The grill is the summer equivalent of a fireplace, everyone gravitas toward it – Katie Lee
There was a time when the only wood pellet grilling name that mattered was Traeger. They soared high, and for more than twenty years they sat on the pellet grilling throne as the unchallenged kings of the backyard barbecue and outdoor cooking world.
If you wanted to join the ranks of the legions of like-minded souls who gravitated toward and stayed firmly fixed to their grills during the summer months, the only thing you needed in order to be invited to the party was a Traeger grill.
But as Bob Dylan lamented during the middle of the decade that changed the world, the times they are changing, and in the macrocosmic pellet grilling scene, those changes have been upsetting Traegers firmly established apple cart for the last decade and a half.
Where it was once easy to choose a pellet grill (all you had to do was look for the Traeger name, which wasn’t difficult as they were the ONLY firm in the world who could make them, but we’ll talk a little more about that a little later on), it’s now incredibly difficult, as the only player in the game now has to compete with a multitude of other brands who have all eagerly entered the pellet grilling fray.
Chief among these and one of Traeger’s main competitors is Rec Tec, a brand that started small and has rapidly grown thanks to its adherence to a similar guiding principle as their biggest rival, that quality will always be better than quantity.
Like Traeger, Rec Tec hasn’t set their sights on the mass consumer market, and they believe that if something is worth doing it’s worth doing well, which means that their customers, like Traegers, know that even though they are paying a premium for their product, they know that the pellet grill that they’re going to get for their money will be worth every extra cent that they’ll pay for it.
But if you have decided that you want to arm your yard with an all-singing, all-dancing pellet grill, how do you decide which brand to invest your hard-earned dollars in? Do you go down the established route and join the Traegerhood? Or do you join the ever-growing ranks of the Rec Tec army?
Trying to choose which grilling path to follow is like trying to choose which you should grill first, brisket and steak. It’s a decision that no one wants to make without a little friendly advice, and that’s why we’re here, and that’s why we decided to pit Traeger and Rec Tec in a head-to-head contest to see who comes out on top.
So that we could help you to make an informed choice about which pellet grill is right for you, a Traeger or a Rec-Tec. Having said that, let’s cut straight to the chase…
A Little Knowledge Can Go A Long Way…
Before we dive headlong into the minutia of which pellet grills are better, Traegers or RecTecs, we thought it might be wise to take a brief look at the history of both brands, to try and paint a more thorough picture of who they are and what they do.
Well, we know what they do, they make some of the best pellet grills that you’ll ever fire up, but you know what we mean. It’s all about painting a pellet grilling canvas with the broadest strokes possible…
Welcome To The Traegerhood
If it wasn’t for Traeger, wood pellet grilling wouldn’t exist. Or more accurately, it wouldn’t be on the same course as it is, as the man responsible for founding the company that shares his surname, Joe Traeger, invented and patented the pellet grill in 1986.
And because Joe knew a thing or two about the way that business worked, and thanks to him patenting his design, Traeger Grills had a twenty-year head start on their competition, and during that time they made sure that their name became synonymous with the wood pellet grill.
When 2006 finally rolled around, and his design patent for the wood pellet grill expired, Joe Traeger sold his company and went to work for the competition, after accepting a position with Dansons, a company that owned both Pit Boss and Louisiana Grills.
Even without Joe at the helm, Trager continued to innovate and refine their wood pellet grills and are still one of, if not the premium wood pellet grill brand names that every amateur backyard cook yearns to have stamped on their grill. They were the first, and Trager is still the best.
Catching Up With RecTec
The age-old proverb about mighty oaks growing from small acorns could have been written about and for Rec Tec.
Having been started by two lifelong grilling fanatics who knew that they could take the best pellet grills and make them even better, Rec Tec who rebranded as recteq in 2020 (don’t ask us why they did, we don’t know and even though we’ve asked them, they won’t tell us why they did it so we’re assuming that it’s a corporate secret that they don’t want, or are incredibly reluctant, to loathe to share for some reason best known only to themselves) set their sights on the future and began to follow in Joe Traeger’s footsteps.
Rec Tec, sorry recteq, as we’ve already said believe that quality, not quantity should be the yardstick that pellet grills are measured by, and like Traeger refuse to compromise in the design and manufacture of their product, which means that just like Traeger, their grills are reassuringly expensive, and on that note…
For A Few Dollars More
There is, for the more budget-conscious of you, very little between recteq and Traeger’s pellet grills on the price front. They are both reassuringly expensive, as they cling like glue to the rule that you get what you pay for in life. If you want the best, then you’ll have to pay a little extra in order to get it.
