Traeger Ironwood 650 Long Term Test & Review
I’ve owned my Ironwood 650 for over a year now with quite a few hours of use. Just one brisket cook can clock in 12-18 hours of run time. The grill has not been flawless (I’m actually on my second 650 but Traeger took care of me, I’ll explain below) but I am happy overall.…
I’ve owned my Ironwood 650 for over a year now with quite a few hours of use. Just one brisket cook can clock in 12-18 hours of run time. The grill has not been flawless (I’m actually on my second 650 but Traeger took care of me, I’ll explain below) but I am happy overall. I’ll go over the Traeger ownership experience, the grilling and smoking performance, fit & finish, key specifications and features. I’ll sum it up with what we like, what makes us angry and our final verdict.
Update: Traeger just released a whole new generation of Ironwood grills. See our take on it here. Sadly they make my old Ironwood look quite outdated.
|Traeger Ironwood 650||CHECK PRICE|
|Traeger Ironwood 885||CHECK PRICE|
Traeger Ironwood 650 Overview and Specs
The Ironwood falls in the middle of the Traeger model lineup hierarchy. Below it is the Pro series which brings a lot of the same features and specs as the Ironwood but missing a couple key items which made me purchase the Ironwood instead (I’ll explain later). Above the Ironwood is the Timberline series. There is a large price difference to jump to the Timberline model and you do not get a lot more for your money.
Why I Chose the Ironwood over the pro and Timberline Series
The Ironwood brought the upgrades that the Pro 575 did not come with such as Super Smoke (which evidentially I never really use) and extra insulated side walls to reduce pellet consumption in colder weather. It also came with an extra side shelf and the downdraft venting system instead of the typical vertical chimney in the Pro series. The Timberline 850 offered slightly more grilling space, more wall insulation, slightly larger pellet hopper, front shelf and a concealed grease trap instead of the side grease bucket on the Ironwood. These upgrades were not enough to sway me to spend an additional $600.
Overall I felt the Ironwood was the best of both worlds, it brought the key features I needed and didn’t break the bank like the Timberline series would have. The Ironwood 650 was just a couple hundred dollars more than the Pro 780.
Traeger Ironwood 650 Specifications
|Specification/Feature||Comments & Notes|
|Cooking Space||659 square inches||A large brisket needs to be placed in a 45 degree angle to fit. The Ironwood 885 is a better size for briskets.|
|Dimensions||47″H x 46″W x 27″D|
|Grill Grates||2||Sufficient secondary rack area.|
|Temp Range||165-500F||Competitors now offer 600F as a high temp. Better for searing.|
|Hopper Capacity||20lbs||Sufficient hopper capacity for long brisket cooks.|
|WIFI Connectivity||Traeger WiFire||Traeger has an excellent platform with their Wifire. You can monitor a lot of different information on the grill and the app also includes built in recipes.|
|Insulation||Sidewalls||The Ironwood has insulation on the side walls which keeps pellet consumption down.|
|Super Smoke||Yes||Supposed to provide more smoke to the cook box. I do not notice a difference.|
|Pellet Sensor Level||Yes||Very handy if you’re doing a very long cook like a brisket. The app will also warn you if the pellets are getting low. Great option.|
|Down Draft Exhaust||Yes||Only available on the Ironwood and Timberline. Traeger claims this keeps fresh smoke going over your food.|
|Grill Grate Material||Porcelain Coated Steel|
|Meat Probe||One||One meat probe is sufficient but the competition is including 2 or 4 probes.|
Overall the specs demonstrate how feature rich the grill is. It has everything you really need. I feel the only shortcomings are the 500F max temperature (Weber Smokefire and Louisiana Grills Black Label pellet grills get to 600F) and the main cooking area could have been a bit larger. If I were to do it again, I would buy the Traeger Ironwood 885 as that extra width would fit briskets better and would allow for a couple more burgers on the grill for a large party.
Smoking / Grilling Performance
This category is one of the most important areas of any pellet grill. How well does it grill and smoke? Overall I’m quite pleased with how well it does both, however it has some strengths and weaknesses in both grilling and smoking.
The Ironwood 650 has one of the lowest smoking temperatures on the market. At 165F you can really get low and slow cooks. It holds the temperatures very well with minimal temperature fluctuation. The 165F could also be used as a keep warm function. A lot of other pellet grills lowest temps start at 180F, which is slightly too high as a keep warm function.
I’m typically smoking my foods in the 225F-275F temperature range. The grill can hold those temps very well and pellet consumption isn’t horrible. The insulated side walls do help, especially when smoking foods in the winter.
Traeger Ironwood 650 Temperature Consistency
Below is a picture taken from my ThermoWorks Signals multi probe smoker thermometer. At 7:30am I moved my brisket over to the Ironwood 650 because the other pellet grill was having problems holding a consistent temperature. Once I moved the brisket to the Traeger, you can see how the temperature fluctuations are kept to a minimum. It holds temperatures much better than the other pellet grill.
Comparing the smoke profile in food done on a Pellet Grill vs an Offset will never have a pellet grill come out as a winner. Offsets provide a better smoky flavor profile that pellet grills cannot replicate. Pellet grills provide a ‘good enough’ smoky flavor but bring a tremendous amount of convenience. Put the brisket in at midnight, set the temperature and go to bed. You would never be able to get a good night sleep with an Offset smoker. This convenience is important for the average backyard grill fanatic.
