Traeger Timberline 850 Review
A few takeaways from my Memorial Day cook on the Traeger Timberline 850:
– I was finally able to do a LONG cook on it (a few racks of short ribs). Prior to this I had been doing shorter cooks – hamburgers, chicken, pizza and a variety of steaks.
The longer cook allowed me to gauge how it burns through pellets, how it maintained temperature and how it retained food moisture over a longer period of time.
– the Grill is huge. Kudos to Traeger for this ingenious design. Not only is there a tremendous amount of headroom due to fact the pill-shape which added another 5″ of vertical grilling space.
– the SuperSmoke feature is completely badass. I’ve used this quite often when making steaks…what I do is smoke my skirt steak, NY Strip, or ribeye in the Timberline 850 for about 15 mins at around 225. I then take the steaks and sear them at a very high temp on either my Alfresco sear burner or DCS sear burner. The steals come out nearly edge to edge medium rare with a very nice smoke hint. The SuperSmoke feature is great b/c I can concentrate the smoke on the food in short, focused bursts.
– Temperatures will vary inside the grill – they have made a big deal about their TRU convection system which is going to allow you to cook 20% quicker and more evenly. I did not see this in the Memorial Day cook – the ribs towards the back of the grill seemed to cook faster than the ones placed in the front. This is probably due to a big gap between the rack edge and the grill back wall which allows heat to come up the back of the grill (and I would assume eventually start to convect in a circular motion).
– the best part of using the Timberline – the initial smoke that is generated at startup. The smell is…heaven sent.
– I love the bamboo side shelf. Much more practical than the front shelf available on the Pro series grills. I’ve used it rest tools, sauces…and booze!
– the grill is very quiet. There was some concern that it would be loud considering it was now able to climb up to 500 degrees. Not an issue. It’s actually quite relaxing to listen to. When I’m in the back with the Timberline humming, a libation in hand, and something tasty on the grill…it is a moment of mindful bliss!
– I’m sorry but I have not tried the WiFire at home yet. Haven’t done any longer cooks save for the Memorial Day ribs. When I try my first brisket, WiFire will be engaged.
– I don’t see much Smoke Leak (when a smoker that isn’t well-sealed will allow smoke to creep and leak from all sides of its closed door) so that tells us the gasket and thicker door is doing its job.
– Yes the Timberline can sear but I still prefer taking my burners/steaks off at the last minute and giving them a white hot sear on my DCS or Alfresco.
– With all the talk of Smoke Science, SuperSmoke, wiFire and TRU convect, the real show-stopper are…the racks! You get three heavy, stainless grated that are more akin to what you have in your indoor wall oven rather than a bbq. They are multi-positional, slide out effortlessly and are a significant upgrade over what other grills are offering. The rack depth has rendered obsolete the front folding shelf popular with the Pro series…that would take up too much real estate).
– Startup time – I’m at 250 for smoking in less than 10 mins. I can get to 375 or 400 for grilling in a few mins more. Getting to 500 is more a lengthy climb.
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
Best ever Thanksgiving Turkey
Flawless Leg of Lamb
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