Welcome to T3's Traeger Ironwood 650 review. I've built and tested this BBQ and here, after a multiple weeks of use, I give you my considered take for T3.com.
The Traeger Ironwood 650 has won the Best Barbecue award at the T3 Awards 2022. Here's why the judges selected it.
The Traeger Ironwood 650 is a wood pellet fired barbecue that can grill, roast and smoke basically anything you throw at it. For all intents and purposes it is an bona fide outdoor oven and smoker, that can cook any food fast or slow.
Pellet grills are all the rage in the United States and their advocates swear by them due to how the pellets infuse the food with an authentic wood smoke flavour that is tricky to attain using charcoal or gas. That's why we have so many in our best BBQ and even best portable BBQ buying guides.
And, as pellet grills like the Traeger Ironwood 650 are effectively controlled by their own on-grill computer, they're good as they can be very hands off, letting their owner, say, drink beer in the sun while their food cooks.
So, is the Traeger Ironwood 650 a smart buy for the avid grillist? Here's my professional opinion.
Traeger Ironwood 650 review: price and availability
The Traeger Ironwood 650 is available right now at Amazon, The Home Depot and Best Buy in the USA for $1,399.95, while in the UK John Lewis stocks the grill for £1,499.
Not, then, the cheapest option for upgrading your BBQ but this is very much a grill from the crème de la crème of barbecues and a product that will likely do you for life. The investment will be worth it in my opinion for any BBQ aficionado.
If you like the idea of the Traeger Ironwood 650 but would prefer something smaller and cheaper, then also consider the Traeger Pro 575.
To see today's best Traeger Ironwood 650 prices in your region consult the below deals chart.
Traeger Ironwood 650 review: unboxing and assembly
Ok, let's be clear here. The Traeger Ironwood 650 is a large, heavy barbecue that comes in a very large and very heavy box.
Unboxing in itself is a serious operation and if you buy one you should be prepared to recycle a lot of cardboard. Two people are, literally, asked for on the box for unboxing and setup and when you see the size of the thing it is understandable why.
I had to do this myself, though, and can confirm that providing you have a good amount of upper body strength and plan correctly, you can unbox and assemble on your own. I would not advise this, though.
You basically remove the box's top sleeve, remove component boxes and extras, and are then left with the main grill unit and its hopper pre-built. This is good as you really just have to attach the legs to the Traeger Ironwood 650 and a few extras before you are cooking ready.
All the tools that are needed to do this are included in the box, which is basically a screwdriver and hex key, and the assembly instructions are clear and the components are even numbered with stickers, too. This all helps to make setup fast.
The main drum and hopper, though, remain incredibly heavy throughout and this means that manoeuvring it so it is on its side (so you can fit the legs) is tough. You should keep the grill on the carboard base at all times to avoid scratching the grill, and I advise building it in a wide-open environment with plenty of space.
Assembly, once the grill is actually unboxed, takes about 30 minutes. With the grill made you can admire its quality – which I personally think was top rate. The craftsmanship that has gone into making the Traeger Ironwood 650 is evident, with all its components feeling really weighty and premium.
This extends to things like its shelves, legs, wheels, lid, handle, drum, hopper, shelves, drip tray, drip collection pale and even accessories – you can tell this a premium, well-made product no matter where you look.
It also looks very smart, too. The lid is emblazoned with "Traeger", while its cooking drum holding base has 'Ironwood 650' on it. The finish to all the casing has that lovely mottled and slightly rough to touch finish that I associate with premium products, too.
Without doubt the Traeger Ironwood 650 is something you're going to enjoy having on display while in use, and is a world away from a grim-looking barbecue pit or cheap, rickety budget burner that rusts up before your very eyes. Stylish and well made the Traeger Ironwood 650 is.
With the grill assembled I then followed the manual's instructions and downloaded the official Traeger app, which lets you connect the grill to a WiFi connection and then customise your grill as well as downloading cooking programs for it.
The app lets you control the grill remotely, too, and also can provide notifications for key things like when the BBQ hits temperature, or when it transitions to a different part of a cooking program. This is useful for the grill master who likes to mingle.
The downloadable cooking programs are where the app is at, though. These let you effectively program your Traeger Ironwood 650 to cook specific things in an optimal way, such as brisket, ribs or a whole bird. You prepare the meat and load it into the Traeger, then download one of these programs and just click go – it's really that simple.
Finally, before use, I loaded the Traeger Ironwood 650's pellet hopper with wood pellets. I was now ready to fire the grill up for the first time and run it in.
Traeger Ironwood 650 review: operation and performance
Let's talk operation. The first thing those new to pellet grills will notice is that the Traeger Ironwood 650, like others of its kind, need to be run through a start-up cycle and then actually fired up and run for an hour before any food can be cooked on it. This helps burn off any production residues and make sure all systems are run in prior to food actually being cooked.
This is straight forward to achieve, with you just using the Traeger Ironwood 650's control panel to prime the auger (the corkscrew mechanism that feeds pellets to the burner) and then asking the grill to ignite and then reach one temperature for 20 minutes and then another higher temperature for a further 30.
And, while this hour-long run in is a one-time thing, priming the auger and waiting for the grill to ignite is not. This can take up to around 7 minutes give or take, and it is then at that point the grill starts to properly heat up to the selected temperature.
I'd say that you'd need about 20 minutes to reach a decent cooking temperature on the Traeger Ironwood 650, so you need to factor that into your plan when deciding to cook with it. Wood pellet systems as a general rule are faster to cook on than charcoal, but not as instant on fast as gas grills.
