Z Grills 7002B Pellet Grill
The 7002B performed incredibly well when it comes to slow and low smoking especially of meats like briskets, and pork butts. It also did well at slow roasting of chicken. The areas it struggled a lot are cooking at high temperatures and keeping the temperatures consistent during windy conditions which were due to the thin walls of its cooking chamber. Its smoke production wasn’t quite consistent either leaving the food with only a subtle smokey flavor.
There were also issues with its overall build quality. For instance, the cooking chamber couldn’t make a tight fit without adjustments, and both the pellet hopper assembly and the lifting handle tend to flex up and down when lifting the grill to move it. Despite that though, the unit was fairly solid thanks to the sturdy storage shelf at the bottom.
The good thing about it apart from the great cooking results at low temperatures is that it heats up relatively quickly and it has enough cooking space to prepare lots of food for a large family. We would recommend it for low and slow cooking and roasting but if only you don’t prefer your food having a strong smokey flavor and you don’t live in an area where it’s usually cold most part of the year.
Z Grills 700E Pellet Grill
Nearly every food we cooked on the 700E model turned out great. Like the 7002B, it performs incredibly well at low and slow cooking and slow roasting. It was also able to put out quite a bit more smoke than the 7002B giving the food a slightly stronger smokey flavor. We as well did get decent results when we cooked at high temp (450°F).
While it took some time to get to temp at first, the 700E managed to maintain a fairly accurate temperature most of the time, and the heat distribution across the chamber was mostly uniform. However, like the 7002B, the walls of its chamber are thin hence it’s equally prone to temperature fluctuations when cooking in colder conditions.
As for the built quality, the 700E is much better – it’s more solid and stable after set up than 7002B. We as well had no issues with the lid like in the 7002B – it closed tightly and even the handle was solid. It does, however, have some slight defects too like the grease tray failing to reach the edges and the caster wheels being a bit inadequate (they can get damaged if moved over rocks or rough terrain).
Generally, the 700E is a good option if you want a slightly stronger smokey flavor and to be able to do simple and fast grilling of things like hot dogs and hamburgers. The cooking space is just as large as that of the 7002B, so it’s also an ideal option if you have a large family or looking to host small BBQ parties. We would recommend it too if you want a bit more storage space due to the cabinet – it’s large enough to house several items.
The 700 Series is the most popular line of grills from Z grills and the second behind the 1000 series in terms of size of cooking area. The series has several iterations but the most notable/basic ones are four models which include the 7002B, 7002E, 700D, and 700E.
The four models are put in two groups as they have a slight difference in design – one with an open cart design and the other with an enclosed cart/cabinet-style design. The two groups also differ in terms of the wheel system.
The 7002B and the 7002E models have an open cart design and feature a two-wheel system. The 700D and 700E models feature an enclosed cart design and have four caster wheels. All four models are basically the same functionally. The fundamentals like cooking area, hopper capacity, temperature range, and control system are all the same.
They are, however, larger than both the Basic series and 600 series models, with bigger hoppers (20 pounds) and more grilling space (697 sq. in.). In fact, they have the largest cooking space on the main grate at 504 sq. in. against the 428 sq. in. of the 1000 series and 406 sq. in. of the basic series (5502B and 5502H). The 600 series offer the smallest space at 333 sq. in.
The auger system, firebox, and grease management system are all similar to their predecessors though. They even have the same temperature range and the same standard controller and control board that features an LED display and a knob controller.
What they lack are the extra bells and whistles we saw in the 600 series. They have no flame broiler for grilling or searing, no side tables, no tool hooks or bottle opener.
We got ourselves the 7002B and 700E models and had a chance to use them daily for a whole week. It’s been only a week, but we’ve tested them properly, and in this review, we’ll share our experiences cooking several different foods on them, what we liked and what we didn’t like about them from the design to the performance, and much more. So, read on for more details.
Like the previous Z Grills models that we’ve tested, the 7002B and 700E models are barrel-style wood pellet grills that basically look the same as older Traeger’s grills. The notable difference between the two models as we mentioned above is the cart design and the wheeling system.
The 7002B has an open cart design that offers a lower storage shelf underneath the main cooking chamber. The shelf is sturdy and of decent size – it has plenty of space to accommodate several grill accessories and even a bag of wood pellets.
The whole unit sits on two studs and two large wheels that allow you to move it from one spot to another which is not quite easy. We faced the same problem we had with the 600 series L6002B model we tested. Lifting and pushing the grill is awkward as the handle is positioned on the left end of the hopper where the hopper lid/top protrudes slightly beyond it. The unit is also pretty heavy – it weighs 112 pounds while the L6002B weighed 90 pounds.
With regards to aesthetics, the look is basic all black from the cooking chamber to the body frame. The brushed metal handles on the lid and pellet hopper, and the black and silver logo badge on the lid are the only non-black surfaces.
