Released in 2019, the Traeger Ironwood Series is still a standard bearer and one of the top tier units in its class. The Ironwoods combine the class and features of the best grills in the world with a work-horse style and quality that you would expect from Traeger. In recent months, I have been using the Traeger Ironwood 885 and it holds up as one of the best grills I’ve ever used.
The Traeger barrel is iconic in the world of grilling. Starting in the early 90’s, the barrels quickly replaced the roll tops and rectangular grills of old to become what we equate with a pellet grill today. In the mid 2010’s, Traeger made its first change to the barrel in decades, giving us the oval shape and moving the hopper to the right side. The oval shape gives additional space, without risking performance, and moving the hopper to the right gives right-handed users easier control.
Assembly: The assembly of Traeger’s grills released prior to 2022 (I have not assembled Traeger’s newest releases) is very standard and for the most part, easy. Two people are required for lifting, but the actual assembly is inserting a few legs and bolting them in place, along with a side shelf. Assembly is right around 30 minutes.
Traeger also includes a cool design on the inside of their boxes for the kiddos. We all have used a box for a fort as a kid and Traeger makes it all the more fun.
Build: The appearance and build of the Ironwood 885 is top tier. Personally, I think Traeger builds some of the best-looking grills on the market but apart from that, there is far more to appreciate. The leg build is great. The larger legs fit tightly into the body and the grill feels great when being rolled around, also attributed to the quality wheels and casters.
The Ironwood’s hopper is one of its downsides. The shape of the hopper does not allow all of the pellets to flow properly, creating a “tunneling” effect around the opening to the auger, potentially causing an interruption in the pellet feed. Traeger helps negate this by adding a pellet sensor, but it is fairly inaccurate because of the hopper design.
The inside of the Ironwood’s oval shaped barrel is very spacious and has two tiers of grill grates, giving us 885 sq inches of grilling space. The bottom grate is also “dual-positioned” with a second set of grill grate supports 2.5” above the traditional resting area.
The drain and baffle system in the Traeger Ironwood hasn’t changed much since the first sloped drain pan. There is a baffle, directly over the fire pot, which helps spread the fire and create even temperatures. Over the baffle is a flat drain pan that drains grease to a bucket. This system is a bit antiquated, requires the pan to be covered with foil or a liner and does not allow for any direct flame, but is tried and true and gets the grease out of the grill.
Performance: The overall performance of the Ironwood 885 is one of the best and most reliable available. The Ironwood has a temperature range of 165°-500°. The controller allows you to set the temperature at intervals of 5° and it holds these temperatures very accurately, across the grate. In fact, the Ironwood 885 has the most consistent temperature throughout the chamber of any grill, from any brand, and that I have tested.
At the low end, Traeger’s Ironwood 885 holds temperatures evenly and accurately. Additionally I have run this grill overnight and for hours at low temps and have never had the flame go out. Though the grill does not smoke as well as traditional Traegers, they make up for it with their Super Smoke feature. This feature makes use of the fan and feed to create subtle temperature swings and large bursts of smoke.
The Ironwood can reach 500° without issue and as quickly as many of its competitors.
Startup on the Ironwood is slow and unreliable. Unfortunately, I have had multiple instances of the grill not lighting and needing to clean out the grill to restart. Traeger’s use of the fan in startup is odd and creates a situation of inadequate airflow, not ideal for a quick and reliable startup.
Controller and Connectivity: The controller that Traeger uses is easy to use, while giving us some additional options for a more immersive cook. Along with what we are used to on a traditional digital controller, Traeger gives us additional menus for not only recipes but mechanical calibrations and troubleshoots. My favorite feature is the “Prime Auger” function. As someone who has spent hours talking people through and writing up startup procedures, this option cuts all of that out.
Traeger’s connectivity is best-in-class. As one of the first companies to add Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connectivity to their grills, Traeger has put a ton of work and pride into their “WiFIRE” and it shows. In my opinion, their app is the easiest to use, but also has more options than the competition. Recipes that can be sent to the controller from the app is one of the Traeger App’s best features. Traeger does very well at coming out with consistent and varied recipes. These recipes are included on the app and once loaded to the controller, it will run the grill to the specifications of the recipe.
One meat probe comes with the grill and plugs into the controller. The probe temperatures can be monitored on the controller display or through the Traeger App.
Overall: As the middle tier of Traeger’s product line, the grill gives you much of the Timberline’s technology and features and combines them with a more traditional build. The Ironwood 885 has the most accurate temperatures on the market and with the “Super Smoke” setting, you will not sacrifice a heavier smoke.
The Ironwood does not have any open flame technology. Many of the grills in the Ironwood’s class have open flame options, giving the ability to use direct heat to sear and more. The Ironwood also has a smaller, outdated hopper that needs to be topped off or the pellets moved more frequently than its competitors.
As I mentioned earlier, the Traeger Ironwood 885 is one of my favorite grills that I have ever used. Three years after release, the grill definitely holds up. Traeger’s ability to always be at the forefront of pellet grill technology makes for a grill that can far outlast its competitors. The Ironwood is a quality unit that can work as a family’s primary grill for years.
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