Z GRILLS or Z Grills is a maker of smokers, grillers, and stainless steel prep work tables galore. It entered the world of pellet grills recently and launched an IndieGoGo campaign in order to fund its “affordable wood pellet grill” for $500,000 and currently gives even Traeger’s economical offerings a run for their money with its ability to accept all types of pellets and do all sorts of cooking styles.

The best thing about pellet smokers is that unless you’re buying the absolute cheapest models, there are no bad choices. In this list for under $500, you’ll find pellet smokers and grills perfectly suited for dropping a few burgers at home use like the Traeger Junior Elite, for throwing in the back of the van and using anywhere like the Green Mountain Davey Crockett, or for cooking whole turkeys when you have ten people round on Thanksgiving, like the Camp Chef Smokepro.
As a conclusion, it’s a very good pellet smoker & grill. Main advantage is the sear box that runs on propane, allowing to reach temperatures of up to 900 degrees F. Definitely a very useful feature during cooking. Another interesting feature is Smart Smoke Technology, which allows to create much more smoke while maintaining the desired temperature.
I have had a Traeger Junior Elite for 4 years. In that time I have used it < 50 times. I have replaced a fan motor, a fuse, and now I have been trying to get a thermometer replaced. First time, the service guy dropped the ball and never sent it. Second time- the thermometer got sent around to multiple post offices. Third time, never got to me- apparently they sent it to the wrong address. Fourth time- still waiting. It's been 5 weeks now, and I cannot get the part, and have no idea if the part will fix the grill. Everyone in service has been polite, but incompetent as well. I have had 2 flash fires in the grill from the auger pushing too many pellets into the hot pot, the temperature fluctuates wildly. Save yourself the frustration: avoid Traeger at all costs!
My experience with the seller has not been as pleasant. The Amazon product page indicates these are sold by Outdoor Cooking. Outdoor Cooking is listed on the Camp Chef website as an online sales partner. My order was not fulfilled by Outdoor Cooking, it was fulfilled by "deguns" (2.5 stars). I received my grill via UPS. The box was in rough shape, but still intact. The grill itself had some minor damge. I sent a message to the seller thru Amazon. Their response was basically, contact Camp Chef, if you have any issues we can contact them also. Not really the kind of response I was expecting.
I have used mine Traeger 15 times and it hasn't worked once. I will not hold the temp within 15 degrees as they state. I can set mine to 225 and will go between 180-370. It also consistently shutting itself off with the same error. I have spoken to cust service 12 times and they are worthless. I have had new controller sent and other various parts. I have been on the phone with them for hours. I always have to take my meat off and finish it on my Weber. They refuse to send me a new one. They still demand to go back through the same damn steps as the last 12 times to debug it. Never again. If you see my post on Craigslist, don't buy it, it's a lemon that Traeger will not support.
Cleaning and Maintenance: Any individual who’s taken a stab at cleaning a pellet grill before sees exactly that it is so hard to get all the ash out after use. This unit gives you a less demanding access to the burn pot. It also includes a trap door which permits you to clean the unit without digging through the ashes and oil. Cleaning the unit is by and large significantly less demanding when compared with the normal charcoal grills.
A good pellet grill can hit high temperatures for that perfect steak and still hold a steady low and slow temperature for great barbecue. All the while adding great smoke flavor from hardwood pellets. These pellet grills cost more but do so much more while being highly efficient, precise in temperature and widely capable. Among these, you will find cookers large enough for a whole hog as well as units with full network interfaces for controlling from a distance. These are the best of the best in Pellet Grills.
Not only do cheap grills not hold up as well, but there are additional benefits to better steel and construction, too. Construction quality matters in wood pellet grills, no matter the price. Take the video below where we compare Grilla Grill’s double wall insulation to Camp Chef, which is not a cheap grill by any stretch. This video shows how well the Grilla Grills pellet grill is able to retain heat, keep the cool out, and use less fuel than many other wood pellet grills. Now imagine how much difference this would make compared to a bargain basement pellet grill from a big box store!
