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Traeger Timberline 850 Grill Review

Traeger Timberline 850 Grill


In our previous posts, we shared our review of the Traeger Ironwood 650 after putting it to test for more than a month. This post focuses on Traeger’s Timberline range, which includes two models just like in the previous ranges – the Timberline 850 and 1300. The notable difference between them is the size and weight.

Other than those, they have similar feature sets and benefits just like the rest, especially the Ironwood series. They are equipped with WiFIRE functionality and they have the Keep Warm and Super Smoke features as well as a pellet sensor.

We managed to get our hands on the Timberline 850 model and put it to the test to see what it had to offer. We’ve had it for a few weeks and in this post, we want to give you our impressions and an in-depth review of its performance and some of the improvements it comes with.

One of the most notable upgrades is the WiFIRE connectivity. It’s stable, quick, and simple to set up. The built quality is also improved – it’s more robust with great insulation.

There’s sufficient grilling space too – 850 or 1300 sq. in. of cooking space spread across three adjustable racks. The pellet hopper (24 pounds) also has more capacity (4 pounds more) than that of the Ironwood (20 pounds).

Overall, the cooking results were consistently impressive, particularly when doing low and slow cooking. You get a fantastic wood smoke flavor. The unit manages to keep the temperature inside the cooking chamber relatively constant, so there’s nearly uniform heating and smoking.

Just like the rest though, the Timberline 850 can’t properly sear a steak due to the indirect heat and limited maximum temperature cap of 500°F. The startup time is a bit slow too and the pellets sometimes tend to fail to fall into the auger.  The other serious downside we noted was that neither the app nor the grill warns you when the temperature drops below the desired temperature. Read on as we share more about this model.

Traeger Timberline 850

Design

If you compare the design of the Timberline smokers (the 850 and 1300) to Traeger’s early generation of wood pellet grills a significant difference is particularly apparent. There’s no chimney and the classic barrel shape is also gone, replaced by an oval body with a rounded lid to make room inside for three grilling racks.

Fixed to the right end of the unit is the pellet hopper, which maintains the same rectangular box shape that holds the firepot, brushless motor, auger, and fan. The front of the hopper also holds the grill’s control panel just like in the other models.

The other apparent difference is the two metal shelves, a large one to the left side of the lid with handy hooks for hanging tools and a long, narrow one along the front. They are well thought out additions that provide extra space for resting food, utensils, and other accessories. 

The side shelf with hooks, in particular, is a good size but we found the front shelf not to be that useful since it isn’t quite that deep – it’s narrow for most tools and utensils, but sufficiently wide to hold a beer.

A magnetic Bamboo cutting board that sits on top of the hopper is equally provided with this unit. We scoffed at it a bit at first as we thought it was another gimmick, but it turned out useful in the weeks we’ve had the grill. It turns the hopper into a convenient extra shelf that you can use for food prep or holding grill tools. We used it a couple of times in our tests. It’s nice but a little awkward as it sits high up on the pellet hopper lid.

That said, there are several impressive features inside the unit. When you open it, you get to see the double-wall construction and a thermal gasket/seal around the door to help lock in the heat and smoke.

The grill grates/racks are three instead of two like we saw in the other Traeger grill models and they have been placed in stadium-style seating configuration for easy access.

Another notable difference beyond the chimney and racks is the hidden grease-catching system. The Timberline 850 (and also 1300) has no grease bucket. Traeger has gone for a more discrete approach where they’ve included a slide-out tray for collecting the grease and it’s hidden underneath the cooking chamber.

Once assembled, the unit measures around 51 x 45 x 28 inches. It’s larger than the other Traeger’s grills (except the Timberline 1300) although this isn’t really evident from the outside. The overall footprint is fairly small, not wider than two humans or as deep as one – it didn’t take up a large chunk of our deck space.

The weight of the whole unit is significantly heavy, though (weighs 213 pounds). It definitely needs at least two people to carry and place it on its chassis when you first unbox it or when moving it somewhere else like up the stairs to a balcony.

