Traeger Timberline 850 smoker review
The Traeger Timberline 850 smoker is the best way to cook your food; a premium product that justifies its premium price.
- Incredible performance
- Fantastic build quality
- Remote control via the app
- So easy to use
- Some alarms a bit sensitive
- No under-smoker storage
- Heavy to move about
As I write this, I can still savour the juice from my smoked chicken rolling across my tongue and down my throat. And it tastes amazing. I've never received so many compliments from my kids regarding my cooking, and I'm already busily exploring the thousands of recipes freely available in the Traeger companion app and online, wondering what culinary adventure I'll take next.
Great food is one of life's true pleasures and products like the Traeger Timberline 850 put world-class grub on the table of even the worst chef's home. It does all the work for you. A minimum amount of preparation and some patience is all it takes.
The Timberline 850 uses flavoured wood pellets sitting against an electric-power element to generate a near-clear smoke. This then floods into the large chamber, driven by discrete fans to create a convection effect sending spirals of smoke around all sides of the food within. And you can monitor it all from the connected companion app.
It's about as sophisticated as a smoker can get, but it comes at a price.
- Simple to build
- Strong components
- Requires electricity
- 3-year warranty
- Heavy to move
The Timberline 850 smoker comes in pieces and must be constructed on site. But this is a far more straightforward experience than some shoddy furniture you might buy from IKEA. The instructions come in a proper book – not a piece of paper – are very thorough and are straightforward to follow. It took me less than an hour to put it together and I was happily having a few beers on the way. I wasn't rushing.
The two things you will notice straightaway are the quality of each component and the weight – the former adding to the latter. With the components, each piece is made of a thick, sturdy material that reflects the overall price of the Timberline 850. There are no shortcuts here; everything feels premium. Even the stainless steel grill racks weigh a tonne.
The weight of the finished product is significant. It's highly likely that the Timberline 850 will be delivered to a location that's not its final resting place (in my case the garage). If you need to move it somewhere else – such as up some stairs to a balcony – you're going to need some help.
I would advise assembling it in the location at which it is delivered. You can then take out the heavy grills, and it's a lot easier to hold and move once assembled.
To complete installation, you're going to need a power supply; the Traeger Timberline 850 does not use gas. The accompanying cable is about 2m long, so keep that in mind, too. Is there a powerpoint where you plan to set it up? Then, there is the WiFIRE technology, which is just Wi-Fi despite its fancy name. This connects with ease to your home Wi-Fi network and is set up through the companion app.
Your final step in the installation process is to season the grill. Again, there are straightforward steps in the robust, supplied guidebook. Plus, you can find video instructions on the Traeger website as well.
- Small footprint
- Easy to clean
- Fantastic build quality
- No storage
- No chimney
As mentioned, I'm extremely impressed by the quality in the individual components of the Timberline 850, and the resulting build is truly fantastic. Two metal shelves, one in front and one to the left side, give you plenty of resting space for food, utensils and – let's be honest – a beer. It isn't flimsy in the slightest; very solid shelving.
To the right side there is a chopping board that fits so snugly in its groove it doesn't fall out even when the lid to the pellet dispenser is lifted. However, it can still be easily removed for cleaning.
The overall footprint is quite small. It's not as wide as two humans and not as deep as one. Personally, I found this to be a true blessing given I already had a six-burner BBQ taking up a chunk of my deck space.
The lid itself is a chunky piece of metal, but it lifts and closes with ease. A thick rubber seal locks the heat and smoke inside. A little side port allows you to insert a probe that can stay in your food through the whole cook without corrupting that seal, too.
The space inside the chamber is cavernous despite the small footprint. It claims it can hold over 9 BBQ chickens at once. I don't know about that, but the three racks could easily hold enough to do a full dinner party with ease. There's a large trip tray at the bottom that easily comes in and out for cleaning, as do the grills themselves.
There's an additional metal drip tray that hangs beneath the smoker, too. This catches any excess and I appreciate that it is properly built into the Timberline 850 rather than just a foil tray dangling below.
To the right of the smoker you will find your LCD screen and input controls. It looks a bit like a car stereo. As with the rest of the Timberline 850, this is easy to follow and use. The stick, in particular, sums up the overall attention to detail that not only makes this smoker great, but costly. It clicks and turns with a premium feel that you know will see it last years and years.
If I have a gripe with the design, it's the lack of storage in the lower part of the stand. I would have liked somewhere to rest or store the power cable when it's not in use. I didn't want it plugged in constantly due to it being exposed to the elements, but short of wrapping it around a leg there was no natural place to store it off the ground. A dry spot to store a bag of wood pellets would have been nice, too.
I've also used other smokers, including older Traeger models, that come with a chimney that lets escaping smoke billow out. This provides not just a visual joy, but gives a pleasant smell to the entire surrounding area.
It makes sense not to have it; smoke isn't good for your lungs after all, and it's not as efficient as the back-vent design currently employed. This creates a downdraft to pull out old heavy smoke, keeping fresh blue smoke in the chamber. But I do miss the effect.
