As a fan of both meat and fire, the Traeger Timberline 850 hits right in my rib zone. This powerful – and expensive – smoking grill is more like an outdoor oven than the chintzy charcoal or gas grill you’ve been using and the unique pellet system adds flavor, sear, and smoke to your hearty cuts of whatever.
Traeger has been around for years, starting out in the Northwest as a small, cult brand associated with rugged smokers. Recently reborn and rebranded by former Skullcandy CEO Jeremy Andrus, the Traeger story is now aimed squarely at foodies and outdoor-loving Xers (and Millenials who can afford the $1,700 price take for one of these massive grills.)
The interesting thing about these grills is the pellet system. The pellets are fed into a fireboat that burns them at consistently high temperatures, essentially creation convection inside the massive drum. This in turn heats, sears, and roasts meat and vegetables to surprising perfection. I’ve done steaks, pork, and even pizza in this beast and every effort has been rewarded with some great food. Another favorite, Beer Can Chicken, produces a perfectly crispy bird in about an hour.
There are some things to consider before you switch. It takes about ten to fifteen minutes for the grill to heat up and there is always the very real fear of running out of pellets. These are usually available at hardware stores across the country. Pellet anxiety is a real problem with these grills but I’ve never needed a late night pellet run during my cooking tests.
How does the wi-fi help things? Primarily by letting you keep an eye on things from afar. Once you get the grill connected to your home wi-fi you are able to set the temperature and the internal sensor alarms, thereby allowing you full control over your cook. The grill also gets you used to cooking by temperature, not perceived doneness, an improvement that is worth the price of admission alone. Once you cook according to the probe and not according to the color of the meat, you learn to understand when things are drying out, how long it takes to get a brisket to energize, and how to stop your smoked lemons from burning.
This grill is great fun. It’s a bit bigger than your old gas or charcoal grill but it’s well worth a look if you want to upgrade your back yard grilling game to Starship Enterprise levels. You can do things with the Timberline that you definitely can’t do with a gas grill and though I do miss the slow and steady tending of my animalistic Brinkmann smoker the food that comes out of the Timberline is surprisingly good. Sometimes you have to travel into the future to recapture the past.