In early June of 2022, Z Grills kindly sent me their 200A Cruiser portable pellet grill to review for Angry BBQ. I graciously accepted and have since used it for all sorts of dishes and sides for my family.
This review is written from the perspective of someone who has never owned a pellet grill nor used one. I’ll go over my thoughts and experiences with the Cruiser, specs on its design and function, and what all you can do with it.
|Z Grills Cruiser 200A||CHECK PRICE|
|Z Grills Cruiser 200A Bundle||CHECK PRICE|
Z Grills Cruiser Discount Code
Use coupon30 for $30 off your Cruiser 200A purchase at Z Grills.
About Z Grills
Z Grills started out as a manufacturer of pellet grills for other brands before launching the Z Grills brand in 2016. They offer a range of models covering introductory, mid-sized, and large pellet grills, including the mid-sized 700D3 that Julie Harris reviewed for Angry BBQ. We recently reviewed their 450B as well.
Z Grills has recently entered the portable market with the 200A Cruiser that I reviewed.
Overview and Specifications of the Z Grills 200A Cruiser
Z Grills attacked the portable pellet grill category with gusto, packing an eight-pound pellet hopper into a grill that weighs around 40 pounds and still gives you 202 square inches of cooking space. The Cruiser is not a big family’s everyday pellet grill, but it works well for smoking smaller cuts of meat like a pork butt or chuck roasts.
You can also crank your Cruiser to high heat of around 450° Fahrenheit to grill burgers or hot dogs, perfect for a quick weeknight meal or ideal for tailgating and camping.
It was simple and fairly quick to put the Cruiser together. It took me about 15 minutes, largely by myself, to get it completely assembled. The instructions were straightforward with only one question that was easily taken care of by cross-referencing the manual (The single-page installation document didn’t specify what screws were used. The manual did.) , so make sure you have both the assembly instructions and the manual at hand.
All the tools and hardware were included which made assembly a breeze. They even included a pair of light gloves to help protect your hands while installing. The only issue I encountered was installing the side handles, and that barely slowed me down. If you use two people, you shouldn’t have any issues.
The main part of the grill is already completely assembled. All I had to do was attach the legs, the side handles, the front handle, and then unwrap the grease pan and install it.
From there, you want to follow the instructions to burn off all the manufacturing oils. The instructions are step-by-step and are easy to follow. It will take close to an hour so make sure you have time, but most of that time will be spent sitting around waiting.
Z Grills Cruiser 200A Full Specifications
|Cooking Space||202 sq in|
|Dimensions||25” L x 20” W x 13” H|
|Grill Grates||1 porcelain-coated stainless steel grate|
|Meat Probes||Spot for one, not included|
|Warranty||3 year warranty|
Z Grills Cruiser 200A Cooking and Smoking Performance
Even at its small size, the 200A Cruiser is a quality smoker whether you’re on the go or on your back porch. With its small size, it takes about five minutes for it to preheat to 225°F so you can get smoking quickly. However, the trade-off for the quick preheating time is that you can’t fit a whole lot of meat on the grill. The lid has a 6” clearance from the grill grates, so you can fit a pork butt or two if they’re on the smaller side. You would be able to comfortably fit two chuck roasts as well.
For a portable pellet grill, the eight-pound hopper ensures plenty of smoking time. It lasts around 10 hours with your smoker set to 225°F, and it holds a steady temperature with swings rarely reaching 20°. You can even set the temperature down to 180°.
The design of the Cruiser works well in terms of smoke escaping anywhere but the rear vents. You may occasionally see smoke escaping around the lid, but you can always secure the latches on the front which helps seal the lid tighter.
While the grill has a spot for a probe by the controller, it does not come with a probe. I used a probe thermometer I already had to monitor temperatures when I smoked the chuck roasts.
The edges of the grill run hotter than the center of the grates due to the large grease pan that also acts as a heat diffuser. You will want to rotate if you are cooking multiple pieces of meat so you don’t end up with a too-crispy bark.
Pellet grills aren’t renowned for their ability to deliver a fantastic sear when grilling. The 200A isn’t too different in that regard. You can still achieve grill marks on the Cruiser, though. Let your grill preheat to at least 375° (I actually set it to high) and let it preheat. It took my grill around 10 minutes to preheat from the smoke setting to 450°.
The grill is at its hottest around the edges of the grill grates due to the grease pan. You will get grill marks throughout the grill grates, but if you want extra char, rotate the meat around the edge of the grill.
You can fit up to 12 hot dogs or sausages on the grill at once which is perfect for camping or tailgating. Depending on the size of your burger patties, you can fit 6-8 on there at once. If you want seared steaks, the Cruiser probably isn’t for you, but if you’re looking for some grill marks on chicken, burgers, or hot dogs, it’ll get the job done.
