Incomparable or Not: Understanding Z Grills vs Traeger

August 30, 2022

Z Grills and Traeger grills differ in terms of price, construction, temperature range, performance, additional features, and more.

As a chef and amateur pitmaster, I have plenty of opportunities to test out a wide variety of Traeger and Z Grills models, allowing me to come to my own conclusions.

In this post, I will discuss Z Grills vs. Traeger, talk about some of their similarities, and give you an idea of which one might be right for you!

Z Grills vs Traeger

Comparison of Top Models for Z Grills and Traeger

Preview
Z Grills Cruiser 200 A
Z GRILLS Portable Pellet Grill Table Top BBQ...
Z Grills 450A
Z GRILLS ZPG-450A 2022 Upgrade Wood Pellet...
Z Grills 700D4E
Z GRILLS Wood Pellet Grill Smoker with...
Construction
Powder coated steel
Powder coated steel
Powder coated steel
Temperature Range (°F)
180 - 450
180 - 450
180 – 450
Cooking Surface Area (sq. inches)
202
452
695
Hopper Capacity (lbs)
8
15
20
Wi-Fi Enabled
No
No
No
Z Grills Cruiser 200 A
Preview
Z GRILLS Portable Pellet Grill Table Top BBQ...
Construction
Powder coated steel
Temperature Range (°F)
180 - 450
Cooking Surface Area (sq. inches)
202
Hopper Capacity (lbs)
8
Wi-Fi Enabled
No
Z Grills 450A
Preview
Z GRILLS ZPG-450A 2022 Upgrade Wood Pellet...
Construction
Powder coated steel
Temperature Range (°F)
180 - 450
Cooking Surface Area (sq. inches)
452
Hopper Capacity (lbs)
15
Wi-Fi Enabled
No
Z Grills 700D4E
Preview
Z GRILLS Wood Pellet Grill Smoker with...
Construction
Powder coated steel
Temperature Range (°F)
180 – 450
Cooking Surface Area (sq. inches)
695
Hopper Capacity (lbs)
20
Wi-Fi Enabled
No
Preview
Traeger Ranger
Traeger Grills Ranger Portable Wood Pellet...
Traeger Pro Series 575
Traeger Grills Pro Series 575 Wood Pellet...
Traeger Ironwood 885
Traeger Grills Ironwood 885 Wood Pellet Grill...
Construction
Stainless Steel
Stainless Steel
Stainless Steel
Temperature Range (°F)
150 – 500
150 – 500
150 – 500
Cooking Surface Area (sq. inches)
184
575
885
Hopper Capacity (lbs)
8
18
20
Wi-Fi Enabled
No
Yes
Yes
Traeger Ranger
Preview
Traeger Grills Ranger Portable Wood Pellet...
Construction
Stainless Steel
Temperature Range (°F)
150 – 500
Cooking Surface Area (sq. inches)
184
Hopper Capacity (lbs)
8
Wi-Fi Enabled
No
Traeger Pro Series 575
Preview
Traeger Grills Pro Series 575 Wood Pellet...
Construction
Stainless Steel
Temperature Range (°F)
150 – 500
Cooking Surface Area (sq. inches)
575
Hopper Capacity (lbs)
18
Wi-Fi Enabled
Yes
Traeger Ironwood 885
Preview
Traeger Grills Ironwood 885 Wood Pellet Grill...
Construction
Stainless Steel
Temperature Range (°F)
150 – 500
Cooking Surface Area (sq. inches)
885
Hopper Capacity (lbs)
20
Wi-Fi Enabled
Yes

About Traeger

Not only are Traeger grills the industry standard, but they are also a household name - arguably one of the most famous in the country, perhaps the world. This, of course, isn't surprising considering that Joe Traeger was the first person to invent the wood pellet grill.

The first pellet grill was created in 1985 and three years later, the company was born. Today, it is the world's wood pellet grill manufacturer.

Not only did Traeger pellet grills get a running start on the competition, they have been consistently churning out high quality products. This, combined with the fact that they also improve and modify features with every new model ensures that Traeger grills continue to be a success.

About Z Grills

Z Grills is often seen as a newcomer and a dark horse at that. In reality, though, the brand has been producing barbecue products and pellet grills for various other brands for quite a while. Finally, the owner decided to produce their very own Z Grills pellet grill in 2007.

Since then, the company has built quite a reputation for itself. Its main selling point is that it produces good quality equipment at an affordable price.

