The Z Grills Mini (200A) is a great unit for apartments, camping, caravans and 4WD trips. Its compact design makes it portable, but still big enough to cook up a feast for a whole family.
The Mini delivers the same great cooking results as the larger Z Grills smokers. It’s a very competent smoker for low and slow favourites, and at higher temperatures is perfect for doing a traditional style Aussie BBQ.
Mini Smoker Grill Overview
- Compact design, ideal for apartments, or outdoor adventures.
- Versatile cooking from low temp smoking up to high temperature BBQ.
- 3.6kg wood pellet hopper capacity for 10+ hours of low temperature cooking.
- Heavy duty, quality components.
- Silicon nitride ignition rod for fast startup up and reliability.
- PID controller for automatic temperature control.
- Fast heat up time (Only 10 minutes to >200ºC).
- Food probe for monitoring food internal temperatures.
- Adjustable height feet to ensure level operation even on a rough picnic table.
Dimensions & Weight
- 61.5 cm wide x 50.5 cm deep x 37.5 cm tall (with side handles on)
- 20kg with no pellets in hopper. Pellets will add up to 3.6kg
The side handles may be removed to reduce the width for packing in a car or caravan. The grill will be hot after use, so without handles, wear heat proof gloves or wait until cool before moving.
Electricity & Battery Usage
The Mini uses 240V AC power supply (not DC). At initial startup it will draw up to 450W for a few seconds, it then drops to around 250W for the next 4-5 minutes, then down to 25 to 50W during normal operation to run the controller, fan and auger motor.
The Mini can be run off a battery pack with at least 500W peak output and 500Wh or more capacity (for long cooks). For a quick BBQ, then a smaller capacity (Wh) battery will suffice.
The Bluetti portable power station shown in the photo below works great running the Mini.
Wood Pellet Hopper
The Mini hopper can hold up to 3.6kg of wood pellets, enough for 10+ hours of low temperature cooking or 4 to 5 high temp cooks.
It is not advisable to fill the hopper right up each cook, instead just add enough for each cook.
Pellets may sometimes not feed evenly into the auger entry leading to a cavity forming at the entry of the auger, particularly as the pellets get low. This is more common with longer pellets.
It is advisable to check the pellets every few hours during low temperature long cooks, and more frequently at higher temperatures when pellets are used faster.
How fast are pellets used?
- Low temperature operation = 0.2 to 0.3kg/hour (0.5 to 0.7lbs)
- High temperature operation = 0.6 to 1kg/hour (1.3 to 2.2lbs)
It is best to store wood pellets in a bucket/container with well sealed lid and just added some before each cook.
Click here to learn more about wood pellets
Burning out all the pellets is recommended if not planning to use the grill for several weeks or longer, especially in humid climates.
Click here to jump to the cleaning section to learn how.
The grill rack is 40 cm deep x 32 cm wide.
The ceramic coating is easier to clean than stainless steel. Click here for cleaning information.
The Aussie version of the grill rack features “snag roll bars”.
This roll bar design was implemented after Matt lost a couple of snags off the side during some careless tong action. Home-brew beer may or may not have been a factor, but this addition certainly will save many a snag from ending up on the grass.
They also work great as handles to lift the grill rack out.
The combined heat baffle and grease tray sits above the fire pot and should be used when cooking on the grill rack. Gaps along the sides allow the hot air flow from below to rise up into the cooking area.
The underside of the grease tray has a thick metal place which sits over the fire-pot to dissipate the heat more evenly throughout the grill and avoid a hot spot in the centre.
To make cleaning easy the grease tray can be lined with foil. It is important that the foil is wrapped tight at the edges though, as the gap around the edges of the grease tray must be clear to allow hot air to rise up.
The grease tray can be removed when using the Mini BBQ hotplate for highest temperatures.
The tray is sloped to the rear of the grill with a spout out the back that a grease bucket hangs off to collect any grease. A jar or paper cup can be placed in the bucket for easier cleaning, or even lined with some foil.
How it works
The Z Grills Mini smoker works in the same way as its larger siblings the 450A, 7002B and 700E-XL smokers.
The controller monitors the temperature in the grill and intermittently operates the auger motor, rotating the spiral auger shaft to push pellets from the hopper into the fire-pot.
The wood pellets are lit by the ignition rod and a fire is then automatically maintained.
A fan underneath the hopper blows air through a number of holes in the fire-pot, feeding the fire with oxygen. After circulating around the grilling area, the hot air and smoke exits out through the vents in the back of the lid.
