Whether you like making pulled chicken and pork, beef or pork ribs, seafood or any other type of smoked dish, you should invest in your own smoker. While some use charcoal and others rely on electricity, many smoking enthusiasts swear by those that use wood pellets. Wood pellets, which come from different types of trees, add flavor without masking or hiding the natural flavor of meats, seafood and vegetables.
Traeger has a solid reputation online because it offers both larger and smaller smokers that work as grills and will fit most budgets. One of the newest companies going up against Traeger is REC TEC, which makes just two models. With our comparison and our lists of the best products from both companies, you’ll easily learn which one makes the best smoker that will meet all your needs.
Comparing Traeger to REC TEC
With Traeger, what you see is what you get. Everything you need for grilling and smoking comes with the grill that you buy. Though other companies make products that are compatible with Traeger grills, Traeger itself only makes grills, wood pellets and some other basic products.
REC TEC makes a number of accessories and other products that you can use to customize your grill. You might purchase a second shelf that you can use when your primary shelf is dirty or a searing kit that gives meats a nice sear on the outside. REC TEC even makes storage shelves that you can attach to the bottom of your grill.
Traeger was one of the first grill companies to put a digital temperature screen on its grill. This screen uses bold and bright red numbers that you can see when cooking in the pre-dawn hours, later in the day or even at night. Most Traeger grills also have a standard temperature dial on the top part of the lid too.
REC TEC includes its own digital temperature screen that you can use on the side too. The company designed its own Smart Grill Technology feature too, which lets you pick a specific temperature in a five-degree increment. This feature also allows the grill to maintain that temperature over a longer period.
REC TEC actually performs better in this category than Traeger does because its grills have a temperature range of between 180 and 500 degrees Fahrenheit. Most Traeger grills have a maximum temperature setting of 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Traeger grills do have a minimum and maximum setting that you can opt for when cooking foods slowly or for searing and cooking foods faster at a higher temperature.
Whether you cook for your small family, or you cook for a large group, you need to make sure that you buy a grill/smoker with enough cooking space inside. Though the largest REC TEC grill has more than 700-square inches of cooking space, its portable model has much less space inside.
We have to give this category to Traeger because the company makes so many different grills with a wide range of grilling spaces. Its largest grills can cook 20 to 30 burgers or more at the same time. Some of its grills can also accommodate six or more turkeys or more than 30 hots dogs inside.
In regards to portability, the two companies are fairly evenly matched. REC TEC makes a smaller grill with folding legs that you can use in a campground or in a parking lot. Its largest grill has casters on the included cart that can lock in place.
All Traeger grills come with similar carts, but you have the option of removing those carts and using the grill on a different type of surface too. Traeger also makes a smaller and more portable wood pellet grill that uses convection heat and will work with any 110v outlet that you come across.
Top Traeger Products
Though we came very close to ranking the company’s larger smoker and grill combo as the best product it makes, we changed our mind after realizing that not all shoppers need a grill with that much cooking space. The Traeger TFB42LZBO Lil’ Tex Elite Grill is a good compromise be cause it features a 418-square inch grilling space that helps you make a few burgers and hot dogs for a family dinner or multiple burgers and sausages when throwing a party. It does not use charcoal or any other materials that might detract and relies only on hardwood that enhances the natural flavor of foods without dramatically changing those flavors.
Traeger has a solid reputation because of the digital temperature control that it offers on grills like this one, which acts like a thermostat to regulate the internal temperature and to let you pick the temperature that you need to use when cooking different foods. The Lil’ Tex has metal grates with a thin layer of porcelain over the top that allow you to grill all kinds of foods. It also features an auto ignition.
This Traeger TFB65LZBC Texas Elite 34 Series Wood Pellet Grill is the big boss and the largest grill that Traeger makes, but we decided to place it in the second position on our list because it may be too large for some homes. If you want to set the grill up on a cart or table of your own, you can pop it off the included base, but many shoppers will prefer using it on that base, which has four wheels that turn it into a cart. You can use this cart to move the grill when you need to clean it or when you need more room on your patio.
A dust bucket, which is a staple on Traeger grills, has the company’s logo on the front and collects all the ash sliding and falling out of the grill to reduce the risk of those hot ashes causing a fire. It has an auto ignition, grates coated in porcelain and a digital temperature control.
