By: Chef Tony MatassaThe Skinny:
- Unprecedented package of features resets the standard for what a pellet grill can be
- Superior insulation and 304-grade stainless steel maximize durability and heat retention
- Industry-first induction side cooktop pushes Traeger’s cooking versatility to new levels
- New EZ-Clean™ components and locking accessory rail system prioritize convenience
- Available with a trim kit that lets you seamlessly build the grill into a BBQ island
At this point, Traeger is a brand whose name speaks for itself. It’s the company that created the concept of pellet grilling, continued innovating even as it held the patent from 1986 to 2006, and didn’t miss a beat as the leader in that space once the competition started heating up. I honestly wasn’t sure how much more Traeger could do to impress me, but then I got my hands on the all-new Timberline XL pellet grill. It’s an absolute beast that blew me away with thoughtful engineering and never-before-seen features that represent a new era for the industry — proof that the Traeger legacy is alive and well.
I spent a lot of time putting the new Timberline pellet grill through its paces with a mix of data-gathering and real-world grilling tests. Every experiment was geared toward better understanding the grill’s quality, performance, and features, which are thoroughly detailed in this all-new Traeger Timberline XL pellet grill review.
Before we begin, I want to point out a few things you should keep in mind while reading. First is that I reviewed the grill in its freestanding configuration, but it can be built into an outdoor kitchen island by simply adding a Timberline trim kit. (Built-in pellet grills are rare and typically come at higher price points, so count this as another major step forward for Traeger.) Additionally, this review covers the Timberline XL TBB01RLG; the revamped line also includes a non-XL model (TBB86RLG) that’s identical in everything except size. Also remember that we’re talking about the new Traeger Timberline, not the original 1300 and 850 models. If you want details on those grills, take a few minutes to read our original Traeger Timberline pellet grill review.
- 304-grade stainless steel provides top-tier corrosion resistance for all internal parts
- Completely double-walled interior is extra-durable and excellent at maintaining heat
- 10-year warranty on external components is a huge upgrade from past coverage
Though I was eager to get cooking on the new Timberline, I started with a close look at the grill’s materials using an XRF analyzer gun that checks for chemical composition. The exterior unsurprisingly registered as 18-gauge, powder-coated steel, the established standard for both Traeger and the pellet-grill industry in general. What’s under the hood, however, exceeded my expectations. Every stainless steel component turned out to be 304-grade — a premium, commercial-quality alloy with corrosion resistance that makes it the gold standard among outdoor materials. While Traeger used 304-grade stainless steel for the interior of the original Timberline series, seeing it throughout the new model signals a serious jump in quality.
The thickness of materials (as measured with calipers) is no joke, either: there’s an 18-gauge heat shield and EZ-Clean drip tray, 20-gauge interior hood liner, 8mm solid main cooking rods, and 5mm solid secondary cooking grates. For good measure, the entire interior is double-walled to increase longevity and improve heat stability. Even the bottom storage doors are double-walled, a key benchmark for quality grill design. And I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the soft-close hinges, a feature I’m glad is finally taking off in the grilling industry. Finally, the new Timberline has well-designed gaskets completely around the hood, and I appreciate Traeger for going the extra mile with a gasket for the EZ-Clean Grease+Ash Keg.
Now for the warranty. Traeger traditionally offered a flat, 3-year warranty for its pellet grills, but the all-new Timberline series carries a beefed-up 10 years of protection against rust-through on the grill body, legs, cabinet doors, bottom shelf, and painted shelf/hopper cover. Meanwhile, the grates, controller, and auger system are backed by Traeger’s usual 3 years of coverage. Traeger extends 1 year of protection for the remaining components and included probes, creating a comprehensive warranty that reflects the Timberline’s upper-Premium-class quality.
- Extreme end-to-end evenness at low temperatures, a huge advantage for BBQ smoking
- Easily handles all cooking tasks, from an all-day brisket smoke to a grill full of burgers
- Side-mounted induction cooktop preheats quickly and performs well at both high and low temps
Considering the first-rate insulation present throughout the grill, I was excited to hook up my thermocouples and see just how evenly it heats the smoking chamber. I conducted tests at 3 different temperatures, using probes spaced across the grates to determine the average heat level at specific settings.
My low-temp test saw the grill set to 250°F for 30 minutes, at which point I observed a grill-wide average of 238°F — pretty dang amazing, and exactly the type of consistency I want for a low-and-slow cook. For the medium-temp test, I left the grill on 350° for 30 minutes as well, conditions that yielded an average of 320°F. That’s not as jaw-dropping as the low-temp consistency, but still very good and on par with my commercial oven at home. Lastly, the high-temp test at 500°F produced an average of 443°F after 45 minutes; I’ll definitely take that from a pellet grill.
Then we finally got to the good stuff: real-world grilling tests that just so happened to result in dinner for me and our video crew. (Tough job, I know!) To gauge performance on medium-high, I loaded down the Timberline XL’s spacious main grilling rack with 28 burger patties and got to work. Predictably, the 30°F average variation I recorded at medium heat during the thermocouple tests didn’t affect the cook in any noticeable way. They all came out juicy with decent grill marks, and the lack of hot or cold spots meant I didn’t have to do any juggling or shuffling to get them there.
