Can't decide between REC TEC and Traeger grills? We compared them for you.
Last updated: September 29, 2020
Can't decide between REC TEC and Traeger grills? We compared them for you.
59Hours of Research
Having the best pellet grill can make a huge difference in the quality of your cooking. Conditions have to be just right – the right temperature and the right flame intensity – to get the perfect searing lines that every griller dreams of. On top of that, you want a grill that’s built to last, offers enough space to cook for a full barbeque, and is easy to use and clean so that you’re excited to put it to work.
Rec Tec and Traeger are two of the biggest names in grilling, and their models provide all of that and more. So, how do you choose between Rec Tec vs Traeger grills? Both companies offer extremely high-quality pellet grills and smokers that are held in high regard within the grilling community. In this article, we’ll compare the two brands head to head and take a closer look at how some of their popular wood pellet grills and smokers stack up.
Traeger is one of the most well-established grill brands on the market. Founded in 1985, the company was the first to use wood pellets for grilling. But, the original pellet grill has come a long way at the company, and some grill models are now so modern that they even include WiFi! Traeger is generally beloved by its users, although the company has had its fair share of issues in the customer service department. It’s not uncommon to hear that it can take weeks to get a replacement part in the event that something breaks.
Rec Tec is a newer brand that took to making pellet grills in 2009, after Traeger’s original patent expired. The company focused on two things to differentiate itself: ensuring that you can get extremely accurate cooking temperatures and building grills with heavy-duty stainless steel that won’t rust over time. Since Rec Tec is a much smaller company than Traeger, it’s no surprise that customers consistently praise the grillmaker’s personal touches and customer support.
One of the biggest differences to consider when choosing between Rec Tec and Traeger is the temperature control system that each company uses. Rec Tec has developed SmartGrill technology, which allows you to adjust the temperature of your grill precisely by as little as 5ºF at a time. You can also get the temperature below 200ºF for smoking on the “Lo” setting or above 500ºF for charring on the “Hi” setting.
Traeger’s grills are good, but they’re no match for that range. They typically have a minimum temperature of 200ºF and a maximum temperature of 450ºF. You’re also limited to adjusting the temperature in 15ºF increments, although this is unlikely to be a problem for most foods.
Construction quality is also important to consider. Rec Tec prides itself on using thicker stainless steel than most other manufacturers, which allows its grills to last for your entire lifetime without rusting. They’re still stainless steel, so they will oxidize over time, but the process takes decades instead of years.
Traeger grills are certainly high-quality themselves, though. The company uses a variety of specialized coatings on its steel surfaces to prevent acidity and grease from corroding the material. If you keep up with cleaning your grill after use, most users report that these grills will work for decades as well.
Another major difference to watch out for when comparing Rec Tec and Traeger grills is the warranty policy. Rec Tec offers an extremely long warranty – up to six years – for its flagship grill, the RT-700. But, that policy drops to just two years on some of its more affordable models. Traeger’s warranty is three years across all of its models.
Of course, cost matters in comparing these brands, too. Traeger grills are generally several hundred dollars cheaper than competing models from Rec Tec. That’s not too surprising, since Traeger is a larger company with well-established production lines. Importantly, Traeger manufacturers the majority of its grills in China, while Rec Tec manufacturing is based primarily in the US. Thankfully, this seems to be an area where Chinese manufacturing offers nearly the same level of quality as American-made grills.
Rec Tec vs Traeger: Comparing popular models
The best way to understand how Rec Tec and Traeger compare is to look at some of the most popular grills that each company makes. We’ll compare three pairs of competing models head to head to highlight how they’re similar and different.
REC TEC Grills RT-700 vs Traeger Grills Ironwood Series 650
The RT-700 is Rec Tec’s flagship grill, while the Traeger Ironwood Series 650 is a medium-sized grill in that brand’s lineup. Both grills are extremely large. The RT-700 offers fully 700 square inches of cooking area, and you can add another 350 square inches for your largest backyard get-togethers. The Ironwood 650 offers 650 square inches of cooking space, although you can’t expand it.
For grilling, there’s a lot to like about the Rec Tec grill. It has a higher cooking temperature, up to 500ºF. The SmartGrill technology allows you to precisely control the temperature in increments of just 5ºF. It also has a light built into the grill, so you can actually see what you’re cooking after dusk.
But for smoking, the two grills compete more closely. The Traeger has a side pellet hopper so you can shunt smoke towards your meats without creating too much heat. The Rec Tec grill still requires you to fill the bed with pellets, but it makes smoking possible by offering temperatures below 200ºF. Users seem to think this works well, but it’s not quite the traditional smoking process.
Both grills have a drip tray that covers the entire area underneath the cooking grates, which makes cleanup relatively easy compared to other grills. All of your drippings are funneled into a bucket that hangs on the side of the grill. You don’t have to worry about dealing with a mess of grease at the bottom of your grill.