This model is identical to the 7002E in every respect. The only difference is that the cooking chamber and hopper lids of the 7002E are stainless steel which gives them a silver color/finish instead of the all-black finish of the 7002B. It looks sleek and can fit in with the vibe of almost any outdoor cooking setup.
The 700E, on the other hand, comes with an enclosed cart/cabinet style design with two doors just like the Z Grills 600 series L600E and L600D models. The cabinet is large enough to house several items like a bag of pellets, utensils, and prep equipment – it keeps them out of sight and protects them from the elements, unlike the open-cart design. Moreover, the doors are magnetically secured. They swing out from the center and shut reliably.
Instead of the two studs and two large wheels, the 700E sits on four small caster wheels which make moving it around easily despite it being heavier (weighs 144 pounds) than the 7002B model. It’s really heavy that you may need some help to push it (especially when the pellet hopper is filled) but there’s no lifting involved, plus two of the four wheels have a locking mechanism that locks them securely in place when you’ve settled on a spot.
The finishing of the 700E is similar to that of the 7002E – the hopper and cooking chamber lids are silver in color due to the stainless steel used to make them while the rest of the body is black.
The unit is identical to the 700D model which is the most appealing of all 700 series grills in terms of aesthetics. It has a distinct bronze finish on its hopper lid, cooking chamber lid, chimney cap, and on both cabinet storage doors. This splash of bronze makes it more attractive than the default matte black finish of most smokers on the market.
Besides the structural difference, the overall finishing of 700E (as well as the 700D) is smooth. The screws and rivets are not visible like on the 7002B and 7002E models.
All these 700 series grills, however, don’t come with the little extra features we saw with the Z Grills 600 series models. They have no side tables or tool hooks and bottle opener that our L6002B had. The only prep area/workspace you have is the top of the pellet hopper which is large enough to serve as a shelf where you can place tongs, a tray, or a plate – we found it to be a little too high to use though.
The other key difference we noted is the positioning of the grease bucket. The 600 series models had the grease bucket discreetly hidden inside the cart, just right under the cooking chamber. On these 700 series models, it’s on the side like we saw on the basic series models. This design puts it on the way such that you can easily knock it off and get grease all over the deck.
The 700 series models are also a little larger compared to the 600 and Basic series. They measure around 48 x 22 x51 inches which is slightly wider and taller than their predecessors.
Our Score: 7 out of 10
One thing we noted about the Z Grills 700 series is that all the models in the range are made out of powder-coated steel and are slightly on the thin side compared to the 600 series. Only the 700E and 7002E models have some stainless steel which has only been used on the hopper and cooking chamber lids.
We inspected the different parts of our 7002B grills and most of the important components like the firebox, auger system, ignitor rod, and heat deflector are fairly substantial and durable. However, the drip pan, pellet hopper lid, and cooking chamber walls and lid are a bit thinner than we expected but seems like they hold up fine.
The grates are made of cast iron and coated in porcelain, but they are equally not as robust as those of the other Z Grills units we’ve tested. They are a little thin and appear like they can bend over time, especially if you are going to use the grill frequently or smoke large pieces of meat frequently.
The bottom storage shelf is incredibly sturdy, but the legs and the wheels are not solid like those of the 600 series grills or even the basic series. The legs, in particular, are thin and seem like they can easily bend.
The pellet hopper tends to flex up and down too when lifting the grill to move it. The point where the hopper assembly attaches to the barrel appears to be weak, so when picking up the smoker to move it, the hopper moves a bit. We had to fix it using some angle iron to ensure the connection to the barrel is as secure as we would like.
We also had the same problem with the handle for lifting the grill to wheel it – it attaches to the hopper with only 4 screws. The grill gets heavy once the hopper is filled and when you go to move it, you can feel the handle flexing a bit. The connection isn’t solid and secure like when the handle is integrated into the grill.
We were honestly not quite pleased with the overall quality of the 7002B model that we received but it was something we had anticipated given the price and the several complaints we saw on different forums when we were doing our research.
The 700E definitely feels more solid although it’s equally made using powder-coated steel with only the lids (hopper and cooking chamber) consisting of stainless steel material. The walls of its cooking chamber are a little thin too just as some of the other parts like the pellet hopper lid and the drip pan. It has the same light porcelain-coated cast-iron grates that the 7002B has.
What really makes it sturdier and more solid is the cabinet below. It’s very stable and the hopper assembly is solid, even the handle is solid although it’s not integrated into the grill. We didn’t notice any wobble or flexing of the hopper assembly and this is partly because no lifting is required to move the grill.
The downside to this model is the caster wheels. They are small and a bit inadequate for such a heavy grill of this size. They are just 0.75 inches wide and 3 inches in diameter which makes them only suitable for gliding over paved areas and grass. They can easily get damaged or break if you frequently move the grill over rocks.
Overall, we found the Z Grills 700 series as average with regards to materials and build quality, which is decent at the sub-$500 price range. Between the two models that we had, the 700E seems to have a slightly better overall build quality but still though both of them are surely not at the same level as the Z Grills 600 series models we reviewed.
