First Take: The Traeger Ironwood Series 885 Pellet Grill

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First Take: The Traeger Ironwood Series 885 Pellet Grill

Think about the last time you had fall-off-the-bone ribs or a perfectly juicy steak––it took some serious time, devoti

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Think about the last time you had fall-off-the-bone ribs or a perfectly juicy steak––it took some serious time, devotion, and skill to produce such flavors. At least, that’s what you’ve been led to believe. With a grill from Traeger, manufacturer of hardwood pellet-fueled barbecues, even amateur grillers can achieve pitmaster-quality meats.

We experienced this phenomenon for ourselves with the Traeger Ironwood Series 885 Pellet Grill––a state-of-the-art grill that produces incredibly consistent results and delicious flavor thanks to next-gen grilling features like WiFIRE, TRU convection, and a downdraft exhaust system. But don’t be intimidated by the fancy names. This feature-packed barbecue is designed for one specific purpose: to help backyard chefs produce mouthwatering meals.

What It Is

Traeger’s famous pellet-burning grills are divided into three product lines: Pro Series, Ironwood, and Timberline. The Ironwood is the mid-range option of the three, but it arguably offers the most bang for your buck.

The Ironwood 885 features 885 square inches of cooking space (a 650-square-inch option is also available). The cooking space is divided up into two racks, with the larger bottom rack taking up 570 square inches, and the top rack offering 315 square inches. To put those numbers into terms of actual meat capacity, this beast can cook 10 whole chickens or seven racks of ribs at the same time.

Firing up the grill requires very little effort. Just plug it in, flip the power switch, and use Traeger’s innovative D2 Controller to set a precise temperature. The Ironwood Series allows you to reach 500 degrees (the Pro Series maxes out at 450) and is adjustable by five-degree increments. To obtain that level of precision, the D2 controller automatically controls an internal variable-speed fan to reach and maintain your desired temperature and smoke level.

The Ironwood 885’s pellet hopper has a 20-pound capacity, which is just enough to hold a full bag of pellets (they cost 19 bucks a bag). It may not seem like a big deal, but not having to wrap up and store extra pellets is a nice touch and an improvement over Traeger’s Pro Series Grills, which only offer 18 pounds of hopper capacity. The Ironwood also features a low-pellet sensor, which keeps you from running out of pellets in the middle of a grilling session.

To help users conserve pellets and maintain better heat retention, the Ironwood 885 also comes with double side-walled aluminized steel insulation and a gasket-lined lid. The difference was noticeable—our pellet levels lasted much longer than expected, even during high-heat cooking.

The Ironwood 885 also features Traeger’s new WiFIRE technology, which allows you to control the grill through your smartphone. To set it up, you connect the grill to your home WiFi and then pair it with your smartphone. From that point, you can use the Traeger app to remotely monitor and control temperatures, set timers, and even shut off the grill.

Better yet, the Traeger app is stocked with thousands of easy-to-follow recipes for all kinds of foods, including many you wouldn’t expect to come from a grill. That’s because the Ironwood 885 doesn’t only do grilling––you can also smoke, bake, roast, and braise food ranging from burgers and ribs to apple pie and a cocktail (yes, really).

traeger ironwood 885 series
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Why We Like It

While the precision of the grill temperature allows for consistent results every time you fire it up, the production and distribution of smoke inside the Traeger Ironwood 885 is what truly sets it apart.

The pill-shaped design of Ironwood’s barrel combined with the powerful fan creates a vortex of smoke inside the grill. Traeger calls this “TRU Convection,” and it coats food with a delicious smoky flavor. If you set the grill to “Super Smoke Mode,” available at temps between 165 and 225 degrees, you can really amp up the smokiness.

The convection works in tandem with a downdraft exhaust system, which is different than the smokestack commonly seen on pellet grills like the Traeger Pro Series. On the Ironwood 885, the exhaust vents are located along the back of the grill, and the smoke can only exit once it’s rolling around in the vortex and being drawn down across the meat. This imparts more smoky flavor than other pellet grills can provide, and cooks food faster. In our tests, the system worked extremely well, and we could definitely taste the difference.

traeger ironwood 885 series
Courtesy Image

Another nice, possible under-appreciated feature: The Ironwood’s direct-drive pellet auger (the device that moves pellets into the fire pot) that’s powered by a brushless DC motor. Many of the early wood pellet grills were plagued with underpowered augers that would clog frequently. Traeger’s new brushless motor achieves higher torque at a lower RPM––that means it can keep on churning without needing any maintenance.

While old-school pit masters will likely scoff at digital grilling technology like WiFIRE, we absolutely loved the ability to control, adjust, and monitor our grill from the comfort of the couch. While it’s not necessary for quickly grilling up burgers or brats, it really comes in handy when slow cooking ribs or tri tip. Especially if you’re cooking in sub-par weather, the ability to monitor the internal meat temperature and tweak the grill’s heat settings without venturing outside is pretty damn cool. Weather aside, WiFIRE’s temperature readouts allow for more precise cooking—you’ll never over- or undercook meat again.

Nitpick

There is a lot to love about the Ironwood 885, but a premium grill like this comes at a steep cost. And if you want the folding front shelf––nice for setting down a cold beer or a cutting board––tack on an additional 70 bucks. Having to pay extra for a shelf on a high-end grill feels a bit like nickel-and-diming, but it’s also not something you need to buy.

$1,500 is a lot to pay for a grill, but consistently incredible flavor is hard to put a price on. If it’s within your budget, this state-of-the-art grill is worth it. After one bite, you’ll understand why.

[$1,500; traegergrills.com]

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