Z Grills ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker
Affordable price point
Food is extremely flavorful
Maintains consistent heat within +/- 15 degrees
Comes with rain cover
Takes longer than expected to preheat
Prep tables are too small
Doesn't get hot enough to sear
The Z Grills ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker is an affordable, no-frills pellet grill that delivers great flavor, but it performs better with low-heat smoking than traditional high-temperature grilling.
Z Grills ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker
We purchased the Z Grills ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker so our reviewer could put it to the test. Read on for our full product review.
If you’re curious about pellet grills but not sure if one would suit your lifestyle, a product like the Z Grills ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker might be just what you need. This pellet grill and smoker has a no-frills design with a modest temperature range, and it’s half the price of many big-name pellet grills. I wanted to see if the budget-friendly grill would still deliver the delicious flavors of pellet-fueled cooking, so I used it for several weeks, cooking everything from hamburgers to pizza to pulled pork. Here’s what I found.
Setup Process: Poor directions
The Z Grills ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker is easy enough to put together, even though the included instructions—especially the “quick instructions”—lack detail and are hard to follow. The grill chamber and hopper are already assembled, so it’s really just a matter of putting the legs together and attaching pieces like the handles, chimney, and prep tables. Thankfully, it’s pretty intuitive, especially if you’ve assembled a grill before.
It took my boyfriend and me around 45 minutes to put together the whole thing. The screws, nuts, and bolts come in a clearly labeled package, which has punch-out cardboard compartments that we opened one at a time as we went through the process. Assembly could be done solo, but attaching the legs to the grilling chamber was definitely easier with two people.
One word of note: The package includes a set of gloves (they’re not heat-resistant grilling gloves, so don’t try to wear them while cooking!), and the instructions said to wear them while setting up the grill. We truly couldn’t figure out why, as there weren’t any sharp edges or other dangerous-looking parts. However, there is a piece of fiberglass that goes between the chimney and the body of the grill, and you’ll want to wear the gloves while handling it to avoid getting splinters—a lesson my boyfriend learned the hard way.
Design: Compact and sturdy
The Z Grills ZPG-450A is fairly small, measuring 45 inches wide and 49 inches tall at the top of its side chimney. It’s compact enough that it fits easily on our deck, and it’s a sleek little unit if I do say so myself. It’s made from mid-weight powder-coated steel, and the body is mostly black with dark brown lids on the grilling chamber and hopper.
The hopper, which can hold up to 15 pounds of wood pellets, is on the left side of the grill, and the controls are located on the bottom left corner of it. Inside, there are two porcelain-coated stainless steel grates—a larger main cooking area and a smaller warming rack—that give you 452 square inches of cooking space altogether.
The first time I used it, I waited almost 25 minutes for it to reach 350 degrees, even though we had primed the grill according to the directions.
This grill and smoker is designed to be used outdoors, but it does need to be plugged into an electrical outlet to operate, as its control panel, auger, and fan all run on electricity. The grill is mounted on two large, sturdy wheels that make it easy to move around as needed, and it has rubber feet that keep it firmly in place while cooking.
One thing I didn’t like about the grill is its two prep tables. The first is located on the front of the grill, and it can fold down when not in use. The second is on the right side of the grill underneath the chimney. Unfortunately, both of the tables were too small to hold a standard-size plate, forcing me to balance food perilously in one hand while loading or unloading the grill.
Finally, the grill comes with a rain cover, an extremely useful accessory that many brands force you to buy separately. The cover fits well, even featuring a sleeve for the chimney, and the grill stayed perfectly dry when it rained.
Fuel Type: Wood pellets
This grill runs on wood pellets, which you pour into the hopper on the left side. Once you set the desired temperature, the grill automatically maintains it—just like an oven—by feeding the pellets into the firepot via its auger. It’s important to note that you’re not cooking over direct flames like on a gas or charcoal grill. Instead, the heat baffle and grease drain pan go over the firepot, and the heat and smoke from the burning pellets fill the chamber to cook your food, giving it a delicious smoky flavor.
I bought a big bag of Kingsford Classic wood pellets (view at Lowe's) that I used throughout testing. These particular pellets are made from a blend of hickory, cherry, and oak woods, which worked well on a variety of foods, but you can use any flavor of wood pellets you want with the Z Grills ZPG-450A. Once the hopper was filled to the brim, I was able to complete four cooking sessions before I needed to fill it back up. During an all-day smoking session, I needed to add more pellets every three or four hours.
