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Z Grills Vs Pit Boss – Which Budget-friendly Pellet Grill Should I Buy?

Trying to decide between Z Grills and Pit Boss grills? In this guide, we dive into these two brands, how these companies and their pellet smoker models compare to one another, to help you have a clearer idea of what you need from a pellet grill and which brand you should choose.

Last Updated: August 10, 2021

z grills vs pit boss logos on a red background

By the end of this article, you’ll know more about Z Grills and Pit Boss, the grills they make, have a clear idea of what you need from a pellet grill, and which brand you should choose.

I saw a guy driving a Lamborghini recently. Of course, I was jealous since I love Lambos, and I will never own one. But, I also realized my 2008 Toyota Corolla was just as capable of getting me home and didn’t cost as much as my projected earnings for the next half-decade or more.

It’s like that with pellet grills. We all covet premium brands, and they are suitably awesome for those who can afford them. But, there are plenty of great options for a lot less money that do the same thing — they cook food with wood pellets.

We’re looking at two of those brands today: Z Grills and Pit Boss. Both offer bottom-tier pricing, but with the promise of a better-than-average experience.

After exploring their histories, we’ll dig into the essential features that make them worth considering and pick a winner for each category. We’ll name an overall best pick and then review three top grills from each company. By the time we get to the final word, you’ll have all the info to pick your new grill confidently.

You’re almost certainly here because you’ve narrowed your search down to either a Z grills or Pit Boss pellet grill, but don’t forget to check out our article of the very best pellet grills available today!

Read on for an unexpected world of pellet grills anyone can afford.

Z Grills vs Pit Boss – Brand Overviews

Let’s take a moment to size up these two brands. Who are they? Where do they come from? The answers are here.

Z Grills

z grills showing logo on lid

They’re last alphabetically on any list of pellet grill makers, and probably chronologically, too — Z Grills started selling under their own badge in 2017. Before that, they made pellet grills and components for other companies for around 30 years. So, plenty of experience, even if it was almost all in the background.

They’ve gone big, though, with a sweet HQ in California, boasting pop-up restaurants, grilling classes, and, naturally, jogging paths. If you call them with an issue, you’ll get the call center in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Currently, Z Grills has a catalog of approximately ten pellet grills in three series – 1000, 700, and Basic.

Pit Boss

pit boss logo

In that Great White North known as Canada, from the province of Alberta comes this ground-breaking brand. Founded in 1999, they, like Traeger, eventually moved from making pellet heaters to making pellet grills.

Now based in Reno, Nevada, Pit Boss (a subsidiary of the parent company, Dansons Inc.) sells more than 20 pellet grills in various configurations. Their other products include smokers, kamados, charcoal, electric and gas grills, and a three-headed beast that’s an all-in-one gas grill, charcoal grill, and electric smoker.

Features Head to Head

Z Grills and Pit Boss features comparison

There’s a lot to consider when buying a pellet grill. Do not skip this section if you’re seriously considering a purchase.

Build Quality and Appearance

Neither of these brands is the pin-up girl/guy for pellet grills. Designs are pretty straightforward across the board, though both companies offer some color options, like brass or copper accents.

You won’t find much high-end material; expect a mix of powder-coated steel and some stainless steel here and there. The most significant difference between the two is in the cooking grates; Pit Boss uses porcelain-coated cast iron, whereas Z Grills goes with basic coated steel wire.

Verdict

Pit Boss wins, with slightly more robust construction that’s mostly down to the superior cooking surfaces.

Size and Cooking Capacity

Both brands offer a range of sizes and capacities to suit different requirements. Pit Boss has a slight edge in that they sell around twice as many models as Z Grills.

Z Grills, however, has some very spacious grills, both for square and cubic inches. That means more burgers and more briskets. Additionally, they offer models with three tiers of cooking surface, allowing you to smoke more food at once. It’s a great way to increase cooking capacity without expanding the footprint.

Verdict

I love how Z Grills has taken the hard-core smokers into consideration, with all that space under the lid. Giving them the W in this category.

Temperature Control and Range

The manufacturer’s specs from Z Grills give a temperature range of 180°F to 450°F. The Pit Boss numbers go slightly higher — 180°F to 500°F.

You adjust the temperature with a simple dial on the controller in fixed increments for both brands, typically 25°F.

However, many Pit Boss grills offer direct heat cooking over an open flame for high heat grilling. Temperatures here may exceed 650°F. At the time of writing, only one Z Grills grill, the Z GRILLS-L6002E offers this.

