If you’re thinking about buying a Traeger Grill, you’ll want to consider a few things first. In this article, I go over each of the different series of grills (Pro, Ironwood and Timberline), their pros and cons and other things you’ll want to think about before making your purchase.
Traeger Grill Considerations When Buying
Before we do a deep dive into the different models, let’s cover some general considerations:
Obviously, this one goes without saying, but how much do you have to spend? When buying a Traeger Grill, a big part of your decision is going to depend on your budget and what you can afford. Just keep in mind that depending on how often you use your Traeger, you’ll also need to allocate a few hundred dollars a year, or more, for wood pellets to operate your grill.
Size of Your Family and Circle of Friends
How many people do you expect to cook for? The amount of people will determine how big of a grill you buy. For a family of 2 adults and 2 children, or less, I think you can manage with any of the smaller sized grills. For larger families or families with older children that eat more, the bigger grill sizes are probably a better fit because you can handle more food at once.
Also consider where you plan on putting your grill. You might be lucky enough to have a condo that allows grills on balconies, but your balcony might only have enough space to accommodate a smaller sized grill.
Traeger has actually made this decision an easy one for you to navigate because they’ve included the grill capacity right in the name of each grill. The number following the grill model always refers to the size of the grilling capacity in square inches. In other words, the Ironwood 880 has 880 square inches of grilling space. The Pro 780 has 780 square inches of grilling space. The Timberline 1300 has 1300 square inches of grilling space. So on and so forth.
To give you an idea of how big the Ironwood 880 is, it’s enough for 10 chickens or 7 racks of ribs or 9 pork butts, according to the Traeger website.
Keep in mind, the bigger the grill, the more pellets it will need to heat it. So, if you think you are only going to be cooking for 2 or 3 people on a regular basis, you might be wasting money on pellets trying to heat up a larger grill. Instead, it might be a better option for you to purchase the smaller grill and use the savings towards more pellets.
Buying a Traeger Grill Based on What You Want To Cook
In my opinion, this is one of the most important considerations because it’s largely going to determine what features and size you need. If you’re looking to throw a block party or cookout with several racks of ribs, pork butts or big briskets, than a bigger grill with more internal real estate is ideal to accommodate the larger format of these cuts of meat. If you just want to roast some chicken or grill some burgers and sausages every now and then, a smaller grill is more likely for you.
Do You Want Bells and Whistles? Buy Accordingly
You can read below for more detailed comparisons, but Traegers come with a variety of features and upgrades as you go up in price. For example, the Timberline is fully loaded and comes with additions like a pellet sensor that lets you know when you’re running low on pellets. The Ironwood and Timberline also come with upgraded controllers that have additional buttons, which simplifies things compared to the scroll-through menu functions on the Pro Series.
Grill Design and Aesthetics
The grill design you like is entirely personal preference, so when buying a Traeger grill it’s going to be up to you to decide whether the streamlined looks of the Ironwood or Timberline play a role in your decision or not.
Traeger Grills Models and Cost
Aside from older Traeger models, smaller units, like the Ranger or Tailgater, and store-exclusive grills, like the Century, Texas Elite or Silverton, sold at retailers like Costco, Traeger Grills come in 3 main lines: the Pro Series, the Ironwood Series and the Timberline Series. Each of these series has two grill sizes: a smaller one and a larger one. The smaller grills in each line are always less expensive than the bigger ones, as can be expected. More on the specific comparisons below.
It’s important to know that each Traeger basically works the same. They use electricity to burn 100% all-natural, food-grade wood pellets. There is no propane, natural gas or charcoal involved. All you need is access to an electrical outlet and Traeger-brand wood pellets.
Unlike most conventional grills, Traegers use indirect heat to cook food (no direct heat or flame-to-food cooking). At the push of a button and turn of a dial, the wood pellet hopper feeds an internal auger that channels the pellets into a fire pit in the bottom middle of the grill. The fire pit is equipped with a heating rod and small fan. As the pellets get hot from the rod, the fan introduces oxygen and the pellets combust. The fire pit is topped with a heating baffle that deflects the heat, pushing it out towards the edges of the grill. Above it is the grease pan, which catches any drippings that fall while the food cooks, and directs it into a grease pan or bucket. The easiest way to understand a Traeger is to think of it like an outdoor convection oven with smoking, grilling, roasting and baking capabilities. It is the most versatile and user-friendly grill I have ever cooked with.
