Which brand of pellet grill is best?
Pellet grills combine traditional smoking, plenty of grilling space and highly efficient wood pellets to take most of the guesswork out of smoking foods such as meat and vegetables. If you’re trying to decide between popular brands Z Grills and Traeger, there are some key differences to take into account before choosing the best one for you.
Z Grills has only been around for a few years, but they’ve taken cues from some of the most successful brands. They now produce a reliable lineup of pellet smokers. While there were some manufacturing issues with the electrical systems in older models, those have been cleared up since the release of the 2020 lineup. Z Grills don’t quite have the polish and premium appearance of other brands, but they get the job done at reasonable prices.
Z Grills pros
- Large cooking areas: With sizes up to 1,000 square inches, there’s a choice that should meet anyone’s demands short of a professional caterer.
- Good prices: Dollar for dollar, few other pellet smokers deliver as much real estate as Z Grills.
- Extremely precise temperature control: In real-world testing, some Z Grills strayed only as much as 7 degrees in either direction once completely warmed up. That’s a remarkably tight tolerance for a midrange smoker.
- Low-heat smoke mode: The lowest setting keeps the temperature between roughly 160 and 170 degrees. This makes it perfect for imparting smoky flavors to sensitive foods.
Z Grills cons
- Build quality isn’t perfect: Z Grills don’t quite have the prestigious look of some other brands. However, that doesn’t affect the actual smoking process.
- Few advanced features: Z Grills don’t bother with fancy add-ons such as Wi-Fi connectivity. Instead, their attention has gone to reliable electronics and dependable functionality.
Best Z Grills
As the largest Z Grill offering, it’s the best choice for anyone who loves huge spreads of smoked meat. Aside from being larger than the others, it has thoughtful touches like an easy-empty ash receptacle. Sold by Amazon and Home Depot
This 550-square-inch smoker is one of Z Grills’ most recent releases. Despite its refined design and impressive efficiency, it’s also one of Z Grills’ most inexpensive models. This makes it perfect for beginners. Sold by Amazon
This is one of the most affordable portable smokers. While its effectiveness is somewhat limited in terms of large cuts of meat, it’s the perfect choice for a smoke-infused grill out at the park or a friend’s house. Sold by Amazon and Home Depot
Traeger designed and built the first-ever pellet smokers in the late 1980s. Because of that, Traeger is undoubtedly the biggest name in pellet grills. While they make some great grills, they do come at a premium compared to the competition. Also, some former Traeger fans claim that quality has fallen off over the last several years.
Traeger Grills pros
- Decades of experience: As the original pellet grill manufacturer, Traeger knows what makes for a good smoking experience.
- A variety of sizes available: Traeger pellet grills range from as little as 200 square inches to as many as 1,000.
- Advanced electronic features: Traeger implements several interesting options in its top pellet grills, such as Wi-Fi connectivity that lets you monitor temperatures.
Traeger Grills cons
- Extremely high prices: You can usually get your hands on a similar, competing pellet smoker for two-thirds or half the price of most Traeger grills.
- Above-average failure rate in recent years: While this wasn’t always the case, a rising percentage of Traeger owners have reported major problems over the last several years. It’s not out of the question that an electrical appliance that also burns wood might malfunction now and then. However, increasing numbers of complaints paint a discouraging picture, especially given the cost of Traeger grills.
Best Traeger Grills
It’s one of Traeger’s largest options and it’s equipped with a dependable thermostat and novel Wi-Fi connectivity. However, it does require a pretty significant investment. Sold by Amazon and Home Depot
With 880 square inches of real estate, you can cook up a storm on this high-performing model. It’s the right choice if you’re looking for quality construction from a well-known brand and don’t need bells and whistles such as wireless control and monitoring. Sold by Amazon and Home Depot
Should you get a Z Grill or Traeger Grill?
If you have a lot of experience with smokers and are willing to invest, you should consider one of Traeger’s top models. The majority of consumers, though, will be perfectly happy spending notably less on a Z Grill, because they’re just about as well made and offer impressive consistency. Plus, most people won’t get much benefit from features such as Wi-Fi connectivity.
Pellet grill FAQ
What kinds of food can you smoke in a pellet grill?
A. Meat is the most popular food to smoke, but it’s far from the only one. Fish, vegetables, tofu and even toast have found their way into pellet smokers across the country. You can even smoke cheese, provided it’s a hard cheese and your pellet grill can smoke at low enough temperatures to avoid melting.
Is smoked food safe and healthy?
A. For the most part, smoked food is roughly as safe and healthy as most things we eat. The more nuanced answer is that smoke does contain potential carcinogens and some are deposited in the meat. It is conceivable that a diet heavy in smoked food could increase cancer risk by a small amount.
However, there’s little chance that a smoked brisket now and then will contribute to illness or early death.
How long does it take to smoke meat, fish, vegetables or cheese?
A. If you only want to impart a light smoke flavor to fish, tofu, veggies or other light foods, you’ll only need 20-60 minutes in the smoker. If you want to fully cook that fish, it’ll take about 3 hours. Large cuts of meat such as pork butts and beef brisket can easily take as long as 11 hours or more from start to finish, depending on your level of experience and attention to detail.
Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
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