Underneath the grill is four legs splayed outward to support its heavyweight. The legs have two locking casters and two big wheels like the Ironwood models, so moving the grill on a level surface is much easier considering its heavyweight. 

We really didn’t have much gripe with the design other than the small front shelf. The grill does look appealing with its matte black steel finish – it’s neither sleek nor shiny. It looks more rustic and masculine plus the lack of a chimney provides a neat appeal than the other Traeger models that have a chimney.

Our Score: 8 out of 10

Build Quality

As soon as we set up the grill, it was apparent that the build quality was better than the other Traeger grills. The overall structure was very robust and the quality of the individual components was great too.

The cooking chamber and the lid are made of heavy-gauge steel. They are thick with double-wall construction like that of the Ironwood 650. The extra internal wall of stainless steel enhances its strength and further helps insulate the chamber for steadier heat.

The double-wall lid itself is supported by heavy-duty side hinges and it’s fitted with a thick thermal rubber seal/gasket around the edge to ensure a tight seal so as to effectively lock the smoke and heat inside the chamber.

The three grill grates/racks are also made of heavy-grade stainless steel rods – they are able to support all kinds of food or meat no matter how heavy they are.  The two shelves aren’t flimsy either. They are solid stainless steel shelves. The Bamboo chopping board fits snugly in its groove on the hopper and it’s thick and durable.

Generally, we found the build on this Timberline model different and definitely sturdier than the rest. The chunky tubular steel legs alone are thick and stable – they give the grill a rock-solid feel and they feature a locking mechanism. Once you lock the wheels in place, there’s no swinging or any sort of significant movement when using the grill.

It’s basically a unit that’s built to last and even the coating on its exterior surface is far from the black stove paint used on other grills. It’s a heavy enameled paint which seems like it can last for a long time.

Our Score: 9 out of 10

Assembly

We received our Timberline 850 via freight shipping and it came on a pallet similar to the Ironwood 650 model. The packaging was excellent – the box had the same heavy cardboard exterior and the parts were placed in custom-fitted foam inserts so as to protect them from damage during transportation.

The unit requires some assembly since it comes in pieces. The instruction manual didn’t prove useful though. It has small illustrations and less text which makes it a bit hard to get a hang of it. Fortunately, though, the parts are clearly labeled and Traeger has produced several informative assembly videos that show exactly how to put the whole thing together, so assembly for us was relatively simple, to say the least.

You’ll certainly require some help to lift it in order to put the legs or set it on the chassis due to its heavyweight. We would advise setting it up in a location where it’s its final resting place. It took us less than one hour to put it together.

Once assembled, it has to be plugged into a power supply. The provided cable is about 2m long hence it’s not as short as that of the Ironwood. One of the first steps after setting it up is to connect it to your home Wi-Fi network which we didn’t have much problem doing compared to the Ironwood 650 which took several tries to get connected.

The package comes with some accessories which include several bags of wood pellets, an assortment of sauces and rubs, the meat probe thermometer, and a Bamboo cutting board. The main accessory you’ll need to purchase is the grill cover which like the grill itself, its quality is good – it’s made of thick canvas material and it fits snugly over the oddly shaped grill.

Our Score: 8 out of 10

Controls

Similar to the other Traeger models, the Timberline 850 can be controlled in two ways, using the D2 controller mounted on the front side of the hopper or remotely via the Traeger app which works with both Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.

The D2 control panel is intuitive and simple to use. It has the same configuration as that of the Ironwood 650. On it there are various critical controls including five buttons for Ignite, Menu, Keep Warm, Super Smoke, and timer functions, and a selection dial for scrolling through and selecting various options. There’s also a small monochrome status LCD screen which displays the probe and grill temperatures, and other important information.

The menu offers the exact same control options we saw in the Ironwood 650 model, nothing new has been added. You can set a cooking temperature, a probe-target temperature, set a timer, and also change several other settings.