Buying a Traeger Grill is kind of like buying a car. You can buy the baseline model that comes with standard features, the midline model that comes with a sunroof and leather seats, or the fully-loaded edition that comes with all of the above, plus a 21-speaker sound system, 20” chrome rims, and a bigger engine. Of course, each upgrade comes with a price.
Whether you only have the budget for an entry-level Pro Series or top-of-the-line Timberline, I honestly believe you are making an excellent decision buying a Traeger. I absolutely love, love, LOVE, my Traegers and have been cooking on them exclusively for over 3 years now. I got rid of my gas grill, no longer touch my charcoal one and have pretty much replaced my oven with my Traeger most days of the week.
Traeger Pro Series – The Most Bang For Your Buck
The Pro 575 retails for $799.99 USD and the Pro 780 retails for $999.99 USD. The Pro Series is Traeger’s best-selling line and rightfully so. They’re an amazing value, perform very well and are easy to install. If you’re looking into buying a Traeger grill right now, they’re actually currently on sale for $100-off for Father’s Day.
Thanks to a complete product overhaul in 2019, the Pro Series are actually better than ever. They now come standard equipped with WiFire® Technology, which allows you to control your grill from your phone using the Traeger App. The new D2® Direct Drive drivetrain improves start-up and temperature control speeds, which were previously lagging. And thanks to a very recent 2020 software update, the new Pro Series grills can now churn out a maximum temperature of 500˚F. In fact, on a hot, summer day, my Pro780 has gone up to 506˚F, which makes for excellent searing capabilities.
If you’re just looking to grill and have no desire for any additional bells and whistles, the Pro Series is for you. It’s the best bang for your buck. However, I highly, HIGHLY recommend purchasing one of the 2019 or later models so that you can get these new features, updates and designs. They seriously make a world of difference!
Traeger Ironwood – Midline Buying at its Best
The Ironwood 660 retails for $1199.99 USD and the Ironwood 880 retails for $1499.99 USD. The increased price comes with a few improvements and features above the Pro Series. If you’re going to be buying a Traeger grill and have the extra bucks lying around, the Ironwood might be the one for you.
Downdraft Exhaust and True Convection
Unlike the Pro Series, which emits smoke from a side chimney, the Ironwood uses a Downdraft Exhaust positioned at the rear of the grill. This allows for a better exhaust system, which pushes old smoke out of the grill through the back, while simultaneously introducing new smoke produced in the fire pot. It also creates what Traeger refers to as True Convection.
In terms of how the Downdraft Exhaust delivers smoke and impacts the flavour of your food, it mostly applies in cases when you’re actually smoking foods between 165˚F and 275˚F. When cooking above 275˚F, you are venturing into the realm of grilling or roasting and at those higher temperatures, the grill does not produce as much smoke because the pellets are combusting at a faster rate.
What’s interesting about the Downdraft Exhaust is that it contributes to something Traeger calls True Convection. This helps circulate heat and smoke through specially design channels throughout the grill, resulting in more efficient and reduced cooking times.
The Ironwood also features Traeger’s Super Smoke Mode. This feature, which does not come on the Pro Series grills, increases the overall output of smoke between 165˚F and 225˚F at the push of a button. This is ideal if you plan on making BBQ recipes, such as beef ribs, pork ribs, pulled pork, brisket, or even smoked fish. Really, it’s great for anything you want to infuse with wood-fired flavour. One of my favourite things to do is smoke a chicken for an hour at 165˚F and then finish it at 425˚F to get the skin all crispy. It’s the best of both flavour worlds. You can do this on the Pro Series grills – the Super Smoke setting just pumps up the level of smoke. At higher temperatures though, the Super Smoke feature doesn’t come into play.
Double Sidewall Insulation
On the Ironwood, an additional piece of aluminized steel is placed on the sidewalls of the grill (not on the back or door of the grill) to help with heat retention and insulation. This may be an important consideration if you live in a colder climate or plan to use your Traeger grill in the winter months.
Ambient temperatures can sometimes cause the inside of the grill to fluctuate +/- 5˚F. For the everyday home cook, this is not a huge deal. I run my Pro780 all winter long in Toronto where the temperatures sometimes drop below 30˚C and I rarely have any issues in cold weather cooking. After all, you can always adjust the temperature dial to run +/-5˚F to account of the fluctuation. Keep in mind, though, running the grill at a higher heat to account for a colder ambient temperature will increase the amount of pellets used. Also, cold weather will increase the grill start-up time because it takes longer to warm up the interiors. A better insulated grill actually uses less pellets.