Our Score: 6 out of 10
The 7002B model we ordered arrived in one large box which was quite heavy but not hard to move. All the parts were nicely packed but seem like they were not really well secured as there were some small dents in the barrel which appeared to come from the inside – like the grates shifted during loading or shipping and caused dings in the metal.
There was also a slight mar on the finish of the Z Grills logo/badge which is plastic. We didn’t worry much about these slight defects because they were purely cosmetic.
Like the L6002B, this grill is broken down into separate individual parts which you have to put together. It’s a rather involving process as you have to attach the legs, bottom plate, assemble the hopper, the chimney, the grill lid, and the chamber door handle. From there, you have to mount the body frame to the chamber and then the hopper assembly to the chamber before putting on the heat baffle, grease drain pan, cooking grates, and hanging the grease basket.
It’s a process with lots of steps and screws and bolts to tighten, but overall it’s not hard. The provided assembly instructions are clear and straightforward. It took the two of us about an hour and a half to complete. Doing it alone is not an option because it’s a heavy unit and some lifting is involved when mounting the body frame to the chamber and also when mounting the hopper to the chamber.
The parts did fit together well except for the grill lid. It doesn’t make a tight fit which we noticed during our initial startup as it let out lots of smoke. We tried to make adjustments so that it can close tight but with no success. We had to add a felt grill gasket around the edge to at least make a somewhat tighter fit.
You may need power tools too because, during the assembly, we found that the provided wrench and screwdriver were a bit insufficient – they do the job, but are extremely clumsy and extend the length of assembly unnecessarily.
The Z Grills 700E did arrive in pristine condition. It came in two large cardboard boxes, with all tools included (screwdriver and wrench). All the individual components were well packaged. The cooking chamber was in one piece with various parts cleverly stuffed inside.
We had a hard time getting the components out of the cooking chamber, especially the auger and the hopper which were wedged so tightly inside there. It took us about 20 minutes plus lots of muscle to get all the parts out.
Putting them together was another challenge as the 700E had a few more parts. Besides attaching all the other components like in the 7002B, you have to attach 4 caster wheels as well as the cabinet bottom storage. The instructions do guide you through the process clearly but again it’s a tedious task although not really difficult.
Having the power tools save us time on most of the tasks. We completed the assembly in less than two hours. Setting up this unit also requires a second set of hands as you have to lift the cooking chamber onto the body frame/cart and hold the hopper in place when tightening the screws which you can’t do alone without some help.
As we mentioned earlier, we found the 700E to be very stable after setting it up. The welds are adequate and every part did fit well. We had no issues with the lid like in the 7002B – it closed tightly.
The only downside is that the grill assembles mostly with just screws, especially when attaching the plates of the cabinet bottom storage, assembling the hopper, and securing the cooking chamber assembly on the body frame. There are no washers/gaskets and nuts to secure these parts better.
Once we were done setting up the two grills we turned them on with the temperature set high for the initial burn-in for about an hour to burn off any oils and other foreign matter.
It’s an important step that we didn’t want to skip because we noticed some oil on several components and a bit of polystyrene residue in the cooking chamber as almost everything was packed in there. We gave it a thorough shop-vac out during the assembly process to ensure it was clean before the burn-in.Both units come with an RTD temperature probe which plugs into the temperature controller. A waterproof cover is also provided to protect them from the elements. It fits nice and snuggly but it doesn’t have a cord to help pull it really tight at the bottom or get it off. Nonetheless, the fit is so secured for the wind to blow it around or off.
Our Score: 7 out of 10
Controls/Using the Unit
Being base models, we expected these 700 series smokers to have a standard controller with a basic control panel that’s identical to what the previous Z Grills models had, and that’s exactly what we got. The control board is basic featuring just an on/off switch, an analog temperature dial (oven-style temperature knob), and an LED readout display.
The knob offers the same functionalities as the previous models which include Shut Down Cycle, a Smoke setting, and temperature settings ranging from 180°F to a High Setting at 450°F. You can adjust the temperature in 25°F increments just like the other models, so you won’t equally be able to set an exact precise temperature that you want with either of these models.
The good thing about this basic control is that it’s simple to use. You just fire up the grill, turn the knob to the desired setting and you’re done. From there, you can monitor the temperature from the red LED readout display. It gives the actual temp of the grill via the built-in RTD temperature probe that’s inside the cooking chamber.
You can’t tell the meat temperature – there’s no meat probe or even a jack in the controller, so you have to use your own meat probe with its own controller.
The screen of the LED display is quite small. It’s really hard to read when it’s in direct sunlight like during the middle of the day. The control panel isn’t backlit either, so other than the temperature readout, there’s nothing else you can see in the dark unless you use a flashlight or porch light.
Our Score: 8 out of 10
As far as performance goes, we managed to get decent results from both grills although there were some notable issues that we observed.
The Z Grills 7002B
The 7002B was the first grill we put to test and it heated up relatively quickly during our initial and subsequent startups.