Temperature Control: Long preheat time
The Z Grills ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker has a temperature range of 180 to 450 degrees, but you can’t set it to any temperature you please within that range. The temperature is controlled via a dial, and while the lowest setting is 180 degrees for smoking, the next step up is 225 degrees. From there, you can adjust the temperature in 25-degree increments up to 375 degrees. Finally, the “High” setting is 450.
While testing this grill, I found that it can take quite a while to preheat. The first time I used it, I waited almost 25 minutes for it to reach 350 degrees, even though I had primed the grill according to the directions. It did perform better during subsequent uses, but I still regularly waited 15 minutes or more for the grill to reach the desired cooking temperature.
Once the grill is preheated, it maintains its temperature impressively well. Over the course of several cooking sessions, the temperature always stayed within 10 or 15 degrees of the temperature I set, which was precise enough for my needs. However, because the firepot where the pellets burn is located on the left side of the grilling chamber, I noticed that side of the grate was typically hotter than the right side.
Performance: Excels at lower temperatures
The Z Grills ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker arrived right at the beginning of grilling season, so it got ample use over the course of several weeks. My boyfriend and I regularly used it to make dinner for the two of us on weeknights, and it delivered unbelievably flavorful hamburgers and steaks (even though it sometimes took a painfully long time to preheat). We could definitely tell the difference between meat cooked on the pellet grill versus meat cooked on our gas grill.
We almost always cooked these meals on the high setting, which is 450 degrees, and it often took a little longer to cook than it would have on our gas grill. Plus, we were never able to get good grill lines on the food, as searing requires the grates to be around 500 degrees.
The pork smoked at 250 for around 7 hours, and the grill did a perfect job maintaining its heat, even though it was somewhat windy.
I wanted to see how other foods fared on the Z Grills ZPG-450A, so I used it to cook a frozen pizza for lunch one day. Following the directions on the package, it took around 15 minutes to cook at 450 degrees, and the end result was nothing special. It was warmed through, but the crust didn’t crisp up enough, leaving it a bit mushy to eat—however, that might have been because it was frozen, not necessarily because of the grill.
Obviously, I wanted to put the grill’s smoking abilities to the test, as well, so I bought a large pork shoulder to make pulled pork sandwiches for a weekend cookout with my family. I started up the grill at around 9 am, following Traeger’s pulled pork recipe and using the Best Odds Pulled Pork Rub. It was a really hot day with temperatures in the upper 80s, so I was extremely happy that I didn’t have to monitor the grill much.
The pork smoked at 250 for around 7 hours, and the grill did a perfect job maintaining its heat, even though it was somewhat windy. There wasn’t a ton of smoke given off at 250 degrees, as you’d get with a true smoker, but the end result was still packed with flavor and fall-off-the-bone tender.
Cleaning: Watch for grease overflow
The grill has a grease drain pan that sits underneath the grates, so as I cooked, drippings were funneled down into the grease collection bucket on the right side of the grill. The brand recommends lining the bucket with aluminum foil to make cleanup easier.
This system worked well for the most part, but sometimes when I was cooking particularly juicy meat, the grease would overflow the edges of the drain pan and drip into the bottom of the grill. It’s easy enough to wipe up, though, and you should regularly remove the drain pan anyway, to clean it and the bottom of the grilling chamber. The brand also recommends vacuuming out the firepot if ash accumulates, as this can affect the grill’s performance.
Price: An unbeatable value
While it does have some minor quirks, I really can’t complain too much since the Z Grills ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill costs just around $400—some similarly sized pellet smokers cost twice that! The reasonable price makes it a great value for anyone who wants to try out a pellet grill without spending too much.
Z Grills ZPG-450A vs. Camp Chef SmokePro DLX
The Camp Chef SmokePro DLX, which was also tested by The Spruce Eats, is another budget-friendly pellet smoker, and while it does typically cost around $100 more than the Z Grills ZPG-450A, it offers a more comprehensive set of features. For instance, it has 570 square inches of cooking space and a larger temperature range of 160 to 500 degrees, which allows for better high-heat grilling. It also has a spacious side table and an easy-to-use ash cleanout system. The Camp Chef SmokePro DLX retails for around $500, so if you think the Z Grills ZPG-450A’s shortcomings will be bothersome, you might want to spend a little more on this model.
Simple and effective, minus a few quirks.
If you can get past its ineffective side tables and long preheat time, the Z Grills ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker is an unbeatable value, and it delivers delicious flavors and consistent temperature control that is on par with much more expensive pellet grills.
- Product Name ZPG-450A Wood Pellet Grill & Smoker
- Product Brand Z Grills
- Price $469.00
- Weight 84 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 45 x 49 x 28 in.
- Hopper Capacity 15 lbs.
- Cooking Area 452 sq. in.
- Warranty 3 years