For older Pro Series models, Traeger sells insulating blankets that can be secured onto the outside of the grills. This helps with heat retention, but, as far as I know, they haven’t made these for the new Pro Series models.
The Ironwood Series come standard with a stainless-steel side shelf with built in hooks for utensils. It’s a convenient feature if you need a place to rest your serving platter, carving board, or anything else you bring out to your grill. Front shelves can be purchased individually.
The Ironwood also comes with an upgraded control panel with additional buttons, like super smoke. This makes for a more streamlined grilling process because you can just push a button, rather than scroll through the digital menu like you would on the Pro Series.
However, keep in mind that a lot of the time you might be using the Traeger App to control your grill anyways, so are you really going to need those extra buttons?
Traeger Timberline – Fully Loaded Like No Other
The Timberline is the top-of-the-line, fully-loaded Traeger model. The 1300 is by far the largest of the Traeger grills and an absolute behemoth. It has a larger cooking capacity than 2 Pro 575s combined, handling 12 chickens or 15 racks of ribs or 12 pork butts.
So, along with everything listed above about the Ironwood, the Timberline has the following:
Fully Insulated Grill Interior with Gasket
In addition to the double sidewall panels of the Ironwood, the Timberline features an aluminized steel double-wall back panel and grill door for even more insulation. It also comes with a gasket that runs around the edges of the grill door, which helps keep heat in.
Stainless-Steel Grill Grates
Unlike the non-stick coated porcelain grill grates on the Pro Series and Ironwood, the Timberline comes with stainless-steel grill grates. On the one hand, this is a good thing because stainless-steel grates are much more durable than the porcelain ones. Steel is also a better conductor of heat, meaning they get hotter than porcelain grates, which allows for better searing capabilities. However, they are also more prone to having food stick to them. Therefore, you may need to oil your grill before placing food down, depending on what you’re cooking.
Keep in mind that Traeger sells different individual grates, including cast-iron ones. So, you can always swap out one for the other as long as they are the ones that fit your grill size and dimensions.
The Timberline is taller and slightly more oval-shaped than the Pro Series and Ironwood. This increased height has allowed for the inclusion of a third shelf in both the Timberline 850 and Timberline 1300, as opposed to the 2 shelves in the Pro Series and Ironwood. So, even though the grill footprint of the Timberline 850 is around the same as that of the Ironwood 660, it provides 200 square inches more grilling capacity.
Internal Grease Management System
A major difference with the Timberline is the internal grease management system. On the Pro Series and Ironwood, grease is channeled down the grease pan in the centre of the grill towards the left side and out through a spout where it gets caught in a hanging grease bucket.
On the Timberline, grease is directed to the front of the grill into a trough that runs towards the left side of the grill and down into an internal grease trap built into the bottom of the barrel. This makes for a more streamlined design and is possibly an important consideration when buying a Traeger grill if you have a dog that likes to get its nose in the grease bucket!
Some people really like this feature and others, like myself, are just as happy with an external grease bucket.
Increased Hopper Size and Included Pellet Sensor
The Timberline also comes standard with a pellet sensor that will alert you when your pellets are running low. I know, this seems like an insignificant feature but I’m embarrassed to say how many times I have run out of pellets in the middle of cooking something on my Traeger. The pellet sensor would have alerted me so that I could have added more before it was too late. This is especially important when cooking temperature-sensitive foods like brisket.
The good news is Traeger now sells the pellet sensor individually so you can add it to any model.
Steel Front Shelf and Side Cutting Board
In addition to the steel side shelf that comes with the Ironwood, the Timberline includes a narrow steel front shelf and a magnetic bamboo cutting board that sits on top of the pellet hopper. The front shelf looks very nice, but it’s a bit too narrow to be practical. The magnetic cutting board is also a nice addition and I have to admit that I really like the way it looks with the wood addition. In my mind, these are both aesthetic upgrades more than functional ones.
Buy the Traeger Grill That’s Right For You
Buying a Traeger grill really boils down to what you’re looking for, how much you want to spend and how many mouths you want to feed. Are you a weekend warrior who wants to smoke a rack of ribs a couple times a year? Or do you plan on cranking out brisket, pork butts, legs of lamb, loads of burgers, steaks and veggies any day ending in the letter ‘y’?
Either way, no matter which Traeger grill you buy, I think you’re getting an amazing product and are going to be cooking some of the best tasting food you’ve ever enjoyed.
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