The start-up procedure on the Timberline 850 was slightly different from the other Traeger models. Previously you would have to press the ignite button, turn the dial to the target temperature and from there the grill would start. However, in this model, you have to first set the target temperature and then press the ignite button to start the grill.

Something else we noted was that there’s no home button on the menu and some options have several layers, so if you want to make a change on a certain item that’s on the third level, then you have to hit the back button, again and again, to get back to the main menu. It’s not the most intuitive menu design and it’s the same case with even the Ironwood 650 and other previous models.

The panel features a jack in the side where you can attach the meat probe thermometer which has a slim metal design that makes it easy to insert into food. We’ve found it to be fairly accurate.

The only downside is that you get only one temperature probe connection unlike in the previous generation such as the Pro Series controller where you could connect up to two external temperature probes. So, it’s hard to monitor the internal temperature of food if you’re cooking multiple things at a time.

The WiFIRE Controller

As mentioned earlier, one of the improvements that the Traeger Timberline series offers is the WiFIRE connectivity. The connection was rock-solid almost throughout the duration of our tests.

Past experiences with the Traeger WiFIRE connection were not pleasant at all, especially with the Traeger Pro 575.  It took several tries at first to get the grill connected to our home Wi-Fi network and even after that, the connection was very unstable – we would have to constantly connect and reconnect the grill to our home network, almost twice during each cooking session.

That wasn’t the case with the Timberline 850. The setup process was quick and smooth – we never had any challenges connecting the grill which we had placed about 75 feet and a solid wall away from our router.

Once both the grill and the phone were connected, it was smooth sailing – the app never lost connection to our network. The only time we had an issue getting the mobile app and the grill to sync up was after three weeks of using the grill (we hadn’t fired it up for two days).

There isn’t much change in the app with regards to the functions and features it offers. They were basically the same thing you would get with the Ironwood 650 app. You can set and monitor the internal meat temp (target temp for the probe) and the cooking/grill temp from it. You can also set two timers, the Super Smoke function, and the Keep warm setting.

You can as well track the pellet level and turn off the grill from the app, plus you also have access to all the recipes found on traegergrills.com. So, there aren’t any additional features to look out for. Moreover, you still have to push the ignite button on the grill itself to start the fire – you can’t do it remotely via the app even when you use a Traeger recipe.

Cooking with the unit is also not entirely a set-and-forget affair. It has two timers in the app (including one for preparing sauces) and one on the grill itself but they aren’t that useful as we expected. Neither can automatically shut off the grill nor even switch to the Keep Warm function when the timer expires/food gets cooked. They don’t control the grill but instead just beep to inform you when the time is up.

It’s the same thing with the probe. The display on the grill and the app itself only report the target for the food probe and the current temperature for the grill.

Once the probe’s target temperature is reached, you get an alarm, but nothing happens. You have to take action yourself once the cook is over – neither the grill nor the app controllers automatically stop the cooking process when the food reaches its target temperature.

Furthermore, although you get a warning if the grill’s temperature goes past 500°F – which happened the first time we cooked with it – you don’t get any warning from the app or the grill itself when the internal temperature drops significantly below the targeted range.

That said, Traeger has integrated Amazon Alexa to this model just like in the Pro and Ironwood series which means you can operate it using voice control to check status, change temperature, set timers, and shut it down.

Our Score: 9 out of 10

Performance

The performance of our Timberline has been good so far. The only problem was the startup time. Its D2 direct drive system was not able to heat the cooking chamber as fast as we expected.

It took a bit longer to get started (get up to temperature) compared to the Ironwood and other previous models. The ignition process alone dragged on for several minutes during our tests which left us wondering at first whether something was wrong. It does, however, suddenly steadily climbs up to the set temperature.

We found heat distribution within the cooking chamber to be just as good as in the Ironwood 650 model and this is because Traeger has utilized the same combustion process involving a downdraft exhaust system rather than the chimney stack found in the previous models.

