Traeger Timberline 850 and 1300
Are a huge step up in build quality over previous generations with incredible insulation. These units come with three adjustable racks which provides a ton of cooking surface although the top rack really doesn’t hold much. The racks are high quality stainless steel and very durable in build quality. The WiFire technology makes remote monitoring and adjusting the temperature on the network or away from the house a breeze. I’ve used this at my kids events away from the home and it gives great confidence knowing the cooker is still rolling and where the meat is at in the moment. The grill can cook up to 500F and does a better job of searing than the Pro series. One significant downfall of this grill is the grease management system and how it is hidden inside the grill. If you don’t keep it clean, when the grease catch is full and hot, it will smoke back into the cooking chamber. The grease catch isn’t the easiest to remove and we’ve found that the grease channel can easily clog. As long as you know this and keep it clean, you’ll be fine. The front shelf is completely worthless as it’s not big enough to put anything on but it does and to the grills overall look and appeal. The cutting board is magnetic but not big enough to slice the big meats on nor durable enough to use daily but again is good decoration. The pellet hopper is plenty large and emptying to change flavors is easy. The super smoke feature works great and we enjoy using it at the beginning of cooks to get the smokey flavor we want and then proceed with turning the temperature up. The downdraft exhaust requires no cleaning or grease residue issues and makes taking the cover on and off a breeze. The units controller is fantastic and it holds temperatures within 5 degrees if not dead on. The robust construction, stainless steel throughout and precise cooking temperatures makes this a fantastic grill. We believe every backyard griller should have a pellet grill in the lineup and recommend Traeger without reservation.
Traeger Pro 575/780
Traeger grills began production in 1988 and today’s grills offer so much more technology that add to the overall quality and ease of use. The 2019 grills offer the D2 direct drive train which includes a variable speed fan and a one piece auger with a brushless motor. This is a big upgrade that offers more accurate temperatures in the cooking chamber as we’ve found our grill can hold temperatures within 5 degrees over 14 hour cooks. Recovery is much faster as well when you do open the lid and check your meat. Also new is TruboTemp which can quickly deliver cooking temperatures from 165 to 450 degrees which saves time and fuel at startup. The Pro 575/780 have wired temp probe options that let you know your meat temperature. WiFire is another new technology which uses Wi-Fi to allow the user to monitor the grill, control the temperature and cook from the smartphone. The best part is you don’t have to be on the home network and can connect in to the home Wi-Fi while away from the house. From my phone I can monitor the grill, change temperature, see the temperature of meat, set timers and see live temperature of the grill.
The temp probes that came with the grill for meat temperatures aren’t the most accurate and we prefer our thermoworks products which can work with the grill. The unit is well built but isn’t the most insulated so for those that live in colder environments we recommend stepping up to the Ironwood or Timberline for better insulation. There is a nice hanger on the back that holds the top grate when not using. The grates are porcelain coated and are much easier to clean than stainless steel. Startup is easy and the grill comes to temperature very fast and is one of the most efficient with pellets. We like the drip system but the placement is odd for the cover in fact we knocked the grease bucket off the first few times we took the cover off because of where and how it is placed. We recommend modifying it to prevent grease spills on your concrete or decking. Cleanup is easy and the burn off at the end gets rid of most the ash. We’ve found we can go up to 20 cooking hours without vacuuming the fire pot. While this unit doesn’t have the super smoke feature, it does put out nice thin blue smoke at lower temperatures. We recommend a smoke tube or chunk of wood on the grates if you want even more flavor. 450F is the hottest the grill can go and we’ve found it really isn’t hot enough to leave grill marks which is typical of pellet grills. It’s really a low and slow machine and should be used like an oven or traditional smoker although we find it does roast meat well. We also prefer the smoke stack on this unit to the downdraft system on the higher end models as it resembles that of a offset pit. Traeger did a nice job on this new lineup and we highly recommend the Pro series for those wanting a pellet grill that is easy to use and accurate.
ThermoWorks manufactures a number of the best thermometers on the market for indoor and outdoor cooking. Their “Smoke” is a transmitter that connects to two probes and a remote receiver that you can wear around your neck or put in your pocket. The remote can work up to 300 feet away so that you don’t have to babysit your BBQ. It can be paired with unlimited receivers and a wireless gateway that sends your temps to the cloud and smartphones for an additional $89. Smoke comes with the two probes, one for the cooker temp and one for the food temperature. This unit is designed to track temperatures over extended periods of time and is really designed for competition BBQ teams but priced for the backyard enthusiasts. Smoke isn’t meant to replace instant read thermometers and we still recommend, check out our reviews on our favorite instant reads.
The user interface is so easy that you don’t need a manual and is ready to use right out of the box. Smoke literally smokes the competition with its ease of use. Smoke communicates with the remote on radio frequency not Bluetooth. This is a game changer as you won’t have connection issues and have to pair all the time. The Smoke communicates well with the remote and is quick to indicate loss of signal.
Smoke’s probes are the same used on their DOT and ChefAlarm products and are incredibly high quality. The probes are thin and we’ve found the cables last when properly cared for and kinking is prevented. The probes are rated from up to 570F. The cooker temp probe comes with a clip that holds it in place. Replacement probes cost under $20. We recommend cleaning and taking care of them, just don’t submerge them when washing. The transmitter and remote are splash resistant and are built very well.
The transmitter has magnets on the back so it can be mounted to steel parts on the cooker that aren’t hot to touch. It also has a pop out stand that makes for sitting on the side shelves convinent. The digital readout has 2 sections, one for the cooker temp and one for the meat temp. The backlight is great and easy to read even in the sun, numbers are also big enough to read with ease from a distance. The remote is similar just in a smaller scale and we’ve found it very nice to have. Min and Max alarms are also available but fair warning these things will continue to beep until you shut them off. The units require AA batteries but do come with them and also come pre paired which again makes this unit very fool proof.
For long, low and slow cooks, Smoke is absolutely what we use to monitor pit temp and meat temp. It’s accurate, easy to use and very reliable. When you consider the cost of the big meats like prime rib, brisket, tenderloin, shoulders etc. it makes this a no brainer purchase. Further the accuracy Smoke provides is so much better than what comes with grills today. In fact we were shocked how far off pellet grills controllers were when testing against Smoke, no just one but all the main brands controllers were off as much as 50F degrees compared to Smoke.
The Thermoworks Thermapen MK4 is the latest and greatest instant read thermometer. The unit is super easy to use and provides instant readings on a large easy to see LCD screen. The LCD automatically flips based on position and goes into sleep mode automatically. The unit runs on a single AAA battery and is rated at an incredible 3,000 hours of use. To top things off the MK4 is fully waterproof. This is the best instant read thermometer on the market and a must buy for all cooking enthusiasts. While this unit does cost on the high side, we believe this is money well spent based on the high quality, durability, speed and accuracy that the MK4 provides. The only problem you’ll have is the need for a second unit, my wife is always “borrowing” mine and sometimes I have to really search to find it.
While this unit has been around for well over a decade, it’s still providing incredible value. The unit reads temperatures in 2 to 3 seconds with great accuracy. It also can read a very wide range of temptress from -58 to 572. The unit is water and dust resistant but you really should guard against water and dry immediatly should you spill water on it. It has an auto on/off with no buttons. The screen is large and easy to read and you can even toggle between Fahrenheit and Celsius under the battery cover. One downside is the unit takes 2 CR-20323/1 batteries which aren’t easy to find and lasts 1,500. We’ve had our classic thermapen for over 10 years and have completely abused it and left it outside overnight in the rain and it just keeps going.