How does a Rec Tec RT-700 differ from a Weber SmokeFire EX6? Do the differences matter?

Jon Tofte

TVWBB Platinum Member
With this unfolding debacle going on for the roll out of the Weber SmokeFire, I have been wondering why I have had such a different experience with my Rec Tec RT-500 "Bull" grill. I have also noticed some comments about the SmokeFire and about cleaning "conventional" pellet grills and wanted to throw in my personal use observations for consideration. I am most interested in what changes Weber made that set it apart from my more typical pellet grill and the implication of these. I will be posting pictures very soon.
 

ShaneF

TVWBB Fan
I’m sure your pictures will help display this, but all but a couple other pellet grills catch grease on a large sheet (like a big cookie sheet) sloped into an external grease bucket. It makes them almost exclusively indirect heat and decent smokers, but a little lighter on the smoke profile because the smoke is rolling around this large tray to get to the food. The flames have virtually no chance of touching grease and catching fire. It also makes these other pellet grills easier to clean as you can line the tray with foil and to clean you replace the foil and quickly vacuum out ash from the chamber. The Weber (like Memphis), has more open area to get heat and smoke to the food, making them better at grilling. However, we’ve seem what it does for fires. As well, grease and ash mix meaning you get the pleasure of a lot of scraping instead of just vacuuming.

Jon, if you were planning to add verbiage like this, I can delete, not trying to step on toes.
 

Lew Newby

TVWBB All-Star
Jon, please correct me if I'm wrong on this. Your RT-700 is the second generation but other than adding some more Stainless and wifi it is essentially the same design as the RT-680 that it replaced. I bring this up because Rec Tec has stayed with a user tried and true design.
 

Jon Tofte

TVWBB Platinum Member
Yes, that is completely correct. The RT-700 brought a stainless (430) barrel and some other parts and the black porcelain hood (although they briefly offered that on the 680). The other thing was more advanced electronics with probes. They do, however, sell options to retrofit the older 680s with the newer controller and probes and with some of the stainless parts.

I agree that sticking to a proven design made that upgrade relatively easy and safe.
 
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Jon Tofte

TVWBB Platinum Member
OK, so here are some things about the Rec Tec I have with an emphasis on the differences I think I see compared to the SmokeFire. Hopefully, you will add more.

First, the RT-700 still has the old fashioned smokestack. This makes putting on and taking off a cover a real pain:
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Because the grill also has so many angles, and because of the cool "bull horn" handles, there are a lot opportunities for the cover to tear. Mine already has:

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I would think the SmokeFire cover would be a comparative breeze to take off and put on!

When you get inside the grill, the first obvious thing with the Rec Tec is the two fairly decent stainless (304 this time) grates. They aren't "rcplanebuyer" grates by any means, but easy to clean and certainly longer life expectancy than the standard issue nickel chrome thin grates that come with the SmokeFire. Here is my Rec Tec after one long cook and two short ones. I used the optional "GrillGrates" that came with my grill to do a steak and burgers. They just lay on top of the stainless grates:

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The stainless grates have play in them just like some people have complained about the SmokeFire. It is has never been an issue to me, but I mostly set food on them and do long low and slow bbq.

When you take off the grates you find underneath a large stainless sheet, pretty thick and heavy on the Rec Tec. They recommend that you cover this with aluminum foil. Reynolds Wrap Extra Strength in the long box works perfectly:

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Here it is recovered for the next cook. The process takes a few minutes unless you have a really greasy mess that gets past the foil. Then the stainless shield cleans pretty easily with Sam's Grill & Oven cleaner before recovering. On this use, four racks of ribs didn't do that, so I just replaced the foil and was good to go:
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Here is a video clip of me showing the interior of my Rec Tec before cleaning it. You can see the typical ash accumulation from 2 or 3 cooks and how Rec Tec has not one but TWO heavy stainless shields above the firepot. The lower one serves to help deflect the heat outward to the left and right all underneath the larger upper drip shield.