Z Grills vs. Traeger Pellet Grills

Now, let's compare these pellet grill brands and determine what each of them have to offer:

Construction Quality

Don't let the lower price of Z grills fool you - these pellet grills are built to last. Virtually all of the components are made from heavy gauge steel. And, when you dig a little deeper and check out the cooking grates as well, they hold up just fine. Most of the Z grills boast porcelain coated cooking grates.

Now, some people hold it against the company that their wood pellet grills and their parts are manufactured in China. However, this isn't cause enough to believe that the company offers a lower quality option.

Not many people realize that for the last few years, Traeger grills have also outsourced manufacturing to China. The parts are merely assembled in the US.

What's more, you may have heard people wondering:

Are Z Grills made at same factory as Traeger?

No, but for a time there, Z Grills was producing certain parts of the Traeger grill models!

It is a little trickier to narrow down the quality of Traeger products, however. This is because the materials used often depend on the model. Thus, the higher priced ones boast superior build quality such as solid stainless steel material. Of course, this doesn't mean that cheaper ones are junk - they are also made from good quality materials and the brand always makes sure to pay attention to details such as welding, heat retention, etc.

The problem with Traeger's pellet grills is that the materials for even the grates can vary with every line. For instance, the Pro and Ironwood series have porcelain coated grates while the Traeger Timberline has stainless steel cooking grates.

On the one hand, stainless steel is incredibly lightweight and durable while porcelain coated grates have the benefit of being easy to clean. Thus, it is up to you to determine which level of quality is right for you.

In short, yes, Traeger is a solid pellet grill, but so is Z Grills.

Selection - Models and Choice

The level of selection offered with each grill brand is important. This ensures that each consumer can find precisely what they are looking for and in their preferred budget range.

The Traeger line starts with the Town and Travel - or portable pellet grill options. There is the Tailgater with a hopper capacity of 8lbs and 184 square inches of cooking surface area. The Ranger boasts a 300 square inch cooking surface and an 8lb hopper.

By comparison, the Z Grills range consists of just one - this has 202 square inches of cooking surface and an 8lb hopper. Thus, they are pretty evenly matched here.

Now with the Traeger brand, you have the Traeger Pro series, Traeger Ironwood, and Traeger Timberline. Each series is more sophisticated and expensive than the others. For the most part, there isn't too much variation in design or even fire power. However, you do find the wood pellet grill technology improving with each line.

In between each series, however, the differences are limited. At most, there are variations in the cooking surface area of the grill.

By comparison, there are far more Z Grills models for you to choose from. There is the 450, 550, 600, 700, and 1000 series. I discovered that there is a lot more variation in between them as well.

As with Traeger, the Z Grills products become increasingly more sophisticated. Between each line, though, there are numerous variations. This is because the A, B, and C version of the models reflect new changes made to the old designs.

Therefore, when it comes to sheer amount of choice, I would say that the Z Grills wood pellet grill wins the category.

BBQ LEGEND 1000D3E
Trager Pro Series 22 Pallet Grill

Price Range

It is a foregone conclusion that Traeger produces the most expensive grills. However, I wanted to take a closer look at the price variation between Z Grills and Traeger to determine just how much of a difference there was.

The cheapest option for Z Grills is the portable pellet grill at $329. On the Traeger side, the most affordable model is also the portable grill, which is interesting enough priced at $450.

For the Traeger Pro series, the price range is $650 to $1000. For the Z Grills 450 and 550 series, it is $470 to $600.

For the Ironwood series, the cost is between $1400 and $1600. For Z Grills 600 and 700, it is $480 to $750.

Last but not least, the Timberline series is $2000 to $3800. For the Z Grills 1000, is $700 to $850.

It is clear that the Traeger prices are far, far higher than Z grills. The more sophisticated the lines get, the deeper the divide in the price department.

Aesthetic Appeal

For some people, it matters what their grill looks like. This is especially true if you are someone who likes to have a lot of cookouts. In this instance, a wood pellet grill can be an extension of your home.

If this is something that you do find important, then in the argument of Z Grills vs. Traeger, Traeger would win. This brand boasts a more streamlined design and every inch of the grill looks quality.

Even the hopper, tables, and storage space has all been designed with the main cooking chamber in mind. As such, the whole silhouette comes together nicely.

This isn't to say that the Z Grills pellet grill is unattractive by any stretch of the imagination. However, the design isn't as sophisticated and it can look slightly clunky in comparison.