It generally took 8 to 15 minutes to reach the target temperature from the time you hit the on switch. For instance, we first set it to 225°F and it took about 9 minutes to get to it. We set it at 350°F and this round it took 15 minutes. So, it heats up pretty quickly than the 600 series models which average at about 20 minutes.
The only temperature setting that was touchy is high (450°F). We couldn’t get to the 450°F high temperature even after waiting over 30 minutes. The grill maxed out at about 425°F from the onset and throughout our tests.
We also experienced the same problem we had with the Basic series models where the grill would shoot past the set temperature when you initially start it. No matter the temperature we set it to, it would shoot way past it (20 to 50°F higher than it should be).
We had it set at 225°F after the initial burn-in and it went up to 260°F – it had overshot the setpoint by 35°F. What we found out is that when you fire it up, it dumps lots of pellets in the firebox causing the temp to shoot past the set point. However, it would drop down close to the desired temp after around 10 to 20 minutes.
Despite these two issues, the 7002B seems to hold the temperature relatively well once it drops down to what you have set it to. This was impressive considering that the cooking chamber walls were thin and that it operates under a standard controller instead of the more advanced PID controller.
We tested the temperatures on different parts in the cooking chamber (right, center, and left of the main grill grate) using a separate thermometer and we found that there was decent uniformity of temperatures at the three zones.
We set the temp to 225°F and when we measured, the left part of the grate was at 222°F, the center at 215°F, and right at 221°F. We set it again to 350°F and the left was at 335°F, center at 322°F, and right at 332°F. When we set the temp at high (450°F), the left part recorded 425°F, center 420°F, and right 395°F.
In general, the actual temperatures at different parts were fairly close to the set temperatures – within 5% of the target temperature. The major variance was at the center of the grate and when you set the temp high. We carried these tests on a warm day (temperatures outside were 75°F) with little to no breeze which was why they were steady.
The temps don’t actually hold well when it’s windy or cold – you get temperature swings of up to 10% due to the thin walls of the chamber which doesn’t provide much insulation when the weather is adverse outside.
We also noted that the temperature shown on the LED display on the grill was slightly higher than the actual temperature inside the chamber. It was off by about 20°F most of the time. The grill is relatively accurate in its temperatures when you measure with a separate probe but you would actually think it has overshoot going by the readout displayed on the LED screen. For instance, our measured temperature would be at 335°F while the grill says 358°F.
Our Score: 7.5 out of 10
The Z Grills 7002E
Our first firing of the 700E wasn’t a great success as it took longer than stated to get to the maximum temperature required for the initial burn-in. It couldn’t even reach the 450°F – it maxed out at around 420 to 430°F like the 7002B model.
However, it did eventually heat up fairly fast in our subsequent tests and we measured the time on each run to see its performance in comparison to the 7002B.
It was pretty fast to hit low temperatures of 225°F – it took about 8 minutes although sometimes it could take an extra 3 minutes for our thermometer to record 225°F in the middle of the grill yet by the 8thminute the grill would already display 225°F.
When set to 350°F, it took 14 minutes to come up to that temperature which is about the same time as the 7002B. When aiming for the high-temperature setting of 450°F, we had to wait for 38 minutes from the startup. It got up to 400°F relatively quickly (in about 25 minutes) and spent the remaining 13 minutes creeping up to 430°F where it maxed out.
We couldn’t hit 450°F even after letting it run for an additional 20 minutes. The weather was sunny (around 80°F) with a slight wind which we suspected was to blame. However, after switching out our blended pellets (which we also used during the initial burn-in) with a pure oak variety (Z Grills all-natural American oak wood pellets) that usually burns nice and hot, the grill was able to hit the max 450°F and the weather conditions were very similar.
Moreover, unlike the 7002B, we didn’t have any cases of temperature overshooting past the set temperature. It would slowly come up to the target temperature and most of the time it never went past it by 10°F.
We also noticed that the 700E was able to maintain a fairly accurate temperature, especially during extended use, and the heat distribution across the cooking surface was mostly uniform – there was a very little discrepancy.
We set up three probes across the primary grate on the far right, center, and left just like in the 7002B to test what the real temperatures are at these different points, compared to what was being displayed on the grill’s LED display. The Z Grills 700E probe which gives feedback to the temp controller is positioned on the far left side (closest to the hopper) in the cooking chamber.
We were pleased to see that at a set standard low temperature of 225°F, the heat distribution throughout the cooking chamber was nearly even. The recording on the left was 222°F, center 219°F and the far right 221°F – the variation was just 3 to 6°F. At 350°F, the left side was 345°F, center 340°F and the right side 342°F which was pretty good.
The temperature variation when set at high wasn’t that significant either, except for a slight drop at the center of the grill. The left probe recorded 451°F, center 437°F, and the right 450°F. We did these tests on a fine, moderately warm day (at 74°F) and there was hardly any wind, so the weather wasn’t working against us, plus we were using Z Grills pure oak pellets in order to reach the maximum temperature – another type of wood would struggle to get that hot.