Additionally, select Pit Boss models are fitted with dual meat probe ports to monitor the internal temperature of your meat. At present, only a few 700 series Z Grills models updated for 2021 offer this feature.

Verdict

This is an easy one. Pit Boss wins thanks to direct flame grilling and meat probes on a higher number of models, though Z Grills is fast catching up.

Best Features and Technology

Despite the lower prices, you do get some decent perks, especially with Z Grills. Some of their lowest-cost models come with side shelves, closed storage cabinets, and four wheels (a favorite of mine).

By comparison, Pit Boss’ budget grills are no-frills affairs, though you get more for your money on their upper-tier models.

Both companies use PID digital controllers, the new standard in pellet grills, and there is very little to differentiate them from each other. Reliable all the way ‘round.

Verdict

The award goes to Z Grills for having consistently more convenient features across their entire line-up.

WiFi and/or Smartphone App

Go to the Z Grills website and type “WIFI” into the search bar. Your response will be, “Your search for ‘WIFI’ did not yield any results.” That’s all you need to know.

None of the grills we reviewed from Pit Boss offer WIFI, and very few models in their line-up do either.

At the time of writing, some brand-new models come with WIFI, and a “legacy” controller is available to retrofit your older model for WIFI and Bluetooth connectivity.

Verdict

Pit Boss wins by default of Z Grills having no WiFi on any of their products.

Pellet Hopper Capacity

Of the six grills reviewed here, four have hopper capacities of 20 pounds or more. I like knowing I can pour in an entire bag of pellets for an all-day smoke session and not worry about reloading or what to do with a couple of pounds of leftovers.

Overall, Pit Boss offers the larger hoppers, with a 31-pounder and a 24-pounder reviewed here. Two of the Z Grills we looked at come with 20-pound hoppers.

Verdict

Based on larger numbers, you could potentially pick Pit Boss. But think about whether you personally need such a large hopper?

Both Z Grills and Pit Boss offer 20 pound (or more) hoppers on most of their products which means they hold an entire bag of pellets and will last for the longest of cooks, so this one is a tie.

Clean Out

Z Grills and Pit Boss both use a gravity-fed grease management system to channel run-off into a handy bucket hanging outside the grill.

One of the Z Grills models we reviewed has an ash cleanout feature. It’s a simple tray that slides out the back. Just vacuum it off, and you’re good to go another round.

Verdict

Though we wish it featured on all their models, the slide-out ash tray on one model makes Z Grills the winner.

Warranty and Customer Service

I’ve read good feedback about both these brands and their customer service. There aren’t many companies you can actually call and talk to someone who knows what the heck is going on.

Pit Boss provides a robust 5-year limited warranty on all its grills, one of the best in the segment.

Z Grills counters with a 3-year warranty, plus a 30-day refund policy on unused grills, should you have a change of heart.

Verdict

At 3 years, Z Grills’ warranty is on par with most pellet grill makers, and we’re good with that. It just happens that Pit Boss goes above and beyond the average in this category, making them our winner.

Overall Thoughts on Value for the Price

Pit Boss and Z Grills are brands that really go for the bang-for-your-grilling-buck factor. You get great grills with a range of appealing features at a reasonable price. But, which one does it best?

Verdict

I have to give this one to Z Grills. They’ve done an amazing job of keeping their prices down yet making you feel like you haven’t compromised too much on quality or features.

Overall Z Grills vs Pit Boss Winner

Without trying to say the other brand is a “loser,” I’m naming Z Grills my overall winner. There’s a lot to like about Pit Boss, but the value packed into each Z Grills pellet grill is very tough to beat.

Recommended Z Grills

We’ve reviewed one model from each of the 1000, 700, and Basic series. We start with their top-of-the-line grill, and it’s a beauty.

Z Grills ZPG-10002B Wood Pellet Grill

This impressive grill manages to pack over 1000 square inches of cooking space into a surprisingly compact area. How? By splitting it up into three levels. Though none of them are large on their own, they provide a ton of versatility.

For example, you could leave them all in and smoke several racks of ribs, or grill enough burgers to feed a little league team. Or, you could take out the upper racks and roast a full turkey or smoke a massive brisket all day. With a 20-pound capacity hopper, that’s totally doable.

If you’ve never used a pellet grill or smoker before, you’ll appreciate the simplicity of the digital controller. Flip on the ignitor, select your temperature, and let it do its thing.

