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Z Grills Basic Series Review

Z Grills Basic Series Review

Z Grills have been anonymously building pellet grills for other reputable companies, more specifically, Traeger. The company has been around for over 30 years and in 2016 they burst onto the scene and began to manufacture their own pellet grills. They have about 25 different grills so far which are spread across four series: Basic series (450 and 550 lines), 600 series, 700 series, and 1000 series.

All their grills fall under the budget class of pellet grills because they are quite affordable than most from other brands. They incorporate a design that’s also pretty similar to earlier Traeger pellets grills – current Traeger grills are however superior with advanced features like WiFire and D2 Direct Drive control system which were not present in their earlier models and also in Z Grills models.

The Basic Series Summary

In this post, we’ll look at Z Grills’ basic series which comprises three models; ZPG-450A, ZPG-550A, and ZPG-550B. We managed to get a hold of the ZPG-450A and ZPG-550B models which we’ve had for over two weeks now and we’re going to share full details about their capabilities as well as what sets them apart.

The three models are amongst the earlier pellet grills from Z Grills – they were first sold back in 2019. They share the same common features found on Z Grills units which include; sturdy steel construction, porcelain-coated cast iron grill grates, LED temperature display, digital auto temperature control, electronic automatic start ignition, auger-fed pellet delivery system, and same grease drain system.

They also have the same temperature range (180 to 450°F) and utilize PID controllers except for the ZPG-550A model. Their design differs slightly but all three units rest on four legs with two rear ones equipped with heavy-duty all-terrain wheels.

The most notable difference between them is their overall size and the size of their cooking area (split between two grill grates for all the models). The ZPG-450A is the largest but has the smallest cooking area (459 sq. in.). It’s followed by the ZPG-550B and then the ZPG-550A which is the smallest in size but offers the largest cooking area (585 sq. in).

The other notable difference is the pellet hopper capacity and the additional features like the side shelves and bottom storage space which we’ve mentioned in the review below. In terms of performance, these Z Grills basic models seem to do relatively well – they start up fairly fast and manage to maintain a consistent temperature during cooking.  

The results were also pretty decent especially when doing low and slow smoking, and roasting. Most of the foods came out properly cooked and had a good smoky flavor. The results are not impressive though when it comes to searing.

Some of the other downsides with these basic series models are hot spots when the grill is very crowded, and the automated pellet feed system failing to feed the pellets properly (specifically in the ZPG-450A model). The three models also lack meat probes and several advanced features like Wi-Fi connectivity, ash and hopper cleanout function, direct flame mode, and wireless thermometer.

With all that in mind, here is our in-depth review so that you can get to know what they are really capable of and what they struggle with.    

Design

As we mentioned earlier, the first difference we noted in the two Z Grill’s Basic series models (450A and 550B) is the size. The ZPG-450A is the largest of the two, but only by a small margin due to the two preparation shelves – one on the rear end below the chimney and another on the front side of the cooking chamber. 

It measures 45 x 28 x 49 inches while the ZPG-550B measures 47 x 20 x 45 inches, so it’s a bit wider and taller. It’s longer and wider too than the ZPG-550A model (measures 40 x 25 x 48 inches) which also falls within Z Grills Basic series. Both the ZPG-550B and ZPG-550A have no shelves but they have bottom storage space which it’s not included on the ZPG-450A.

The other obvious difference we noted was the design. They all feature the classic drum pellet grill shape with a sawhorse chassis. However, the design of the hopper, firepot, and legs is quite different. 

The ZPG-450A has a drum hopper with a box-shaped firepot while the four legs are straight with wheels on the rear legs and glides on the leading legs. It’s the only Z Grills unit with glides on its legs which are a nice addition for protecting the floor in case you choose to place it on a hard-surface floor like a tile or hardwood. 

The ZPG-450A Model

The ZPG-550B and 550A models have the same classic drum style cooking chamber but the pellet hopper and the firepot are one box-shaped unit and the positioning of the control panel is the same.

