The Rec Tec vs Traeger pellet grill comparison is an easy call for me with the win going to Rec Tec.
Here is how I got to that decision.
First we need to figure out which of the over 20 models of Traeger grills to use to make the comparison.
The Rec Tec 680 comes in with 702 square inches of grilling space and a price tag of just under $1,000. (Note: The Rec Tec product line has been redesigned and the 680 is no longer manufactured. Here is the most recent information on the new Rec Tec grills.)
The closest Traeger equivalents to the Rec Tec 680 are the Traeger Texas Elite 34 (MSRP=$899) and the Traeger Pro Series 34 (MSRP=$999). Traeger does make some lower costs smokers like the Renegade Elite and the Tailgater but they are not in the same size range as Rec Tec.
The Texas Elite 34 and Pro Series 34 are almost identical.
Both of these Traeger’s have 646 square inches of grilling space on the primary grate. The Pro Series has an extra 238 inches of space thanks to a second elevated grill grate. The Pro Series 34 also comes with dual meat thermometers and a side handle for easier grill maneuvering.
I am not going to bash on the Traeger’s. They really are nice grills that have a massive and loyal fan base. Heck, I even found a Pro Series 34 in use at the outdoor kitchen of the famous Shed Barbecue and those folks won the Memphis in May competition in 2015,
The question isn’t whether the Traeger’s are good grills or not…they absolutely are.
The question is, are the Traeger’s better than the Rec Tec 680?
Materials of Construction: These grills are just about the same size but the Rec Tec 680 is over 100 pounds heavier. The difference in weight is due to the fact that the Rec Tec is made from heavy duty 304 stainless steel while the Traegers are made from light weight powder coated steel.
Not only will the 304 stainless steel last longer but the increased thermal mass of the Rec Tec makes it less susceptible to temperature swings from the wind and cold.
The Warranty: The warranties on these grills reflect the materials of construction. The Traeger grills come with a three year warranty. The Rec Tec comes with a six year warranty. It makes sense, the Rec Tec is twice as beefy as the Traeger so the warranty is twice as long.
Temperature Control: This is a massive difference between the brands. The temperature controller on the Traeger’s is an Ortech style controller that lets you dial in a temperature and will keep in there in a +/- 15 degree range. The temperature controller in a Rec Tec is a much more advanced PID style controller that maintains temperatures in a +/- 5 degree range. Without getting into technical details the bottom line is that the Rec Tec has the Cadillac of temperature controller.
Hopper Capacity: The Traeger grills have a hopper that can hold 18 pounds of pellets. This has always bugged the CRAP out of me. Traeger’s smoking pellets are sold in 20 pound bags. Why in the heck would you design a hopper that couldn’t handle a full bag of pellets???
Rec Tec’s hopper holds 40 pounds of pellets. That is exactly two bag’s worth of fuel.
I know that this might sound trivial but it is a STRONG indicator of which company is really paying attention to the details.
A nice benefit of Rec Tec’s over-sized hopper is that you will NEVER run out of fuel on an overnight brisket cook.
Customer Service: Traeger has great customer service. I have called their help desk several times to talk about their grills and have always spoken with an English speaking, US based representative who was happy to answer my questions and talk about barbecue. Traeger works hard to make their customers happy and that is reflected in the loyal following of their customer base.
Rec Tec also has great customer service with English speaking, US based service reps. But Rec Tec is so obsessed with customer service that when you buy the Rec Tec you also get a card that has the cell phone numbers of BOTH of the company’s founders. These two guys will actually answer the phone and HELP you.
Try to name another company that gives customers direct access to the top people in the corporation.
It’s okay….I’ll wait.
Appearance: I realize that this is purely subjective and has absolutely zero impact on grill performance but I think the Rec Tec looks cool as heck.
I love the red lid. I love the stainless steel horn handles. The bull ring on the front is cool.
The Grill Light: The Rec Tec has a powerful light INSIDE the grill that lets you see what you are working on when it is dark outside. Sure, you can carry a flashlight or hang a flex light onto the grill and accomplish the same thing. But guess what, Rec Tec actually cares and tried to solve the whole grilling in the dark problem for you.
I’m going to leave you with a video from the folks at Rec Tec that does a head to head comparison of their grill against the Traeger.
Of course the video is biased as heck but it let’s you see the real differences.
If Traeger ever posts a head to head video against the Rec Tec I will be happy to include it. I won’t be holding my breath for that.
Here is the link to read the Rec Tec reviews on Amazon.
The Rec Tec is a serious grill that made the list for the Best Pellet Grills for the Money. I think you will love it.