While I’ve been known to get out and grill when there’s inches of snow on the ground (there’s a reason I shovel a path to the grill), with warmer temps around the corner here in the midwest, grilling is going to be on a lot of people’s minds. Just in time to get you ready for spring, here comes the brand new Traeger Ironwood series of pellet grills.
If you’re not familiar, pellet grills are a great new option that you’ve got for grilling. In the past, you’ve had to choose between the great flavor (but slower startup and harder control) of a charcoal grille (preferably with the hardwood charcoal) or the fast-and-easy usage of a propane grill. Enter the pellet grill. With it, you can get the fast startup and easy temperature control of a gas grill, while getting the amazing flavor of a charcoal grill. Additionally, with the wood pellets you use, you can change out the types of wood being used, and you’re also able to do low-and-slow cooking that will start getting you closer to what your local BBQ joint can make.
Ever since I tasted a brisket that a friend made (on a Traeger, as it turns out) that cooked for 14 hours, I was sold. So much so, I actually picked up a pellet grill myself this past fall, and made the best turkey I’ve ever had. It’s not a Traeger, but that was more for the pricepoint I was able to pick mine up. That’s not the important part here – it’s more for establishing that, yes, I’ve used these types of grills, and can speak to them.
One of the first things you want to consider – after how much grilling space you want – is how much the hopper of the grill can hold. You don’t want to have to refill the thing multiple times, or worry about it running out in the course of a long cook. Here, the Traeger Ironwood can hold 22 lbs, which will easily swallow a few of the bags your local hardware store is selling, and keep you running (my rule of thumb is about a pound per hour of operation).
The next thing you want to consider is the temperature range a grill can handle. When they’ve got a dedicated “smoke it all” setting, you’re hovering somewhere around the 200 F mark, which is just fine for those longer cooks (I’ve not gone lower than 225 so far). So, that’s less of a concern, what you want to pay attention to is the upper end. The Traeger Ironwood can hit 500 F, which means you can easily sear your steaks, or get some quicker-cooking items like burgers and hotdogs blasted out when that’s what the weekend calls for.
Of course, you need to consider how it is you’re controlling those temps. With the Traeger Ironwood, you’ve got an LCD display telling you what the temp is set at, and a knob to the side to dial in the temperature it’s going for. That’s the secret sauce of a pellet grill. There’s an auger that comes out of the pellet hopper that feeds in fuel as it needs to maintain that temperature. Once you figure out where you want to cook things at, life becomes a lot simpler. Maintaining that temperature is key. Inexpensive grills use thinner metal, which means a lot of heat can escape, causing you to burn more fuel.
A higher-end grill will use heavier gauge steel, which helps hold heat (and makes for a more durable grill), but even those can make use of an insulating blanket when temps are below 40 F (such as the grill I’ve currently got on my patio). Well, the Traeger Ironwood looks to make that even more controlled with an insulated construction that should help hold all that heat in, keeping your pellet usage down.
As you would expect, the Traeger Ironwood offers the ability to plug in two wired probes (handy for tracking the internal temperatures of the protein you’re working with) and the ability to sync in a wireless Bluetooth probe. What I think is great here, in the temperature control realm, is that the Ironwood will hop on your WiFi, allowing you to monitor – and control – the grill from wherever you are in the house or yard.
All of this is great, and I think makes the Traeger Ironwood an interesting option. What’s really grabbed me is their cleanout system. They’ve got things channeled inside the cook chamber so that not only does the grease come out to a contained catch at the base of the grill, so does the wood ash from the pellets. This would be a game changer, as my current clean out process has a separate drip can, using a ShopVac to clean out ash, and then the disassembly/reassembly to get to everything. Even if it’s only half as useful as they’re saying, it’s still a big step up.
One other thing I want to call out on the Traeger Ironwood lineup is their P.A.L (Pop and lock) system. That’s the rail you see running around the front and sides of the grill, and allows you to customize what you’re hanging off of it. Think of like the molle system from your backpack moved to the grill. Want a shelf on the front? You’ve got it. Need a cup holder, rack to hold sauces, or whatever else? There’s an option, and we’re guessing the clever 3D printer owner could figure out their own hookups as well. All in all, there’s a lot going on with this line, and looks to keep Traeger at the top of the pellet grill stack. The new Traeger Ironwood is available for $1,799, and the larger Traeger Ironwood XL comes in at $1,999. Check out the details directly at traeger.com
Tech Specs from Traeger
- TOTAL WEIGHT 199 lbs
- COOKING SPACE (616 square inches)
- RACK 1 396 sq. in.
- RACK 2 220 sq. in.
- Equivalents: 4 chickens, 8 rib racks, or 4 pork butts
- Hopper capacity: 22 lbs
- Max temperature: 500 F
- Ironwood XL
- TOTAL WEIGHT 243 lbs
- COOKING SPACE (924 square inches)
- RACK 1 594 sq. in.
- RACK 2 330 sq. in.
- Equivalents: 8 chickens, 16 rib racks, or 8 pork butts
- Hopper capacity: 22 lbs
- Max temperature: 500 F