Generally, the Z Grills 700E did a great job at actually reaching its set temperature and distributing the heat across the entire cooking chamber. It held the temperature nicely although sometimes it could swing +8°F when set at low and middle temp, but it would quickly adjust itself. Our guess is that it gets slightly hotter as the new wood pellets trickle in the firebox – the swing mostly lasted not more than a few minutes.
However, the hotter the grill got, the more variance in temp we saw between the middle and the far sides of the chamber. There was usually a discrepancy of 15 to 20°F which is about what we expected in terms of variance for a smoker at this price point.
At the smoke setting, we recorded no variance in temperature at all throughout the entire cooking chamber – you can place the meat at any point and the results would be consistent.
It’s important to note though that we did these tests on a moderately warm day when the wind wasn’t strong, so the results will vary depending on your climate as well as the type of wood pellets you are burning. Like the 7002B, the walls of the cooking chamber of the 700E are a little thinner hence they don’t offer much insulation.
It won’t retain heat well in colder conditions which means you can expect greater temperature fluctuations and higher pellet usage. It might even struggle to go past 390°F at times when set at high temp in colder conditions.
As for the accuracy of the temperature readings of the grill controller (displayed on the LED screen), there were fairly consistent with the set temperature and the actual temperature inside the chamber based on the readings we got from our separate thermometer.
Our Score: 8 out of 10
To test both grills properly, we used them simultaneously almost daily for a week before writing this review. Although they are advertised as suitable for grilling, they lack the flame broiler for grilling (like the 600 series models) and could only reach a high temperature of 450°F, so we focused our trial mostly on smoking and roasting.
We tried cooking various types of meat on them including beef brisket, pulled pork, salmon, a few racks of ribs, leg of lamb, and whole chicken. Nearly every food we cooked turned out great, especially on the 700E smoker. Here are some of the results we got:
Slow and Low Smoking
Smoked Texas Style Beef Brisket
We wanted to keep things simple this time and so for our first cook we tried the Texas-style beef brisket on both smokers – we used 12-pounds briskets which we had trim properly down to around 1/8 of an inch thick to get rid of any excess hard pieces of fat.
We seasoned the briskets with coarse black pepper and coarse salt which are the only ingredients used to season Texas-style brisket. Our only addition was garlic powder which doesn’t really change the flavor. We just added it out of preference so that we can give our meat an extra layer of goodness.
We set the temp at 225°F, let the smokers preheat, and placed the briskets on each unit once they were ready. We used Z Grills pure oak pellets with a few cherry pellets mixed in so as to ensure consistent heat and a steady supply of thin blue smoke.
The temp was fairly steady at around 220°F on both grills. We smoked the briskets until the internal temp of the briskets (at the thickest part) read 165°F on our internal/meat thermometer. This was after about 8 hours of smoking the briskets. At this point, we removed the briskets and wrapped them up like a present using butcher paper, folding edge over edge to ensure they are fully sealed all the way around.
We returned the briskets to the smokers with the folded edges facing down and then continued smoking them at the set temperature of 225°F for an additional 5 hours until their internal temperature reached 202°F. We constantly checked the meat thermometer and removed the briskets immediately after their internal temp hit 202°F and let them rest for an hour before slicing.
Both briskets turned out perfect after the 13 hours of cooking. The wrapped smoking part did the magic as the meat of both briskets was super juicy and tender, and had a killer dark caramelized bark. It locked in the flavors very well. The oak and cherry pellets combination gave the meat a nice smoky flavor and although it was mild, the meat did taste delicious.
Smoked Pulled Pork
Next, we decided to do pulled pork and we used two 8 pounds of pork butts/Boston butts because of their less bone and more connective tissue.
We first trimmed the two cuts of meat as they had a thick fat cap right on the bottom. We trim the fat cap down to about ¼ of an inch thick and then score the fat, in a grid pattern, just deep enough to go through the remaining fat to reach the meat – doing so helps the rub reach the meat because, otherwise, no flavoring would penetrate the fat layer.
We then slathered the entire pork butts on all sides with mustard, as a binder – to give it a sticky layer to help the rub stick. Again, we sort to keep things simple so we went for a simple dry rub which was a mixture of sea salt, pepper, paprika, and garlic powder. We sprinkled the rub evenly over the entire pork butts on all sides.
We had our smokers set to 225°F and let them preheat for about 20 minutes. We used oak pellets to keep the temp steady and also added a few apple pellets in the mix to add a hint of fruity sweetness to the smokey flavor that our meat takes on.
We placed both pork butts on the left side of each smoker on the primary grate (fat side down) and then insert the meat probe to monitor the temperature. Our goal here was to smoke the butts for 12 hours to get the tenderness we desired. After 2 hours of smoking, we spritz them with a 50/50 mixture of water and apple cider vinegar.
We continued spritzing them every hour with 15-20 sprays for additional 6 hours until they reached an internal temperature of 165°F. This is an important step to help keep the pork moist and again we used apple juice to give the meat a subtle hint of sweetness since we used a slightly savory rub.