The ZPG-550B Model

Their design is almost similar to that of Traeger pellet grills, except the legs which in this case are double “U” legs. There are no surface protectors on the lead legs but the rear ones have wheels like those of the 450A. The positioning of the chimney is also different from that of the ZPG-550B positioned on the rear end of the cooking chamber while that of the 550A is on the backside of the cooking chamber.

In terms of aesthetic appeal, “Crude” is the best word to describe the ZPG-450A.  It has the classic grill look with large and easily visible rivets and screws – the seams between the major components (the grill portion, the hopper, and the side table) are equally visible. What makes it look at least appealing is the polished bronze and black finish.

The ZPG-550B is much more appealing. It looks sleek and neat with a slightly modern hatch design. There are no side tables, and the screws and rivets are not visible at all like those on the ZPG-450A or the ZPG-550A. The double “U” legs plus the all-black finish simply complete the whole classy look it exudes – it’s polished like the ZPG-450A.

All three grills are heavy – the ZPG-450A weighs 84 pounds while the ZPG-550B and ZPG-550A weigh 84 pounds and 99 pounds respectively. They are relatively transportable due to the two wheels attached at the bottom of their rear legs – you can push them around. 

The difficult part is lifting them, which we found a bit challenging not just because of their weight (ZPG-450A and ZPG-550B) but also because of the awkward positioning of the handle for lifting and pushing them – it’s placed at the front end of the pellet hopper where the firepot is also positioned.  It makes moving the grills a bit awkward and hard.

While they are fairly small and compact compared to most other grills from other brands, they are not really portable as promoted by Z Grills because the legs don’t fold up. They are not as convenient to move around as Traeger’s Scout/Ranger (Traeger’s basic models).

Our Score: 7 out of 10

Build Quality

All three grills seem well built and heavy-duty. We had the ZPG-450A and the ZPG-550B models, and both of them were heavier and felt more solid than we expected. 

They are all made of thick stainless steel material for the cooking chamber and the rest of the body, which provides a sturdy, durable structure. They can handle heavy use regularly. There are no parts that are likely to start breaking off after only a short while – you get a very solid structure once assembled, especially the ZPG-450A model.

The entire exterior of the grills is powder-coated to provide an anti-rusting surface that can withstand the elements which is essential as they are outdoor grills. They can stay outside without the elements (particularly rain) causing rusting or premature damage – provided though that you always keep them covered when not in use.

The cooking racks are equally of good quality. They are porcelain-coated cast-iron cooking grates on all the three basic models as well as the rest of Z Grills models. They are thick and sturdy, and the porcelain coat on them helps prevent corrosion and rust.  

The handles on all three grills are also robust, made of stainless steel. The only plastic parts are the wheels but they too are heavy-duty plastic wheels that can move on all terrain. So, generally, these are durable grills that look like they can provide several years of service, especially the ZPG-450A. 

We did, however, have an issue with the double “U” legs design of the ZPG-550B and ZPG-550A because it makes the bottom half feel flimsy. While stationary it’s not really bad, but our ZPG-550B felt weirdly top-heavy and wobbly – it seems like the top could easily break off from the bottom half over time with regular use and frequent moving of the grill.   

The good thing though is that the unit comes with a generous 3-year warranty – Z Grills offers the same warranty for all their pellet grills.

Our Score: 8 out of 10

Assembly

We got the ZPG-450A and ZPG-550B models. Both came packaged very well with all the parts organized neatly and in proper sequence (no random bag of bolts). 

Assembly was pretty straightforward, particularly the ZPG-550B model which was the first to put together. The process was simple as the grill chamber comes with the hopper already attached. You just flip it upside down and mount the body frame, place the bottom storage between the two legs, attach the two wheels on the rear legs and then flip it again so that it’s upright. 

From there, you install the chamber lid and handle, attach the chimney, and then install the heat baffle, grease drain pan, and the two grilling grates. What’s left after that is just to hang the grease bucket and you’re done. We put it all together in about 30 minutes. 

The assembly guide is easy to understand – it has a picture guide with all parts clearly labeled and pretty decent instructions that are simple to follow. There aren’t a lot of screws involved and the kit includes all the necessary tools you need to complete the setup.