The MAK 1 Star General boasts our favorite digital controller: It's highly programmable and easily accessed via the internet from anywhere in the world. Made entirely in the USA, the 1 Star General is solid-feeling, with a heavy-duty powder coat. The hood is a rolltop, meaning that, unlike a lot of its competitors, the 1 Star doesn't need much rear clearance, and there's plenty of room inside. An optional upper grill grate adds 190 square inches of cook surface. Our only criticism: Not only is it built like a tank, it kinda looks like one, too.
While the exterior is certainly whimsical, this smoker is serious business, with a proprietary Digital Pro Controller that maintains even cooking temperature, just like an oven. Dual meat probes let you monitor the pork and the chicken at the same time, and 425 square inches of grilling space means you can easily feed a crowd. The 11.5-pound hopper holds plenty of pellets, so you won’t need to refill for many hours.
What makes this smoker unique, though, is the sear box. It runs on propane, and it gets VERY hot, VERY fast. You can easily sear meats on it, and many use the "reverse sear" method, which means to sear meats AFTER smoking them. Additionally, the sear box can be used as a small propane grill; we use it all the time for things like hot dogs and sausages.
Currently, online retailers only have to charge customers sales tax who are located in the same state as the business which takes the original order. Camp Chef main offices and warehouse facilities are located in Utah in addition to Washington State. Therefore, only customers who purchase items from us and are also located in Utah, Colorado, Massachusetts, Indiana, Pennsylvania, and Washington will be charged sales tax.
While the Traeger Lil-Tex does offer similar features as our top pick, such as a digital LED temperature control system and an auto-dispensing auger, there was one missing feature which we thought was necessary. This product has a smaller grilling area and lacks a removable upper rack, which gives you less grilling and prep space. I should mention that the unit does come in a bigger 700 square inch version for $200 more, as well as a smaller version that costs less. If this smoker is too big or too small for you, there are always other options available. Compared to our top pick, it’s also more expensive despite offering similar specs. Aside from that, this is a very efficient and reliable smoker – might even have been the best if our top pick wasn’t available on the market.
Second, more people know about them. More manufacturers are realising the advantages of pellet smokers and hopping on board, the market is expanding, and with the advantage of the internet putting all the info at our fingertips, even someone who hasn’t got the first clue about smokers and grills can find out everything they need in just a few minutes.

Barbecuing and grilling meats to the perfect temperature, texture and doneness is a skill that is acquired over years and years of practice. There is a lot that goes into making a good BBQ than just good seasoning and fresh meat, and any pit master will agree. There are just so many aspects you have to learn how to control: the temperature, the smoke, the placement, the ratios and so on. But you are lucky that this is new of yesterdays.
I bought a Yoder YS480 three years ago. I still use my cheaper pellet grill for everyday smokes, but I use the Yoder when I want to get serious. It does a beautiful job on baby back ribs (can do up to 8 racks laying flat on the grate) and I have smoked two complete turkeys at a time. The only time I have had a problem after 2 1/2 years of smoking was caused by a failed temperature probe. I got a new probe, installed it in a few minutes, and was back up and smoking again.
Kevin, appreciate your reviews and insights. I am currently looking for my first pellet cooker which will be primarily used for camping, therefore I will likely purchase a portable unit. Your review on the GMG Davy Crocket answered some questions for me. I was initially contemplating the Traeger Junior Elite and GMG Davy Crocket, but after doing some homework I’m now considering the Rec Tec Mini as well. I can purchase the Traeger and GMG now for $350 and the Rec Tec for $500. My dilemma is that I (like many others) take very good care of my gear/equipment, so whatever I purchase, I expect to get a great deal of use out of. With that said, making the wrong decision could be a 7-10 year mistake. There are aspects of each that I like, I guess my question is whether spending another $150 on the Rec Tec, in your opinion, would be worth it to you? I understand if you would rather stay away from specific recommendations, and if that is the case, any other thoughts you have would be appreciated.
