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“Barbecue may not be the road to world peace, but it’s a start”
– Anthony Bourdain
To grill or not to grill, that is the question…
That’s probably how the late, great Anthony Bourdain would have summed up the human condition.
How a person thinks about, and their approach to, food can often tell you everything you need to know about someone.
Do they have a rigid dietary construct? Do they believe that meals are best savored and enjoyed alone?
Or do they think that food is best enjoyed in good company, surrounded by family and friends, subscribing to a communal approach to cooking and enjoying whatever food is being prepared and offered instead?
Bourdain definitely fell into the latter camp, and we have to admit that we do too. Most barbecuing and grilling fanatics do.
We are all products of our environment, and as we were raised around, and on, barbecue and grilling is indelibly stamped on our DNA, which means that we’re suckers for both.
Nothing beats the great taste of slow-cooked barbecue, meat that’s been left to smoke for hours on end, and succulent burgers and ribs that have been grilled to absolute perfection.
It’s been our life long quest to find the consummate grill, the one that’ll allow us to not only prepare exemplary barbecue and flawless smoked and grilled meats but will also make the experience of cooking with it make our hearts beat a little faster while lifting our souls a little closer to barbecuing heaven.
That might be about to change though, as one of our favorite grilling brands, Traeger, has unleashed the Ironwood series on the world, and they’ve made some major improvements over the past couple of years. Being as devoted to the art of grilling as we are, we knew that we had to try this mighty pellet smoker out for ourselves.
It took us a while, but we finally managed to lay our hands on one of Traeger’s Ironwood 650 Pellet Grill, and now that we’ve tried it out, and have managed to scrape our jaws off the floor, we thought we’d tell you all about this incredible grill and everything that this barbecuing wonder can do.
Welcome to the Traegerhood
It might sound a little corny, but Traeger’s emphasis on welcoming everyone to their Traegerhood is reflective of the communal spirit of grilling and barbecuing that they absolutely and wholeheartedly believe in.
They’re fanatical about grilling and founded their company to introduce the world to the joys of cooking with wood pellets, as Traeger claims that everything tastes better when it’s grilled, barbecued, smoked, roasted, and braised with wood.
And having spent a day cooking the Traeger way with the Ironwood, we’re forced to admit that they might just have a point. Grilling with wood pellets really does make everything good.
Traeger Ironwood 650 Pellet Grill
One of the things that Traeger is absolutely adamant about pointing out to everyone who is even vaguely interested in using one of their grills, is that all of the grills that they design and manufacturer are made to be six in one cooking machines and run the entire gamut of the barbecuing world.
And the words “all of our grills” that Traeger throws out so easily and nonchalantly, includes the Traeger Ironwood 650.
We should also add that this grill comes in a bigger size if you like this one but prefer even more cooking area. If that’s you, check out the Traeger Ironwood 885.
Six In One Functionality
What’s six in one? Well, six in one is a phrase that Traeger uses to describe how versatile their grills, and more specifically the Ironwood 650, is.
It can be used to grill, smoke, barbecue, braise, roast and bake whatever you want it to.
It might sound like a brash, foolhardy claim, but it really isn’t.
Everything that they say this grill can do, it really can.
Except for baking an apple pie, which Traeger says that the Ironwood is capable of, but as we didn’t even try to slice and dice some apples and make pastry and pursue that particular avenue, we can’t verify the truth of what they’ve said one way or another.
What can we say? We’re BBQ people, we’re not bakers.
It’s Time to Go Grilling
Truthfully, we were blown away by the amount of cooking space that the Ironwood has to offer.
Traeger says it’s six hundred and fifty square inches, and while we’re not very good at math and didn’t have a measuring tape with us to do the necessary calculations that would let us know if they were exaggerating, we figured that we wouldn’t have to, as they’re almost certainly, if anything, underplaying how much cooking space the Ironwood has.
We grilled a whole chicken, four burgers, and a couple of steaks and there was still enough space for maybe double what we cooked.
Six hundred and fifty inches? It’s probably closer to seven hundred
That space is spread out over two grills that are totally contained within the barrel of the Ironwood, one higher and one lower.
You open the barrel to put whatever it is you’re grilling on the racks and then slide it closed when everything is in place.
Then you just set the temperature, push the ignite button, step back, and let the Ironwood do the rest.
There’s actually a little more to it than that, but you get the general idea. You load, it cooks and you eat.
The Magic of WiFIRE Technology
Most of the time we feel like analog remnants in a purely digital world, and while the Ironwood was easy enough to grill with manually (it was literally a matter of just setting the temperature, pressing go, and letting it do the rest), we needed to test the WiFire control system to see how effective it was.
So, we followed the easy instructions, downloaded the app, connected to the Ironwood, and at long last, actually fell in love with technology.
The only thing that the WiFire won’t let you do is fire up the grill, you have to do it by hand, but everything else?
You can do it straight from your smartphone.
It shows you the temperature, which you can adjust, the time remaining on your cook, and the internal temperature of your grill which is taken by the meat probe and sent directly to your phone.
The thing that really sold us on the WiFire control though, was the recipe book that comes with it.
When you open it up, you click on a recipe and send it straight to your Ironwood.
The grill then takes over and somehow adjusts the temperature and timer that the recipe requires, and just like we said before, the Ironwood then does everything for you.
Heat, Power, & Taste
Like all Traeger grills, the Ironwood uses a separate hooper that you load the pellets it needs to make heat into, ignite the grill and stand back.
All of the heat and smoke from the wood pellets is then channeled into the main chamber (or, if you’re a Luddite like us, the barrel) of the grill and, just as it does at every other stage of the process, the Ironwood does the rest.
The Ironwood’s hopper is simply staggering.
It holds a huge amount of pellets, something like twenty pounds, and even though we thought we were grilling like maniacs, we didn’t have to add any more pellets, the Ironwood just kept on making heat.
We played around with the app, turned the temperature up and down, and did everything that we could to try and throw a wrench in the Ironwood’s works, and nothing phased it.
It just kept on going until it finished, and when it did?
Those burgers tasted great, the steak was incredible and the chicken?
It was one of the only times we’ve eaten chicken and haven’t thought that maybe the Colonel’s secret recipe would make the bird even better.
Traeger is right. Wood pellets really do make everything taste better.
Traeger Ironwood 650 – Final Thoughts
Out of all the grills that we’ve cooked with during the course of our barbecuing lives, the Traeger Ironwood 650 is without a doubt one of the best. And it stacks up great compared to the Traeger Pro Series.
At the end of the day, whether or not this is the grill for you is going to come down to one big matter of personal preference.
It’s the WiFire and overall ease of use. The WiFi control that comes with the Ironwood makes grilling and smoking so easy – which in many ways is a great thing.
But if you’re the type who loves the manual process of starting your fire and actively managing your cook, it might not be for you. For the hands-on grillers who like to get deep in the process and enjoy the cook as much as we do the food.
The Ironwood inherently doesn’t let you do that, so it’s something to think about. Of course, if you’re looking for a hands off way to make spectacular food, it’s a wonderful choice.