The smokers managed to keep the temperature steady, especially the 7002E – it maintained +/-2°F from our set temp of 225°F the whole 12 hours. The 7002B was at 221°F most of the time.
Once the internal temp of the butts reached 165°F (after about 8 hours) we removed them from the smokers and wrapped them well in peach paper to further elevate their internal temperature and further tenderize them by steaming them – which helps break down the collagen and fat making the meat juicier and tender.
We returned them to the smokers and continue cooking them for an additional 4 hours until their internal temp was around 195 to 205°F. The butt on the 700E reached 205°F first but the one on the 7002B couldn’t get past 195°F for reasons we couldn’t tell – we removed it anywhere as it was within our targeted range.
We let our pork rest in the foil for an hour before trying them out. Again, the results were impressive, especially the pork that was on the 700E smoker. It pulled nicely – it was super tender, more chunky than stringy, although less moist. The one on the 7002B was moister and more stringy, but a bit less tender. Both, however, had a pleasant bark formation.
The oak provided a nice, dark bark to the outside. It wasn’t as rich as what you would get with charcoal or wood-based smoker but we were pleased with what we got. There’s no denying both slices of meat were delicious – the flavor was just as we wanted.
After our success cooking salmon on the Z Grills 600 series L6002B model, it became one of our favorite foods to cook on the smoker and so we had to try it again on these 700 series smokers. We used 2-pound salmon fillets for this recipe and this round again we kept it simple with just Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper.
The pin bones were already taken out so we just season the fillets with the mustard, salt, and pepper, and then placed each on the smokers which we hard preheated to 225°F using oak pellets mixed with some applewood pellets too.
We cooked them until their internal temp hit 140°F which took about an hour. We started checking the internal temps as early as 20 minutes to ensure they are not a degree more than the 140°F that we targeted – we wanted the interior pink and not overcooked and dried out which could happen when the temp is even slightly past 140°F.
We removed our smoked salmons and let them sit for 10 minutes before slicing them up. It was another great success. They were perfectly cooked. The interior had a nice red color and the meat was tender juicy with a sweet fruity smokey flavor that was so tasteful. Both smokers cooked the salmons really well.
The Z Grills 600 series (L6002B in particular) did amazing when it comes to slow roasting, so we were excited to see how these 700 series models would perform, and surely we were not disappointed. We roasted chicken and this was the result we got.
Slow Roast Chicken
We first prep our two 4-pound whole chickens by rubbing them with a spice mixture that included ground black pepper, paprika, garlic salt, dried parsley, and dried marjoram. We then place a quartered onion and 4 stalks of celery (cut in half) into the cavity of each chicken, and then set them into separate roasting pans which we had already poured red wine into.
We placed the pans inside the smokers which we had preheated to 300°F and roasted the chickens until our instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh of the bird (at the thickest part) read 180°F – this was 4 hours after placing the birds inside the smokers. We removed our chicken roasts from the pan, covered them with a double sheet of foil, and then allow them to rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Our two herb-rubbed chickens were juicy and moist. The slow roast gave them a tender texture while the skin was fairly crisp not rubbery, almost similar to rotisserie-cooked chickens. The onion, celery, and a splash of the red wine in the pan added another subtle flavor that made the meat taste incredible – it was just simple goodness, to say the least.
We didn’t really have high hopes for how these 700 series models would perform at grilling given that the temp of all of them maxes out at 450°F and none has the flame broiler like the 600 series models to allow for direct heat/flame cooking – there’s simply no easy way to open up the fire pot to access the open flame.
Nonetheless, we went ahead and grilled chicken thighs and burger patties on two different occasions to see how they would turn out and we were pleasantly surprised with the results, especially how the 700E performed.
We fired the grills up with the temp set to high (450°F). After taking an average of 40 minutes to come up to temp, we put a few chicken thighs in each smoker and heard a nice sizzle immediately the thighs hit the hot cooking grates which made us excited.
The results were surprisingly decent for the short time the thighs were in there. The thighs from the 700E were pretty well cooked – the meat was moist and delicious with a subtle smoky taste. There were even slight visible sear marks on some parts of the meat.
We got nearly the same results with the burger patties on the 700E, so it was definitely an overall success but there was not much of a crust to talk about. We also used it to grill some hot dogs and they cooked very well.
The 7002B struggled to hit the 450°F (maxed out at 400°F) and the results weren’t that pleasing. By the time the thighs were done, they only had faint grill lines on the outside. The meat wasn’t cooked very well – it was still pretty moist and rear inside. The smoke flavor was very subtle.
Generally, for proper grilling/searing of meats, especially steaks, the 700 series isn’t an ideal choice, particularly if you are after deep grill marks. However, you can get decent results with 700E but for simple and fast grilling of things like hot dogs and hamburgers.
The Smoke Flavor
The 700 series grills like the other Z Grills models don’t produce as much smoke as you would get on a wood-based or charcoal smoker. Like all pellet grills, they produce ample amounts of smoke (clean smoke) at lower temperatures, but less at high temperatures.