I cannot comment on the quality or Function of the Grills as I never received mine. I order a Texas Elite 34 at the Minnesota State Fair on Aug. 23rd for $899 with a few extras and was told this was the lowest price ever (Not True). They did not tell me about the pro series which I found later. They said it would be delivered within 7 days. 2 weeks later no grill so I called customer service just asking on when I would get the grill. They could not find my order and did not believe I ordered one... They said I had to email them my receipt as they could do nothing on the phone.
The Camp Chef Wireless Food Thermometer works very well with Dutch ovens, smokers and grills. The wireless food thermometer featur...es a 100-foot wireless range, an elapsed cooking time feature, and a stainless steel probe with a 48-inch lead. It is an excellent accessory for entertaining, because it allows you to monitor the temperature of your food without leaving your guests. This Camp Chef Wireless Food Thermometer is a compact and simple-to-use device. The wire and probe are both rated for over 475¿¿F, and the base is equipped with an LED light in the front for easy viewing. The Camp Chef wireless thermometer provides suggested cooking temperatures for six types of meat, and offers four distinct taste settings. read more
It is different with REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill, here the solid construction is made of high quality materials. On the outside, high temperature powder coat and porcelain enamel finish. While inside, the manufacturers use stainless steel of very good quality for all the major parts. On the official website, we can read that you can find over 40 pounds of 304 stainless steel parts in this grill ( see for yourself ).
Traeger invented the original wood-fired grill over 30 Traeger invented the original wood-fired grill over 30 years ago in Mt. Angel Oregon and continues to lead the industry as the worlds #1 selling wood-fired grill perfected by decades of mastering the craft of wood-fired cooking. Fueled by 100% pure hardwood pellets and controlled with a digital controller means ...  More + Product Details Close

I've been wanting a Yoder for the last year and a half. Finally pulled the trigger on a 640 a couple months ago. Absolutely fantastic. I've been a Weber guy forever and this is my first smoker. This defiantly took my food over the top. My 640 has been incredibly accurate with keeping the heat on the grate to the setting I punch in. Just finished my first brisket and it was fantastic. The only way to go!
Rest the cast iron press on your skillet or griddle to warm. Use the press on top of bacon to speed cooking times as it cooks from... both sides. Use as a hot press with your favorite sandwiches to turn them into a hot and melty favorite. The grill lines from the ridged bottom will sear the sandwich for a tasty presentation. The products are covered by the following warranty. Warranty covers all components of the stoves, fire pits, ovens and smokers to be free from defect in materials and workmanship for one year from the day of purchase (excluding finish). All accessories are covered for a full 90 days to be free of defect in materials and workmanship. read more
Camp Chef Stainless Steel with Beveled Edge Large Spatula:Larger surface area to better handle larger amounts of foodsSturdy bevel...ed edge perfect for scraping griddlesLarge comfortable handle with hole for easy hangingDurable stainless steel constructionBlade size: 8.5" x 3.75"Blade width: 3.75"Handle length: 8.5"Overall length: 18.5"Blade material: stainless steel90-day limited warrantyModel# SPLG read more
First, it’s really easy to use, with an electric auto ignition and shutdown system, plus LED controls that make setup idiot proof. Once it’s up and burning, the built in temperature sensor and meat probe make knowing what’s going on inside simple, especially considering that the thermometer is one of the most accurate I’ve seen, with only around 10 degrees variance. It’s got multiple settings if you’re using it as a meat smoker, as well, so you can control your flavor.