But in a world where every cent counts, even the smallest variation in price can make the biggest difference to your daily life, and by the time you’ve crunched all of the numbers and done the math, it becomes glaringly apparent that recteq’s grills are slightly cheaper than Traegers are.
Not by much admittedly, but enough to make it noticeable in both the short and long term, which means in the pocketbook and bank balance busting challenge, the overall winner is recteq.
Crafted With Care
There’s a noticeable difference in the materials that both brands use to make their grills, with Traeger opting to use powder-coated steel for their “budget” (although budget isn’t exactly a word that we’re comfortable using to describe a Traeger grill as they don’t build to a set price, they design and manufacture their grills and then price them later) and mid-range grills, and stainless steel for their top of the range, Timberline grills.
Recteq on the other hand uses stainless steel to make all of their grills, regardless of their price point, which makes them more heat efficient and ultimately, more durable and weather-resistant than their Traeger counterparts.
Then there’s the question about where, and how both brands’ grills are made, which could help to swing the question about which brand is made to last longer, in one company’s favor.
Both Traeger and recteq have outsourced the manufacturing of their grills to China, but while Traeger’s grills are put together in a single factory and tested on-site, the digital components that recteq uses in theirs are assembled in the US, before being fitted and tested in their Georgia based headquarters.
Again, because they use stainless steel in all of their grills, and assemble and test them here in America, we’ve got to hand the manufacturing quality battle to recteq.
A Lifetime Of Grilling
Their faith in their own grills is telling too, and that faith is demonstrated by the warranties that both companies issue to cover their products in case of manufacturing errors or design faults.
Traegers three year warranty used to be the stuff of legend in the grilling community, as up until that point no other brand had put that much faith in their smokers and grills. Then Pit Boss came along with their five-year warranty and that changed everything again, and set the gold warranty standard.
Or at least it did until recteq decided to guarantee all of their grills for six years, which was, and is as good as guaranteeing them for life in backyard barbecuing circles.
By doubling the length of the Traeger warranty, there is absolutely no doubt about who wins the crown in this particular grilling skirmish, and once again, it’s ended up sitting squarely on reteq’s brow.
Turn Up The Heat
You need heat to cook with, right? Without it, any grill is dead in the water, and can’t and won’t do what it’s supposed to, and both Traegers and recteqs grills max out at around five hundred degrees Fahrenheit.
However, recteq have a setting they use that’s called “FULL” which is supposed to go past the five hundred degree barrier, but as no one seems to know exactly how far past that barrier it does go, we’re not going to factor that into our head to head challenge, as it wouldn’t be fair or right to base any decision on hearsay and idle speculation.
What we can talk about though is the accuracy of each grill and the way that you can control the heat that they produce.
Traeger’s standard D2 digital controller allows you to control the heat in fifteen-degree increments, but recteqs more accurate PIN digital control allows you to adjust the heat that you’re grilling with in five-degree increments, which means that you’ll have more control over the temperature that cook with, which again places the grilling ball firmly in recteqs court.
All The Space You’ll Ever Need
Every griller knows that one of the most important factors in deciding which grill they’re going to add to their culinary arsenal is how many people they’re going to cook for.
The more people they need to feed, the more cooking space they’re going to need, and thankfully both Traeger and recteq make grills that are capable of cooking for an entire neighborhood.
Traeger’s largest grill has an incredibly impressive thirteen hundred square inches of cooking space, whereas recteqs biggest grill has a staggering two thousand five hundred square inches of cooking space.
Even though it’s a lot of space, and we’re impressed with the amount of room that they’ve managed to cram into the design, it does feel a little like overkill and makes us wonder when, and how you’d ever use, or even need that amount of cooking space if you’re not actually running a restaurant.
And as impressed as we are, we’re going to have given the cooking space gold medal to Traeger, because they understand the value of understatement and that sometimes less is actually more, and won’t entice your entire street to turn up to every single one of your cookouts.
Big Space Means Big Fuel
The more cooking space you have, the more hopper space you’re going to need, especially if you’ve turned the heat all the way up and you’re burning through two to three pounds of pellets every seventy-five minutes or so.
And while it might not seem like a massive deal given that you can top a hopper up while you’re grilling, if you are a fan of the easy life and like it to keep it simple by filling the hopper once and leaving the grill to do the rest, the size can be and is important.
And that’s why recteq have walked away with this prize, as their previously mentioned top of the line grill that’s imbued with two and half thousand square inches of cooking space also has a fifty-three-pound hopper, which Traeger’s top of the line model that’s fitted with a twenty-three-pound hopper just can’t compete with. It doesn’t and didn’t stand a chance in the battle of the hoppers.