The assembly of the ZPG-450A wasn’t as easy as we had anticipated given that the ZPG-550B was a bit straightforward. There were more parts to set up and lots of little bolts and washers involved. You have to first attach the two front legs to their leg base and then the two rear legs to the wheeled leg base to form the body frame. This part alone involves tightening around 12 bolts and washers. 

Once that’s done, you flip the chamber (comes with the hopper already attached) and then mount the body frame to the chamber which is yet another step that involves tightening lots of bolts. 

From there, you set the unit upright, attach the hopper handle to the hopper lid and then attach the chimney and the shelves. You then install the heat baffle on the firepot, place the grease pan followed by the two grates and then hang the grease bucket.

It took us about an hour and a half to assemble it, and the picture guide doesn’t really show which screws to use where, which made the process a bit of a hassle, plus the wrenches provided with our grill couldn’t fit the axle bolt. We had to use our wrench for that, although it wasn’t a big deal. 

It’s relatively easy for one person to set up either grill, but you’ll certainly need some help when it comes to flipping the chamber upside down and back upright after mounting the body frame (the legs). 

Both grills lack some helpful accessories like a meat thermometer for temperature monitoring and a smoker box. You’ll have to purchase the thermometer separately. The only included accessory is a waterproof grill cover to help protect the grill from the elements and it’s only available with the ZPG-450A model, the ZPG-550A, and ZPG-550B don’t come with it.

Our Score: 7 out of 10

Controls/Using the Unit

Z Grills use fairly basic controllers and that was quite evident on these basic models we had. Both of them come equipped with a PID controller that’s very basic in terms of functionality and usability. 

It’s really simple to use. The control panel only features a temperature dial, a power on/off switch, and an LED display. The temperature dial adjusts easily allowing you to set the temperature you want from a range of 180 to 450°F. You can adjust the temperature at increments of 25°F which isn’t the most precise option like the 15°F increment of Traeger’s grills but it’s pretty decent. The temperature you select is shown right on the LED display.

From the temperature dial, there are also two functions/settings you can select; a smoke setting for imparting smoky flavor on your meat and the shutdown cycle. Other than those two functions and selecting the temperature, there’s nothing else you can set on the control panel.

There’s no Wi-Fi connectivity or advanced features we saw in Traeger pellet grills like setting timers and alerts, or advanced functions like Keep warm setting or Super smoke function. Both units also don’t come with meat probes, so it’s hard to tell when the grill and your meat have reached the target temperature unless you invest in a separate meat thermometer.

It’s simply a basic controller that’s based on pause/timed settings. The good thing is that you can set it and forget it – you don’t have to babysit it. You simply select the cooking temperature you want and let it do the rest. It utilizes the PID technology (sensors) and an electric pellet feed system to regulate the temperature inside the cooking chamber by automatically feeding the pellets to the firepot so as to ensure the heat stays consistent.

Our Score: 7 out of 10

Performance

We tested both the ZPG-450A and ZPG-550B in a slightly over 2 weeks period and performance-wise, the two models were neck to neck. They are not as good as the Traeger models, but their performance was still pretty decent.

We started with the ZPG-450A model and the first thing we noted was that the initial firing up takes a while, especially when you select a high temperature (300°F and above). It took about 20 minutes for it to heat up to 400°F. In our second test, we set the temp to 180°F and this round it took just 10 minutes to preheat which was fairly fast.

The performance was not that bad either when it comes to temperature control. It managed to keep a steady and consistent heat, just within the desired/set temperature. The heat appears to be regulated by a combination of the auger, fan, and PID controller.  

There’s a sensor within the unit that monitors the cooking temperature and together with the PID controller, they cause the auger to automatically feed the right amount of pellets from the hopper into the fire pot to keep the heat steady should it drop below the set temperature.  The sensor and the PID controller also control the airflow to maintain and hold the temperature throughout a cooking session. 

In nearly all our cooking tests, the grill held within 5 to 10°F of the temperature we had set, making it slightly more precise than the Traeger (most of its models had a 15°F variance above or below the set temperature). 