The Camp Chef Lumberjack Over the Fire Grill is a simple solution for cooking while on a camping trip. Simply place the Camp Chef ...Grill over the campfire coals and get to cooking. The durable plated steel body will stand up to the occasional knocks and bumps that happen outdoors. Foldable legs ensure that this camping grill will pack up quickly and transport easily. The large cooking surface of this Over the Fire Camping Grill is large enough to accommodate almost any camping cooking equipment you might want to use. The steel mesh top on this grill is well-suited for grilling a variety of foods, including steak and vegetables. Whether you are sitting down for a meal after a long day on the trail or you have been out on the lake, the Camp Chef Lumberjack Over The Fire Grill is an smart choice for your campfire grilling needs. read more
Overall, I think you would be happy with the smaller smoker / grill. I really like what Green Mountain grills has done with the Davy Crockett model, and that is the unit I have personally. That said,Rec-Tec makes a great product, and some people prefer the cart stand it comes with rather than the fold up legs that Green Mountain grills uses on the Davy Crockett modeling. Either choice would be good for you if you are looking for a smaller unit. I am of course speaking about the mini version of the Rec-Tec. The larger version is excellent as well.
Many merchants pay us a small referral fee when you click our links and purchase from them. On Amazon it works on everything from grills to diapers, they never tell us what you bought, and it has zero impact on the price you pay, but has a major impact on our ability to improve this site! And remember, we only recommend products we love. If you like AmazingRibs.com, please save this link and use it every time you go to Amazon https://tinyurl.com/amazingribs
You aren’t limited to basic barbecuing. For us, what really stood out was its ability to deliver pro chef-level cooking even at home. This smoker lets you explore all there is about cooking, letting you braise, grill, smoke, bake, roast, braise and BBQ all kinds of food. Using only the best and the purest hardwood pellets, you’re sure to have the juiciest and tastiest meats and vegetables every time you host your outdoor parties. If you think you have to give up quality because of the quantity of foods it can cook, that’s not the case. Quality is maintained whatever it is you’re cooking.
Make dinner for the family with the Camp Chef 12-Quart Grand Canyon Cast Iron Dutch Oven. This unequaled cookware is designed with... a beautiful scene of the Grand Canyon featured on the outside to commemorate 100 years of the national park. The Camp Chef cookware is not only attractive; it is useful as well. The deep-dish lid doubles as a skillet or serving trivet, and the pot comes preseasoned so it is ready to use. The Camp Chef Dutch oven includes a lift tool so you can carry the pot from the stove to the table with ease, and a thermometer channel allows you to check the temperature without lifting the lid, so the heat stays inside. This cookware is just what you need for camping trips to cook for the whole family. It is large enough to feed everyone, and it is sturdy for cooking over alternative heat sources. The unique lid that doubles as a skillet helps save room when you pack up for a weekend camping. read more
One thing I’ll mention up front is that the Rec Tec Grill is not sold as a Made in America product. The REC TEC Grill is made in China, however, the heart and soul of the grill (the computer) is made here in the USA. The powder coat is also made in the USA and the final assembly along with quality control takes place at the REC TEC Grill facility in Georgia.
If you’re in the market to buy a grill, yet you’ve only grilled with propane or charcoal in the past, wood pellet grills may have piqued your curiosity. These grills use a very different cooking method than the direct flame of propane, resulting in more even heating and more precise temperature control. A wood pellet grill is more like a smoker than an open flame grill, as it’s difficult to sear meat with a wood pellet grill. Purchasing and using a wood pellet grill is going to be more expensive than propane and charcoal grills.
Thanks for the great information and the research you did. I am a retail store owner in Boise, Idaho area and we sell a pellet grill smoker in our store. I would like to encourage to look at the Sawtooth Pellet Grill. It is made local here and is American Made. It is an excellent grill for the price with an awesome company backing it. You can find their website at sawtoothpelletgrills.com. Again thanks for the information and if you do another publication regarding pellet grills, I would love to see what your opinion of the Sawtooth would be 🙂
Camp Chef has already been mentioned several times on this list. It's a venerable company that makes up in quality what it lacks in the name recognition of a Traeger or Weber. Their Deluxe Pellet Grill is built to reach and hold ideal temperatures for smoking. An internal system syncs pellet delivery to temperature instead of simply feeding in fuel when it begins to run out. This ensures a clean, consistent cooking experience. A removable ash can makes clean-up a snap as well.