The smoke and heat from the firebox rise up along the back (through a large opening located at the back end of the drip tray), hit the curved hood, and then create a downdraft for uniform heating top to bottom. The built-in fan also helps in circulating the heat and smoke inside the sealed cooking chamber.

We tracked the temperature in several different locations in the chamber to see if there were any temperature fluctuations. It was hotter at the sides and the back, but with only about 10°F variance which was pretty impressive. The downdraft design succeeded in providing a fairly uniform temperature on all three racks.

We were also pleased by how well the Timberline maintains temperature during the cooking process. The double-wall construction (separated by an air gap) coupled with the thick rubber lining around the door/lid provides a tight seal that insulates the chamber allowing it to hold in heat very effectively.

We made a point of checking the grill’s internal temperature against the reading from our own Thermoworks thermometer and we found that it was always close to the desired temperature, it rarely moved more than 5 to 10°F below or above the target temperature we programmed.

The displayed temperature readings on the control panel screen and the app were also pretty consistent with the readings on our thermometer. For instance, when the Traeger meat probe shows 225°F, our meat thermometer would read 226°F – we never recorded more than 2°F difference between the two thermometers.

Once the grill reached a target temperature, both thermometers always stayed close to that range whenever we checked, so you get a consistent cooking temperature throughout which is especially important when doing long barbecue cooks at low heat.

We noted too that the Timberline 850 was able to hold up well in different weather conditions. The internal temperature remains constant even when the wind direction and speed change. This again was mainly due to its thick double-wall construction which provides more interior insulation than the Ironwood or the other earlier models.

We didn’t have a chance to test it in very cold conditions but it seems it can do better than the Pro 550 which struggled a little when we tested it at temperatures as low as – 15°C.

 However, when we opened the lid to turn our food, we noted that the temperature dropped rapidly by almost 100°F or more which is reflected on the screen. It takes a couple of minutes to recover once shut (approximately 60°C per minute), so the cooking times can be a bit longer than anticipated if you open the grill frequently to baste your food.

Overall, as we stated earlier, our Timberline grill performance was pretty decent, in fact much better than the Ironwood 650 with regards to heat distribution across the entire cooking chamber and also in maintaining the set temperature throughout a cooking session.

The area where it fell short was the startup time which was slightly slower than the rest. The temperature range is similar to that of the Ironwood, 165 to 500°F and you can adjust it in 5-degree increments.

Our Score: 8 out of 10

Cooking Results

The cooking experience on the Traeger Timberline 850 was pretty much enjoyable. The results were consistently impressive with almost everything we tried from brisket to chicken to every cut of pork. It particularly excels at long, slow cooking like the other Traeger models mainly because it’s able to keep temperatures fairly constant.

It does relatively well in reverse searing but performs poorly when it comes to high temperature searing or for foods that need high, direct heat like steaks and thick, general cuts of beef. Below are brief summaries of some of the results we got during our tests.

Low and Slow Smoking

The Timberline 850 performed excellently in all our low and slow smoking. Everything we cooked came out tender and juicy even without a water pan. Our first try was a beef brisket which we slow-cooked at 225°F for around 12 hours. It turned out fantastic, sliced thin with a very nice crust and a dark exterior bark. It had a beautiful pink smoke ring just underneath.

Next up were pork back ribs and after 6 hours at low heat, they came out perfectly cooked with a strong smoky flavor – they were fall apart tender. We slow-cooked pork belly and several country-style ribs on the racks, and the results were equally great. The even heat distribution within the chamber allows the food to cook nearly uniformly in all three racks without having to rotate them as is necessary with most smokers which tend to have hot and warm zones.

Roasting

The grill was able to produce decent results with poultry although at first what we got wasn’t as good as we had expected. We roasted wings, thighs, and whole chickens at around 325°F and 350°F. While the meat was remarkably juicy, the skin turned out pale and chewy – we couldn’t get good, brown, crisp chicken skin like in the Ironwood 650.