However, we noted that the temperature is only impressively consistent at 275°F and above – below that the temperature tends to swing a lot. We were experiencing a temperature variance of +20°F and we saw several other users on online forums that reported experiencing temperature variance of up to 30°F from the set temperature.

We noted too that the left side/end of the grill which is directly over the firepot tends to be hotter than the other areas even with the heat deflector and fan helping to spread the heat all over the cooking chamber.

Another issue is that the temp at times jumps way up past the desired temperature, particularly during the initial heat-up. At first, we set a low temperature of 225°F and waited for 10 minutes to pre-heat. After the 10 minutes were up, we checked the temperature and it had shot to 350°F (off by 125°F). However, it did come down after about 15 minutes and stayed close to the set temperature – it remained steady, fluctuating between 218°F and 235°F.

The performance of the ZPG-550B was a little better. It heats up fast whether you set low or high temperature – it averages about 10 minutes at low temperature (275°F and below) and about 15 minutes at high temperatures (above 300°F).

Once the target temperature is reached, it remains steady throughout the cooking period. The unit uses the same convection heat distribution technology that the ZPG-450A utilizes and has the same solid stainless steel construction for the cooking chamber, so it does a good job of retaining the heat. 

Most of the actual temperatures are typically within 10°F of the chosen temperature. We didn’t experience or find many complaints about temperature issues like the case with the ZPG-450A.

However, the firepot is placed on the left side just like in the ZPG-450A, so the left side is directly over it and it gets hotter than the other areas of the grill. 

There were also several complaints that the heat maxes out at around 300°F even when set at maximum temp – the digital control can ready 450°F but when you measure it, the actual temp would be 200 to 300°F. We didn’t have that issue during our test and it seems it’s a rare isolated case that might only be as a result of a defective grill.

We did notice though that both models take a while to respond when the temperature setting is changed, especially when you lower the temperature. We preheated the ZPG-450A to 375°F and then lowered the temperature to 225°F – it took almost 30+ minutes for the temperature to adjust. 

The pellets are gradually added into the firepot to make sure that the fire doesn’t go out, so the process to gradually lower the temperature while still keeping the fire burning can be a lengthy one. You have to turn the controller dial to the Shut Down Cycle to reduce the temperature quickly and then turn the dial to your target temperature setting once the heat has dropped enough.

For precision, the temperature on both units can be adjusted at 25°F  increments as we mentioned earlier – which is fine, but not quite ideal if you want a bit more precision with regards to choosing your temperature.

Our Score: 8 out of 10

The Results

We’ve had these grills for over two weeks now and we tried to cook several different types of meat and foods on them, and the results we got were impressive. Almost everything we cooked came out great. We were particularly impressed with the smoking performance. They did so well when it comes to slow and low smoking as well as roasting, baking, and barbecuing. The area they struggle a lot like most other pellet grills is searing.

Slow and Low Smoking

We cooked our first food on the ZPG-450A and they were prime cut beef ribs which we smoked at 275°F for about 6 hours. The next one we did was choice cut pork ribs which we smoked for 4 hours at 275°F – they both turned out excellent.

The meat was so tender and juicy, almost falling off the bone with just a little touch. We were also able to successfully smoke a brisket at 250°F for 10 hours on an 85°F day. It came out cooked perfectly with the meat very moist and juicy.

The ZPG-550B equally gave us excellent results when we used it. We smoked the same prime cut beef ribs at 225°F for 6 hours. The ribs were very good – the meat easily pulled away from the bone. They had a nice smoke ring that was about ½ through the rib meat. 

The unit managed to maintain the set temp during the long and slow smoking sessions, fluctuating by just 5 to 7°F. Next, we decided to do a pork butt without the Texas crutch. We set the temp at 225°F and let it cook for 18 hours. What we got was some really good smoked meat with a great smoke flavor and it had developed a beautiful, tasty bark. 

We also tried a beef brisket and equally got a good crusty bark with the meat almost resembling a meteor or a hunk of track ballast. The flavor itself was really delicious.