Z Grills recommends covering the grease pan with aluminum foil to make clean up easier, and that is a great recommendation. However, if you’ve smoked a pork butt or something with a good amount of fat, make sure you get rid of that aluminum foil before cranking the heat up on your grill. All that grease and bits will burn up and add smoke that doesn’t improve the flavor of the meat.
|Z Grills Cruiser 200A||CHECK PRICE|
|Z Grills Cruiser 200A Bundle||CHECK PRICE|
Overall Fit and Finish
What impresses me most is that Z Grills made a sturdy portable pellet grill that actually lives up to the portable name. The powder-coated steel construction will hold up to lots of usage while the whole grill weighs around 40 pounds. The side handles make moving the Cruiser around easy.
You can put this grill in the back of the car and take it camping or tailgating without surrounding it with bubble wrap, because it will stand up to wear and tear well. I still recommend covering your grill when you aren’t using it to ensure it lasts as long as possible.
The porcelain-enameled stainless steel cooking grates are easy to clean and can be removed easily to ensure a complete clean. When you need to clean out the fire pot, all you have to remove are the grates and the grease pan. Just make sure you remove the grease cup off the back, because it hangs off the grease pan’s spout.
Z Grills made the Cruiser easy to move around and easy to clean. It’s also easy to add pellets to the hopper as well.
- Eight-pound hopper – The fact that Z Grills was able to pack an eight-pound pellet hopper into a fully-portable pellet grill is amazing. It gave me plenty of heat and smoke when smoking chuck roasts as well as generating plenty of heat for grilling.
- Latching lid – While this may at face-value seem unimportant, I found it to be a really nice addition. When I’m moving the grill, I like that I don’t have to worry about the lid shifting at all. Also, the latches keep the lid secured tight while smoking, helping cut down on any smoke escaping. No one wants that flavor going anywhere but around the meat.
I loved how easy it was to get started with the 200A Cruiser. I assembled it, executed the burn-in process, then threw down some hot dogs and aluminum foil packets of potatoes as soon as I could.
Since then, I’ve smoked:
- Chuck roasts brisket-style
- Cream cheese for appetizers and as an ingredient in mashed potatoes
- Potatoes for developing a recipe for smoked mashed potatoes (Stay tuned!)
- Par-baked pizza
I’ve also grilled burgers, hot dogs, and sausages. I love the versatility and simplicity of this grill. I’ve encountered a couple of high temperature errors but that’s been largely due to having the lid open too long with the setting to high. Otherwise, I’ve had no complaints about using this grill and my family and friends have loved the food that’s come off it.
Z Grills Cruiser 200A Warranty
Z Grills offers the same three-year limited warranty on the Cruiser that all Z Grills comes with. The warranty doesn’t apply to the paint or damage caused by corrosion. You also have a 30-day return policy if you simply don’t like it.
Would I Recommend?
What I Like About The Z Grills 200A Cruiser…
- It feels truly portable. I can move it around easily by myself. Its size is also perfect for fitting in the back of a van or car to go camping or tailgating.
- The eight-pound hopper is plenty big for a grill this size. I never feel like I don’t have enough pellets.
- It holds temperatures consistently so I don’t have to worry when smoking a chuck roast. I only have to monitor the chuck roast itself, nothing with the grill.
- It’s easy to assemble. I was able to go from sealed box to firing the grill up for the burn-in in less than half an hour.
What Makes Me Angry About The Z Grills 200A Cruiser
- I have to be aware of how small the cooking surface is at all times. The temptation to add more food can be overwhelming at points, and then the performance of the grill suffers.
- You do need to clean the grease pan and the firepot every other cook or so to ensure your fire is good and you aren’t burning up old grease.
- There isn’t an easily identifiable way to store the cord when it’s unplugged. I wrap it around the left side handle, but that can affect the handhold.
Final Verdict On The Z Grills 200A Cruiser
The Cruiser is a fantastic pellet grill that is truly portable. I can move it around by myself and it fits in the back of a vehicle easily. The latches keep the lid from opening while moving the grill and also helps seal the lid during smoking as well. I can pack the eight-pound hopper full of pellets and let the Cruiser run for hours on end without worries.
This isn’t a workhorse pellet grill for smoking large amounts of meat, but that’s okay. This is perfect for setting on top of a table and smoking some smaller cuts of meat or grilling hot dogs and cheeseburgers. I’m looking forward to throwing a pork butt on it soon to see how it will handle that.
If you are looking for a larger pellet grill for home use, you can check out Julie Harris’ review of the Z Grills 700D3 as well!