We took the job of finding you the very best pellet smoker very seriously. We read reviews, spoke to pit masters and backyard BBQ enthusiasts and the choice was unanimous. The REC TEC RT-680 Wood Pellet Grill came out on top. The sturdy construction, smart grill technology, excellent digital controller and dare we say it, its good looks, made this pellet grill our No.1 choice.
It also comes with a 6 year warranty, which together with the price tag, makes the Rec Tec an affordable and smart purchase.
When reviewing products for our Top 5 lists we put ourselves in the shoes of the customer and look at the kinds of questions that you might ask when making a fairly costly purchase. Unlike previous reviews we haven’t compared apples (in a pig’s mouth) with apples (in a pig’s mouth), so to speak, but rather looked at the features of each of the grills, what we like and just as importantly, what we don’t.
REC TEC RT-680 Wood Pellet Grill
If you’re a member of the Rockefeller family and price isn’t an issue then you’ll definitely find pellet grills over the $2000 mark but, if you’re more the ‘other fella’ with a budget in mind, then the Rec Tec is one of the best-priced grills, available for under $1500. There’s also a Rec Tec mini grill which comes in under $750.
You don’t get what you pay for with this grill. You get a whole lot more.
In fact, some of the more expensive grills don’t come with as many features, and that’s why we give it a thumbs up for affordability and value for money.
Solid construction that’s built to last is what the Rec Tec is all about, from their proprietary PID temperature control algorithm and Smart Grill Technology to the grill’s powder coated high strength carbon steel and 304 stainless steel for all of its critical parts.
It doesn’t make any difference to the quality and craftsmanship of the grill, but it’s still necessary for us to mention that it’s not sold as a ‘Made in America’ product.
The REC TEC Grill is made in China, but, the heart and soul of the grill (the computer) is made in the USA. The powder coat is also made in the States and the final assembly along with quality control takes place at the REC TEC Grill facility in Georgia, the backbone of good old southern BBQ. And we like that it has a 6 year warranty. It means the Rec Tec folk believe in their product, which makes us believe in it too.
Where the Rec Tec outshines, or rather, outcooks other pellet grills, is their temperature control. The grills all come standard with a P.I.D. Controller (Proportional-Integral-Derivative) algorithm, the ‘secret’ to the grill maintaining its precise temperature.
Rec Tec is also has the revolutionary Smart Grill Technology™, making it one of the easiest pellet smokers to operate.
The push-button ignition sets and maintains the selected temperature throughout the entire cooking process and the pellets are automatically fed into the firebox, which means there are no temperature fluctuations. No other grill on the market has this sophisticated ‘brain’. Also you can adjust temperatures from 180 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit.
Not something we often mention, but we feel is relevant is Rec Tec’s customer service. Their service is exceptional, and not only in the grilling industry. When you call their office you speak to a staff member that owns a Rec Tec.
Their product knowledge is sound, they are polite and their response time to emails or phone calls is rarely matched in the world of retail. When you buy one of their products you get a card with the contact numbers, as in the mobile numbers, of the GM and both co-founders.
Heck, we know a guy who got a call from Ray Carnes, one of the co-founders, on a Sunday after he posted a question on their Facebook page.
Unbiased reviews mean we have to give you the pros and cons of an item but to be honest it was near impossible finding too much wrong.
A few people mentioned assembly being difficult. Some commented on the lid, saying it would need to be replaced at some point because of sun damage and a few mentioned the grates don’t fit properly, which isn’t necessarily a deal breaker, just annoying. One reviewer gave it a good grilling (bad pun, sorry) but he’s been one of a handful. Actually he’s been one.
The Rec Tec is a hard act to follow and it almost doesn’t seem fair comparing other pellet smokers to it, so for the purpose of this review let’s assume the Rec Tec didn’t exist or was no longer manufactured. What would we choose then?
Traeger Texas Pellet Grill
Looking at the history of the pellet grill, Traeger Pellet Grills were the very first smokers available. It was patented in 1986 and production began in 1988. Because of its patent, Traeger had zero competition for 20 years. But in 2006 the patent expired, and new (and possibly better) pellet grills hit the market.
The Traeger Texas Pellet Grill or Texas Pro Pellet isn’t a badly built smoker and the price makes it relatively inexpensive. They also make a junior elite if you don’t need as much cooking space.
Updates to the unit include a hopper cleanout for changing pellets, the upper rack for additional cooking space and two meat probes for monitoring food temperatures.
These are great changes but the pellet controller is still the old 10-position unit and of course we know that a lot of other makes have moved to much more sophisticated technology, improving temperature precision and maintenance. But it could be the guys at Traeger figure ‘if it ain’t broke don’t fix it’.
