if you’re moving it over really rough terrain. But, because a little extra storage is never a bad thing, we do love the option to buy a model with a cabinet-style cart.

On the Traeger side of the equation, while definitely strong and sturdy, the construction depends a lot more on which model and at which price-point you go for.

In the entry-level Pro Series, you get an all powder-coated steel design with porcelain-coated grates. Then, as you move up to the mid-range Ironwood, you’ve also got side-wall insulation for improved fuel efficiency in poorer weather. The high-range Timberline Series upgrades that to a fully insulated body with stainless steel grates for improved performance and durability.

The bottom line – Here, Traeger does deliver more premium construction, particularly in their more expensive ranges. But, if budget is a concern, you’ve got to keep in mind that you do pay more for it. – TRAEGER.

Temperature Range

Z Grills give a range of 180-450°F which is pretty standard for a pellet smoker. They advertise the 450°F is suitable for grilling and searing, and, while it will get the job done, in our opinion, it’s not quite hot enough to do it well.

Thanks to Traeger’s newly upgraded temperature controller, most of their models (with the exception of the Renegade), now get up to 500°F. It’s not a lot extra, but, if you do want to be able to do it all on the one unit, that extra bit will help you out.

Note that, some Camp Chef’s and Pit Boss’s do have a slide and grill function so you can cook extra hot directly over the firepot. Check out our Traeger vs Camp Chef comparison here, or the Pit Boss vs Traeger review.

The bottom line – Neither Z Grills nor Traeger are great for grilling. But, because Traeger does get a little hotter… – TRAEGER.

Temperature Control

Reliable temperature control is a must-have in an automated pellet smoker. And, both Z Grills and Traeger do perform well in this area.

With any of the 2020 updated Z Grills smokers, you can expect the cooking chamber to stay within about +/-10°F of your target temperature. Just remember, they’re not insulated. So, if you’re smoking in really cold or snowy winter conditions, you’re going to need an insulating blanket to, a, keep the temperature where you want it and, b, minimize pellet usage.

A Z Grills insulating blanket will only set you back $100 or so, not a huge expense, especially if you budget that into the low grill cost.

Thanks to Traeger’s upgraded D2® drivetrain, Traeger perform similarly in terms of heat control. Most of their range should stay within +/- 10-15°F of your set temperature. They also promise faster heating and better smoke control, although Z Grills perform strongly in those areas too.

Traeger’s Ironwood and Timberline series also have a Turbo Temp feature that helps to bump up the temperature faster if you open the lid, minimizing any fluctuations. They’re also the models that offer either side or full body insulation for better heat retention and more efficient fuel usage.

The bottom line – Although Z Grills do have a slight edge over Traeger with tighter temperature regulation, we’re giving this one to Traeger for their extra D2 drivetrain features which paired with some insulation, create better control and fewer headaches when it comes to set and forget smoking – TRAEGER.

WiFi

If you want remote control of your pellet smoker, you’ll have to go with Traeger. Z Grills currently don’t have WiFi on any of their models. However, thanks to Traeger’s updated temperature controller, they’ve now integrated what they call WiFire into most of their models.

The bottom line – There’s no WiFi on Z Grills smokers, but, Traeger do now offer it on most of their range – TRAEGER.

Cooking Space

Both Z Grills and Traeger have a good range of sizes available.

Z Grills’ smallest pellet smoker gives you 452 square inches of cooking space split over 2 grates. Their mid-sized option holds about 700 square inches and their largest grill maxes out at 1,060 square inches over a 3-tier configuration.

With Traeger, you’ve got slightly more choice in terms of size. But, unlike Z Grills whose different models pretty much mean a different size, Traeger’s larger grills are only available in their more expensive ranges. So, you can choose anything from the Pro 575 with 575 square inches, all the way up to Timberline 1300 with, you guessed it, 1300 square inches over 3 grates. But, in the Timberline 1300, you’re not only paying more for the size, you’re also paying more for the extra features it comes with.

It’s a nice bonus if your budget allows for it, but if you’re just after a larger grill and don’t want/can’t quite justify spending the extra money for full insulation, stainless steel grates and a pellet sensor then it is something to consider.

The bottom line – Traeger has more size options available. But, because the larger grills only come with the more expensive series, you do pay a disproportionate amount more for them. Z Grills does still have a decent selection of sizes as well. So, we’re declaring this one a tie – Z GRILLS AND TRAEGER.

Pellet Hopper Size

Whether you go for Z Grills or Traeger, both have different pellet hopper sizes to correlate with the size of the grill itself.

With the exception of the L6002 with it’s 8 pound hopper, Z Grill’s hoppers hold either 16 pounds or 20 pounds of pellets at a time. Traeger’s will do 18, 20 or 24 on their largest grills.

Either way, on a moderate temperature for smoking, you’re probably looking at getting about 1 hour of cook time out of 1 pound of pellets. So, whatever you choose, you’ll be able to do long smokes without having to touch a thing.

We will mention that, one, Z Grills doesn’t have a pellet purge system. That means you’ll have to scoop and/or shop vac any unused pellets out to store, clean, or change flavors. And, two, even though Traeger does have a small door to empty the pellets, you’re still going to need to shop vac them out if you want to get every last one. It’s just a part of pellet smoking really.

