Grilling takes the formality out of entertainment. Everyone wants to get involved – Bobby Flay
We weren’t, as the popular meme that keeps popping up on our social media feeds so stringently reminds us, born to just pay bills and die.
Life and all of the wonderful memories and moments that fill the gaps between the ticks of a clock and stitch the seconds together are meant to be savored and enjoyed.
Those moments are meant to be spent with your nearest and dearest, reveling in their company, rejoicing in tall tales and innocuous conversation.
And we learned a long time ago that there’s no better way to do that, than when you’re gathered around a grill, watching the world pass by while lost in the pleasures of good food and even better company.
It’s probably the reason why we take grilling so seriously, and why we’ve devoted as much time to attempting to conquer all of its disciplines as we have.
We live for the time that we get to spend with our families and our friends, and grilling is the glue that holds those gatherings together.
But without the right grill, even the most gifted cooks would be stranded in barbecuing purgatory and left struggling to try and tie all of the loose grilling ends together.
Being old school grillers, we always swore by charcoal grills, as the rich, heavy smoke that charcoal created imbued whatever we were cooking with all sorts of delicious dense flavors, which made it our favorite way to grill.
Then we discovered wood pellet grills and smoking, and swore our allegiance to the premier manufacturer of pellet grills and the leaders of the grilling pack, Traeger.
And we’d still be fully paid up members of the Traeger way of doing things if Z Grills hadn’t gone and thrown a pellet sized wrench in our barbecuing works.
Who Are Z Grills?
They may well be relative newcomers to the pellet grilling scene, but they’re certainly no strangers to the world of grilling.
With over thirty years of experience in their chosen field Z Grills are no slouches as far as grilling expertise is concerned, and in the last five years they dedicated all of their knowledge and everything that they learned to the singular pursuit of pellet grilling excellence.
It was a gamble that, luckily for them and thanks to the gods of grilling, soon began to pay off and Traeger found themselves having to fend off the newcomers by continually upping their pellet based game.
But whatever they did, Z Grills had an answer for, which is what brought to our attention and ultimately led to us acknowledging the fact that maybe it was time for us to try cooking the Z Grills way.
So we took the plunge. In the interests of fairness, we thought that the only way that we could get an accurate picture of what it was actually like to cook with Z Grills wood pellet grills, was to follow the herd and try out their most popular grill, the one that put them on the pellet grilling map, the 700D.
It may not be the newest or the latest model that they make, but the 700D is still one of Z Grill’s best-selling wood pellet monsters and is still the popular choice among backyard barbecuers and grillers across the country.
There had to be a reason for its appeal, and we decided that it was time we discovered what it was.
And after spending an afternoon with this wonderful smoking and grilling leviathan, we were almost ready to completely forsake Traeger and sign on the Z Grills dotted line.
Z Grills’s rapid rise to pellet fame and fortune wasn’t and isn’t just due to the retro charm and timeless good looks of the 700D.
And while we’re sure that the eight in one versatility, which we’ll talk about in more depth a little later on, that all of their grills are imbued with also accounts for the slavish devotion of their faithful fans, we’re convinced that the main reason why Z Grills found their niche as quickly as they did was due to the affordability of their grills.
There’s no escaping the fact that the Z Grills 700D is much more in tune with the average American family’s budget than the equivalent Traeger or Pit Boss models are. But the price is immaterial if the grill can’t do what it’s been designed to do, and, well, grill.
We’ve already mentioned the famous eight in one versatility that Z Grills fashions all of their grills with, and while we didn’t get the chance to find out if we could actually bake, braise, roast, char-grill, smoke, barbecue, and grill with it, we did spend an afternoon putting it through its paces, and were mightily impressed with, and by the 700D.
Smoking Up A Storm
The 700D has a twenty-pound hopper which the auger pulls the wood pellets from to feed them directly into the firebox, which then sets them ablaze and uses the pellets the create the heat and smoke that the grill needs to cook and flavor whatever it is you’ve placed on racks inside the main chamber.
As we’ve already said, we’re purists and like to do things the traditional way, so we just loaded the 700D’s incredibly impressive six hundred and ninety square inches (we elected to use all of the combined space that main cooking and the warming rack offered), set the temperature, turned the 700D on and let it take charge of the grilling process.
Okay, so we had to occasionally flip the burgers and steaks that we were cooking but apart from our minimal intervention, the 700D took command of the cook and kept the heat coming and the smoke flowing.
By the time it had finished, we were left with perfectly grilled, great-tasting barbecue that we’d be more than happy to feed to anyone who attended one of our backyard barbecues.
We were more than a little bowled over by the hopper, which after being filled to just under capacity and after we’d finished grilling, looked like it had more than enough pellets left for another couple of cooks, or whatever else we wanted to use the 700D to do.
Honestly, we were tempted to reload the racks and fire it up again and if time hadn’t gotten away from us and our appetites hadn’t been fully satiated we probably would have carried on grilling well into the small hours of the morning with the 700D.
All we had to do was load the hopper, fill the racks, set the temperature and time and press go and we were on our way to grilling heaven.
The simplicity and ease of the 700D make it an incredibly inviting prospect and it isn’t difficult to see why Z Grills have been snapping at the Traeger’s heels.
And Now For Bad News
At first glance, the added storage compartment that you can use to house all of your grilling equipment and the rugged steel construction of the 700D will make your heart pound a little quicker with excitement.
It feels like it’s been built to weather any storm and to make your life a little bit easier. And it almost certainly has, but that all-steel construction also makes it incredibly heavy.
The 700D weighs in at almost one hundred and fifteen pounds before you add any additional weight by filling the hopper. That means that it isn’t exactly portable, even though it’s mounted on wheels.
So when you roll into place in your yard, it’ll probably end up living in the same spot until its grilling days come to an end.
Then there’s the cleaning issue. The 700D doesn’t have a built-in ash disposal, so after every couple of cooks, you’re going to have to get stuck in and clean it by hand.
It isn’t difficult to do, but it is an inconvenience that everyone could happily live without and a factor that Z Grills should maybe have taken into consideration when they designed the 700D.
Which brings us to the final grilling elephant in the room. We’re old-school grillers and while we like to do everything by hand, it would have been nice to have had a WiFi or Bluetooth option, but neither is available with the 700D.
So whether you prefer to grill by hand or you don’t, if you do cook the Z Grills way, you won’t have any choice in the matter. You either learn to grill the old-fashioned way, or you don’t grill at all.
The Final Verdict
At the end of the day, despite our reservations, we had a blast grilling with the 700D.
It was everything that we hoped it would be, and even though it isn’t engineered with the same all singing and all dancing grilling bells and whistles that a lot of its competition has, that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it means that you’ll have to learn to grill without your smartphone, and it might just encourage you to go offline and spend some quality time with the people that matter the most to you.
We may not be ready to completely abandon Traeger, but we’ll certainly be using the 700D to cook the Z Grills way again.