Slow Roasting 

We did a few roasts on both grills and again we were not disappointed at all. Our first try was roasting a 2 pounds pork loin. We preheated the ZPG-550B to 275°F, placed our pork loin roast in the roasting pan, and put it inside it to cook for about 5 to 7 hours until it reached an internal temperature of 145°F.

The result was a soft juicy inside (almost as soft as pulled pork) while on the outside it was good crunchy meat and fat. The meat inside was fork-tender – you could easily cut it with a fork.

Next up we opted to slow-roast a whole chicken stuffed with boudin. We slow roasted it in the ZPG-450A for 5 hours at 250°F and the results were not pleasing at all. We got rubbery skin and tough meat because the temperature wasn’t quite constant as the grill actually shut down twice during the cook due to the auger running dry on pellets – a problem we’ve talked more about in a section below.

We decided to give it another try but this round on the ZPG-550B and instead of boudin we stuffed our chicken with lemons and rubbed it with garlic and herb butter. We slow roasted it for 3 to 4 hours at 275°F.  The chicken came out wonderfully juicy and had a golden brown crispy skin. It was surprisingly succulent.

Besides smoking and roasting, the two grills performed pretty well when it came to baking and barbecuing. We baked up smoky-flavored pizza and it turned out great. We barbecued up some pulled pork too for sandwiches and the meat was moist, tender, and very flavorful.

Grilling/Searing

As said earlier, like other pellet grills, these Z Grills basic series grills are not really good for searing. Their maximum temperature is 450°F which isn’t hot enough to perform proper searing, plus there’s no access to open/direct flame to do even a decent sear if you wanted to, unless you remove the entire heating place.

We grilled some burgers and steaks and although they were okay and the flavor was really good, still they were severely missing that sear. Both models couldn’t just get hot enough to leave great grill marks on the steaks. We tried grilling some sausages too and the flavor was good but again we couldn’t get some nice char on them.

We decided to do some reverse searing on the ZPG-550B grill to see if there would be any different. We reverse-seared prime New York Strip steaks (king of all steaks), by first smoking them for 40 minutes at around 275°F, and then crank up the temperature to the maximum (at 450°F) to perform searing on each side for an additional 90 seconds in order to get a perfect medium-rare steak. They did come out well but not the best we’ve ever cooked.

So in other words, these pellet grills are certainly not suited or capable of high temperature searing. You are also likely to end up with “hot spots” if the grill is very crowded. You’ll have to ensure there’s enough space for the meat you are cooking, otherwise, you’ll have to move them around to avoid hot spots which can be a hassle and can as well affect how the meat will turn out since you have to open the lid several times to turn them.

Smoke Flavor

The meat tastes great once done but the smoky flavor is mostly subtle and there’s not even much smoke ring left on the meat. When the temperature is over 200°F, almost little to no smoke is produced, and it’s intermittent – generally, we noted that the lower the temp, the more smoke you get. 

For instance, when we set the temp at 225°F, both grills produced some good smoke, and when we cranked up the temp to 300°F there was hardly any smoke produced in either model. There’s, however, a “smoke setting” that can bump up the smoke production if you want a relatively strong smoky flavor.

When you use the setting, the temperature drops below 200°F, ranging from 158 to 194°F, and the smoke is produced in cycles rather than being constant. Once you’ve used the smoke setting for the length of time you want (an hour or so), you have to raise the grill’s temperature to ensure that the food is properly cooked.

It’s not really the most convenient setting and even when you use it, the flavor is not as strong as what you get from charcoal or an offset smoker, or the Super Smoke function provided in some  Traeger’s pellet grills.

Our Score: 8 out of 10

Cooking Area

In terms of the cooking area, Z Grills has split the cooking space of all their grills into two, instead of a single grill that most other brands offer. There’s the main grilling area at the bottom and the warming rack on top of it. The main grilling area offers the largest space on all Z Grill’s models.

The ZPG-450A model provides a total of 459 square inches of cooking space which is slightly smaller than that of the ZPG-550B. The main grilling area offers about 331 sq. in. of cooking space while the warming grate offers 128 sq. in. It’s a pretty decent space that’s enough to prepare food for a small family of two to three people.