They might have lost a few followers along the way, what with newer, sleeker models available but Traeger’s still popular thanks to their marketing and distribution. You can find Traeger pellet grills everywhere.
Green Mountain Grills Davy Crockett Pellet Grill – WIFI enabled
Davy Crockett rocked the wild frontier, and you’ll be rocking the backyard BBQ with this pellet grill. It comes in under the $500 mark because of its size; it’s a portable pellet grill, but it’s pretty big on design and described by some as the ultimate tailgater pellet grill.
As with all pellet smokers, there’s a lot to like, and a few things that can be improved, but as far as compact portable grills go, there’s very few available on the market, therefore the GM Davy Crockett is our top pick of a rather short list.
In terms of portability, there are smaller and lighter options available but the cooking surface is much smaller and has the out-of-date lo-med-high controller. The Davy Crockett uses Green Mountain’s sophisticated digital thermostatic controller with a dual readout LED display to accommodate the included meat thermometer. It also comes with adaptors to provide power from a wall outlet, car cigarette lighter, or car battery: items that are often optional on other makes.
What sets GM Grills apart is the optional upgrade (around about $150) to include WIFI control. The range is approximately 100 feet and makes grilling, smoking, and baking super easy. You can view your cook times; grill temperatures, and internal meat cooking temperatures all from your smart device. You can also adjust the cooking temperature, set timer alerts, and alerts when your food’s internal temperature reaches a certain level.
Plans are in place to take this to ‘the cloud’ which will give you the ability to control the temperature from anywhere in the world – so long as your connected to the web. Great for smoking during the week whilst your at work. You can quickly log on and reduce the temperature for the final few hours of your cookout.
To summarize, price-wise the Davy Crockett gets a thumbs-up; on technology it also gets a sizzling thumbs up for reaching temperatures from 150 to a whopping 500 degrees.
We’ve mentioned that it is one of only a handful of tailgater grills on the market, giving it the upper hand, but regardless, it still deserves its spot on our top 5 list.
The cons are few, and once again, definitely not deal breakers:
For a portable pellet smoker, it’s fairly heavy for the average person. It’s also a little awkward to carry around. The DC is small, which we’ve mentioned, and for some the 12″ deep x 16″ wide primary cook surface is a problem. But there are a lot of people who love it because of the compact size. As they say, one man’s basting is another man’s poison!
Pit Boss 820 Pellet Grill Smoker
The idea behind the Pit Boss was to create something similar to the Traeger but at a much lower price, which seems to have worked. But, and this is only based on reading loads of reviews and checking with pit masters, the Traeger is no longer the smoker to compete with. There are others, which are better priced and have better technology and upgrades.
Back to the Pit Boss 820. The 820 refers to the cooking space and they come in ‘Large’ and ‘Deluxe’. The Deluxe refers to the additional features and finishes. What we really like about the PB is the cooking temperature range from 180° to 500°F, which you can control with the simple turn of a dial, but it is an old-style dial. Possibly unrelated to this, but something that needs to be looked at is whenever you switch cooking temperatures the auger carries on running for about four minutes before trying to adjust to the new temperature. As we discovered this isn’t a problem you’re going from low to high, but it is if you’re trying to bring your temperature down. We almost lost our wings because of this.
It’s still a great pellet smoker and it manages to get to a sizzling 500°F pretty darn quickly. We also had one of the tastiest meals from this grill. We can’t say (or verify) if it was because of the Pit Boss 820 or if we had managed to get our hands on the best meat purchases, like ever!
Camp Chef PG24 Pellet Grill and Smoker BBQ with Digital Controls and Stainless Temp Probe
Last on our top 5 list, but by no means the least, is the Camp Chef PG24 Pellet grill. This is almost like having your own pit master out back. You load the pellets, set the temperature dial to the heat you want and you leave it.
The 20 pound capacity pellet hopper means you’re not even stressing about running out of ‘gas’ while you’re cooking and the pellets are automatically dispensed. We did say it’s like having your buddy doing the BBQ for you. The electronics used inside the thermostat are very precise, and if your cooking temperature falls, the hopper throws another pellet on the fire to heat the unit up. You will not get this kind of control from wood, charcoal or gas units.
This really is a beaut’ of a grill, and considering it’s the company’s first attempt at a pellet unit, we look forward to future updates.
What we can establish, reading reviews, googling feedback forums and chatting to friends and manufacturers, pellet grills are a personal choice. It’s like preferring your meat well-done or rare or having your wings spicy or not. What we can only hope to do is give you enough information to make an educated purchase and not be swayed by a smooth talking salesperson. Happy smoking fire food fans!
You may also want to check out the top 5 best electric smoker review if you’re not yet set on getting a pellet smoker.