Z Grills vs Traeger: Best Pellet Grills Comparison [2019]

If you are in a hurry and just want to find out what the winner is, then we recommend the Traeger Renegade Pro.

In pellet grilling circles, the Traeger name is venerated as an industry leader. A younger company, Z Grills, is attempting to make a similar name for itself. As a grilling enthusiast, I couldn’t help but wonder if Z Grills stood a chance. That’s why I decided to put together this roundup pitting Z Grills vs Traeger.

In this article, we’re going to review the following pellet grills:

Shopping For a Pellet Grill: Important Features to Look For

Pellet grills are more advanced, technologically speaking, than their charcoal- or gas-powered counterparts. For that reason, it’s important to choose a model that checks off all the boxes, so to speak. Whether you’re new to the market or a die-hard pellet-grilling pro, these tips can help you select the unit that’s right for you.

Construction

A heavy-duty steel construction is a must. The cooking grates can be made of high-quality stainless steel or cast iron. If there’s a porcelain coating on the grates, they might be easier to clean. Just make sure that the rest of the unit is built of quality materials, since cheap enamel tends to flake off during cooking.

Grill Size

You’ll want to plan on a minimum of 72 square inches of cooking space per person. A grill with a surface area of 450 square inches should be sufficient for a group of four to six people. Larger families or frequent entertainers should consider going larger.

Cost

Budget is a subjective issue, but be forewarned that pellet grills don’t come cheaply. The good news? They could save you money on fuel costs in the long run, especially if the unit is built to last.

Temperature Control Panel

A digital control panel is standard for modern pellet grills. The station should also be outfitted with an LED readout display, preferably illuminated so you can see the numbers in the dark. Dual temperature probes are another good feature to have—they can tell you when the meat is finished cooking without having to open the lid. Finally, look for a model with a range of at least 180 to 500 degrees. You’ll want the temperature to remain accurate within about 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

Efficiency

The unit should go through roughly one pound of pellets per hour at moderate temperatures. At lower temps, you might expect to burn through one pound of pellets every two or three hours, while high-heat applications will consume fuel at a greater rate.

Warranty

Reputable companies will back up their products with a guarantee on parts. These are usually in place for one to three years, depending on what components are covered.

Z Grills vs Traeger: What’s in the Box?

Here are the basic specifications for the models we’ve included in our roundup, with lists of pros and cons for each.

#1 Z Grills ZPG-450A & ZPG-550B

ZPG-450A

  • Main cooking chamber constructed of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grates with warming rack
  • 15-pound capacity hopper
  • Straight-legged design with two locking caster wheels and side shelf
  • Digital control panel with knob and LED display

Pros:

  • Stable design
  • Sturdy construction
  • Affordable price point
  • User-friendly

Cons:

  • Insufficient grease management system
  • Minimal temperature range
  • Small hopper
  • Side shelf sits too close to chimney

ZPG-550B

  • Main cooking chamber constructed of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grates with warming rack
  • 20-pound capacity hopper
  • Cart-style design with large wheels and lower shelf for storage
  • Grease management system with drip bucket
  • Digital control panel with knob and LED display

Pros:

  • Affordable price point
  • Easy to assemble
  • User-friendly
  • Light enough to be shifted around the yard or patio

Cons:

  • Finicky starter
  • Rudimentary control station
  • Erratic temperature control
  • Insufficient storage

>> Check Prices on Amazon <<

#2 Z Grills ZPG-7002E & ZPG-7002B & ZPG-700E & ZPG-700D & ZPG-7002ENC

ZPG-7002E

  • Main cooking chamber constructed of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grates with warming rack
  • 20-pound capacity hopper
  • Cart-style design with large wheels and lower shelf for storage
  • Digital control panel with knob and LED display

Pros:

  • Suitable for baking
  • Solid construction
  • Accurate temperature control

Cons:

  • Poor grease management system
  • No pellet removal system
  • Insufficient storage space