There are three shelves at your disposal: one on the side, one on the front, and one at the bottom. Also, there are three front-facing tool hooks, so your spatula, tongs, and fork are always out of the way, but still where you need them.

This pellet grill will appeal to both newcomers to this style of cooking and those with more experience.

Specs

  • Primary cooking area: 432 sq. in.
  • Secondary cooking area: 374 sq. in.
  • Tertiary cooking area: 255 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 20 lbs.

Pros

  • User-friendly controller
  • Three cooking surfaces for plenty of versatility
  • Handy front and side shelves and tool hooks
  • Ash cleanout tray makes maintenance easier
  • Lower shelf to keep pellet bags off the ground

Cons

  • WiFi not available
  • Four wheels would be more appropriate on a larger grill like this

Z Grills ZPG-700D4E Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker

Although its capacity is smaller overall, the 7002B boasts a larger primary cooking surface than the 10002B reviewed above. People who prefer traditional grilling will appreciate the space to spread out a few extra steaks and sausages. Of course, you could also smoke two larger cuts side-by-side.

Equipped with Z Grills latest PID controller, with built-in temperature probes to monitor your meat, as well as double-walled construction, this model has class-leading heat retention, accuracy, and stability.

An enclosed cabinet gives you some storage space, and four lockable wheels allow you to move the grill around or fix it into place with ease.

This 700 series has a hopper release system not seen on the 1000 series, which means you can empty out to store unused pellets or change wood flavors between cooks. But unlike the 1000 series, it does not have the ash cleanout system, you will need to vacuum this out.

All in all, this is a great grill with some handy features, all at a reasonable price.

Specs

  • Primary cooking area: 504 sq. in.
  • Secondary cooking area: 193 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 20 lbs.

Pros

  • User-friendly updated PID controller
  • Meat probes to monitor internal food temp (no need to buy separate smoker thermometer)
  • Modern heavy-duty resin wheels are great on patios
  • Storage cabinet for pellets, tools, or paraphernalia
  • Larger primary cooking surface than on the ZPG-10002B

Cons

  • WiFi not available
  • No side or front shelves provided

Z Grills Basic Series Pioneer 450B Pellet Grill

The last Z Grills cooker in our round-up is from the Basic series. However, it’s surprisingly well-featured for a value-priced pellet grill.

For example, it features Z Grills’ latest PID controller, a large enough hopper for an overnight cook, and a hopper cleanout system for swapping unused pellets.

It’s a compact grill, so it’s ideal for small families, couples, or solo grill artists. You won’t smoke any full packer briskets on it, but you can certainly prepare a delicious chicken or duck and enjoy the flavor and experience of cooking with real wood.

If you might be on the fence about pellet grills, try this one. It looks good, it’s priced attractively, and functions just the same as the larger Z Grills models. Considering the price, it’s a low-risk investment.

Specs

  • Primary cooking area: 331 sq. in.
  • Secondary cooking area: 128 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 15 lbs.

Pros

  • User-friendly, updated PID controller
  • Large hopper for such a compact grill
  • Clever hopper cleanout system allows swapping wood flavors between cooks
  • 4 wheels, 2 locking,f or easy moving and fixing in place.

Cons

  • WiFi not available
  • Lacks any work or storage space.

Recommended Pit Boss Grills

This line-up of some of the best Pit Boss cookers is a good, representative sample of their extensive line-up.

Pit Boss 72440-PB440D Grill 440 Deluxe

The name says “Deluxe,” but this is definitely an entry-level pellet grill — and I don’t mean that in a bad way.

The simple digital controller has just one dial, preset temperatures, and a one-line LCD. The PID algorithm will keep you on target while you just relax and wait for tasty food. (You’ll want an instant-read or leave-in probe thermometer, though — never, ever guess if your meat is cooked to a safe temperature, or the desired doneness.)

Despite the basic functionality and bargain price, you do get a few upgrades on this compact grill. In particular, I just love the large side shelf with the removable serving tray. Cook, slice, and serve on the spot like a (Pit) boss. Oh, and open your beers and sodas, too, with the built-in bottle opener. Cheers.

Can’t forget the Flame Broiler lever, too! Give it a tug, and you open up slots above the firepot for direct heat grilling right over the flames, just like on a charcoal or gas grill.

You’ll also enjoy the benefits of cast iron cooking on this grill, something not always found in this price range.

If you know you want to get into large-scale smoking, though, this isn’t for you. It is a bit on the small side, so you’ll want to think about how you plan to use it. However, it’s ideal for small families or couples, casual grilling, or as a way to test the pellet grilling waters.

