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Last Updated on October 13, 2021
Summertime means baseball games, cold brews with friends, and cookouts! What’s more centralized to the American summer than the grill? Just the word grill conjures up delicious visions of charred burgers and juicy steaks, both with those awesome cross-hatched grill marks. Add some potato salad and watermelon and you’ve got all the makings of a summer feast fit for friends and family.
If this is the summer to upgrade or replace that old charcoal grill you purchased decades ago, you might be considering a newer pellet grill with more functionality and versatility. If that’s the case, you may have come across Traeger or Z Grill brand pellet grills.
Pellet grills are really grills in name only. It’s easier to think of them as outdoor ovens, cookers, or smokers because of their ability to maintain low temperatures steadily over long hours. The low-and-slow method these grills specialize in gives wood pellet fuel the ability to infuse flavor into the meats on the grill rack.
With all the versatility available in pellet grills, you’ll want to find a pellet grill that’s versatile in design, being able to accommodate anything you want to cook.
In 2017, Z Grill burst onto the grilling scene after raising nearly half a million dollars from crowdfunding investors and the grilling world was never the same. Z Grill caught the attention of enthusiastic grillmasters across the country as soon as its products hit the market.
People soon realized that these pros weren’t new at all, but had been helping Traeger build their brand before deciding to go it alone by selling its products under its own name directly to the public.
Once Z Grill’s involvement with Traeger became common knowledge, folks flocked to stores to purchase Traeger-quality grills at the reduced price that Z Grill offered. Quickly, the Z Grill brand became one of the most popular wood pellet grills on the market.
Z Grill puts emphasis on its company culture. The brand is headquartered in Ontario, California which is just east of Los Angeles. This location gives the company access to cooking outdoors at its own facility all year long. Z Grill’s state-of-the-art offices are home to indoor and outdoor kitchens where it’s not uncommon to find BBQ classes, happy hours, pop-up restaurants, and other events on the full outdoor deck.
Z Grill has satellite offices in Salt Lake City, Utah as well.
Traeger is the original creator of the Wood-Fired grill. For over 30 years, folks have turned to Traeger again and again for consistent flavor and results for each of their barbeques. Traeger truly leads the industry and excels at creating the great tasting barbeque flavors that demanding outdoor chefs crave.
When speaking about brand history, Traeger’s story is inspiring. It was the original grillmaster that designed and marketed the first wood pellet grills which were developed to resemble traditional offset barrel smokers. The difference was that the offset box of the barrel smoker was replaced by a wood pellet hopper.
In the early 1980s, wood pellet technology was unheard of. Traeger Grills rallied around this cooking method and innovated grills to support its forward-thinking design. The brand developed a way to feed pellets into a firebox by rotating auger. This created a safer environment to cook on when compared to an open flame.
At the time, cooking with wood pellets was revolutionary. Up until the time this design was created, it wasn’t possible to get a smoky, wood-fired flavor on a grill or smoker without manning a fire. The main selling point of pellet grills quickly became ease of use. These grills helped people create their favorite recipes without the mess or fuss of traditional smokers.
Most consumers want to get the best bang for their buck when buying a new appliance like an outdoor grill. These appliances are an investment in your family’s future for years to come. Taking a closer look at each brand’s key features is worth a bit of time and effort before dropping hundreds of your hard-earned dollars.
Temperature control is potentially the biggest issue for pellet grills. You’ll want to find a product that offers the option to precisely control temperature with a dial. Additionally, it should be well-crafted using materials specifically designed for heat retention.
While both brands use solid stainless steel material for the bodies of their cooking chamber, Traeger grills use a double layer for extra fortification and insulation. This enables both products to retain heat just fine.
The differences come in at the dial. Z Grills can be set to 25°F increments. Traeger’s are a bit more precise at 15°F increments.
We want to insert our other comparison guide here because Camp Chef has a great feature when it comes to temperature control. Even though, Traeger has a WiFIRE system Camp Chef a Smart Smoke Technology that boasts about precision when holding the temperature on their grills. You can read our Traeger vs Camp Chef, Traeger vs Pit Boss and the differences of Z Grills and Pit Boss for more information about comparisons of the products.
Versatility is what pellet grills are all about. They can be used as a grill, smoker, roaster, or oven. With this versatility is the need for a wide temperature range to be able to achieve all the different cooking methods.
Most meats smoke on the low end of about 200°F, with searing temps of at least 400°F. This means that the ideal temperature range of a pellet grill should, at a bare minimum, be 200-400°F.
Traeger pellet grills generally range from 180-400°F which is right in that sweet spot for an all in one outdoor cooker. Z Grills, however, have a bit of an edge because their temperature ranges max out at 450°F. This range is better than most other pellet grills.
Any homeowner can tell you that warranties are vital for any appliance, but that is especially true for outdoor appliances that are exposed to wind or other weather. A warranty protects your purchase should an item become damaged, but it also shows that the company believes that it’s putting a well-made product on the market and stands by it.
When it comes to cooking surfaces, this is completely about user preference. If you plan on grilling for a large number of people on a regular basis, it’s probably wise to go for a larger grill with a bigger cooking surface. If you have a smaller family, then a smaller grill can work just fine for you.
Traeger has managed to fit all its technology into a compact, portable version that is good on-the-go. However, with that portability comes a limited cooking surface of a mere 300 sq. in. Their less-mobile models can go all the way up 780 sq. in. of cooking area.
Meanwhile, Z Grills has standardized its surface area ranges from 450 to 1,000 sq. in. Most of its grills come with the crowd-pleasing warming rack which offers additional cooking space for grillmasters.