I must admit something - I am a carnivore. I love meat. I’ll eat vegetables, corn (although my wife will disagree that it is a vegetable) is probably my favorite followed by vegetables on the grill. But my favorite thing is a protein I can put over fire, brisket, ribs, steak, chicken. The thought of that smoky flavor just makes my mouth salivate sitting here. I have had many grills over the past 40 years. Weber kettles, offset grills, a few homemade smokers and for the last 7 years an offset/charcoal/propane grill all so I can perfect and enjoy the delicious smoke infused taste of meat. There is no better feeling than ending a day eating a bounty of meat coming off a 12-hour smoking session. The problem is time is precious these days and that means the day spent watching the fire, adding wood and charcoal, adjusting air flow, checking, and rearranging the meat so it all cooks evenly means other chores fall to the wayside. So, when I started investigating new grills one started standing out - the pellet smoker/grill. A bonus with this type of grill, not only does it smoke and grill, but you can braise, bake, and sear also. More research led me to give one company a try - Z Grills.
Z Grills was originally a manufacturer of pellet grills for several top brands in this industry – Traeger being one.
The Z Grills brand was founded in 2016 and has quickly become one of the most respected brands in pellet grills.
They are winning the market by delivering pellet grills that pack the same top brand quality, in a new trademarked identity, while selling directly to customers with factory-direct pricing.
I took the opportunity to review the Z Grills “Backyard Warrior” smoker, the stainless-steel model 7002C2E. This sturdy, well-constructed machine features 697 sq inches of cooking area, a stainless-steel lid and a huge 24-pound capacity hopper for the pellets. The PID controller (PID stands for Proportional, Integral, Derivative, which essentially means that they use algorithms and an internal computer to monitor the internal temperature of your grill and make automatic adjustments to keep it at that temperature.) allows the machine to hold the temperature you set within a few degrees, reminding me of the saying “set it and forget it”. No longer do I have to spend all day watching my grill. I can just insert my meat probes, set it for the temp I want and if I need to run a few errands away I go. Need to cook up to 29 burgers or do you want to sear a steak? Crank the temp up and that too is a reality. Bake a pizza or some bread, a skillet cookie or some cornbread as a side, no problems here. Assembly of the grill was not overly hard, we had it built in about 4 hours working for a couple of nights inside after supper. A few things to note - 1) read all the instructions first as it will make more sense, 2) the PID controller goes outside the space shown in the instructions before you screw it in, 3) the decorative spacers for the lid are not labeled nor shown in my instructions - not a big deal but had to unscrew the handle to put them in place. Then it was time for burn-in. Again, the instructions were clear, open the lid, set it to smoke, wait for the smoke to flow for a few minutes and then set it on high for an hour. Shut it down (the fan will blow for about 10 minutes - don’t unplug it) and you are ready to cook.
My first smoke was pork ribs and after starting the grill up I placed the setting for smoke and because I somehow missed the part that read leave it on smoke for an hour or so before turning it to temp (325) after 4 hours I had really tasty ribs that were perfectly cooked but did not that deep rich smoky flavor I was used to from my offset grill. But with all new things comes a learning curve so I grabbed some steaks and chicken breasts and on they went. This time I left them to smoke for 30 minutes and then cranked the heat up to the high setting, inserted the probes into the chicken breasts and shortly thereafter was dining on perfectly grilled meat. The chicken was moist and tender, the steak nicely seared on the outside with just a hint of pink inside and a nice smoky flavor. A few more cooks of some burgers, dogs proved the grill could handle the basics so now it was time to retry the smoking. This time was a whole chicken. Due to some miscommunication between the Mrs. and I when it came time to put the chicken on it was still fully frozen, but I decided to give it a shot anyway, On the grill it went and as we drove off to do some quick chores, I left it on smoke using some cherrywood pellets. Came back 2 hours later and raised the temp to 375 and within 2 hours we had a beautiful, nicely smoked deep brown, crispy skinned chicken better than the ones we usually grab at the market.
Some things I like about the grill…the large 24lb capacity. Put a whole bag of pellets in and it will go all day. The large pellet view window lets you see how much is left in the hopper. The clean-out door, open it up and you can drain all the pellets in the grill out making it easy to change flavors. The 2 free meat probes are a plus. Meat is done perfectly without drying out or worrying of not attaining the recommended temperatures. I do wish the smoke pot was easier to clean out, but it is easy to do with a shop vac. DO line the drip pan and pail with foil as it will make it much easier to keep clean (I am going to try a silicon mat for the drip pan just to see how it work). A neat thing the company offers is called the Blind Box Special. For $399 they will send you one of their grills ranging in value from $499 to $719 and all of them come with a PID controller so for those of you who like to gamble this is a deal that can’t be beaten! Since I have received the grill I have been gone 3 out of 4 weekends and during the week it has rained more than average (thank goodness for the FREE rainproof cover which is included in the package) which has kept me from using it more often than I would like so I am really excited for the Columbus Day weekend at which time we will be giving our first brisket, kielbasa and rib smoke. Stayed tuned!
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