Grilling, broiling, barbecuing, whatever you want to call it, is an art, not just a matter of building a pyre, throwing a piece of meat on it as a sacrifice to the gods of the stomach - James Beard
Grilling is in our blood. An old aunt of ours used to say that we were born to barbecue and that the art of slow cooking a good piece of meat was a gift that our maker gave us to use to make the world a better place.
While we never argued with her, as we were always taught that it was rude to talk back to your elders, and if we did she would have paddled us from one end of the yard to the other and back again, the older we got, the more we came to understand and appreciate what she meant.
As James Beard said, grilling is an art and the only way to get better at it, no matter how gifted you are, is with commitment and dedication to your chosen craft. After all, practice, as every child from here to Hawaii knows, makes perfect.
But just as every great artist needs a canvas to paint their masterpieces on, we’ve always needed a grill to create our culinary delights with. And we’ve spent our lives searching for the right grill, the one that will allow us to stretch our imagination to its absolute barbecuing limits and indulge our every smoking fantasy with.
We’ve come close to finding that ideal grill on more than a couple of occasions, and once we even thought that we might have found it, but alas it was not to be.
Beset by the misfortunes of the grilling world, we feared that we would never be able to fully embrace the potential that our aunt saw in us, and in a moment of darkness even considered hanging up our apron and abandoning the cause of barbecue for good.
It was in those blackest moments, that we discovered Traeger Grills, and our barbecuing and grilling lives were changed for good.
Meet Traeger - The Modern Gods Of Grilling
Have you ever had one of the light bulb moments?
A flash of epiphany when suddenly everything, at long last begins to make sense? You have? Good, then you know what we’re talking about.
Ours happened the day that we stumbled across and discovered Traeger Grills, the people responsible for inventing the wood pellet grill in Oregon over thirty years ago.
They’re a company that was founded on the guiding belief that grilling, and sharing the experience of good barbecue and food with friends and family, makes everything better.
Shepherded by the idea that there’s a hidden griller in everyone, they invited one and all to join them in the ‘Traeger Hood’ by cooking on wood pellet fired grills, and it was a party that we gladly accepted our invitation to join.
While they’ve been pushing the technological grilling envelope to its limit and beyond for a couple of decades, Traeger has never quite, at least in our eyes, managed to design the sort of grill that we always hoped they would.
They’ve been within a hairsbreadth a few times, but they’ve never quite managed to cross the finishing line and engineer the kind of game-changing grill that we’ve always hoped that they would. Until now.
We’d heard whispers and half-baked rumors that Traeger was working on something special, but we shrugged them off and went right back to barbecuing.
We kept on laughing those rumors off, right up until the moment that Traeger unveiled the Ironwood 885.
And from the first moment we saw it, we knew we had to have it.
It’s a cast-iron thing of beauty and wonder that the Traeger faithful believe can transform any amateur barbecue fanatic into a die-hard grilling professional in less time than it takes Gordon Ramsay to shatter the dreams and aspiration of a MasterChef contestant.
This time the faithful, of which we’re fully paid up members, might just be right.
Infinite Space, Infinite Time and Good Barbecue
The very first thing that we fell in love with when we started to grill with the Ironwood 885 was the sheer volume of cooking space that it possesses.
According to the manual, it’s somewhere around eight hundred and eighty-five square inches (hence the name of the grill), which means that you can do an awful lot of cooking on this single grill.
With that in mind, we thought that we’d try to push the Ironwood as hard and far as we could, so put a brisket, a couple of chickens, a steak, and some burgers on its grill fired it up, and stepped back to let the Ironwood start cooking.
And guess what?
It easily handled everything that we cooked on it, and the more we cooked on it, the easier it became until we ended up being convinced that as long as there was even a modicum of space on its grill, whatever you placed on it, the Ironwood would cook it to perfection.
How Does It Do What It Does?
Like almost every Traeger Grill, the Ironwood uses wood pellets to cook with. You load them into the side hopper, push the auto-ignition button and the Ironwood starts making the heat, which it funnels into its main chamber and grill.
That heat is then tempered and manipulated by using the incredibly easy and straightforward digital controls that allow you to set the temperature in ten-degree increments, and the time you want whatever it is you’re grilling to cook for.
Remember we told you that Trager was constantly pushing the limit as of technology?
Well, the Ironwood 885 is a perfect example of what they can do when they set their minds to it. Using WiFire, Traegers patented WiFi control system, so you can cook whatever you want on the Ironwood with your Smartphone or any other internet-enabled device.
You just set the temperature and the time, and the Ironwood will do the rest. And while we’re on the subject of the technology that Traeger uses in the Ironwood, you can also connect the Traeger app, and your Ironwood to Alexa, so you can control your cook with a voice command. We tried it, and it was scarily easy and simple even for avowed technophobes like us.
Versatility and Adaptability
There’s so much that we adore about the Ironwood, it’s almost impossible to know where to start. So, let’s begin at the beginning, with its hopper.
It’ll safely hold around twenty pounds of wood pellets, which is more than enough to safely see you through a couple of grilling sessions and backyard barbecues.
And if you do start to run low on pellets? The Ironwood has a sensor that tells you when you need to add more.
When you’re finished cooking, that hopper is as easy to clean as it is to fill, and within minutes you’re done and dusted and the Ironwood is ready to go again.
As we’ve already said, we’re technophobes, but Traegers WiFire made believers out of us. Not just because it’s easy to use and can be controlled using Alexa, both of which are great and incredible time savers and wonderful ways to initiate new would-be chefs to the grilling cause.
No, the reason we fell hard for the app, was because it doubles up as a recipe book.
That’s right folks, the app has dozens of recipes and if you want to try one out, you just select it and send it via the magic of the internet to the Ironwood, and before you can say abracadabra, the Ironwood adjusts it’s settings and starts following the recipe, to the letter, that you just transmitted to it.
And, that’s not all. While most girls will just grill, the Ironwood has six in one functionality, which allows it to braise, roast, grill, smoke, barbecue, and bake.
So we put it through its paces and used it to do everything that Traeger said it would except baking (every cook has an Achilles heel, and baking is ours), and you know what? Traeger was right.
It does do all of those things, which as far as we were concerned, were just six more reasons to fall in love with the Ironwood.
It Isn’t All Sunshine And Roses
Much as we hate to admit it, the Ironwood 885 does have one glaring fault. It weighs more than a small planet.
At a tad over one hundred and seventy-five pounds, it isn’t exactly portable. We were kind of worried that we would end up giving ourselves a hernia when we moved it into place, and once it was where we wanted it to be, it stayed there.
There was no way that we were even going to try and move it again, it just weighs far too much. All that functionality and versatility comes with a heavy price.
A really, really heavy, weighty price.
And In Conclusion
While it’s true that we adore the Ironwood 885 and it’s probably closer to barbecuing and grilling perfection than any other machine that we’ve ever used, the reason, apart from the fact that it’s heavier than Metallica’s discography, that it left us a little cold was that it made everything too easy.
It sounds crazy, believe us we know it does, but the fact that the Ironwood does everything for you took something out of the pleasure that we get from grilling.
The Ironwood’s inherent simplicity made grilling feel a little hollow and kind of meaningless and empty for us.
Maybe it’s because we’re forged from old school grilling fire and we like the experience of cooking to be hands-on, but something felt amiss when we were using the Ironwood.
That said, the Ironwood 885 is about as close to grilling perfection as we’re ever likely to get, and that’s why it’s steamrollered its way to the top of our list of grills of choice.
There’s only one way to grill, and that’s the Ironwood way.