It’s All About The Extras
It used to be a given that the only grills that would double up as WiFi-controlled smokers that you could use your smartphone to command were made by Traeger, they even invented and developed their own WiFire system.
Then recteq came along and did the same, and added WiFi and every other top-of-the-range extra that Traeger only included in their exclusively expensive grills, across the board.
They even included an optional cold smoker on their 700 model, which helped them to attract the attention of every smoking fanatic from sea to shining sea, and is part of the reason why they’ve romped to victory in the extras league too.
The Certainty Of Victory
Before we declare which of the two brands has ultimately managed to steal the top grilling prize, a formality that we’re sure you’ve already guessed the outcome of, we thought that it might be prudent to take a look at three of Traegers and recteq’s best selling grills, so that when the curtain finally comes down on this contest, you’ll be able to decide which of them is the perfect model to equip your yard with…
We thought we’d start within the smallest first and work our way to the top of the range of gargantuan beats that each brand offers…
Traeger Pro Series 575 – As its name implies, the Pro Series has five hundred and seventy-five square inches of cooking space, comes equipped with an eighteen-pound hopper, and Traegers trademark six in one versatility. What’s six in one you ask? Well, six in one means that the Pro Series can also be used to smoke, roast, bake and barbecue anything that you want to cook in it.
It’s also WiFi-enabled and can be controlled via voice command if you decide to add Alexa to the mix, which gives you a little more freedom to do what you want to while the Pro Series does all the grilling for you.
Recteq RT-590 – And then there’s the smallest grill that recteq makes which has five hundred and ninety square inches of cooking space, which can be increased to seven hundred and seventy-two with the addition of an optional extra shelf, is also WiFi-enabled and is equipped with a thirty-pound hopper.
And before you ask, yes it does come with the six-year warranty, and yes it won’t inflict quite as much economic damage on your bank balance as the Pro Series will.
The Middle Ground Option
Traeger Grills Ironwood 885 Wood Pellet Grill and Smoker – Moving up in the world, the next best thing to the top of the line Timberline series that Traeger makes is their Ironwood series. The 885 has, surprisingly (or not as the big reveal is in the name) eight hundred and eighty-five square inches of cooking space and uses a twenty-pound hopper to deliver its wood pellet fuel to the firebox.
It is fully WiFire controlled and can grill and smoke continuously for nearly twenty hours before the hopper needs to be refilled, and when it does need to be topped up, the Traeger app that you’ll use to control the temperature of the grill will tell you that it’s running low. And all you need to do is fill it up, and the 885 will carry on grilling and smoking.
Recteq RT-700 – Honestly, it feels like anything that Traeger does, recteq tries to do better, but they might have stumbled at the final hurdle with the RT-700, as even though it’s fully WiFi-enabled and has a forty-pound hopper which means that it can grill and smoke for nearly thirty-six hours without having to be refilled, it only has seven and hundred and two square inches of cooking space.
However, if you do decide to include the optional second cooking shelf if you choose an RT-700, that can and will increase the total amount of cooking space that this model has to over one thousand square inches.
And if the mood takes you, you can also add an optional cold smoking box, which will help you to increase your smoking skills and all-around culinary abilities.
Breaking Out The Big Guns
Traeger Timberline 1300 – The biggest grilling gun in Traeger’s armory is the frankly astonishing Timberline 1300, which has a twenty three-pound hopper, easy to use digital temperature controls, which can be used either manually or via the magic of the internet and your smartphone thanks to WiFire, and just over thirteen hundred square inches of total cooking space.
Grilling flat out at five hundred degrees Fahrenheit it’ll cook for nearly twenty hours before its hopper needs to be refilled, and when it does need more fuel, it’ll ping you and let you know.
If we attempted to list all of the extras, we’d all be here all day, so suffice it to say, you get an awful lot of Traeger grilling power for the rather steep asking price.
Recteq RT-2500 – The 2500 is a monstrously powerful grill that combines its two and half thousand square inches of total cooking space with a fifty-three-pound hopper and easy-to-use WiFi controls with a jaw-dropping list of included, and not optional, extras.
True, you’ll have to sell a kidney on the black market to be able to afford it, but as you’ve got two kidneys you won’t miss one and the RT-2500 is worth the price of an organ and then some.
And just imagine what your neighbors will say when they turn up for a barbecue and you roll this behemoth out and fire it up. It’ll make all the black market pain worth it.
To The Victor Go The Spoils…
There can only be one winner and much as we love Traeger and all of their ingenuity and inventiveness, even we’re forced to admit that in the pellet grilling world, recteq comes out on top.