Another nice thing that each of these grills offer is a cool-down mode. On the Rec Tec model, this is activated with the push of a button, while on the Traeger model it’s activated by turning the temperature dial. This essentially stops the grill from feeding wood pellets into the firepot and allows the firepot to burn itself out so you’re not left with clogging issues.
One of the interesting things that both of these grills offer is WiFi connectivity. You can monitor your grill from your smartphone over your home’s wireless network and even change the temperature remotely. Although this is far from necessary, it’s a fun feature to have.
Of course, it’s important to consider the difference in price, too. The Rec Tec grill costs about $400 more than the Traeger grill. But, considering you’re getting more cooking space and a warranty that’s twice as long, that’s a pretty good value.
REC TEC Grills RT-590 vs Traeger Grills Pro Series 22
The Rec Tec RT-590 and Traeger Pro Series 22 are both mid-sized grill and smoker combinations. The cooking area is roughly the same, at 570–590 square inches. But, the Rec Tec model has an extendable area that adds an additional 180 square inches of cooking space.
The RT-590 returns to the traditional pellet hopper design for smoking, and in that sense, it’s built very similarly to the Pro Series 22. One big difference is that the Rec Tec grill comes with stainless steel cooking grates, while the Traeger grill comes with a porcelain grate. If you’re looking to get perfect searing lines, there’s simply no substitute for a porcelain grate.
That said, the Rec Tec grill has an important advantage when it comes to temperature. It can not only reach temperatures above 500ºF, but it comes with SmartGrill technology. That allows you to adjust the temperature in 5ºF increments, while the Traeger grill moves in 15ºF increments. For smoking, the Rec Tec grill is able to remain under 200ºF, which is almost a low enough temperature to try out cold smoking your meats.
While not critical, only the Rec Tec grill is equipped with WiFi control. If you want to change the temperature on the Traeger grill, your only option is to adjust the dial on the hopper. It’s worth noting that the Rec Tec grill also has a slightly larger screen and offers more information than just temperature. For example, it tells you how much time you have left until you need to add more pellets.
Still, it can be hard to justify the extra cost of the Rec Tec RT-590 compared to the Traeger Pro Series 22. The Rec Tec model is around $550 more expensive, and the warranty is only one year longer. While there are certainly advantages to going with Rec Tec when it comes to customer service, these grills are so similar in specifications that you’re paying a lot more with Rec Tec for essentially the same grill.
The Rec Tec RT-340 and Traeger Tailgater are smaller grills optimized for portability. Both grills have a pair of wheels that allow you to roll them along the ground. But, beware that the wheels on both models are pretty small. You won’t be doing any off-roading with your grill in tow.
The reason for the wheels being small, though, is that the legs on each grill can fold up into the body. That allows these grills to pack down to a small enough size that they will each fit in the back of most standard vehicles. The Rec Tec is slightly larger, so keep that in mind if you have a small car or usually fill your trunk to the brim.
If you are concerned about portability, it’s also important to consider the difference in weights between these two grills. The RT-340 is 18 pounds heavier, which might mean the difference between one person being able to carry it a short distance and needing a second person.
That said, you do get some significant advantages for that extra weight. The cooking area is 40 square inches larger on the Rec Tec grill. Plus, the hopper holds 20 pounds of pellets instead of just eight. That’s a big difference if you want to use the grill for hours of tailgating as opposed to just quickly cooking burgers, since you’ll need to refill the Traeger’s hopper every 30 minutes or so.
The temperature controls on these grills are the same as for Rec Tec’s and Traeger’s larger models, and both supporting smoking as well as grilling. But, once again, Traeger includes an upgrade to porcelain grates whereas Rec Tec leaves you with stainless steel grates.
However, if you’re excited about remotely controlling your grill via WiFi, only the Rec Tec model offers that feature. Keep in mind, though, that you need a WiFi network to connect over – so you probably won’t be able to use this feature while tailgating or camping with your grill.
Another important thing to note is that Traeger actually offers a longer warranty than Rec Tec for its Tailgater grill. Rec Tec only covers the RT-340 for two years, which is surprising considering that it uses the same grilling technology and is made of the same heavy-duty stainless steel as all the company’s larger grills. It’s not clear why the company doesn’t stand behind this grill to the same extent, although users have only rarely reported issues.
Traeger and Rec Tec are two of the most popular brands among grillers, and for good reason. Both companies produce high-quality pellet grills that are versatile enough to smoke, broil, and char your food. The grills are easy to use, and all Rec Tec and a number of Traeger models offer WiFi connectivity for simple remote control.
When it comes to choosing between Rec Tec vs. Traeger, there are a couple things to think about. Rec Tec generally offers better customer service, longer warranties (on most models), and larger cooking areas. Importantly, Rec Tec grills also come with SmartGrill technology, which gives you more control over your cooking temperature. But, Traeger grills are more affordable and no less reliable.
So, you really can’t go wrong with either of these popular grill brands. But, if we had to choose between Rec Tec vs. Traeger, Rec Tec is the grillmaker of choice as long as money isn’t a barrier.