The ZPG-450A Model’s Cooking Area

We were able to easily cook four racks of ribs at once. The space is enough to accommodate three whole chickens or 18 hamburgers at one time. However, a large turkey won’t fit unless you remove the warming grate.

One advantage that you get with the ZPG-450A model is that it comes with two shelves, one on the side below the cooking chamber lid handle and another on the rear end below the chimney. They provide additional space for food preparation and for keeping smaller cooking items within reach.

Neither the ZPG-550B nor ZPG-550A models are equipped with a shelf. However, they both have a bottom storage space between their legs which provides decent space where you can place some items.

They also provide a larger cooking space over the ZPG-450A. The ZPG-550B, for instance, offers a total cooking area of 560 sq. in. with the main cooking area providing 406 sq. in. and the warming rack 154 sq. in. That’s slightly more cooking room than what you get with the 450A – it’s enough to accommodate up to 22 hamburgers at once.

The ZPG-550A is the largest of the three basic series models in terms of cooking space as it offers a total of 585 sq. in. The primary cooking area has 424 sq. in. of space while the warming rack area offers 147 sq. in. so you have plenty of space to work with – you can make enough food for a small to medium-sized family.

Generally, despite offering decent cooking space, we found the inside of the two grills (ZPG-450A and ZPG-550B) and the ZPG-550A as well to be a little cramped, especially with the warming rack in place. None of them can accommodate a whole turkey even with the upper rack removed unless you keep your turkey around 18 pounds or less.

Our Score: 8 out of 10

Cleaning

Cleaning the grills was relatively easy. Each has a simple grease draining system consisting of a grease pan for collecting the grease and a metal slide to guide it into a collection bucket. The grease pan comes out easily and it’s simple to empty and clean although it can be a bit messy with grease ending up all over your hands if you stumble, especially when carrying the grease pan or the grease bucket.

One issue that we noted though is that the metal slide of the ZPG-550B that guides grease to the bucket isn’t really angled well which makes it less effective at draining all the grease from the grease tray – more grease is left on the tray compared to the ZPG-550A model, so you have to keep removing the tray frequently to empty the grease which is a hassle.

Removing the ash in the firepot is equally a challenge because there’s no cleaning door that allows you to empty the ash directly. You have to remove all the grates and the drip tray in order to clean out the ashes and you must use a shop vac, otherwise, you’ll make a mess which we did at first when we sort to use a scoop to remove the ashes. Both units also produce a lot of ash – you have to clean them out after every cook.

Cleaning the exterior surface of the grills was easy though – the stains come off easily when you wipe the surface using warm, soapy water and a soft pad.

Our Score: 7 out of 10

Other Highlights

One of the notable differences between the models within the Z Grills basic series is the hopper capacity. The ZPG-450A model comes with a moderate 15 pounds hopper which offers a slightly longer cooking time between refills. We were able to cook for around 20 hours continually with the hopper filled.

It wasn’t the same case with the ZPG-550B. While it offers a large cooking area than the ZPG-450A, it actually comes with a small pellet hopper that can only hold up to 10 pounds of wood pellets. 

You have to constantly refill it during long cooking sessions – for instance, a 16-hour cook would require at least two hopper refills yet with the ZPG-450A model, a single fill can last you through the 16 hours and still have some pellets left in the hopper. The 550A model, however, comes with a slightly larger 16 pounds pellet hopper, hence like the ZPG-450A, you can do long cooking sessions without going through the hassle of constantly replenishing the pellets.

The major issue we noted, especially with the ZPG-450A model, is the automated pellet feed system. It has a serious design flaw that makes it not always feed the pellets properly hence causing the auger to run dry/starve most of the time – this happened twice when we tried to roast our boudin-filled chicken.

The hopper design features a 1-inch horizontal ledge that’s around the auger opening and it impedes the flow of the pellets into the auger – only pellets from the middle fall into the auger.

After about 2 hours of cooking, the auger runs dry/becomes starved for pellets which causes the grill to shut off and the temperature to drop (no pellets means no fire), despite the hopper still being nearly full. We experience this about 2 times during some of our long cooking sessions.

