When I talk to people about pellet grills, the next words that often promptly pop out of their mouth are ‘that’s a Traeger right?‘. Traeger’s brand is now firmly fixed in the social consciousness with the concept of a pellet grill. Very much, in the same manner, when people refer to vacuum cleaners as ‘Hoovers’. Well, while Traeger did start this pellet grill revolution they are by no means the only pellet grill brand, and their competition keeps upping their game. Case in point, with this article, were are going to compare Traeger vs REC TEC. Producing pellet grills since 2008 REC TEC is not a new player to the pellet grill game, but their latest line of products are some of their most impressive yet.
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Below is not a detailed review on every Traeger and REC TEC wood pellet grill on the market today. I have lots of other articles which I’ll link to below which go into more detail on all the Traeger and REC TEC pellet grills on the market today. What I’ve done below is pick certain Traeger vs REC TEC models which match up well on features/price and discuss the differences. In terms of their products, both Traeger and REC TEC firmly focus on Premium Class pellet grills. If you are not sure on the different pellet grill classes please read this article on how to pick the best pellet grill to meet your needs and budget.
Introduction To Traeger vs REC TEC Pellet Grills
While Traeger are the foundation for pellet grills with their creation in the 1980s, REC TEC didn’t start producing pellet grills until 2008. However, the founder of REC REC Ron and Ray clearly know their ‘stuff’ as the first pellet grills that REC TEC started to produce instantly developed a strong following for their features and build quality. Jump forward today, and both Traeger and REC TEC pellet grills have come a long way from their origins.
There’s More To Pellet Grills Than Cooking Area
I often state ‘never purely compare pellet grills on cooking areas’. For one, the cooking area figures quoted can sometimes be a bit misleading (second/third racks) and I’ll get into that on a separate post. But generally, the reason you should never compare pellet grills purely on the cooking area is because there is so much more to pellet grills. For instance, what materials are the cooking chamber made of, how big is the pellet hopper, what type of control panel is used, is it a PID controller? Etc
The Price of Traeger and REC TEC Pellet Grills
While Traeger is offering several pellet grills below $500, REC TEC only offer pellet grills in the below $1,000 and below $2,000 categories. In fact, REC TEC actually produces several pellet grills over $2,000 (The BFG and The Beast). However, those pellet grills are not directly comparable to any current offerings from Traeger. Therefore, they are currently not directly relevant in the Traeger vs REC TEC debate.
Traeger Tailgater vs REC TEC RT-340
The smallest/cheapest pellet grills from Traeger and REC TEC which are directly comparable are the Traeger Tailgater and the REC TEC RT-340. Both of these units are designed for tailgating/RV life and are small compact units with folding legs. I discuss the Traeger Tailgater in my portable pellet grill post and I have a detailed article on REC TEC pellet grills where I go into detail on the RT-340. Below is a just a quick comparison on these two pellet grills.
In terms of cooking area, the REC TEC RT-340 provides 340 square inches over the main cooking grate, but a total of 511 square inches if you add in the second upper cooking rack. When it comes to the Traeger Tailgater 300 square inches are provided. Therefore, the REC TEC provides a bit more on the main cooking rack and quite a bit more in total when adding in the upper cooking rack. With regards to the pellet hoppers, the REC TEC RT-340 provides an impressive 20lbs, whereas the Traeger Tailgater only provides an 8lb hopper. On the hopper side of things its definitely a plus that the REC TEC can take a full 20lb bag of BBQ wood pellets.
In terms of the design/construction of these two compact/tailgating pellet grills, I do believe the REC TEC RT-340 has a superior leg design which are easier to fold up and retract. The use of spring pins makes it very quick and easy to lower and raise the legs on the REC TEC compared to the Traeger. With regards to weight, the REC TEC is 80lbs where the Traeger is quite a bit lighter at 62 lbs. This is partly due to the smaller cooking chamber/hopper on the Traeger. However, its also due to the fact that the cooking chamber on the REC TEC is made from 304 stainless steel. This is a big plus point in favour of the REC TEC. As they state on their website, ‘No paint to fade, flake, or fail‘ and to get a 304-grade stainless steel cooking chamber on a pellet grill at this price point and of this size is really impressive.
