Traeger, Kamado Joe and Weber are some of the biggest names in smart grilling. These companies have built numerous products that allow you to control and monitor their grills, usually pellet-burning setups, from the comfort of your living room or while you run an errand. Based right outside of Augusta, Georgia, Recteq is another company that’s doing the same. If you aren’t familiar with its products, now is a great time for an introduction as its new lineup has two novel takes on the pellet grill that offer something those larger competitors don’t.
Flat-top griddles are all the rage in backyard grilling right now. The popularity of smash burgers and the ability to cook everything from breakfast to fajitas and fried rice make them a versatile piece of any grill setup. Until now, most of them have been gas-powered and some companies offer griddle inserts for equipping a charcoal, gas or pellet grill you might already have with a large, flat cooking surface. Recteq has taken a different approach, opting instead to stick to its pellet grill roots with what it says is the first wood-fired griddle.
“We’ve had our eye on griddles for a while,” Recteq’s VP of product development Ben Lesshafft explained to Engadget. “We didn’t want to just go with a gas grill, we’re not a gas grill company. We believe in wood fired food and we believe in wood-fired flavor.” Lesshafft said the company knew there had to be a way to do something different by introducing the smoke flavor from pellets into a category where nearly all of the grills work the same way.
To design this wood-fired grill, which Recteq calls the SmokeStone 600 ($999), the company drew on its experience building the direct-fire Bullseye grill. That model looks like a mashup of a pellet grill and a charcoal kettle, allowing you to do both high-heat cooking and low-and-slow smoking, but it was designed primarily for the former with temps topping out at nearly 750 degrees Fahrenheit. Another challenge was making sure a pellet-powered griddle offered even heat distribution.
“That took us quite a bit of time,” Lesshafft noted. “I spent more time with thermometers in a couple months than I did in my entire life previously combined.”
Of course, there has to be a method for getting the pellet smoke to roll over the grilling surface in order to impart that wood flavor. To achieve this, Recteq designed a 360-degree vent system around the griddle. The SmokeStone has a blower fan like any other pellet grill that regulates the temperature and intensity of the fire, but it also pushes smoke into the upper cooking chamber. The company includes a raised lip on the griddle surface to help corral any small bits of food, but it also made sure those smoke vents were tall enough to clear it. This design means smoke rolls over your food whether the lid is open or closed.
“The smoke kind of ends up coming across the surface of the grill, because it’s forced out at such a velocity that it has to shoot out before it finally relaxes,” he said. “What we discovered is, the beauty of it, you [can] cook with the lid up or down. You’re going get some smoke no matter what, because you’re always burning wood.”
And on top of imparting some wood-fired flavor into griddled foods that ordinarily wouldn’t get it, the SmokeStone is still a smart grill. There’s Wi-Fi onboard for controlling and monitoring grill and food temperatures from your phone, plus an algorithm to make sure the controller keeps things consistent and even throughout your cook. A temperature range of 300-600 degrees also gives you some room to adjust based on what you’re cooking.
A pellet-burning griddle isn’t the only unique entry in Recteq’s new lineup, though. The company also debuted a dual-chamber pellet grill that allows you to cook at two different temperatures at the same time. With the DualFire 1200 ($1,799), Recteq sought to improve another popular grill configuration. If you’ve taken a stroll down the grill aisle at your local hardware store in the last decade or so, chances are you’ve seen grills that offer one side for charcoal and another for gas. Maybe you’ve come across one more recently that’s pellet and gas. While Recteq understood the utility of the two sections, Lesshafft and his colleagues decided making both pellet burning offered something that didn’t yet exist.
“We did not invent the dual-chamber grill, they’ve been out forever,” he said. “One of the reasons these dual chamber grills sell is people love the fact that you can go low-and-slow on one side and hot-and-fast on the other. And so that was kind of the evolution of our philosophy.”
Lesshafft further explained that he never understood the 50-50 split of the barrel of dual-chamber cookers, so Recteq opted instead for a 65-35 division. He said this allows for larger cuts like brisket on the bigger, more traditional pellet grill side while the smaller chamber is designed for direct-fire searing. You can do low-and-slow on both sides, but the left side is closer to the heat source and lacks the convection of a typical pellet grill.
Recteq also refreshed its main pellet grills, giving them an updated leg design, better wheels and an improved controller. The company also changed the shape of the RT-590, now called the Deck Boss 590, to be consistent with the rest of its lineup. Previously, it had an octagon-shaped barrel, but now it’s round like the others. Recteq also saw an opportunity to give customers a mid-range option between the Deck Boss and its largest new grill, the Flagship 1100 (replacing the RT-700). That’s where the Backyard Beast 1000 comes in.
“The intentional difference between grills is really a matter of size,” said Lesshafft. “You have more capacity, you have more headroom, and it gets rid of the buyer confusion of also changing shapes.” The numbers correspond to square inches of grillings space, where the Backyard Beast doesn’t have a second shelf inside the cooking chamber. It also doesn’t have quite as much pellet hopper capacity as the Flagship. A third option also allows the company to bridge the gap price-wise between its most affordable new grill and its largest “traditional” pellet model. The Deck Boss is $899, the Backyard Beast is $1,099 and the Flagship is $1,299. Of course, ditching the old alphanumeric product names eliminates customer confusion, and Lesshafft admitted there was even some trouble with the names amongst employees (please take note, Sony).
All five of the new grills are equipped with the updated controller, though it functions differently on models like the SmokeStone and DualFire due to their direct-heat setups. And, of course, the DualFire needs special firmware in order to run two grills. A new display is both easier to use and easier to read thanks to better knob and larger letters and numbers. Recteq also ditched the large, external antenna for an internal one that offers similar Wi-Fi range without the gaudy appearance. Lesshafft explained that nothing was off the table in terms of the redesigned controls. However, the company really wanted to focus more on the app rather than putting a touchscreen on its grills like Traeger did.
“If people are going to [swipe through recipes], they’re probably going to do it on their phone or their tablet,” he noted. “We kept the physical interface similar, we just wanted to improve it, but we didn’t really want to give it a full-blown facelift.”
Another key element of the new controller is dual-band connectivity. Recteq introduced this on its grills over the last couple of years, and as someone who has struggled to connect a 2.4G grill in a mostly 5G world, this makes the setup process much easier. Lesshafft also quipped that this reduced W-Fi-related calls to customer service. And overall, the company has been continually trying to improve the quality of its app. It is, of course, the place where you monitor temperatures and control the grill, but it’s also where you can browse recipes, make notes and revisit temperature graphs. In other words, it needs to be reliable and deliver what’s promised. Lesshafft admitted that wasn’t always the case.
“There was a day when our ratings weren’t very good on iOS, and now we’re the highest rated growing app,” he said. “The app has come a long way. We’re pretty proud of it.”