However, before we concluded our tests, we found advice on one of Traeger’s forums to crank up the temperature to 400°F for poultry. We did just that and managed to get our crisp skin, plus the meat didn’t dry out or lose the juiciness.

Searing

Similar to the other previous Traeger grills, the Timberline 850 still can’t properly sear foods, especially steaks. You only get decent results when you do a reverse sear. We reverse seared a Tomahawk steak on the bottom grill dropped to the lower position right over the heat source. We smoked it for a few hours and then cranked the temp up to about 450°F to finish it with a sear.

The results were okay – the meat was moist, tender, and full of flavor. It still lacked the crisp caramelization that you would get by searing over very hot grill bars.  

In our second test, we gave hamburgers a try to see how they would come out. We went with smoked burgers which we cooked at 225°F for 2 hours with the super smoke mode on.

After the 2 hours were up, we cranked the temp up to 450°F. The burgers seared nicely with caramelized BBQ sauce. They came out well cooked, juicer, and had a much stronger smoke flavor than usual.

In our final test, we decided to do the normal searing of a steak-like in a grill with direct heat. We lowered the bottom grate to the lower position near the heat source and then fired the grill up to its maximum temperature of 500°F.

We cooked the steaks and the outcome was moist tender meat but they weren’t really what we call seared. They were not as good as what you get off other grills. We had to reverse sear them to get better results and even then we still got pale grill marks – we couldn’t achieve the charred black lines that a gas or charcoal grill produces.

In other words, the Timberline 850 is okay for reverse searing, but if you are after something similar to a char-blasted sear or want those appealing grill marks on your food, then it may not be for you. It only gets up to 500°F which is not hot enough to sear marks – the finish was mostly grey and bland in our tests.

To sum it all, just like the rest of Traeger’s grills, the Timberline 850 is particularly suitable for low and slow cooking. Everything turns out nearly perfect (tender and juicy), especially when doing ribs, brisket, pork, and poultry.

If you’re into meats that have a nice smoky flavor, then you’ll also find it appealing. It leaves the food with a relatively heavy smoky flavor when you select the Super Smoke mode but it’s only effective at low temperatures (165 to 225°F) and requires a longer cooking time. Less smoke is produced at hot fast-burning temperatures which is the same case with the Ironwood models.

Our Score: 8 out of 10

Cooking Area

As you may have guessed from the name, this grill provides 850 sq. in. of cooking area which is spread across three adjustable racks.  The first one offers 198 sq. in. and the second one 308. Combined they have slightly less cooking space compared to the first two racks of the Ironwood 885. The third rack at the bottom is the biggest, offering 363 sq. in. cooking space.

The three of them could easily hold enough food for a full dinner party. Traeger claims the capacity is sufficient to cook 9 rib racks, 6 chickens, or 54 hot dogs at once, and this is really not far from the truth.

For Mother’s Day, we cooked 4 chickens on the bottom rack, a pork belly on the center rack, and some veggies on top. They all fit well inside the chamber. There was another time we cooked 4 pork butts and 2 racks of ribs yet still there was plenty of room left. So, you have a sufficient cooking area to prepare enough for a large family.

We also liked that the chamber is egg-shaped and tall unlike previous models, plus all the three racks are adjustable and removable – you can easily cook tall items such as large turkeys and beer can chicken.

Timberline 850 with 1 whole chicken and veggies on top.

The bottom rack alone can handle a whole packer and it has two positions – the bottom one for grilling steaks and burgers, and the upper one for smoking. It does also pull out part way allowing you to brush or turn items on it.

The other useful work surfaces you get with this model are the two shelves – on the left side and the front. They provide decent resting space for items like utensils and food.

In case you need something bigger, then there’s the Timberline 1300 model which equally comes with three racks but ups the cooking space to 1300 sq. in.

Our Score: 9 out of 10

Cleaning

Cleaning this grill takes up a little more effort but we found it not that challenging compared to other grills we’ve had. The cooking area needs to be disassembled after each use and this includes removing the racks, the heat shields, and the grease tray.