Due to the Mini’s small size so it only needs a very small fire to reach and maintain the target temperature. A 10kg bag of wood pellets can provide well over 40 hours of low temperature cooking.
How to Use
The Z Grills Mini uses a digital PID controller to manage the operation of the grill.
Changing the Temperature
Setting the target temperature is as easy as turning the dial to the desired setting. The grill will adjust the wood pellet delivery to gradually reach and maintain the target.
The backlit screen displays both the current grill temperature (GRILL) and food probe (P TEMP), if plugged in.
The temperature dial has each target temperature with both ºC and ºF increments for convenience if working to Fahrenheit.
Two small dots will flash on the display during startup and will stop once the grill temperature increases enough to confirm that the fire has been established.
- OFF: Controller must be set to OFF when plugging the power in otherwise ER2 error will be displayed. Turning to OFF after operating the grill will run the fan for 10 minutes to let the fire burn down. Only turn off power supply or unplug the grill once the fan turns off.
- SMOKE: Turn to this setting to fire-up the grill. Smoke setting also provides the maximum amount of smoke with a temperature of 70 to 90ºC (160 to 195ºF) depending on the outside temperature.
- 82ºC will provide the most stable lowest temperature (more-so than SMOKE). In hot weather the smallest fire the grill can maintain may still heat the grill to above this temperature, even up to around 95 to 100ºC (203 to 212ºF)
- 107 and 121ºC are the most commonly used temperatures for low and slow cooking and will still provide some smoke.
- 135 to 232ºC will provide very little smoke as a strong fire is constantly burning. Pellets ignite almost immediately once dropped into the fire-pot with minimal time to smoulder and release smoke.
Priming the grill with pellets
The first time the grill is used, and after each time the pellets totally run out, the grill needs to be primed with pellets. Priming means feeding pellets from the hopper through the auger tube into the fire-pot.
Follow the instructions below to prime the grill with pellets:
- If the grill has previously been used, vacuum out the hopper and fire-pot.
- Pour fresh, dry pellets into the hopper. The hopper does not need to be filled right up, just add enough for each cook.
- With the grill lid open, turn the controller from OFF to SMOKE. The auger motor will intermittently run to feed pellets from the hopper through the auger tube into the fire-pot.
- After around 5 minutes (depending the length of the pellets) pellets will begin to drop into the fire-pot.
- As soon as pellets begin to drop into the fire-pot, turn the controller dial to OFF then immediately back to SMOKE which will turn the ignition rod back on again.
- If LER (low temperature error) appears on the display, just turn the dial back to OFF and then SMOKE again.
Startup the grill
Open grill lid
- It is important to open the lid to allow fresh air to circulate during the start up process.
Check pellet level
- Make sure there are enough wood pellets in the hopper. Click here to learn more.
- If the grill has not been used for a long time check to ensure the wood pellets are loose, dry and shiny. If any signs of moist pellets remove them all, run the grill empty and use fresh, dry pellets.
- Always check to make sure the fire-pot does not have too much ash accumulated.
- It is best to vacuum out before each cook.
Plug in and turn controller to SMOKE
- Turn the dial to SMOKE to begin the startup cycle.
- Pellets will intermittently drop, the fan will run and the ignition rod will get red hot to light the fire.
- If smoke is not released within 3-4 minutes, remove the grease tray and check the fire-pot.
Smoke and fire
- Wait to see a cloud of smoke to been released and then hear the roaring sound of the fire.
- Close the grill lid and set controller to the target temperature.
Wait for heat-up
- Wait for the grill to reach the target temperature before placing in food.
- It is normal for the temperature to rise above the target before settling back down.
Keep the lid shut!
- As the saying goes, “If you keep looking, you’re not cooking“, so keep the lid shut!
- Use the food probe to monitor the temperature rather than opening the lid too often.
- The temperature will drop each time the lid is opened and may spike back up above the target if the lid is opened for too long as lots of pellets will have been delivered into the fire-pot.
Once the grill has successfully started up and exceeded 60ºC the controller will turn off the ignition rod and commence normal operating mode.
The operating logic is basically as follows:
- If LOWER than the target temperature, deliver more pellets into the fire-pot
- If HIGHER than the target temperature, deliver less pellets into the fire-pot
Each time pellets are delivered into the fire-pot (roughly once every 60 to 90 seconds) and begin to burn, heat is released resulting in small temperature swings around the target, which is normal.
Shutdown the grill
The grill needs to ensure the fire is totally burnt out by running the fan for 10 minutes before turning itself off.