The hopper itself doesn’t have an agitator that can help prevent this from happening. You have to constantly watch the pellets and stir them to move them around so that they continue to fall into the auger cavity.

Another issue is that there’s no easy way of emptying the hopper should you want to change the pellets you are using. You have to open the hopper lid and scoop them from the top.

With regards to efficiency, the Z Grills basic series is a little efficient compared to the other Z Grills series and upgraded models.

The ZPG-450A, for example, burned the pellets at a rate of about 2.2 pounds per hour when set at high temperatures (more than 350°F) and 0.66 – 0.88 pounds per hour when placed on smoke setting or when cooking low and slow (below 275°F). So, a 22-pound bag of wood pellets can last around 10 to 25 hours based on the temperature settings and outdoor conditions.

Both the ZPG-450A and ZPG-550B also don’t consume a lot of electricity.  During operation, they run between 50 and 250W – the maximum rated power draw is about 300W. In case you plan to use your grill with a car battery or a generator, a 400W 240 AC output would be sufficient.

Upgraded Models

Z Grills has released several upgrades for their basic series models and these new units come with some nice convenient features and improvements.

ZPG-450B and ZPG-450PRO

The ZPG-450B was released earlier this year. It’s an improved version of the ZPG-450A and offers some nice new features.

It’s a little smaller (measures 43 x 24 x 47 inches) and lighter (75 pounds) than its predecessor, plus its design also differs a little bit. It features a box-shaped pellet hopper (450A has a drum-shaped hopper) and doesn’t have any shelves like its predecessor. 

Another notable difference is the inclusion of locking casters on its rear legs – it’s the only Z Grills pellet grill to have this feature. Other upgrades that are only unique to this model are a pellet view window and hopper clean-out system – it has a latch that you just twist to open and release unused pellets into a bucket.

The ZPG-450B also comes with a new improved PID controller that several users applauded in different forums we checked as it’s more effective at keeping the temperature consistent – they claim it often stays within 5°F of the target temperature. Like its predecessor though, the hopper capacity is 15 pounds and you also get the same total cooking area of 459 sq. in.

The other new upgrade model in Z Grills 450 line is the ZPG-450PRO. This one is no different from the ZPG-450A. It’s of the same size (45 x 28 x 49 inches) and has the same weight (84 pounds), hopper capacity, and cooking area. The design is also the same – drum-shaped hopper and chamber with front and side preparation shelves. The only major difference is the improved PID controller.

ZPG-5502H and ZPG-5502G

The ZPG-5502H and ZPG-5502G are upgrade models of the ZPG-550A and ZPG-550B which fall within the 550 line of Z Grills basic series. They are pretty similar to their predecessors in terms of design.

The only key difference is that the 5502G model is larger (measures 49 x 24 x 51 inches) and comes with a front shelf which the rest lack.  Their hopper capacity (10 pounds) is the same as their predecessors but they have a slightly smaller total cooking area at 553 sq. in. against the 560 sq. in. of the 550B and 585 sq. in. of the 550A. The rest of the features are quite similar including the temperature range (180 to 450°F) and the bottom storage space.

Like all the other Z Grills models though (both basic and upgraded), they lack Wi-Fi technology, ash cleanout system, advanced features, and don’t come with meat probes. They as well don’t come with a rain cover which is included in the company’s 450 series models.

Final Thoughts

The Z Grills basic series offers great entry-level pellet grills. The ZPG-450A and ZPG-550B models worked great during our tests and managed to cook most of the meats to our expectations, except when it comes to searing which is always a problem with wood-pellet grills.

What we liked most apart from the cooking performance is the fact that they are relatively well constructed and durable. Using them is equally simple considering that they are quite basic in terms of features and functions that they offer.

Overall, these Z Grills models are a suitable choice if you are looking for an entry-level or a low-cost wood pellet grill/smoker for cooking and smoking low and slow or to serve a small family. If you also prefer lightly smoked foods, then they are equally a good choice since they don’t produce much smoke or impart a strong smoky flavor to the food.

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