Another big plus point for the REC TEC RT-340 over the Traeger Tailgater is the control panel. While the current Traeger Tailgater is fitted with the Digital Arc controller which has more accurate temperature control over their older Pro controller, its just not as advanced as the PID/WiFi controller fitted on the REC TEC. Now some will make the argument that a WiFi controller on a grill of this size is ‘overkill’ and just unnecessarily pushes up the price. However, as the RT-340 has a 20lb hopper it could realistically be used for ‘low and slow’ cooking over many hours. Hence, then the WiFi feature set can make sense to monitor and adjust the cook.
Final Thoughts On The REC-TEC RT-340 vs Traeger Tailgater
It should be pretty clear from the above comparisons of features on these two grills that the RT-340 is a much more superior product. However, it should be acknowledged that the RT-340 does cost in the region of $150 more than the Traeger Tailgater, with the RT-340 currently priced at just under $600. If you are specifically looking for a portable/tailgating pellet grill do I think the additional features are worth that additional cost? Most definitely. Therefore, with these two particular pellet grills, until Traeger update/upgrade the Tailgater I think its an easy win for REC TEC.
Traeger Pro 575 vs REC TEC RT-590
While I believe the Traeger Tailgater vs the REC TEC RT-340 was an easy win for REC TEC, I do believe this comparison on the Traeger Pro 575 and REC 590 is closer to call, and either could be a good choice to make, but for different reasons which I’ll get to in the summary below. I have a detailed article on the Traeger Pro Series for reference. Now, on the face of it, you may reasonably presume these two pellet grills provide very similar cooking areas looking at their model numbers. The Traeger Pro 575, does indeed provide a total cooking area of 575 square inches. However, that’s broken down to 418 square inches on the main grate with an additional 157 square inched provided by the upper rack. On the other side, the REC TEC RT-590 provides 590 square inches just on the main grate. With the optional second upper cooking rack, it can increase up to 772 square inches.
A big positive with the Traeger Pro 575 compared to the Tailgater is the Pro 575 is based on Traegers latest D2 Direct Drive system. As part of this system, the pellet feed auger and fan are now DC (Direct Current) variable speed motors. This not only provides them with more power (fewer chances of auger blockages) but it means they can be more precisely controlled. Furthermore, the D2 Control panel does use a PID algorithm, which means it more comparable to the PID controller fitted to the REC TEC RT-590. In other words, in this instance, both Traeger and REC TEC pellet grills can hold temperature within a 5-degree range and achieve 500 degrees. Furthermore, both grills are WiFi-enabled (branded WiFire in Traeger’s case). In terms of the feature set and the capabilities of the WiFire app with its included video recipes etc, I would give the advantage to Traeger over REC TEC.
So now let’s look at the hopper capacities on these two pellet grills. With the Traeger Pro 575, an 18lb wood pellet hopper is provided. Whereas on the REC TEC RT-590 it benefits from a 30lb pellet hopper. Therefore, when it comes to long low and slow cooks the REC TEC definitely has an advantage. Though I should note, on low and slow cooks (typically around 230 degrees) pellet consumption will be around 1lb per hour. Therefore, the Traeger should be able to go for around 18 hours. So if you were smoking meat overnight and you filed the hopper it should be fine. I should also note, you can upgrade the Traeger Pro 575 with a pellet sensor. You can then check the percentage level remaining in the hopper from the WiFire app.
When it comes to materials and build quality, again as before, I feel this is where Traeger cannot currently compete with REC TEC due to their 304 stainless steel cooking chamber. While I do think that Traeger’s are put to together a lot better than many other cheaper pellet grills, stainless steel is king when it comes to durability. Stainless steel also makes it a lot easier to clean the pellet grill, as you’re not worried about damaging a paint finish. If you stored the Traeger inside in a dry/well-ventilated shed/garage then it would likely take make years before the paint finish began to fail. However, if you are just going to leave the grill outside (even with a cover on) after a couple of years the benefits of stainless steel are likely going to become apparent.