Temperature Range

It goes without saying that temperature range is an important deciding factor when it comes to choosing between grills. The Z Grills have a range of 180 to 450 °F while the Traeger pellet grills burn at a maximum temperature of 500 °F.

This is a difference of 50 degrees Fahrenheit between Z Grills and Traeger - just how much of an impact can this have?

Well, this all depends on how you enjoy grilling your food. If you are someone who enjoys char marks and searing temperatures ideally will choose the Traeger. On the other hand, if you prefer lower temps or even smoking meat with your grill occasionally, then Z Grills will be a more suitable choice for you.

Temperature Control

I would argue that precise temperature control is even more important than the range. This is key for two main reasons - first, having a steady temperature means that you will not have to continuously hover over your grill. Instead, you can simply set it and let it be.

The other benefit is that you get to guarantee that your food is cooking at a steady rate. Thus, you can easily calculate just when it is going to be done. This feature also makes it easier to know when to check the internal temperature of your food, too.

As far the controls go, I would say that both Z Grills and Traeger offer excellent options. Both command panels aren't just easy to use, they are also highly responsive. The one on Traeger is a bit more sophisticated but I can't say that I have found any serious faults with the Z Grills options either.

I have to say in favor of Traeger, though, that the D2 Direct Drivetrain feature does push it closer to the finish line. This feature ensures that they not only does the grill fire up more quickly, it can reach higher temperatures faster and maintain them easily too.

To add to this, the cooking chamber of the Traeger grills have been reinforced to improve heat retention. As such, no heat can escape, lowering the internal temp. Instead, it is steadily maintained throughout.

This feature comes in handy particularly when barbecuing in cold weather. It ensures that the grill doesn't struggle to start up or cook the food in a timely manner.

Now, this is not a component that Z Grills have and I have to admit that this is a slight mark against them. If you wish, you can purchase an additional blanket that you can wrap around the cooking area but this isn't nearly as effective and can involve a bit more hassle as well.

Father grilling Patties together with his Son

Cooking Space

I know that one of the main features that people look at when comparing pellet grills is the cooking space. After all, this is key if have a large family, have frequent cookouts, or simply want to be able to cook a lot of food at once.

When it comes to Z Grills vs. Traeger, for the most part, Traeger wins. However, the largest grill that this brand has is the Timberline XL, coming in at 880 square inches of cooking surface area.

The Z Grills 1000 series, however, has a cooking space of upwards of 1000 square inches so the winner is clear in this instance.

With all grills, though you have to keep in mind that the total cooking area is inclusive of additional cooking space in the form of at least one warming rack as well. Due to this, you need to make direct comparisons from one model to another.

Hopper Capacity

When considering hopper capacity, you shouldn't just focus on the number alone. Rather, you need to think about it in comparison to the cooking space of the grill.

When it comes to hopper capacity, both grill brands are fairly comparable. Most Z Grills have a pellet hopper size of 16 or 20lbs. With the Traeger grills, the sizes are 18, 20, or 24lbs. In general, though, Traeger models tend to be larger as well.

Due to this, with this capacity, they can continue burning wood pellets for many hours before running out.

General Performance

I have been testing out Z Grills for a while now, ever since they started gaining momentum in the industry. I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised every time I get an opportunity to use any of the grills in the collection.

As someone who has exclusively used high end grills for many years, I found the performance of the Z Grills to be more than adequate. A little bit of finetuning and some additional attention to the grilling process and you can produce something truly spectacular.

That being said, the Traeger grills have been designed for finesse and a different class of pitmaster. As a result, when setting up and using the grill, you are able to appreciate the finite features and elements that result in a far more smooth grilling experience.

Therefore, if you are someone who is all about getting perfect results each and every time, then I would suggest Traeger. However, if you are willing to settle for pretty impressive, then the Z Grills will serve you just as well.

Ease of Use

Particularly if you are new to pellet grills, the last thing that you want is to mess around with anything too complicated. I would argue that even if you were a pro that you would still like a grill that was easy to use.

I have to say that both Z Grills and Traeger are fairly simple to use. This is especially true for the newer models that are completely with digital controls and a display that is easy to read and understand.

I would say that the more basic Z Grill options would be even easier to use, though. Certain Traeger models can be targeted towards serious pitmasters and as such may have a steeper learning curve.