The bottom line – Both Z Grills and Traeger are pretty similar in terms of pellet hopper size – Z GRILLS AND TRAEGER.

Warranty

Another area of similar performance, both Z Grills and Traeger grills come with 3 year warranties. They’ve both got a decent reputation for customer service and neither option are known for being riddled with problems, so, either way you’re good.

Z Grills does have a 30-day money back guarantee that applies to purchases made through their website. If you’re on the fence about a pellet smoker in general, or about if Z Grills is a good enough budget option, their guarantee definitely eases the mind.

The bottom line – Ticks in the boxes for the same warranty length. But, the 30-day Z Grills money back guarantee sure is a nice touch – Z GRILLS.

Extra Features

Z Grills are a bargain price on their own. So, it doesn’t seem reasonable to expect a lot of extra features. They’re good, they’re solid and they work. But, they do come with a waterproof cover to fit.

When it comes to Traeger, there’s a lot more variety depending on which model you choose. Some come with 1 or 2 meat probes, there’s Super Smoke mode, a downdraft exhaust system for better smoke distribution, Turbo Temp which helps to bring the temperature back up to your target faster after you open the lid, a low pellet sensor and an integrated grease management system.

It’s best to check the particular model you’re looking at. But, there’s a lot of extra features that help to make smoking even easier.

The bottom line – Z Grills do the basics well. But, if you’re wanting a few nice to have extras, Traeger is definitely where it’s at – TRAEGER.

Our Overall Z Grills vs Traeger Winner

When it comes down to it, Z Grills make one hell of a grill for the price. They’re solid, they’re reliable, and they turn out consistently great results. They do the basics well. But, without WiFi, that extra bit of temperature their D2 drivetrain gives, or the nice to have features, if you’re not talking price, Traeger definitely stands out as the winner.

So, to summarize, if you’re on a limited budget, Z Grills is a great value for money option. But, if it’s extras you appreciate or you want that extra premium quality, you won’t be disappointed going Traeger.

Z Grills vs Traeger Real Grill Comparisons

So, Traeger came out on top when we looked at brand vs brand. But, what does it look like when you compare grill vs grill?

Here, we check out 6 different Z Grills and Traeger smokers at different price points so you can see what your money can actually buy.

Z Grills vs Traeger - Budget Options

Image

Price range

$$

$$$

Construction

Powder-coated steel with porcelain-coated steel grates

Powder-coated steel with porcelain-coated steel grates

Temperature Range

180 - 450°F

150 - 500°F

Cooking space

538 square inches

575 square inches

Pellet hopper capacity

10 pounds

18 pounds

Warranty

3 years

3 years

Extra Features

  • PID temperature controller

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

  • WiFIRE connectivity

  • Alexa enabled

  • 1 built-in meat probe

Shop


Z Grills vs Traeger - Mid-Range Options

Image

Price range

$$$

$$$$

Construction

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

Double side walled, insulated, powder-coated steel with porcelain-coated steel grates

Temperature Range

180 - 450°F

150 - 500°F

Cooking space

697 square inches

885 square inches

Pellet hopper capacity

20 pounds

20 pounds

Warranty

3 years

3 years

Extra Features

  • PID temperature controller

  • Manual feed for faster heating

  • Hopper window

  • Hopper clean out

  • Free waterproof cover

  • Enclosed storage cabinet

  • 30-day money back guarantee

  • WiFIRE connectivity

  • Alexa enabled

  • 1 built-in meat probe

  • Low pellet sensor alert

  • Super smoke mode

  • Turbo Temp

  • Downdraft exhaust system

  • Pellet purge system

Shop


Z Grills vs Traeger - Top of the Line Options

Image

Price range

$$$

$$$$

Construction

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

Double side walled, insulated, powder-coated steel with stainless steel grates

Temperature Range

180 - 450°F

150 - 500°F

Cooking space

1,060 square inches

885 square inches

Pellet hopper capacity

20 pounds

24 pounds

Warranty

3 years

3 years

Extra Features

  • Free waterproof cover

  • Enclosed storage cart

  • 30-day money back guarantee

  • WiFIRE connectivity

  • Alexa enabled

  • 1 meat probe

  • Low pellet sensor alert

  • Super smoke mode

  • Turbo Temp

  • Downdraft exhaust system

  • Pellet purge system

  • Magnetic bamboo cutting board

  • Integrated Grease Management System

Shop

There you have it! As you can see in the real grill comparisons, as you move up the ranges, Z Grills gets bigger but doesn’t add much in the way of extras. Traeger, on the other hand, climbs more steeply in price, size and features until their top of the line grill isn’t too comparable with that of Z Grills.

So, your decision when it comes to the Z Grills vs Traeger debate is probably going to be largely price based.

Z Grills do a great value for money, entry-level pellet smoker while Traeger have maintained their premium quality and added more innovative features to really set themselves apart from the competition.

If my budget allowed for it, I’d go Traeger. But, if it didn’t, I would be very happy with a Z Grills to get the job done well.

What are your thoughts?

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