Traeger Timberline XL Is The Ultimate Outdoor Kitchen
I’ve spent the past few months getting familiar with the Traeger Timberline XL. Is it for everyone? Do you need it? It all depends on how dedicated you are to outdoor cooking.
Unlike my Traeger-worshiping delivery person of a few years ago, the gentleman shoving the 300 lb. pallet up my driveway was unimpressed by the fact that I was getting a new Traeger (provided by the company for my honest opinion).
“Y’know, I used to grill. Grilled a bunch. Had a big smoker.” He shook his head. “Now I’ve just got a little charcoal grill. Does me just fine.” At this point he broke off and stared pointedly at me.
Was he issuing a silent warning not to tie my worth and masculinity to a piece of grilling equipment? Was he leveraging disapproval for what he considered blatant excess? Was he maybe, again, just letting me know he was annoyed that this entire sweaty endeavor could have been avoided if I’d just, y’know, stuck with a small charcoal grill.
Unboxing the Timberline XL for the first time, I kind of saw his point.
This is a massive piece of equipment. Meant for devouring entire sides of pork, with plenty of room for a few chickens and briskets. I worked my way around the pallet, peeling off layers of cardboard around a box that was practically as large as my Chevy Bolt. I thought of my typical grilling evening, which consists of a handful of burgers and buns. The word “overkill” immediately sprung to mind.
But then I started thinking about the possibilities. I could bake sides as I roasted the main dish, plus have another side or sauce simmering on the induction burner. I could roast a whole side of pork. Or multiple racks of ribs, again with plenty of real estate to fix additional dishes.
Yes, the Traeger Timberline XL is overkill if you look at it as just a grill instead of what it really is.
An instant outdoor kitchen in a box.
Don’t kid yourself, you’re going to want to set aside an evening and employ the help of a friend or two as you step through the assembly process. Especially if you’ve gotten a few accessories, just unpacking the boxes so that you can sort out all the pieces takes a substantial amount of time.
While I was able to assemble and stand up my old Ironwood 650 on my own, with the Timberline XL my first real hurdle came after I’d screwed in the wheels on the bottom. At 238 lbs., with no locking mechanism for the lid, it’s nearly impossible for one person to get the right leverage to lift and place the grill on its wheels. I was finally able to get it there, but only by undergoing a maneuver where I risked snapping off the wheels I’d just installed (thankfully they held).
After that nervous beginning, I was able to wheel the Timberline XL inside to get started on the rest of the assembly, including the induction burner and other accessories. As with other Traeger products, the assembly instructions are clear, concise, and easy to follow. I wish everyone who made gear would check them out and learn some lessons.
I also really appreciate that Traeger’s aware of the ponderous amount of cardboard required to ship the Timberline XL. To that end, they’ve printed an entire saloon playset on the inside, complete with a wanted poster, swinging doors, and a table for checkers. Why just recycle when you can have some fun? After all, it’s not often you get a giant box to play with.
Once you assemble your grill, it’s time to wheel it outside, fill up the hopper (which can devour an entire 20 lb. bag of pellets), and start the setup process.
Plug in the Timberline XL and the first thing you’ll notice is the new and improved control center. The Timberline series ditches the monotone display of previous grills for a full-color touchscreen. You can also scroll through menu choices (and dial in your temperature) with a large, easy-to-use dial.
The grill walks you through everything you need to do, including getting online. Yes, the Timberline XL is unapologetically an online device. It’s needed for connecting to the app (for things like uploading recipes and remotely controlling settings) and OTA software updates. The latter is important. I found that I needed a couple of updates to shake out a few operational errors I encountered in my early testing.
Once everything’s updated, the grill walks you through the curing process. You’ll load up some pellets and it’ll prime the grill and burn off any leftover factory gunk.
While it’s doing that, it’s the perfect time to poke around and get familiar with what makes the Timberline series such an important evolution in the Traeger line.
Improvements and Accessories
While the new control center is the most obvious improvement in the Timberline line, there are plenty of other features that feel like important evolutionary upgrades.
First off, the pellet hopper (with its convenient wooden cutting board lid) has a chute on the bottom so that you can easily clear all the pellets out with the pull of a handle. The space underneath that you can fill with wooden shelves can also accommodate one of Traeger’s pellet storage containers. So now it’s considerably easier (and less messy) to switch out pellets when you want a certain flavor wood for the dish you’re cooking.
Once the pellets are sorted, you can head over to the under-grill cabinet. Behind the doors here, there’s plenty of room for storage, as well as the EZ-Clean Grease and Ash keg. This is one of the things I was most excited for. Previously, to clean your Traeger, you had to vacuum out ashes from the fire pot and keep an eye on a grease bucket precariously hanging off the side. All of that’s changed with the new system that channels grease and ash into a central well and collects it all in a bucket that snaps in underneath. You do still have to do some scraping down of the pan underneath the grill grates, but it’s a considerably better system overall.