A Person Grilling a Sausage

Wi-Fi Features

Up until very recently, Z grills didn't have Wi-Fi features. At this moment, there is just one grill equipped with this function - other Z grills models don't have this. Now, this app works fairly well, but here's the catch, most Traeger grills have Wi-Fi connectivity.

This feature is known as WiFire technology and it syncs up to an app. Thus, you can easily get this function for less with Traeger.

With the Z Grills model, you can change and monitor the temperature, set a timer, and even check the levels for the meat probes. As mentioned, this isn't bad.

The Traeger does take things one step further, however. You can also check the capacity of your pellet hopper ensuring that you don't run out of wood pellets during your cookout. Personally, I have to say that this is a pretty great option.

Maintenance and Cleaning

Cleaning is one of the worst parts of owning a pellet grill. This is why people are always looking for makes and models that can be cleaned quickly and easily. So, in this battle of Z Grills vs Traeger, who wins?

In this category, both brands appear to be evenly matched. This is because there isn't any special rig or system in place to clean the grills. Instead, it is a matter of removing individual parts and then vacuuming up the ash from the firebox.

The grease management system on both Z Grills and Traeger follow the same design. To make the oil easier to clean up, you can simply wrap the bucket up in foil.

There is one area in where the Z Grills does score extra points. As mentioned, all these grills have porcelain coated grates while only some of the Traeger grill models have this feature.

It is far easier to scrub off dried food and grease from these kinds of grates than any other. Thus, at least one part of the cleaning process will be easier for you.

Warranty

Traeger and Z Grills each offer a three year warranty, which I have to say is pretty standard but also rather helpful. I do like that Z Grills offers a bit more in terms of customer service and has a 30 day money back guarantee.

Now the reason that this makes Z Grills stand out is because it shows that they believe in their product and are willing to fix and flaws or issues promptly. This is certainly important when you are a consumer.

I have to say, though, that both of these grills are built extremely well and unless there is some unfortunate issue, you are likely to bypass the warranty period without issue.

I should tell you that this warranty doesn't cover flaking or cracking paint. As such, if you w grill begins to lose its allure, there is nothing that you can do about this.

Additional Features

Z Grills is all about minimalism - particularly with the budget or middle of the spectrum grills. This is how they are able to keep their total costs low. Thus, if extra features is something that you don't mind giving up, then you will be able to enjoy Z Grills without any issue.

On the other hand, if you like bells and whistles and gadgets and gizmos, then Traeger will certainly meet your needs here. This includes a meat probe that you can digitally monitor on the display.

The Flavor

Contrary to popular belief, the grill doesn't play as much of a role in the wood fired flavor as everyone imagines. Naturally, a great grill will outshine a basic grill any day, but you also have to consider the type and quality of wood pellets and your own skill.

However, I would say that it was easier to get that smoke flavor with the Traeger than the Z Grills. However, with a bit of tweaking the latter brand could become a pretty good pellet smoker.

Person Grilling Sausage and Meat

Is Traeger Worth the Cost?

This is a question that I get all the time rom people who are thinking of buying a good grill for the first time. They have all heard of Traeger but aren't sure that they want to believe the hype. After all, is it worth it to spend a thousand dollars or even more on a grill?

Personally, I do find that Traeger is worth its price tag. I love how I am able to manipulate various elements of the grill to get the perfect results. And, I enjoy the fact that the machine is so responsive.

However, does this mean that I don't believe a budget friendly grill brand like Z Grills doesn't have any place on the circuit? Not at all! As I mentioned, I love what this grill can do. And, I also think that these grills are a great entry point for people venturing into the world of barbecue.

The price is non-threatening enough to want most people to give it a try. To add to this, the performance is great enough to guarantee that you don't regret your decision.

The Final Verdict - What is Better Z Grills or Traeger?

I can't give you a definite answer and there is one major reason for this. The Z Grills and Traeger pellet grill line was not created for the same audience.

Z Grills was created for individuals who are budget conscious, who grill occasionally but are still looking for a satisfactory grilling experience.

Traeger, on the other hand, is built for people who are truly serious about their grilling. If you are someone who grills often and is meticulous about the kind of barbecue that you produce, then you are going to love the precision of the grills as well as all the features that they have to offer.

Thus, before you decide whether one of these grills is better than the other, you first need to think about what you require as the cook. Once you have your list of requirements, you will be able to identify the best option for you pretty quickly.

As you can see, there is a lot to get into regarding these two brands but now you have a clearer idea of what each one of them offer you. Thus, any decision you need to make, you can do so wisely!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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