The Traeger Timberline is the best grill you can buy today.

When I first saw this grill a few months ago, at Traeger’s headquarters, I wasn’t impressed. A $3,499 grill? With an “unpopular” induction cooktop? And an entirely new smoke/heat system? As a dedicated Traeger lover – used a Timberline 850 for years – I thought the company was messing with a good thing and adding too many features to an already powerful cooking and smoking system.

I was wrong.

The new Timberline (and it’s bigger cousin, the XL) are amazing grills. They cook evenly, sear quickly, and smoke beautifully. The entire system has been redesigned from top to bottom with the outdoor cook in mind and they have included some wonderful touches including a grill light for night cooking and sensors throughout that help you maintain pellet levels and heat.

And the best part? No more vacuuming. A built in ash capture system makes your grill a self-cleaning masterpiece.

Let’s talk about why you want one of these, why it’s worth almost $4,000, and what’s different about this new version.

What’s new in the Traeger Timberline?

The new Timberline will be familiar to any pellet grill owner but there are definitely a number of upgrades. First, the electronics are entirely new and the WiFire system – the screen on the front – is completely upgraded and improved. It is a full color touchscreen that displays information about grill and probe temperature and it has an improved Wi-Fi connectivity system that makes it easy to latch onto distant access points. If you had a problem with the Timberline connecting to an access point in your house, for example, it looks like Traeger has solved this problem by improving the Wi-Fi radio and connection process.

Further, the grill has a number of new sensors including a pellet hopper sensor that tells you approximately how full your hopper is as well as a new combustion system that appears more robust than the previous auger and hot rod method. The entire inside of the grill is made of stainless steel and the grill area is bigger – 880 square inches, to be exact – thanks to an improved design that essentially fits an upright rack under the Traeger’s rounded lid.

Other little features include the aforementioned nightlight – a true godsend – a pair of wireless temperature sensors that are included with the system, as well as a pair of uniquely sensitive wired probes that connect to the front. The Pop & Lock rail allows you to add accessories to the system by simply snapping them onto a rail that surrounds the entire front of the grill. Accessories include a front table, a side basket, and even a roll holder for butcher paper. It’s a very clever little system.

You also have a method to dump your pellets using a trap door under the pellet hopper and they include a box that allows you to keep the pellets out of the moist air. This is a nice thing to have, especially if you’re going to be cooking in wet weather or even in the winter.

One feature that I didn’t think I would like is the induction cooktop next to the grill enclosure. This cooktop is protected by a removable shield and connects wirelessly to the grill itself so you can control it remotely. It has a built-in sensor that can tell if your cookware is induction compatible – basically it has to be magnetic – and it boils water and warms beans in minutes.

Finally, there is an improved ash system that pours the ashes down a funnel into a bucket lined with aluminum foil. This bucket holds quite a bit ash and allows you to clean the whole grill in minutes without getting your hands covered in grease and dirt. It’s a miracle.

In short, a great deal of time and effort has been expended in redesigning this grill from top to bottom. Further, the Traeger app has been upgraded to allow excellent control of nearly every aspect of the cook. You can “program” different recipes – setting the grill to smoke for 4 hours and then to sear for one hour – and the app connects to the grill via Wi-Fi far more easily than previous versions.

Is the Traeger Timberline easy to assemble?

I assembled this Timberline in 90 degree heat on my back driveway. As you can see above, I have no space. Our little garage is the size of most of your sheds and our garden is a rounding error for most people. That said, I was able to remove everything from the massive Traeger box and assemble it alone (except when I had to lift the thing to install the wheels.)

The grill comes with all the tools you need to assemble it including a screwdriver, socket, and hex key. You could probably use a drill to screw in some of the parts but that gear was more than sufficient.

Most of the grill is already assembled. Except for the rails, cooktop, and wheels, you don’t need to do much to get it set up. The only tricky part was lifting the bottom of the grill to install the wheels, a process that I enlisted my 16-year-old son to complete.

Once it was set up I found that the grill took up much more space than the Timberline 850, a fact that unnerved my wife a bit. That said, it’s not much bigger and because the internal grill system has three tiers you can fit way more food into this thing’s gullet.

Further, the ash and grease capture system is far easier to manage and because it is all stainless steel it is easier to clean. The old systems turned into grease and ash traps pretty early on in the cook cycle which led to plenty of nastiness when trying to clean the things. This grill has a clever funnel that leads the grease down into a special trap where it can be whisked away. It is great.

How does the Traeger Timberline work?

Traeger is an interesting company. Founded in 1987, it was a boutique grill maker that specialized in an auger-based fuel delivery system that allowed for careful control of heat as well as the ability to inject smoke into the cooking process. It was, in short, the perfect tool for the outdoor cook. You could make a brisket and a burger in the same session.

The new Traeger, in a far more technologically-advanced world, uses the same basic system and relies on wood pellets for smoke, heat, and flavor. There is some sense of pellet anxiety you’ll get early on with this grill but as long as you have a bag on hand you won’t run out.

In short, this system is better than any gas grill and far superior to standard charcoal. Although a good Santa Maria-style grill is always nice, the wood needed to get it hot and cooking is wasteful and destructive and charcoal briquettes, well…

In short, I’m hooked. I would never go back to gas and definitely won’t be spraying some cowboy charcoal with lighter fluid at any point in the future. Traeger cooks more evenly, smokes wonderfully, and works perfectly even on “quick” cooks.

I won’t comment much on the induction cook top except to note that it works very well and is a nice addition to the overall system. I was able to boil corn and make beans for many of my meals, a great feature if you want to cook out in the heat and keep things all in one place. Could I live without the cooktop? Probably, but I’m sure it will get more and more interesting over the years.

Is the Traeger Timberline worth $4,000?

Yes.

I know this is a hard sell for many but if you’re looking for an outdoor kitchen the Timberline is exactly what you want. It cooks perfectly, cleans up nicely, and offers a feature set that is unmatched. Weber and a few other manufacturers are trying hard to match Traeger’s features but they’re unable to create anything as holistically good as the Timberline.

Will you be able to make a nice steak on a Weber or Pit Boss or Cuisinart or any other grill? Absolutely. But will you be able to make a consistently good steak, burger, and brisket on any of them? Probably not. The Timberline is a full kitchen on wheels and well worth the investment.

I’m leased to say that the Traeger is a great investment and a great grill. It’s worth considering even if you don’t have too much yard space and it’s a great tool for summer cooking. Everything about it is improved, update, and upgraded and it’s well worth the (relatively) healthy price tag.

By John Biggs

John Biggs is an entrepreneur, consultant, writer, and maker. He spent fifteen years as an editor for Gizmodo, CrunchGear, and TechCrunch and has a deep background in hardware startups, 3D printing, and blockchain. His work has appeared in Men’s Health, Wired, and the New York Times.

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