So, the greasy aluminum foil and this ash is what the Weber guy being interviewed was talking about when he said it was such a pain to clean these grills. Well, it IS work and not clean work. But with a tiny, cheap Shop Vac I can vacuum up all the ash in just a few minutes:

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Here's the firebox after a quick clean out with the Shop Vac:
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TO BE CONTINUED
 
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Jon Tofte

TVWBB Platinum Member
The Rec Tec has the same rear hopper that Weber chose to use on the SmokeFire. However, it seems to be wider front to back. Weber's is more stylish, I think, but maybe that is part of its problem. The Rec Tec hopper seems to be made of powder coated metal that is fairly slick. It has some of the same caulking as does the SmokeFire:
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You can see that the Rec Tec hopper lid opens all the way, unlike the Weber one, but one inconvenience is that errant pellets easily get caught between the hopper and the barrel as you can see above. I use a plastic straw to dislodge them.
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I think the Rec Tec hopper may also be steeper than the one on the SmokeFire.

OTHER FEATURES:

The Rec Tec didn't originally have a port for the the probes, but that is standard issue now. Mine has that, but either it was issued before they included the rubber grommet or the guy I bought this from lost that. I really need to call Rec Tec to get one of those, but the port works fine. It has a lid that closes when you aren't using it:
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The Rec Tec also has an internal light. Does the SmokeFire have one? They were smart enough to make the glass lens - that smokes up very quickly - easily removable and dishwasher safe for cleaning:
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THE MESSY GREASE BUCKET:

I will be the first to say that the grease bucket hanging off the side is kind of messy and gross. Very easy to create a disaster by forgetting it and rain making it overflow or forgetting it and then trying to cover the grill with it is still on, thereby sending it to your deck to make a mess:p. Using a foil liner for the bucket does help with cleanup (I use ones made by Pit Boss I get at Lowe's):

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I really liked the improvement Weber was trying to make here, but only if it works. There are some other higher-end pellet grills that have eliminated the hanging bucket in favor of an internal container. I believe the Traeger Timberline has that.

PRE-START IMPORTANT STEP:

Rec Tec recommends that after you clean your grill that you put a handful of new pellets in the firepot to help get the initial fire going. I do this and have never had a problem. I wonder if some of the issues of non-starting reported on the SmokeFire are due to failure to "prime" the firepot???
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You can see that I am using a mix of pellets here that includes black charcoal pellets from "SmokeDaddy." They seem to help a little in bringing more charcoal flavor and they burn a little hotter.

So, it is starting to look like with pellet grills we may need to accept the classic grease management system and hands on ash vacuuming. I really don't see it as that big of an issue. It isn't all that hard or time consuming to clean and reset this grill. The greasy grates (which ANY grill will have) are much more of an annoyance to clean up.

I suppose a pellet grill might more easily be designed SPECIFICALLY to do high heat searing ONLY. I am not sure, though, that it would really exceed the performance of a good gas grill (think classic Weber Genesis) with a smoker box going underneath. So, if I had to pick, I will take a pellet grill that does great low and slow BBQ safely and consistently.
 
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ShaneF

TVWBB Fan
I looked close at a Timberline today, the do ave an internal drawer, but it’s kinda clunky. they just route the grease to the edge of the chamber and then down a chute into the drawer. I’m learning the cleanest and best way to avoid a fire is the straightest path out of the cook chamber to a bucket, that’s why most grills still have them even though they are a pain. You’d think more grills would have a way not to knock the buckets off so easily.

Memphis has pans below, but they are pretty susceptible to grease fires like the Weber.
 
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Rich Dahl

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
Interesting report Jon. My Camp Chef has a sheet similar to yours except it has lots of slits in it which I assume is to allow the heat to get up to the food. I don't know what would happen if I covered it with tin foil. So far with my six cooks including an 9 pound pork shoulder clean up has been about a 15 minute job.
The ever popular grease bucket has done it's job and no greasy ash.
Very happy with it's performance so far.
 

Chris in GA

TVWBB Super Fan
Thanks Jon, I have to say if I was in the market for a pellet grill the 700 looks really good, Amazon reviews are good also.
 

Lew Newby

TVWBB All-Star
Rich, I think Camp Chef uses the drip pan with slits on grills with the slide and sear capability. My DLX pan is a solid piece just like Rec Tec but not Stainless Steel. Glad to hear that you're getting more winter cooking in.
 

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