REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill (RT-680) Review
This product review is for the REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill purchased in 2016. Even though this post is long overdue, it also means I can give a comprehensive review from two years of personal usage.
The REC TEC Wood Pellet Grill is an electronic grill and smoker which is fueled by small wood pellets fed into the cooking chamber by a motor-driven auger. The onboard controller will automatically adjust the feed rate of the pellets based on your target temperature and current temperature. For me, this was absolutely amazing because it meant that I did not have to constantly monitor, adjust heat, and replenish wood like with my previous smoker. I ccould leave it running and trust the REC TEC computer to manage everything.
Research showed reviews praising the REC TEC smoker over several other brands including the Traeger. With a longer warranty (for the RT-680 model), heavy duty stainles steel construction, and reports of good customer service I was convinced that I needed a REC TEC in my life. The only downside was the cost! It was far more expensive than the Traeger and could only be purchased directly from REC TEC in Georgia. After mulling for almost a year, I finally bit the bullet. I was now the proud owner of a REC TEC!
They call this a grill because you can reach temperatures as high as 500 degrees fahrenheit. That temperature isn't hot enough to get a good sear on burgers or steaks like conventional gas powered grills. There is a Grill Grates add-on which is a 3-panel searing kit which I purchased a few months later. You can find out more in my Grill Grates review. I was originally hoping to make the REC TEC my all-in-one grill and smoker solution but it required much more time and pellets to reach the higher temperatures. Based on this I decided to keep my gas grill for any type of cooking over 350 degrees and use the Rec Tec for low and slow cooking or smoking.
Note that the RT-680 is now a discontinued model and replaced by the RT-700, which includes several upgraded features such as a WIFI controller board, more areas with stainless steel, and a refreshed paint scheme. Free shipping is included nowadays but back then, I forked up almost $200 for freight delivery! On the day that it arrived, a large semi-truck pulled into my neighborhood and the driver forklifted a heavy pallet into my garage. I wanted to build it right away but with the weight, approximately 250lb, I waited for a friend to help assemble it.
Assembly was easy when following the manual. There are also plenty of instructional youtube videos by REC TEC Grills and other enthusiasts. You absolutely need a second person to help you put it together though. The build quality and materials used is high as expected, considering the premium you are spending on one of these. Even the REC TEC emblem and lid bull horns had a hefty weight to them. This thing is a real beauty! The only thing I didn't like was the drip bucket on the side. Any slight bump into it would knock it over. I'm glad to hear that the newer RT-700 addressed this.
At first, my opinion of the smoke flavor was that it was a bit too light, especially compared to the wood chunk sources used in my previous smoker. Fortunately, this was remedied by increasing the amount of smoke retention in the cooking chamber with a setting called Xtreme Smoke mode as well as adding an A-MAZE-N pellet tube to further increase the amount of smoke.
The RT-680 has a large pellet hopper in the back which can hold 40 lbs of pellets. This is about twice the capacity of other smaller smokers that I have looked at. I've smoked meats as long as 16 hours with plenty of pellets remaining afterwards. The actual amout of pellets consumed will vary depending on the ambient temperature and your target cooking temperature.
Cleanup is a breeze if you prepare it right. REC TEC recommended lining up the drip tray with aluminum foil so that you can quickly discard any fat and juice that falls on it. Any ash left behind from the pellets are at the bottom of the cooking chamber. These can be easily removed by turning the discarded aluminum foil from the drip tray into a makeshift scooper. You should also clean out the ash at the bottom every once in a while.
When you get a REC TEC, they provide you with several phone numbers for support. This includes a regular day time number and an after-hours support number. They even give you the owner's and the general manger's mobile numbers in case you really need it! I've contacted REC TEC support a few times early on. The first time was to troubleshoot a fan issue for which they immediately shipped me a replacement along with complimentary dry rubs for the inconvenience. The second time that I called was because the temperature kept slowly rising past my target set point. They helped me reprogram the minimum feed rate which fixed it. I actually had an issue with the temperature again today when cooking ribs for Labor Day and General Manager Ben graciously helped me out. Turns out I need to clean out the ash from the firepot more often as that was chocking the air flow. Doh!
Over the past two years I've put the RT-680 to work and smoked brisket, beef ribs, pork ribs, cured pork belly for homemade bacon, pork shoulder for making pulled pork, chicken drumsticks, turkey, tri-tip, and tomahawk ribeye steak. I'll update and post links to the recipes as I get to them.
Caveman Beef Ribs! Just eating one of these ribs were filling.
Smoked Turkey that has been brined and stuffed.
Smoked Pork Ribs glazed with BBQ sauce.
Seasoned Chicken Drumsticks
Slow smoked and then seared Ribeye Steak
REC TEC has released several new grills this year including an upgraded RT-700 and several other purpose specific grills. Based off of my experiences with the RT-680 and the excellent customer support, I would highly recommend their smoker. Their flagship product is an investment but I'm glad they're including free shipping these days. Otherwise they do sell two smaller versions at a lower price. Portability and quicker rising temperatures were tempting but ultimately, the larger version gave me the ability to cook more at a time.
Since purchasing the REC TEC RT-680 almost two years ago I have purchased several upgrades and accessories which will be discussed in my next post. Please look forward to it!