Another huge upgrade is the integration of wireless MEATER thermometers. The Traeger Timberline XL comes with two and you can independently set the temperatures for each using the grill itself or the app. Handy when you need to cook different proteins (or just want different temps for your burgers). The probes come with a charging station that’s magnetic, so you can pop it anywhere that’s convenient.
Speaking of pop—the new P.A.L. Pop-And-Lock system gives you major options when it comes to accessorizing your grill. There are some obvious must-haves, like a storage cubby for sauces and seasonings and hooks for your grill tools. There’s also a nice-to-have roll rack for a roll of butcher paper (or paper towels if you’re like me). There’s also a pop-and-lock folding shelf available and it’s so good, I think it should actually be standard equipment. Not having to balance a pan on the lip of the grill or drip marinade all over my deck as I transfer protein to the grill grates is incredibly helpful. Not to mention, sometimes you just need a little space in front of the grill to work. It folds out of the way when it’s not in use.
One other notable improvement is the LED light that illuminates when you lift the heavy, dual-insulated lid.
So what’s it like when you lift that lid and start actually using the Timberline XL? If you’ve cooked on any Traeger grill in the past few years, you’ll know the experience well. Dial in your temp, then let the Traeger figure out how to get there. Or, if you’re cooking from a recipe, pull it up in the Traeger app and send it directly to the grill after it’s been started and the grill sets the temperatures for you (plus any temp changes along the way).
None of that has really changed with the Timberline XL except the amount of space you have to play with. I decided to do a full BBQ Chicken dinner with cornbread muffins and mac & cheese, all on the grill.
I got the Timberline to 400, then inserted a MEATER probe into the thickest chicken breast and set the desired temp. While those were working, I boiled some water for macaroni on the induction burner. Then I popped a pan of corn muffins next to my chicken.
My extra ingredients for the mac and cheese were easily accessible and, really, the only time I had to leave the Timberline was when I had to strain the pasta. That’s when I realized that the Timberline XL is not simply a grill/smoker with a burner, it’s an entire outdoor kitchen in one (relatively) compact package.
That’s why, if you have the room, I’d recommend incorporating the Timberline XL as a built-in into your outdoor patio space. Traeger sells a trim kit that takes away the rolling casters (which might not be a bad idea anyway, more on that in a sec) and adds a kickplate to cover the gap between the bottom of the grill and the floor. Then it’s just a matter of making a space for the induction burner in your countertop (it connects to the Traeger with a plug for power and uses Bluetooth connectivity to communicate, it’s not actually hardwired into the grill).
As far as my “entire meal on the grill” experiment? It worked out perfectly and with far less hassle than I’ve ever experienced cooking outdoors. The Timberline XL comes to temperature must faster than my old Ironwood 650 and is better at holding a stable temp. It’s perfect for baking and makes for reliable grilling. Even if you’re not making a whole extra side, the induction burner is perfect for reducing sauces and having them at the ready.
And with the app integration, you don’t actually have to stand there, constantly poking at the grill. The Timberline XL is smart enough to adjust fuel flow to maintain your selected temperature. Which is probably good since, if you have Super Smoke on, you’ll end up smelling like a campfire if you stand outside next to it.
When I started my first recipe on the Timberline XL, I was met with rows of “Placeholder” text. And while that issue’s been cleared up with subsequent over the air software updates, I’ve since been chasing down an intermittent problem with the lid sensor sensor (important for letting the Traeger decide if it’s cooling off because the lid is up or if it should be dumping additional fuel in the fire pot). Long story short, more technology means more points of failure. If something does go wrong, I know that Traeger’s excellent customer service will clear it up right away. But if you’re looking for a simple “hot dogs on the grill” kind of experience (like my beleaguered delivery person), then you may find it occasionally frustrating.
Also, as I mentioned in the assembly section, the Timberline XL is heavy. Ridiculously heavy. While it does have caster wheels, you need to make sure that none of them are locked before you start moving it. The Timberline XL’s weight is mainly in the front of the unit and it will definitely tip that way if given the chance. Then you’ve got an approximately 250 lb. hunk of metal that needs at least two to three people to get it back on its wheels. When moving it to get ready for Hurricane Ian, I managed to tip it on its front and there it stayed till after the storm passed. Again, a built-in installation is probably the best way to go.
So, essentially, know what you’re getting into when you buy the Timberline XL. While it can do everything that your standard non-connected, grill/smoker can, there’s much more to it than meets the eye.
Where Can I Get It?
You can grab the Timberline XL for $3,799 and the, slightly smaller, 880 sq. ft Timberline for $3,499 on the Traeger site. As we head into the fall and football grilling is at its peak, there’s really no better time.
Traeger’s continuing to innovate and isn’t done with the Timberline series yet. There’s a pizza oven that was teased during the original announcement that we’ll hopefully see sometime this year. Rest assured, when it comes out, I’ll be giving it a whirl.