Always follow the correct process outlined below when shutting down the the grill.
Temperature above 160ºC
- If the grill is currently above 160ºC, turn the grill down to Smoke for 10 minutes to allow the fire to die down, then turn the controller dial to OFF.
- The fan will run for about 10 minutes then turn itself off.
- Always wait for the fan to turn off before unplugging the grill from power.
Temperature below 160ºC
- If the grill is currently below 160ºC, turn the controller dial to OFF.
- The fan will run for about 10 minutes then turn itself off.
- Always wait for the fan to turn off before unplugging the grill from power.
Power cut mid cook?
If during a cook the grill is accidentally turned off or power is cut, it needs to be turned back on to allow the fire to safely burn out.
Power off for less than 30 seconds
- If the power is off for less than 30 seconds the fire is most likely still burning.
- Leave the grill lid shut and turn the controller OFF then directly back to the target temperature.
- The startup cycle will run again, so if the target temperature is low (<121ºC) the temperature may spike back up above before settling back down.
Power off for longer than 30 seconds
- If the power is off for longer than 30 seconds, the lack of air flow from the fan may have resulted in the fire going out.
- It is important to OPEN THE GRILL LID to allow good air flow during the grill firing back up again.
- Turn the grill OFF then back to SMOKE.
- As soon as a confirmed the fire is established (after cloud of smoke) shut the grill lid and turn back to the target temperature.
Power can’t be provided
- If power can’t be provided within a couple of minutes, extra care must be taken when turning the grill back on, as burn back resulting in a smoky hopper can occur. This is more likely if the grill was operating at a high temperature with big fire when the power was cut.
- Follow the procedure outlined above for the “longer than 30 seconds” but also open the hopper lid and check to see if any smoke appears.
- If the grill fires up as normal and no smoke appears from the hopper, continue with the cook as normal.
- If any smoke appears from the hopper, scoop out as may pellets as possible (removing the top of the hopper if required) and then run the grill until empty. Once the fire is out and the grill has cooled down, vacuum out the hopper and fire-pot and then prime with fresh pellets.
The Z Grills MINI has a small footprint and so only requires a small fire to reach and maintain temperatures. The controller’s PID software has been refined to maintain the most stable temperatures possible, but like any pellet smoker, temperature swings around the target are normal.
In hot weather the grill may not be able to maintain temperatures below 100ºC (on SMOKE or 82ºC setting) as even the smallest fire still provides lots of heat.
Stable temperature tips
To maintain the most stable temperatures, follows these tips:
- Avoid opening the lid too much (can result in temperature spikes once lid is shut again).
- Keep the grill out of direct cold wind, as it can impact the temperature regulation.
- Keep the grill out of direct sunlight (if exceeding the target temperature).
Click here to learn more about how the controller works to manage the temperature.
Changing from HIGH to LOW temperatures
If the grill has been operating at a high temperature and is then set to a lower target, the grill will take a long time to cool down as fire in the fire-pot will keep producing heat.
The temperature will drop much slower in hot weather.
To drop the temperature more quickly:
- Open the lid to release heat until the controller displayed temperature drops close to the new, lower target, then shut the lid and continue cooking.
- Do not keep the lid open too long as if the temperature drops below the new target then too many pellets will be delivered causing a temperature spike.
Temperature spikes up to 120ºC are common in the first 10 to 15 minutes after startup even when set to a lower target due to the large amount of pellets delivered into the fire-pot.
- Open the lid for a minute to release some heat, or just wait for the temperature to gradually come back down, which may take 5 to 10 minutes.
- Next time, leave the lid open a bit longer after the initial cloud of smoke clears to release some more heat.
- The grill will gradually settle at the desired target but small swings of +/- 5ºC are normal. Because the heat is indirect this temperature cycling will not adversely effect the cooking of food. At higher temperature larger swings are common, especially in windy weather.
Temperature display vs grill rack
The temperature on the LCD display may differ by +/- 10 to 15ºC from the grill rack temperatures, especially during the heating up phase. This is normal. Relax!
A number of factors can contribute to the temperature not being a stable as normal. Click here to help troubleshoot temperature issues.
Keeping the Z Grills Mini smoker clean is very easy.
Grease Tray & Bucket
- Remove foil from the grease tray and wipe off any surface grease.
- Dispose of any grease in the grease bucket and wash clean with warm soapy water. For easy clean up, line the bucket with foil.
- Use a Koala Claw wood scraper or other gentle material to scrape off any large chunks.