The excess grease from foods drips onto a drip plate beneath the bottom rack where most of it gets channeled to a slide-out grease tray positioned underneath the cooking chamber. It’s properly built into the smoker – it’s just a regular foil tray dangling below which is something we really appreciated.

This grease management design is also vastly superior to having a bucket hanging below a hole like in the previous Traeger models – chances of pumping it and spilling grease are minimal because the drip tray is out of sight, hidden inside the smoker. It comes out easily from the side drawer for cleaning. It has a disposable liner too that you can toss away after a cook.

Cleaning the interior was easy since it is stainless steel and food doesn’t stick much to the surface. The only unpleasant task was cleaning grease out of everywhere else that it accumulates. The racks are removable and clean up easily with just a wire brush.

The fire pot also needs to be cleaned out with a shop vacuum to remove ash. You’ll need to clean it regularly because it can collect ash quickly.

Clean up with this model generally gets easier with practice, although it still takes more effort and time than the charcoal and gas grills we had, and more than often we ended up with grease on our hands and arms when cleaning the interior. It requires regular cleaning, otherwise, it won’t ignite properly – you have to tend it periodically to avoid the grill’s fire fizzling out unexpectedly.

Our Score: 7 out of 10

Other Highlights

The 24-pound pellet hopper is one of the other major highlights we noted on this Timberline model. It’s larger than the 20-pound hopper of the Ironwood 650 – it can keep the fire burning for around 8 hours.

Timberline 850’s 24 pound Pellet Hopper

However, the hopper itself is poorly designed because pellets sometimes fail to fall into the auger. It’s too wide such that pellets tend to sit on one side where the auger can’t reach. Approximately, almost ¼ of the pellets would sit on the sidelines – gravity alone isn’t sufficient to cause them to fall into the hole where the auger is located.

We had to stir them every 30 minutes or so, to ensure they don’t stick together and to push them down into the hole of the auger, otherwise, the grill gets starved of fuel which causes the cooking temperature to drop. To be clear it’s only an issue when the hopper is more than half exhausted – when it’s more than half full the pellets fall into the auger without requiring help.

Beyond the large hopper, there are other small features that we noted like the clean-out door that lets you easily empty the unused pellets from the hopper and light in the hopper. These are the same features we saw in the Ironwood 650. Also included is a pellet level sensor which we found not to be quite accurate. It sometimes sounds the alarm off yet there are still plenty of pellets left in the hopper.

In terms of efficiency, the Timberline 850 consumes the pellets at a relatively slow rate when you cook at low temperatures (165 to 200°F). It can consume about 1 pound of pellets per hour. The rate increases significantly when cooking at high temperatures (400 to 500°F) – it can use up to 3 pounds per hour.

Over the course of one month of cookout – mostly low-temperature cooking, with just a couple of reverse searing at 450 to 500°F – we average approximately one 20 pound bag of pellets for two to three sessions.

Traeger sells its pellets at $19 per 20-pound bag, so when you do the math, the operation cost can be a bit more expensive than charcoal or propane grills. There are 8 varieties of pellets you can choose from including apple, alder, hickory, cherry, mesquite, maple, oak, and pecan.

Final Remarks

For low and slow cooking, the Timberline 850 is very effective – it’s ideal for foods like brisket. It maintains fairly uniform heating and smoking throughout the cooking sessions. The WiFIRE connectivity is also very stable unlike the Ironwood and the Pro grills.

It’s an option you can consider if you plan to do long, low, and slow smoking or you want a grill with a large cooking area (the Timberline 1300 offers an even much bigger capacity). The overall built quality is great – it’s robust and quite durable, plus comes with a 3-year warranty.

It’s not perfect, though; it takes time to start up and it won’t stop cooking once the food reaches its target temperature. You don’t get any warning either when the temperature inside drops significantly below the target range. These are the major downsides we noted other than the fact that it can’t properly sear a steak like the other Traeger models.

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