Quick note here on how the Traeger Ironwood 650 is powered. You have a single kettle lead that connects on the underside of the hopper and, being blunt, this is too short. I'm lucky enough to have an outdoor plug socket array on my home's external wall, but even with that I could not position the grill away from my home on my patio where I wanted.
My fix, as I am sure the vast majority of people will do who buy a Traeger Ironwood 650, is to get out an extension cable. This allowed me to position the Traeger Ironwood 650 away from my house on my patio. Naturally, if you don't have an outdoor power socket you're going to be trailing cables out a window. Again, something to consider.
Also something to consider is the fact that the Traeger Ironwood 650 definitely makes an audible burn roar when in operation. This is low-level and background noise-y, something that would be unnoticed in a garden party setting, but it is there. I think it adds to the drama for the grill master, but you wouldn't want to sit right next to the grill in a quiet environment. Again, something to consider.
With the grill at temperature I could start the good bit – loading the grill up with meat. I cooked burgers, sausage wheels, coated chicken breasts, kebabs and corn on the cobs on the Traeger Ironwood 650 and, well, what results did it deliver! This is where it all came together instantly.
Everything was just cooked so evenly and, for want of a better word, well. The patina coating on the chicken was crisp while the chicken itself moist and tender. The dense sausage wheel browned beautifully and with a delicate smoky finish to the skin, while the kebabs and burgers were incredibly succulent.
The wood pellet fuel (of which different infusions are available that subtly change the taste of the food) also meant that nothing came out of the Ironwood as if it had just come out of a standard indoor oven. You got the smokey, charred barbecue flavour of a more traditional outdoor grill.
Being honest, cooking for my family like this was almost beneath the Traeger. There's so much room in its cavernous insides, split over two shelves, that you could cook probably over 10 different things all at once. Or have a shelf for fish and a shelf for vegetables. Or a shelf to cook pizzas on while you rustle up some sweet potato wedges and lamb kebabs on the other.
Honestly, just thinking about the range of things you could cook in here, both fast and slow, as well as how you can infuse things with a smoky finish, really enthused me during this test. I think it is grill that will reward experimentation for sure, and that's a good thing in my mind. You don't spend this money without being serious about cooking outdoors for friends and family.
Indeed, cooking larger piece of meat like brisket, ribs, steaks or whole birds are all in the Traeger Ironwood 650's wheel house, and judging by the delicious smoky finish and even cook of my own produce here, I think it's safe to say the results are going to be equally good.
The fact that you could cook these things optimally while also being quite hands off also appeals to me. I read The Sunday Times and red wine while our food was cooked in the Traeger Ironwood 650, and that was just me operating it manually. Buy a piece of brisket, download the brisket cooking program, click go, and then sit back and wait – this is going to happen, oh yes.
Is that hands-off ability a good thing? In my mind yes. But I do know that being hands on and constantly monitoring a grill is part of the fun for many grillists. You can do that with the Traeger, but from my usage I honestly don't think you need to – this thing makes it easy to be hands off.
Traeger Ironwood 650 review: verdict
Hopefully my Traeger Ironwood 650 review has shown you the quality and cooking power of this grill, as well as the benefits delivered by powering your outdoor cooking by wood pellets.
I think the reasons to buy the Traeger Ironwood 650 are obvious: it is a superb barbecue that can grill, roast and smoke food to a professional, artisanal level. You can also bake pizzas in it – seriously, it can do it all, and everything comes with a delicious, flavour-enhancing wood pellet infusion.
You can cook for an army of people, too, on it due to its large size and capacious dual grill shelves, and the way you can download cooking programs to it through the app so you can just sit back and chill while, say, a whole chicken is perfectly cooked is very welcome.
The craftsmanship on the Traeger Ironwood 650 is also superb and the accessories I tested of high quality – simply put, it's a superb product that's very well made.
I don't think it is the right fit for everyone, though. Its price will obviously be a stumbling block for many people, as the truth is that you can buy a gas or charcoal grill for far less money.
Wood fired grills like the Traeger Ironwood 650 are also not the fastest type of barbecue on the market, either. There's a decent wind-up time on this grill while it feeds pellets into the burner and then rises in temperature to ignition levels, before then further time to come to cooking temperature.
I can be up and running at cooking temperatures on a gas grill in 5 minutes, while on the Traeger Ironwood 650 it is more like 25-30. This in of its own is no bad thing providing that is how you like to grill – pellet grills are faster than charcoal but slower than gas, basically.
The Traeger Ironwood 650 also definitely emits a notable background noise from its furnace. I only noticed this while sat next to it, or cooking on it, but in the quiet of my garden it was noticeable. Obviously, all grills make some sort of noise, and if there was a garden party or gathering of people you'd likely tune it out, but it is something to be aware of. It does add to the drama of using it, though.
A few other small things need to be considered, too, such as the grill's kettle plug lead being very short (which means you will almost certainly need an extension cable) and that you better have multiple people on hand when receiving delivery of this grill and building it, as it is incredibly heavy. The instructions even specify that two people are needed for assembly, so take this into consideration. I managed on my own but, one, I am a seasoned BBQ builder and, two, I'm a large male that has a good amount of upper body strength.
Overall, then, the Traeger Ironwood 650 is undoubtedly a superb product and it is impossible not to recommend, providing you buy with your eyes open to the sort of system you're buying. If you want to take your outdoor cooking to a whole new level, this is a great way to do it.