For a slow, long cook at low temperatures, the 700E was able to smoke meats just fine. The flavor wasn’t as intense as when cooking with a wood-based or charcoal smoker but most of the time the meats were noticeably smoky and had a good smoke ring or bark formation.
It does put out quite a bit more smoke during the first hour or two when you run it on the “smoke” setting giving the food a slightly stronger, woody flavor compared to when it’s set to other higher temps.
The 7002B, on the other hand, wasn’t consistent in its smoke production. It produced crazy good smoke at first each time you light it on; almost overwhelming although it slowly goes down when it gets going.
There were also a lot of swings in the smoke output which we expected since it had a non-PID controller with no variable fan times – the swings were a bit too much compared to the 700E which was able to maintain a steady smoke output.
Besides that, as we mentioned earlier, the cooking chamber lid doesn’t make a tight fit, so plenty of smoke leaked out during our initial start-up. We noticed this and fixed it by adding a felt grill gasket around the edges of the lid which made a somewhat tighter fit that kept smoke in. It’s a problem that we found other several users on different forums reported having, so you might want to keep it in mind if you are looking to get the 7002B smoker.
Our Score: 8 out of 10
The cooking area of the 700 series like its predecessors, is split in two, the primary grate at the bottom and the warming rack on top of it. These two grates offer a total cooking space of 697 sq. in. which is the second largest in all of Z Grills’s line of smokers.
Each model in the series provides that same amount of cooking space with the warming rack taking 193 sq. in. and the primary grate 504 sq. in. which is the largest cooking space on the main grate offered by a Z Grills series – the 1000 series models offer 428 sq. in. while the top Basic series models (5502B and 5502H) offer 406 sq. in. The 600 series only offers 333 sq. in. which is the smallest.
Generally, there’s enough cooking space on both the 7002B and 700E models to prepare an entire meal for a large family at the same time.
They can accommodate 6 racks of ribs or 5 chickens at a time. You can even fit around 30 whole burgers inside there and cook them at one time, so they have more than enough space for hosting decent barbecue parties with at least ten guests.
However, similar to the previous Z Grills smokers, the clearance between the bottom main grate and the warming rack at the top is limited (about 3.5 inches). Layering flatter cuts of meat like ribs, chicken thighs and a brisket works well but for taller cuts such as whole chickens, you’ll need to remove the warming rack. In our case, we even had to remove it to place our Boston butts because they couldn’t fit in the space on the main grate with the top rack in place.
Our Score: 8 out of 10
The grease management system on these 700 series models is similar to that of the Basic series. There’s a grease pan under the grates to catch the dripping grease and it’s tilted so that the grease flows out and drains into the collection bucket that you attach to the right side of the smokers.
However, there was a slight defect in the design of the grease tray of the 700E model. It doesn’t reach the edges and as such, it leaves a decent gap where ashes from the bottom of the cooking chamber and the firebox come up through and into the cooking chamber. Grease can also drip down past it when cooking meat close to the edges.
The fact that the grease bucket is on the right side of the smokers (outside rather than inside like we saw with the 600 series) also means that you can easily bump onto it and spill the grease all over.
Z Grills recommends lining the grease tray with a layer of aluminum foil for easy cleaning and we did just that during our tests, all the way up to the edges to cover the gap. It worked well and caught most of the drips and it was easy to remove and throw out.
Cleaning ash from the bottom of the cooking chamber and the firepot can be tedious work though as you have to do it regularly using a small shop vac – you have to remove the grease pan and the baffle plate whenever you want to clean the ash from these parts which is almost after every cooking session, especially long ones.
Moreover, if you don’t cover the edges of the grease pan of the 700E with aluminum foil while cooking, grease can drip down the bottom of the chamber and then you end up with some greasy ash build-up making clean up even more challenging if you use the grill frequently.
Z Grills recommends removing all unused pellets after each cook to avoid them getting damp as they can be a big issue when you start up the smoker again. Unfortunately, there’s no easy way to do this because none of the units have a hopper cleanout system. The only way to empty the unused pellets is to remove the auger guard, scoop them out, and/or use the shop vacuum to suck them out including their dust.The exterior surfaces clean up easily with a soft cleaning rag dipped in warm soapy water. The grates are also easy to clean since they are fairly non-stick – they do well being scrapped back using a wooden paddle when they’re still warm. Cleaning the interior of the cooking chamber isn’t challenging either provided you cover the gap on the edges of the grease pan to prevent blow-up of ash which may build up on greasy surfaces of the cooking chamber.
Our Score: 6 out of 10
The hopper capacity of all the base models in this series is 20 pounds, which is larger compared to their predecessors – the Basic series offers 10 to 15-pound hopper capacity while the 600 series only 8 pounds. It’s a big improvement that makes doing long cooks easy since you don’t have to refill the pellets in the middle of the cooking process.