Final Thoughts On The Traeger Pro 575 vs REC TEC 590
So the first thing I should point out is there is a price difference between these two grills. The REC TEC typically costs an additional $100 more than the Traeger at just under $900. For that higher price, you do get a larger cooking chamber and of course the benefits of the stainless steel cooking chamber. However, on the Traeger side, I do believe the internals on the Pro 575 (D2 Direct Drive) to be more powerful than those on the REC TEC pellet grill. Therefore, its possible the Traeger will be less prone to potential auger blockages. I do also think that the Traeger WiFire app is superior to the app provided by REC TEC in terms of its features. If you can store the grill in a dry/well-ventilated environment when not in use I still think the Traeger is worth considering. If you can afford the additional cost of the REC TEC and the grill will be living outside its likely going to last longer.
Traeger Ironwood 650 vs REC TEC RT-700
The Traeger Ironwood range is a little different to the Pro series for a couple of reasons. First, it features a higher specification D2 control panel with ‘Super Smoke’ and ‘Keep Warm’ modes. Ironwood pellet grills also come with the Traeger pellet sensor as standard, where its an optional extra on the Pro Series. However, I think the most important difference is the Traeger Ironwood pellet grills are fitted with a downdraft exhaust (also found on the Traeger Timberline). Instead of a standard small chimney stack, a downdraft exhaust improves heat and smoke circulation throughout the cooking chamber. Helping the food to absorb more of the smoke while at the same time creating a more even cooking temperature across the racks. Therefore, I do regard the downdraft exhaust on the Traeger Ironwood 650 as an advantage over the REC TEC RT-700.
So what about the provided cooking areas of these two pellet grills? As discussed previously, while the model number on a pellet grill often gives clues to the cooking capacity, never take for granted what it actually refers to. The Traeger Ironwood 650 provides 650 square inches on total, but only 418 square inches on the main cooking grate. Therefore, the Ironwood 650 actually provides the same cooking area on the main grate at the Pro 575 discussed above, its just the second upper rack which is larger. The REC TEC RT-700 on the other hand provides 700 square inches just on the main cooking rack.
Its rather disappointing that the Ironwood 650 does not offer a main cooking grate any larger than the significantly cheaper Pro 575 ($400 between them). Furthermore, the Ironwood 650 and REC TEC RT-700 are priced exactly the same, just under $1,200. However, the REC TEC RT-700 provides a main cooking grate that is 282 square inches larger, and it benefits from a stainless steel cooking chamber! As stated above, I do think the downdraft exhaust on the Ironwood is a great feature. I know I referenced above you should never compare pellet grills purely on their cooking area. But in this instance, the cooking area difference between the Ironwood 650 and REC TEC TR-700 is significant. Then if you factor in the stainless steel cooking chamber, I think this is a win for REC TEC.
Conclusions on Traeger vs REC TEC Pellet Grills
So what are my final thoughts? Well, out of the three comparisons above at their current prices its two wins for REC TEC and maybe a draw on the Traeger Pro 575 vs the REC TEC 590. Now, I should always note there ‘intangibles’ which I’m not really able to factor into such comparisons. For instance, individual experiences with customer services from each of the two companies. Both brands also have strong owner communities. However, I’m only really able to compare pellet grills/models on their specific features and price points. The 304-grade stainless steel cooking chambers on the REC TEC grills are really impressive. Then add on top of that their above-average hopper sizes and large cooking grates its hard to beat. I do think Traeger currently has the best WiFi app on the market (WiFire) and I really do like their downdraft exhaust design. However, I fear that when reviewed as a whole against the REC TEC grills above, its just not enough.
That’s it! Thanks for reading, I hope you found this article on the current pellet grills from Traeger and REC TEC interesting/useful. You may also want to check out my Pit Boss vs RECTEQ comparison. Also, be sure to check out my wood pellet grill/smoker guide to learn about all your other pellet grill options. 🙂