- Super Smoke Mode
- WiFIRE connection
- Three removable grills
- Low pellet sensor too excitable
The design of the Traeger Timberline 850 is its biggest feature. The pellet chamber slowly drops the wood chips onto the element, then precise – if a bit noisy – fans push the smoke through the chamber, so it circles around your food. But there are plenty of trimmings that help supplement that core process.
The companion app is very robust. Once paired with your Timberline 850 over your home's local Wi-Fi, you can monitor the temperature of the chamber and the food itself – via the probe, keep an eye on your pellet count and more. Considering that some recipes can see the smoker left running for many hours, being able to look in remotely to see how things are going is great peace of mind.
The app also has a huge selection of recipes and videos, as well as tutorials, that can help level you up to Smoke King status in no time. You can even download cook cycles for your favourite recipes to the Timberline 850 itself to make things even simpler.
The Super Smoke mode is another excellent new feature. This setting allows you to create a denser smoke that is pulsed repeatedly through the food via the fans. It adds a lot of extra taste and texture, but does require a longer cooking time given it's only effective between 75oC and 105oC. If you've the luxury of time, it's an amazing option.
And with the three removable stainless steel grates, you can get a lot of food in the Timberline 850 for any one cook. There's 850 inches-squared of real estate in there!
The included probe is an important addition, too. Its slim, metal design makes it simple to insert into food, while also being very easy to clean. I've found it to be incredibly accurate, too. And it's handy that you can set a probe alarm to sound as soon as your food reaches its desired internal temperature.
However, not all the alarms work perfectly. I've run into a few issues with the low pellet alarm sounding off when there is still a plentiful supply of pellets in the chamber. This is a bit annoying, but as the Traeger is digital and smart, I've already been prompted to update the firmware once. As such, I expect this false alarm to be patched.
- Maintains perfect temperature
- Uniform heating and smoking
- Effortless cook
- Slow start
The easiest way to describe the performance of the Traeger Timberline 850 would be to simply show you a photo of my face after eating a freshly smoked meal. Salivating, eyes rolled back in my head as I transcend into flavour heaven. Short of that though, take it as read, the performance is everything you would expect from a premium product.
The Traeger Timberline 850 isn't about a rushed job and it does take its time to get started. The ignition process can drag on for minutes and may leave you wondering at first whether something is wrong. Then suddenly it's steadily climbing up to the desired temperature.
The LCD screen displays everything you need to know, and its temperature readings are precise. I've found it sits at the desired temperature perfectly, fluctuating barely a degree or two – right up to 260oC! Open the lid and the release of heat is instantly reflected on the screen. But once shut, it powers quickly back up to where it's supposed to be.
The probe is just as sensitive with its detection of temperature and I'm pleased with how well it has held up to repeated use in the heat of the chamber.
On that maximum temperature, it is perhaps one of the Traeger Timberline 850's weaker points. It's plenty to do your traditional smoking, but does prevent the device doubling as a pizza oven. Plus, it's not hot enough to self-clean. Something to look at for future iterations, perhaps.
But it's designed to be a smoker first and foremost. Very little visible smoke and only a mild smell escapes the chamber, proof that all that goodness is going into your food. And as mentioned throughout this review, the ease of cleaning and the value of the companion app, connected as it is to the smoker itself, can't be understated. It just makes the task so simple.
The Timberline 850 not only makes smoking incredibly easy, but it does it really, really well.
- Cover is really good
- Rubs and different pellets available
- Minor parts replaceable
Stepping into the Traeger world opens you up to a large community of like-minded smokers. You'll find plenty of recipe books and videos online offering you a near endless supply of food adventures to experience.
The main accessory you will want to consider is the Traeger Timberline 850 cover. As with the smoker itself, it's extremely well constructed. It's made of a super thick canvas material and sits snugly over the oddly shaped smoker. A sturdy zipper runs the length of one corner, making it easy to fit without tearing or catching.
Elsewhere, Traeger supplies several different flavoured wood pellets, as well as its own rubs and sauces. These are not required – you can use any brand – but you may like to keep it in the family, so to speak, to get the best results.
You can also purchase individual components that might get damaged or lost without having to buy a whole new smoker. This includes the left-hand shelf, the right-hand cutting board and the pellet sensor.
For all these needs, your best place to start looking is on Amazon.
Should you buy the Traeger Timberline 850?
- Buy it if you want to create consistently fantastic smoked food with a minimum of effort, and want to buy a smoker that will stand the test of time.
- Don't buy it if you're on a budget, don't think you'll smoke food that often or aren't prepared to experiment and have fun.
The question you need to ask yourself is not whether you need a smoker, because they're bloody awesome. It's more whether you need to go all in on the top-of-the-range Traeger Timberline 850 or not.
With that in mind, all I can say is that you get what you pay for. The Traeger Timberline 850 is quality. You can tell simply from the materials used that it will stand the test of time. It comes with a stack of content to get you on your way. And it makes a great smoke a breeze.
Pricing and availability
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Images: Chris Stead