For instance, both grills were on nonstop for 15 hours when we first smoked the briskets and after all that time we still had some pellets left inside the hoppers (about ¼ of the pellets).
They are both relatively efficient when cooking at low heat – they consume around 1 to 1½ pounds of pellets per hour, so you can get between 10 to 20 hours of cooking time from a 20-pound bag of pellets.
The consumption goes higher when using high heat, especially on the 7002B. It burned through about 3 pounds of pellets every hour when set above 350°F, especially when the winds are strong outside or it’s a bit cold – the 700E used almost the same amount in such conditions but on a warm day and when the wind is calm, we noted that it mostly consumed around 2 pounds of pellets per hour.
The auto-pellet feed system on both smokers works very fine. They never stalled throughout our tests which was a big problem we noted with the earlier Z Grills models we tested – the ZPG-450A and ZPG-550B (Basic series models), and the L6002B (600 series model).
Upgraded versions of the 7002B and 700E are available and they come up with lots of improvements in terms of design, build quality and controller. They also have several new features that make them more convenient and easier to use. However, their overall size, total cooking area, and temperature range are just the same as the base models. These new improved versions include:
The Z Grills 700D2 and 700D3 (700D4E)
The 700D2 and 700D3 are the upgraded versions of the 700D and the 700E models which feature the enclosed cart/cabinet-style design.
The difference between the two of them (700D2 and 700D3) is the color and material of the cooking chamber lid. The 700D2 has a powder-coated steel lid with a black finish while the 700D3 has a stainless steel lid that’s silver in color.
The structural components of both versions are quite similar to those of their predecessors (700D and 700E). However, they have several upgrades in the hopper and chimney design (flat instead of cone-shaped) as well as in temperature control.
They come with a PID (Proportional Integral Derivative) controller that is more effective and reliable than the standard controller in the base models when it comes to maintaining a steady temperature throughout a cooking session.
The control board itself has received a major facelift. It features a large LCD screen that shows the temperatures clearly even when in direct sunlight. The dial for selecting the temperatures is also a modern one, not the analog knob and instead of a power switch, these new models have touch buttons both for power on and for the feed function which replaces the “smoke” setting found on all previous Z Grills smokers with standard controllers.
The control board also incorporates two internal temperature probes that allow you to monitor the temperature of the grill and the meat or two types of meat simultaneously – the readings from both probes can be displayed on the LCD screen. The 700E and 700D models support only a single temperature probe and have just a basic LED temperature display that shows one temperature reading at a time.
The hopper capacity of the two new models is the same as their predecessors, but they come equipped with a hopper clean-out feature that makes swapping pellet flavors/removing unused pellets after each cook easy. There’s a door on the backside of the hopper that you simply twist open to release all the pellets in the hopper in one go.
Another significant upgrade is the build quality. Both the 700D2 and 700D3 have double-walled insulation construction with a 2.0mm thick lid. This is a major improvement from the thin walls of the 700E, 7002B, and the other base models.
The double-walled insulation provides great heat retention hence you can expect fewer temperature fluctuations and fuel usage in cooler and windy weather conditions when using these upgraded models.
Z Grills 7002F and 7002F2 (7002C2E)
The 7002F and 7002F2 are the upgraded versions of the 7002B and the 7002E models. They have the same open-cart design as their predecessors but without the bottom storage space. Moreover, the wheeling system is different from 7002B and 7002E. They feature two small caster wheels and two large all-terrain wheels – their predecessors have two studs and two all-terrain wheels.
They also come with a PID controller and the same control panel that the 700D2 and 700D3 have – the only difference is the positioning. The control panel has been placed on the upper front part of the hopper just below the lid while on the 700D2, 700D3, and the other Z Grills models it’s on the lower part.
The other upgrades include built-in dual temperature probes, pellet cleanout feature, and double-walled cooking chamber construction. All these are similar to what the 700D2 and 700D3 offers.
What sets them apart, however, is the fact that they offer an impressive 24-pound hopper capacity which is the largest of all Z Grills models. They also have a pellet view window which allows you to keep an eye on the pellet level and refill them on time – a feature that lacks in all the other Z Grills smokers.
The two models are similar in every aspect except the lid color and material – 7002F has a powder-coat steel lid with a distinct bronze finish while the 7002F2 has a stainless steel lid that’s silver in color like the 700D3 and the 7002E.
For just low and slow cooking, the Z Grills 700 series base models are a great choice. They cook different meat very well and give them a decent smoke flavor although not as strong as wood-based or charcoal smokers. They are also easy to use and don’t have many bells and whistles making them ideal entry point smokers if you are looking to join the world of pellet grills.
However, the upgraded versions offer better cooking performance and convenient features like two temperature probes and a hopper cleanout function. These are a suitable option if you want an even much better cooking experience.
All the grills offer a generous cooking space, making them an ideal choice if you have a large family or often host large grill parties. They can handle a lot of food, enough to feed at least 10 people. They are all covered by a 3-year warranty just like the other Z Grills smokers.