ZPG-7002B

  • Main cooking chamber constructed of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grates with warming rack
  • 20-pound capacity hopper
  • Cart-style design with large wheels and lower shelf for storage
  • Digital control panel with knob and LED display

Pros:

  • Able to maintain a stable temperature
  • Excellent with smoked meats
  • Quality packaging
  • Relatively broad temperature range

Cons:

  • Can be affected by ambient temperatures
  • Rudimentary control panel
  • Difficult to find replacement parts

ZPG-700E

  • Main cooking chamber constructed of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grates with warming rack
  • 20-pound capacity hopper
  • Cabinet-style design with four wheels
  • Digital control panel with knob and LED display

Pros:

  • Hopper can double as a shelf
  • Cabinets provide ample storage
  • Convenient design
  • Affordable price point

Cons:

  • Small wheels
  • Rudimentary control panel
  • Difficult to move from one place to another

ZPG-700D

  • Main cooking chamber constructed of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grates with warming rack
  • 20-pound capacity hopper
  • Cabinet-style design with four wheels
  • Digital control panel with knob and LED display

Pros:

  • Efficient design
  • Affordable price point
  • Generous cooking surface
  • Ample storage space

Cons:

  • Small wheels
  • Erratic temperature control
  • Finicky pellet purge system

ZPG-7002ENC

  • Main cooking chamber constructed of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel
  • Porcelain-coated cast iron cooking grates with warming rack
  • 20-pound capacity hopper
  • Cart-style design with two wheels and lower storage shelf
  • Digital control panel with knob and LED display

Pros:

  • Easy to assemble
  • Easy to clean
  • Affordable price point
  • Generous amount of cooking space

Cons:

  • Rudimentary control station
  • Difficult to maneuver
  • Less-than-accurate temperature control

>> Check Prices on Amazon <<

#3 Traeger Grills

Traeger Lil Tex Elite 22

  • Main cooking chamber made of heavy-gauge steel with a powder finish
  • Porcelain-coated steel cooking grates
  • 18-pound capacity hopper
  • Digital Elite Controller
  • Basic straight-legged design with two wheels
  • Grease management system with drip bucket

Pros:

  • Well-built, with quality materials
  • Easy to assemble
  • Easy to maintain
  • Effective grease management system

Cons:

  • Finicky control panel
  • Relatively small unit
  • Some issues with chimney leakage

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Traeger Pro Series 22

  • Main cooking chamber constructed of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel
  • Porcelain-coated steel cooking grates
  • 18-pound capacity hopper
  • Sawhorse chassis with two all-terrain wheels
  • Digital Pro Controller with Advanced Grilling Logic
  • Grease management system with drip bucket

Pros:

  • Easy to use
  • Works across a variety of cooking styles
  • Convenient size
  • Attractive design

Cons:

  • Parts are often missing upon delivery
  • Relatively inefficient on pellet consumption
  • Temperature control could use some fine-tuning

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Traeger Renegade Pro

  • Main cooking chamber constructed of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel
  • Porcelain-coated steel cooking grates
  • 18-pound capacity hopper
  • Sawhorse chassis with two all-terrain wheels
  • Digital Pro Controller with Advanced Grilling Logic
  • Grease management system with drip bucket
  • Bright orange heatproof handle

Pros:

  • Stable construction
  • Excellent temperature control
  • Easy to assemble

Cons:

  • Awkward hopper size
  • Relatively small cooking surface
  • Some issues with missing or damaged hardware

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Traeger Renegade Elite

  • Main cooking chamber constructed of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel
  • Porcelain-coated steel cooking grates
  • 10-pound capacity hopper
  • Straight-legged design with two all-terrain wheels
  • Digital Elite Controller
  • Grease management system with drip bucket
  • Heatproof handle
  • Removable wire rack
  • Built-in shelf with utensil hooks

Pros:

  • Well-designed, efficient grill
  • Plenty of storage space
  • Efficient temperature control
  • Convenient for travel
  • Heatproof handle

Cons:

  • Relatively expensive model
  • Small hopper
  • Not as stable as the Renegade Pro

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Traeger Texas Elite 34

  • Large main cooking chamber constructed of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel
  • Porcelain-coated steel cooking grates
  • Hopper with 18-pound capacity
  • Straight-legged design with two sturdy wheels
  • Digital Elite Controller with Advanced Grilling Logic
  • Grease management system with drip bucket

Pros:

  • Large grill with ample cooking space
  • Achieves superior results when used as a smoker
  • Heavy and durably constructed

Cons:

  • Best for low-heat applications
  • Difficult to heat to over 375 degrees
  • Awkward to transport

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Texas Pro Series 34

  • Gigantic cooking chamber made of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel
  • Porcelain-coated steel cooking grates
  • 18-pound capacity hopper
  • Sawhorse chassis with four wheels
  • Digital Pro Controller
  • Grease management system with drip bucket

Pros:

  • Very easy to use, even for novices
  • Large enough for family gatherings
  • Hopper door for easy cleanout

Cons:

  • Won’t get hot enough to sear meat
  • Takes up a lot of space
  • Relatively small hopper for a grill of this size

>> Check Price on Amazon <<

Z Grills vs Traeger: Features & Benefits

In this section, we’ll go over the criteria we introduced earlier to help determine which company comes out on top.

Z Grills

Construction

Every Z Grill is constructed of heavy-gauge powder-coated steel. The grilling grates are composed of porcelain-coated cast iron, and a second warming rack is always included in the assembly. While these products are durable enough to hold up to a few years of moderate use, they aren’t as finely crafted as some of the competition. Fortunately, this is usually reflected in the price. If you’re new to pellet grilling and you want to see what all the fuss is about, a Z Grill model could be the best way to find out.

Grill Size

Most of the units we’ve listed offer 694 inches of grilling space and a hopper with a 20-pound capacity. The exceptions are as follows:

  • ZPG-450A—450 square inches with 15-pound hopper
  • ZPG-550B—538 square inches with 20-pound hopper
  • ZPG-7002ENC—700 square inches with 20-pound hopper

These are all modestly-sized grills, suitable for large families or the occasional neighborhood gathering. Bear in mind that these cooking surfaces include the optional warming rack. When the racks are not installed, you’ll have less grilling space—about 504 square inches on the standard models.

Cost

Z Grills are set at a significantly lower price point than most of the competition. That’s good news if you’re shopping on a budget. Remember, though, that these units might not last as long as their similarly-sized Traeger cousins.

Temperature Control System

The control panels on the Z Grills aren’t as sophisticated as they could be. While they’re fully digital, with LED readout displays, the system is controlled by a basic knob function. That doesn’t allow for much finesse as far as the temperature range is concerned. If you’d like to try a Z Grills unit, the 7002 models give you the best return on your investment in this category.

Efficiency

The majority of the units listed here will burn through pellets at the average rate, at least as long as the temperatures remain stable. If you’re having excessive difficulties with the temperature control system, then the pellet consumption will likely be affected.

Warranty

The Z Grills carry a three-year warranty on defective parts. By all accounts, their customer service department can be difficult to deal with, so prepare yourself for a bumpy ride if you find yourself with a malfunctioning system.

>> Check Z Grills on Amazon <<

Traeger

Construction

Traeger grills feature a powder-coated steel construction, with porcelain-coated steel cooking grates. Their grease management systems are effective and user-friendly, with drip buckets that are easy to clean.

A few of the models listed here have minimal design flaws. For example, the auger system on the Lil Tex Elite 22 tends to jam up more frequently than most Traeger units. The chimney on the Renegade Pro is configured a little too close to the drip bucket, but that’s an issue that can be worked around. As far as durability is concerned, you shouldn’t face any major problems with the Traeger line.