Specs

  • Primary cooking area: 340 sq. in.
  • Secondary cooking area: 124 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 10 lbs.

Pros

  • Direct flame grilling available
  • Bottom storage shelf
  • Good quality porcelain-coated cast iron grates
  • Beginner-friendly digital controller with simple dial
  • Large shelf with attractive removable tray
  • Made with 16-gauge steel

Cons

  • No WIFI or meat probes
  • Smallest hopper capacity of all six grills in this article

Pit Boss 71700FB Pellet Grill with Flame Broiler

Expanded cooking space means expanded possibilities! This mid-size pellet grill offers more square inches and more volume. If you know you want to try a beer can chicken, a small turkey, or some roasts, you’ll treasure the extra space and the 20-pound capacity hopper.

Like the 440D, the controller is basic; no probe ports, no connectivity, and a single dial. It’s easy to use and reliable, though, and will appeal to novices. Even if you’ve never grilled before, you’ll get the hang of this in no time.

This unit also features the ability to sear and grill over the fire, something many premium pellet grills lack.

Side shelves are noticeably absent on this cooker, and I think that’s unfortunate. But, pull up a table to work on, and you’ll get by without them. I don’t care for the steel wheels, either, but I can’t deny how sturdy they are, and I suspect they’re better than molded plastic.

It’s a simple pellet grill, for sure, but the Pit Boss 700FB gives you plenty of space and variety for your money.

Specs

  • Primary cooking area: 442 sq. in.
  • Secondary cooking area: 225 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 20 lbs.

Pros

  • Direct flame grilling available
  • Open bottom storage shelf won’t collect puddles
  • Good quality porcelain-coated cast iron grates
  • Beginner-friendly digital controller with simple dial
  • Made with upgraded 14-gauge steel

Cons

  • No WIFI or meat probes
  • Rear smoke vents are not suitable for grilling in the rain.

Pit Boss Austin XL Pellet Grill

If “entry-level” and “back-to-basics” are not phrases that resonate with you, this could be your grill. There are plenty of reasons to love this big, beautiful pellet grill, and it’s one of the jewels in the Pit Boss crown.

The Austin XL has presence and won’t fade into the background. Between the coordinated copper lids and chimney cap and the incredibly sturdy-looking cart, it shows like a premium pellet grill. If you want to make a statement in your yard without crushing your credit card, this is the way.

It’s both wide and tall, meaning you can grill or roast oodles of meat (52 burgers, apparently) horizontally or use the vertical space for birds and beef. And with 31 pounds of pellets in the hopper, you can smoke all day and then smoke all day again tomorrow. Bliss!

You also get the Flame Broiler lever to expose the firepot and enjoy real searing and flame grilling. Love this feature!

The excellent digital controller provides all the info you need at a glance, including the target and actual temperatures and readings from up to two meat probes.

If you know you plan to use your new pellet grill a lot and want to take advantage of all it can do, seriously consider this large-and-in-charge cooker.

Specs

  • Primary cooking area: 649 sq. in.
  • Secondary cooking area: 288 sq. in.
  • Hopper capacity: 31 lbs.

Pros

  • Direct flame grilling available
  • Lower shelf for storage
  • Upgraded porcelain-coated cast iron grates
  • Upgraded digital controller with dual meat probe ports
  • Large side table with serving tray and tool hooks
  • Easy rolling on 4 wheels — 2 swivelling casters, 2 fixed rubber wheels

Cons

  • Doesn’t have a bottle opener like the lower-cost model does
  • If there are 2 ports, why is there only 1 probe in the box?

Final Thoughts

Kudos to Z Grills and Pit Boss for bringing pellet grilling to the masses. While we love the premium brands, of course, it’s great to see competitors bringing down prices without degrading the experience. Which one of these six great grills spoke to you?

We’ve got lots more on pellet grills and pellet grilling to help you continue your flavor adventure. Search or browse the site for reviews, essential gear, and dinner-saving tips and techniques you need to know.

Thanks for reading — without you, we wouldn’t get to do what we love; share our passion for great grilling and smoking with the world.

Hi, I’m Jim! I’ve been grilling for nearly 20 years over charcoal, wood, and gas. Now I’m happy to share my experience and discoveries with you.

When I’m not writing about barbecue, I’m usually writing about food anyway, at a food marketing agency. Aside from my family and the perfect steak, my passions include travel and all things Disney.

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