You’ll love just how easy smoking is when you buy this Traeger TFB29LZA Junior Elite Grill, which can also use hardwood pellets in grilling applications. An auger built inside the base of the hopper moves the pellets that you pour in the hopper into the fire pot, which has a metal rod running through the center. This rod burns and chars the pellets to create a thick layer of smoke that will reach every square inch inside the grill.
Its 300-square inch grilling area measures 10-inches wide by 20-inches long, and the thick lid over the grilling area locks all the smoker inside. While you can grill and smoke, this grill has such as vast temperature range that you can also use it for braising and slow cooking, roasting and baking when making dishes like pizza or your family’s favorite baked desserts. A three-year warranty from Traeger covers common problems and most parts of this grill too.
Do you love tailgating but hate that you usually need to make food at home to take with you or use an older charcoal grill in the parking lot? With the Traeger TFB30LZB Tailgater 20 Series Freestanding Grill, you can make everything from brats and hot dogs to steaks and entire racks of your favorite meat ribs as well as desserts and slow cooked pork. It features a grilling area inside of 300 square inches that can accommodate all of those dishes.
As a portable smoker, the Tailgater comes with two legs that Traeger calls E-Z- fold legs because each one literally folds right up to sit flush with the bottom side of the grill. Though you can use this model for dozens of tailgating parties, you can also use it at home for parties and entertaining because it has an auto ignition, ash bucket and a digital temperature control on the hopper.
One of the best Traeger grills is this Traeger TFT17LLA PTG+ Wood Pellet Grill, which is a great deal and perfect for smaller families as well as individuals. Though it won’t help you feed a line of party guests, this smoker is great for taking on trips and using at tailgating events as well as using in your own home. It features a shut down cycle that runs a fan for a full 10 minutes after you cook to get the ashes left behind under control.
This is one of the only convection smokers available today that will use real wood pellets. The convection process helps the heat rise and move around inside the smoker to reach every exposed area of your food, but the smoke will also penetrate into those foods. Though it works with a standard 110V outlet, it changes the amount of energy used during each stage of the cooking process to help you save on your overall energy costs.
Top REC TEC Products
The classic REC TEC grill is this REC TEC RT-680 Wood Pellet Grill, which has a bright red finish that the company bakes on to ensure that the finish never cracks or peels. This grill features an automatic ignition button that you press just once to turn the grill on and turn on the ignition, which will then transform those pellets into thick smoke. As the hopper can hold up to 40-pounds of pellets, this grill can run for hours and cook multiple pieces of meat before it will need any more pellets.
This grill has an almost mean look to it that comes from the handles that look like bull’s horns and the combination of red and black in its finish. It has a temperature range of 180 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit and more than 700-square inches of grilling space. REC TEC makes accessories that you can purchase separately to go with this grill too.
That temperature range works with the company’s patented Smart Grill Technology. This form of technology allows you to adjust the temperature by five degrees at a time and ensures that the grill doesn’t stray from the temperature you selected.
Did your heat skip a beat when you saw that last model before you remembered that your patio or deck suffers from a serious lack of space? With the REC TEC RT-300 Min Portable Wood Pellet Grill, you can get the benefits of the RT-680 in a grill that takes up a fraction of that space. This grill has just over 340-square inches of cooking space and can cook burgers, hot dogs and even small chickens.
Legs on the bottom of the grill fold up for storage and give the grill and even more compact shape that will take up less space in your car or truck when traveling with it. A heat deflector inside changes the direction or angle of the heat, and a drip pan catches juices and fats to prevent fires. The RT-300 comes with the same Smart Grill Technology feature that the RT-680 does, which gives you better temperature control.
Traeger vs. REC TEC: Who Wins?
Picking a winner between Traeger and REC TEC in a direct battle is difficult because both companies make some great products, but we tipped our hat in the direction of Traeger. REC TEC really only makes two grills, though the company does have a bundle pack available that comes both the grill and some accessories. The best reason to select a REC TEC grill is because of its Smart Grill Technology.
Though Traeger grills do not use smart technology, these grills do have a digital temperature screen and will maintain and regulate the temperature to keep foods cooking at the exact temp that you need. We think that you’ll like the selection of products available from Traeger more than you’ll like those from REC TEC too.