Grill Size

Lil Tex Elite 22

This grill boasts 418 square inches of grilling space—enough for a couple or a small family. It’s small enough to be used as a travel grill, although the Renegade models are better suited for those purposes.

Pro Series 22

This model offers up slightly more cooking space, with 572 square inches in total. It’s a good choice for families of four to six people, or couples who love to grill in large batches

Renegade Pro

This is a tailgating grill, with a cooking surface of just 380 square inches. The 18-pound hopper capacity makes it slightly cumbersome for travel, but that problem can be mitigated by transporting the pellets separately.

Renegade Elite

The Renegade Elite also boasts 380 square inches of grilling space, but its hopper capacity is just 10 pounds. That makes it a better choice for picnics and tailgating.

Texas Elite 34

With 646 square inches of grilling space, the Texas Elite 34 is built for serious barbecue enthusiasts. It’s large enough to roast a turkey at Thanksgiving, or smoke several racks or ribs.

Pro Series 34

This is the largest unit in our Traeger lineup, with 884 square inches of real estate for grilling. For people who routinely host big gatherings, this model is a real find.

Cost

You can expect to pay top dollar for a Traeger grill. The smaller units are set at a more reasonable price, so if you grill infrequently or are just looking for a simple model for cooking hot dogs in the summer, then you might consider one of these.

Temperature Control System

Traeger’s grills feature digital control systems with LED readouts. The Elite series boasts Digital Elite Controllers, which are generally accurate to within 20 degrees Fahrenheit. Meanwhile, their Pro counterparts step it up a notch with Digital Pro Controllers, featuring Advanced Grilling Logic that’s accurate to within 15 degrees Fahrenheit.

These units aren’t as affected by ambient temperatures as their competitors at Z grills. Still, it should be noted that the larger grills—the Texas Elite 34 and the Pro Series 34—don’t do well when it comes to high-heat applications. If you choose to invest in one of these, try to stick to smoking and braising.

Efficiency

Traeger grills fall within the industry standard for pellet consumption. Expect to go through about one pound of pellets per hour for most cooking applications. Since some of the larger units have difficulty maintaining higher temperatures, they’ll go through pellets at a slower rate than the high burners.

Warranty

The company offers its customers a three-year warranty on defective parts. Again, this is standard, although some competitors offer a more generous package. The good news here is that you’re unlikely to need the backup when you invest in a Traeger grill.

>> Check Traeger on Amazon <<

Social Proof: Firing Up Z Grills

Since Z Grills is a relative newcomer to the grilling show, we decided to seek out some positive customer responses to their product. Our efforts were largely successful.

Some experienced grillers claimed that their Z Grills model yielded the best results they’ve ever had. Novices were pleased with the user-friendly nature of the control panels, which helps to offset our concerns in that regard. Others claimed that the assembly was simple and the instructions easy to follow.

Social Proof: Firing Up Traeger Grills

Traeger has been in business since the 1980s, so positive reviews of their products were especially easy to come by. According to a few of their satisfied customers, their pellet grills are durable, effective, and turn out delectable results. In particular, testers claimed that the Renegade Pro was sturdy enough for regular use, despite its diminutive size.

The Bottom Line

As we were compiling these reviews, we were impressed by the sheer number of quality options that these companies offer. If we had to choose one over the rest, however, it would have to be the Traeger Renegade Pro.

Though the Renegade Pro is smaller than the competition, it’s the most efficient model when it comes to temperature control and pellet consumption. The price point is low enough to make it affordable, even if you’re shopping on a budget. Though the Renegade Elite comes in at a close second, the sawhorse chassis on the Pro model gives it added stability on uneven terrain.

If you need a little bit more space, the Pro Series 22 is a solid option. Just remember that you might have to pay more attention to the thermometer to ensure that the temperature is staying within your preselected range.

Best of luck as you enter the next stage in your grilling adventures!

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