- Do NOT use a stainless steel wire brush as it can damage the ceramic coating.
- Wash in hot soapy water or just wipe down with a moist cloth or BBQ cleaning wipes.
- Do NOT use acidic or strong chemical cleaners as they may damage the grill rack ceramic coating.
- Ash accumulates in the fire-pot and surrounding area and needs to be vacuumed out after each long cook or every 3-4kg of wood pellets usage.
- Only vacuum out ash when the grill is cold, switched OFF and unplugged.
- Some wood pellets produce lots of ash so may need to be cleaned after every cook.
- If any grease has dribbled down into the fire-pot area, clean with BBQ cleaning wipes.
- Once every 50+ hours of use, clean off any soot around the air vents on the rear of the lid with an old toothbrush and wipe clean with BBQ wipes.
- If wood pellets sit for a long time (weeks) in the hopper they can become moist. This is especially the case in humid climates. Click here to learn more about wood pellets.
- So if not planning to use the grill for more than a few weeks (especially in humid climates) it is a good idea to run the grill empty of pellets.
- Scoop out pellets until you reach the protective guard.
- The top of the hopper (with guard) can be lifted off to access the bottom of the hopper. Just remove the two screws that hold the top section in place. Alternatively just tilt the grill forward to pour them out.
- Scoop out most of the pellets, then run the grill until they are all burnt out and the temperature drops (fire is out).
- Turn the grill to OFF.
- If the controller display shows LER, just turn to OFF and unplug from power.
- Once cooled down, vacuum out the hopper entry and fire-pot.
- Before the grill is next used it will need to be primed with pellets. Click here to learn how.
- Wipe down the inside and outside of the grill with BBQ cleaning wipes, or warm soapy water and moist (not too wet) cloth.
- Cover the grill with a protective cover when not in use if stored outdoors. The grill must not be exposed to rain.
- Gently clean the temperature sensor inside the grill with wire-wool to ensure accurate temperature readings.
Food Temperature Probe
- Food probes must be scrubbed thoroughly after each use with hot soapy water to avoid food contamination.
- Do not immerse the entire probe or cable in water.
- Avoid twisting or kinking the cable as it may be damaged.
Click here for more information on cleaning your Z Grills smoker.
If there is a problem with the operation of the grill an error will be shown on the controller display and the grill with turn off.
LER: Low temperature error (click here to learn more)
HER: High temperature error (click here to learn more)
ER1: Temperature sensor signal error (click here to learn more)
ER2: Controller system error
- This will occur if the power is plugged in when the grill is already turned to a temperature setting.
- If happening mid cook, there may be a problem with the power supply or the controller.
- Click here or the image below to open larger view of the troubleshooting guide
Mini BBQ Hotplate
The optional BBQ hotplate is 350 x 280mm is made from heavy duty pre-seasoned cast iron.
The plate has been specifically designed for the Z Grills Mini smoker with gaps down all four sides to allow the hot air from the fire to rise up into the grill area and out the rear exhaust vents.
The double sided design is smooth one side, ridged the other, perfect for doing some rissoles, steaks or onion rings.
How to use the BBQ hotplate
- Remove the grill rack and grease tray.
- Sit the hot plate directly over the fire-pot, either smooth or ridged side up.
- Don’t put a side of the bbq plate that is very greasy over the fire as it can result in a grease fire. If it is greasy, first remove any excess with a paper towel, or wash with hot soapy water.
- Cast iron takes times to heat up, so place in the grill as early as possible, not just before placing on food.
- The grill will loose heat rapidly with the lid open, so if you need to flip food, do it fast and close the lid. Remember, If you keep looking, you’re not cooking!
- Never pour cold liquid onto a hot cast iron plate as it can crack due to rapid cooling.
- Avoid spilling food and oil over the edges of the hotplate down into the fire-pot area as it will mix with ash and be a mess to clean up and could lead to a dangerous grease fire.
- If any food or grease spills down into the fire-pot box, wait until the grill has cooled down and wipe up with paper towel or BBQ cleaning wipes.
- Clean the hotplate with hot soapy water. Use a plastic brush (never metal) to scrub if required. Dry thoroughly and lightly oil before storing.
- If the hotplate shows signs of rust, rub back and season again the same as any cast iron cookware. There are many tutorial videos online with step by step instructions.
To protect the grill from rain and dust when not in use, grab a waterproof cover.
The cover is easy to put on and stays in place thanks to heavy duty elastic around the bottom.
Click here to download the latest version of the Z Grills Mini owner manual.