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Review: Traeger Timberline 850 Grill – Yes, It Can Sear!

Written by Appliance Dude | March 30th, 2017

5/4/17 – Update – Watch me “Double-Fist” with a Traeger Timberline 850 and Alfresco ALXE42 grill as I smoke n’ sear a steak to perfection!

PLEASE NOTE – Timberline launch event changed to Sunday April 2 from 12-4. However, we will have the 850 grill here on Saturday for viewing

4/20/17 – Check out my newest Traeger Timberline review where I reverse-seared a tri-tip steak with an 850!

Please join “Big Wave” Berg from Traeger and Senor Smoke from Curtos this Sunday, April 2, in the Curto’s “smoke lot” as we take the Timberline 850 out for its launch party. We’ll be beating on it from 12-4 EST. Please call in advance to RSVP. 1-800-966-2878 and get ready to pre-order this amazing grill!

1966 Central Park Ave
Yonkers NY 10710

The Traeger Timberline grill is now available for pre-order and considering the volume of calls coming in re: this mind-bending product, I thought it made sense to cobble together a review based on my experience with it.

The Timberline came across my radar screen about 9 mos ago. My Traeger rep (“Big Wave”), knew that I was preaching the gospel of the Memphis wood-fire grill (what a piece!) and would tell me, “Dude, I know you love that Memphis, but I may have something for you in a few months.”

What he was alluding to was the Timberline, and if I remember correctly, it was supposed to be released last Fall. Big Wave actually had a prototype he was cooking on and the initial reviews, apart from some balky wifi, were stellar. Fast forward to late 2016, and Big Wave informed me that the Timberline was definitely going to hit its new release date of March ’17, and he now had a demo model which had improved from the prototype. He was cooking consistently with his Timberline and raving about the results, boasting about his:

Out of this world ribs
Stellar pizza
Best ever Thanksgiving Turkey
Flawless Leg of Lamb
and more…

I kept hearing the same message – temperatures held great, plenty of room for the food with the increased headroom on the pit, nice tasteful smoke flavor which didn’t overpower food, and an appreciable uptick in construction / design integrity compared to the Pro series. It became apparent that I needed to get in front of this grill myself and take this for a spin.


To Sear or Not to Sear

I did not doubt the Timberline’s ability to deliver the goods when it came to smoking. There are competitive BBQ teams that use Traeger pits, plus we’ve seen first hand what the results are when you smoke on a Pro series model. However I did have my doubts on whether it was going to be able to sear appropriately, particularly b/c it did not have a direct flame area like the Memphis and the Yoder pellet grills. So I issued Big Wave a challenge – bring the pit up to Yonkers and let’s give it a go, focusing on the sear.

He brought the grill up on cold day in February (ah. another nice challenge. could it maintain temp in the cold?) and to say I was impressed by the fit and finish would be an understatement. The grill hood and some heft without being a kettlebell, and as I opened and closed it I did not detect any wobble (which I still see in some of the better gas grill hoods). The casters were an improvement over the ones on the Pro series and I liked the increased headroom in the pill-shaped body which is providing an additional 5″ of grill space. Then there was the lid gasket and the double-walled stainless. As I’ve waxed poetic about the Memphis grill for several years, I’m always asked how the stainless Memphis can provide the moisture retention akin to a ceramic kamado grill. Answer is simple – the gasket (similar to a kitchen oven) provides a tight seal, and the double-walled stainless makes a strong barrier so smoke and heat have to stay where they belong…around your food.

Big Wave and set the grate at its lowest level (for searing) and after about 10-15 mins, the Timberline was hovering around 400, give or take a few degrees. The steaks were rubbed up with Jacobsens salt, olive oil and pepper and on to the Timberline they went. I kept them on for a total of about 8 mins as they were not monster size in thickness, probably about 1″ (too thin, but what can I say, I didn’t buy them). We did 4 mins per side with a 45 deg turn every two mins for our cross hatch marks. Steak registered 130 on the probe so we had nailed our medium rare. Taste was very nice, with a nice hint of the Mesquite (our pellet choice). Did not have very large or deep sear marks, but the steak was caramelized with a slight bark on it…and juicy as can be.

Does the WiFire Work?
This is the area that is going to need some work, at least from what I saw that day.
While we were able to get the Wifi synced to Big Wave’s app pretty easily, the connection to monitor the cook was very spotty. There are external circumstances that could be involved – maybe the wifi signal was not robust outside – but if my experience with the Memphis wifi app (which over 1 year after release is still giving some of my customers headaches) is to be lesson, then the WiFire app is going to need some kinks worked out. While it would be a nice convenience to monitor the cook remotely, it’s not a deal breaker for me and most of my customers who are looking for grills are not putting wifi monitoring at the top of their wish list bc they know there is a good chance it’s going to be spotty.
I’d let the kinks (which will undoubtedly arise, it’s technology folks!) and then just roll with it until it is a stable platform.

Wood vs Gas…Let the Revolution Begin
We’ll be doing more testing on Saturday at our launch event but between Big Wave’s plethora of cooks dating back to last summer and our cook in February, I can tell this grill is going to be a home run. Considering that you now have the ability to properly sear (which you will def get if you use a cast iron skillet in the Timberline, another test that will need to be done) I will really try to steer grill shoppers to this category now and away from many of the gas grills that inhabit its price point. The argument that a gas grill works bc of the convenience is well taken, but what can be easier than a pellet grill? It maintains nearly exact temps and can now be monitored remotely via the WiFire app. And oh, it actually imparts flavor to your food and takes you back to the start of our species when cooking with fire was the norm.
So come visit us this Saturday to see it in person, or call us with a pre-order…the demand is overwhelming and they simply don’t have enough grills made to meet that demand right now!

Gallery of Timberline Cooks



CAST IRON SKILLET NACHOS


THANKSGIVING SMOKED TURKEY



TRAEGER DEMO UNIT

BIG WAVE PIZZA

SMOKED ST. LOUIS RIBS

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3 Responses

  1. Luke Edgar says:

    Guys I’m fired up for you to work with the new app. Since February when you last used it we’ve made dozens and dozens of tweaks and just launched it officially this week on Apple and Android. Any Traeger owner should download it as it’s packed with recipes, community and tips. Pairing your phone to the grill is a breeze and you can do everything but turn the grill on with your phone or tablet, and of course it’s fully functional from the grill itself. The app can and will have future updates and it’s all done via the cloud. I can’t wait till I can load in my 10 best friends cellphone numbers so they get the Brisket count down!!
    Tomorrow I’m going snowboarding and I’ll be checking my brisket on every chair ride, just cuz I can!!

    • Appliance Dude says:

      Hey Luke – we’ll be using the app at Sunday’s launch cook. Going to hit that reverse-seared tri tip that Traeger sent out today on the email blast!

  2. Brendan says:

    Thanks for the great review. Question about searing. Did it not get to 500 degrees?

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