Next was my surf ‘n’ turf/reverse-sear test, designed to get the induction side burner involved and assess the entire cooking package. I started the beef tenderloins at moderate temperature on the grill alongside some lobster tails, bell peppers, and red onions, letting the thick beef cuts come to temp internally as I preheated Traeger’s cast iron skillet on the induction cooktop. The preheat was lightning-fast (more on how it works in the next section), and it helped the cast iron form a beautiful crust on the tenderloins. While the beef rested, I turned the induction burner to low for a quick beurre blanc sauce, and I’m proud to report it performed just as well at delicate temps. Adding such a quick and versatile cooking appliance to an already multi-functional pellet grill really puts the new Traeger Timberline over the top.
Of course, we couldn’t test a Traeger pellet grill without a BBQ smoking trial on low settings. What better than an all-day brisket smoke to get the job done? It cruised on remarkably steady temperatures — just like I observed in the low-temp thermocouple test — so at about the 14-hour mark, I added a couple whole chickens, some pork sausage, halved butternut squash, and green apples to see just how much the new Timberline XL could handle at once. The chicken and sausage smoked nicely, with great color and taste; the butternut squash and apples were equally excellent, carrying tons of wood-fired flavor even after I pureed them for a soup; and the brisket? Well, I had to take a moment of silence out of respect for its perfection. All in all, there are few things the Traeger Timberline XL TBB01RLG can’t do at the highest level.
- New EZ-Clean and P.A.L. accessory systems simplify the way you clean and cook
- Easy-to-use WiFIRE® controller provides precision, customization, and much more
- Large pellet hopper has integrated lights, sensors, and a magnetized top cutting board
You might want to find a comfortable position — this section will probably take a while. Let’s start by checking out the new features, beginning with one of my favorites: the Pop-And-Lock ® (or P.A.L.) system. Heavy-duty rails surround the front and sides of the grill, almost like a trim, giving you a place to attach optional Traeger accessories. It not only looks great and has a sturdy build, but also creates a customizable cooking setup. Not to be outdone, the back of the grill has a less-apparent but still-helpful feature: 2 newly added kickstands that fold out to level the unit when necessary.
The grease management system, meanwhile, received a complete redesign that ups the convenience factor. Fanned air around the fire pot moves ash up and onto the EZ-Clean drip pan above the heat shield, allowing you to simply scrape everything off the drip pan, through the left-hand grease tube, and into the EZ-Clean Grease+Ash Keg below. For one final touch of engineering brilliance, the keg locks into place on a flange to ensure the mess always ends up in the disposable keg liner and nowhere else.
Despite touching on the induction side burner in the “Performance” section, it deserves some more shine here. It’s the first outdoor-rated induction cooktop I’ve seen on a grill, and it comes with a metal cover that serves as a backsplash and windbreak when in use, as well as an extra workspace when not. So, why induction heating? In simplest terms, this type of heat transfer uses magnetism and polarity to heat your cooking vessel, making tasks like boiling a pot of water so fast and efficient that you’ll start to wonder if there’s a tiny magician inside. (There isn’t. I checked!)
The 22-lb. capacity on the new Traeger Timberline’s pellet hopper is up there with the original models, but the design has been mostly overhauled for greater convenience. For starters, the grill-facing side of the hopper is outfitted with a pair of lights that illuminate the cooking area at night. This is a smart location for lights because they won’t get dirty — and therefore less effective — like lighting placed inside the grill hood tends to do. The lights also function as a sensor that notifies the controller when the hood is open, signaling that the system needs to compensate for heat loss. (Generally speaking, the new Timberline XL has the most sensors of any Traeger yet.) Oh, and the top of the hopper houses a magnetic cutting board that pops off for easy cleaning, while the bottom features a release door for dumping pellets into the included container.
That brings me to the brains behind the operation: Traeger’s WiFIRE controller. It’s extremely user-friendly, with a full-color touch screen and selection knob for programming settings. The display helpfully tracks actual vs. set temperatures, current pellet levels in 5% increments, timers, induction burner controls, and info for paired probes and accessories — all of which can be customized and pinned to the home screen. Additionally, the Wi-Fi controller provides access to probe calibrations and diagnostics for various parts of the grill, a huge advantage for upkeep. Those familiar with Traeger will also be happy to see Super Smoke Mode and Keep Warm Mode, a pair of vital functions for boosting flavor and preserving post-cook quality, respectively. Throw in 2 wired temperature probes along with another pair of MEATER Bluetooth thermometers, and Traeger puts you in total command from the jump.
We’re nearing the end, so let’s quickly talk about the cooking surface. There are 3 grates in total, offering 1,320 square inches of space for the Traeger Timberline XL and 880 square inches for the non-XL model (both are slightly larger than the original Timberline grills). The top 2 auxiliary racks can be set in any of 5 positions for customized cooking, and I was especially impressed by the slick design that makes them easy to adjust, even when they’re loaded with food.
And while this last point doesn’t have any bearing on the cooking experience, I’ve got to mention it: the instructions and packaging are awesome. Traeger includes a thank-you letter, an offer for a free hat, an extremely thorough manual with QR codes that link to how-to videos, and a playfully designed box that the kids can use as a fort once everything’s unpacked. None of that may seem like much, but that little-details mentality carries over to every aspect of the Traeger Timberline XL pellet grill — one of the best grills I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing.
About Chef Tony
How does “trained-chef-meets-mad-scientist” sound? We can think of no better way to describe Chef Tony Matassa, our resident grill expert who literally grew up in the restaurant business — first in his family’s New Orleans eatery, then one of his own. With such a strong background in food and commercial-grade cooking, Chef Tony is perfectly suited to judge every grill in our selection.