The Camp Chef SmokePro is probably the best pellet grill on this list by rating and by performance. It has a decently large area for cooking at 19.2 inches by 22 inches plus its smoking or warming rack is also 6 inches by 24 inches in size. This is one of the best pellet smoker for home use because of its combination of quality features that are never superfluous and works as advertised.
With a massive 700 square inches of primary grilling space, this grill impressed us when compared to other Pit Boss grills we reviewed. Its size is large enough to cook for large groups of people. It features a Flame Broiler that uses slide-plates which allow for direct flame grilling, which means you get an even cast-iron cooking each time. If the 700 square inches isn’t enough, you can make use of the additional upper cooking rack space. The racks are made of porcelain-coated cast iron for optimum grilling as well as easier maintenance.
Hey John! Thank you so much for your kind words. I try to do a good job here, and am pleased you are enjoying the site. Regarding electric smokers, I have friends who own them and love them. I’ll try to get a post out this summer on them. Folks seem to like Bradley smokers a good bit, so you might want to check them out. You can find a good selection of them on Amazon.com here.
Z Grills is a lesser known manufacturer and a great low-cost alternative to the more expensive Traeger grills. Their pellet grill is a sturdy, heavyweight model with a roomy 500 square inches of cooking space and an electronic feeding system for fuel pellets. An additional warming rack provides additional space for cooking at lower temperatures. Furthermore, Z Grills also ensures their product with a generous 3 years warranty.
Purchased my grill last fall at Costco, overall it works OK, some meats like Lamb Chops are just delicious. However, customer service seems to be deteriorating as the company is having success. My kids recently purchased me an add on to my Pro 34, a cold smoker. Traeger sells this but does not support it. The installation instructions are incomplete, I was sent parts that do not go with the unit, then customer service couldn't figure it out, this went on for weeks. After getting it installed, I asked for some instructions or recipes on how to use it, there are none. The old cover does not fit now, and Traeger does not sell one to go with a unit with a cold smoker, or plan on doing so. After a web search, I found one at Charbroil that kinda fits. Also, I just saw the same model at Orchard Supply, it now comes with more shelves and upgrades which I now have to buy as extras.
Ready for the camp or cabin, this reliable, no-frills stove features two 30,000-BTU commercial-grade cast burners. The all-steel range features sturdy grates built to support hefty cast-iron cookware. It's surrounded by a three-sided steel screen to block drafts and grease splatter. The heavy-duty steel legs slide off for transportation and storage. Cooks up to 15 hours on a 20-lb. propane cylinder (not included). Includes hose and regulator.

Hey Boyd, it’s really great hearing from you here. I am becoming a much bigger Traeger fan then I was in the past. They have done some excellent work of late on their Grill models. I really think they’re doing a lot of work too improve and restate their original value proposition. Their Pro Series models are excellent, and I believe that the directions the company is taking especially with getting back into the competition world will benefit both it and its customers… Like you… Long into the future.


Convection is achieved using a number of techniques. Air is fan forced into the grill and channeled throughout by our arched flame broiler. Our exhaust design allows air to circulate evenly along the length of the grill and to the top shelf. This combination allows us to achieve uniform heat throughout the unit whether your smoking at 170°F or cooking all the way up to 600° Fahrenheit.

If you’re looking for very portable smoker on a budget, we recommend the Davy Crockett by Green Mountain Grills. However, if you’re looking for a small backyard smoker that you can use at the occasional picnic, tailgate, or cul-de-sac party, we recommend the Traeger Tailgater. We think the slight increase in cost is justified by the bigger grill space, which comes in handy if you’re using your smoker frequently or to cook for more than two people.
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