To me the ultimate test on a pellet grill is a brisket cook. Overall I haven’t been extremely happy with my briskets on the Traeger. I find the smoke flavor is somewhat lacking and the bark isn’t where it should be. It’s good enough that most people are happy but if you’re striving for the worlds best brisket, you need to consider getting an Offset (even though they are so much work) or a charcoal based smoker.
Traeger brags up their downdraft smoke/air flow system which is supposed to keep the best smoke in the cooking chamber. I can’t tell if you can taste this difference when compared to other pellet grills or even the Traeger Pro series with the regular chimney. What I do like about the downdraft system is the overall sleek look and how easy it is to put a cover on without a vertical chimney protruding from the grill.
The grill offers 659 square inches total and I feel the main grill area is small for a full packer brisket. I need to put the brisket in at a 45 degree angle to fit. This is when I regret purchasing the Ironwood 650 and I should have bought the Ironwood 885.
I feel the Ironwood 650 grills quite well. The 500F max temp is good enough for burgers, chicken, pork tenderloins and chops but it is lacking in the steak searing area. The Ironwood allows you to change the height of the main grilling grate. For searing Traeger recommends you keep the grate at the lowest setting which sits right above the grease tray. For smoking they recommend the position a couple inches above. Even at the lowest setting it is hard to get the nice sear marks on my steak. I’ve tried several times now without success. You can’t beat a charcoal or gas grill for very high heat searing. I’ll never get rid of my gas or charcoal grills.
The heat is not completely uniform across the bottom grill grates. There are hot spots, specifically right above the fire box. A lot of gas grills have much more inconsistent hot spots when compared to the Ironwood. Any decent chef learns their grill and knows where the hot spots are and how to manage them.
Can A Traeger Sear A Steak? I tried.
This is the best the Ironwood 650 will ever do for sear marks on your steak. I used the lowest grill grate setting and let the grill heat up to 500F for 20 minutes. Traeger Pellet Grills do not sear well enough.
Overall Fit and Finish
This is where Traeger stands above a lot of their competitors that are near or at the same price point. The grill is built heavy when compared to other pellet grills like Z Grills, Asmoke, Grilla Grills etc. A simple test I always do, is open the lid of the grill to feel the weight and how well it swings and fits to the cook box when closed. The Ironwood 650 lid has a nice weight and makes a nice positive connection to the cook box when closed. It feels good like a BMW car door closing vs an old Chevy. The Ironwood includes a gasket with the lid to ensure minimal heat loss at the opening.
The high temp paint finish is holding up well and I do not notice any discoloration, however I keep my grill covered with Traeger’s high quality grill cover whenever I’m not using it. I like my gear looking great for years of use.
Traeger WiFire: Wireless Connectivity App
Traeger did a great job with their phone app. First off, it was incredibly simple to connect to my home WiFi network. Just scan the QR code on the underside of the pellet hopper lid and it will guide you through the setup.
The app really covers everything you would ever want to monitor on your grill such as current grill temp, current meat probe temp, pellet hopper level, timer etc. You can even control the Ironwood 650 from your phone. Change the cooking temp, turn on Super Smoke, shut the grill down and even follow the guided recipes, all from your phone.
Traeger WiFire Recipes
Traeger made all their fantastic recipes available in the app. You can view the recipes within the app and proceed with the cook on your own, or simply click the ‘Make now’ button and the grill will set itself to the appropriate temperature and will cook for the specific amount of time for that recipe. This is a great option for the beginner smoker/griller but something I do not use. All meat is different and if you want to do a great job you need to take control of the cook yourself.
Traeger also included a ‘Learn’ category within the app. It will provide high quality videos explaining how to clean your grill, make certain recipes, assembly instructions/guides etc. They really cover this well.
WiFire App Conclusion
Overall this app is done amazingly well and sets the bar within the grill/smoker industry. I’ve tried the competitors apps and they do not have the same functionality as the WiFire. This is in a league of its own.
Traeger Super Smoke Mode
Super Smoke Mode Explained
Traeger only offers the Super Smoke mode on the Ironwood and Timberline series. I thought this would be a great option to have as pellet grills are notorious for not providing enough good quality smoke to your meat when compared to an offset smoker. I’ve used it a couple times and never really noticed a difference. It makes the grill fan pulsate air to the firebox intermittently but it doesn’t seem to produce much more smoke. I don’t really use this feature anymore.
Traeger D2 Controller
Previous Generation Traeger Controllers
If you were one of the first group of people purchasing Traeger pellet grills back in the mid 2000’s you probably experienced some frustrations with the digital controller. If ambient temperatures dipped anywhere around freezing, the controller did not want to function properly. Some controllers would completely fail and you had to replace them. I had a Traeger Lil Tex back in 2009 and I ended up selling it out of frustration. I replaced the controller twice, once under warranty and again after. The grills back then didn’t have a high max temperature so searing was not an option whatsoever. Not a great experience.
New D2 Controller
Fast forward to today and Traeger has advanced their controller system dramatically. The controller is much more stable in cold temperatures and has worked for me during the coldest parts of our winters. You can set your temps by 5 degree increments starting at 165F to 500F.
The ignition system has worked flawlessly and worked on the first try, every time. The old generation Traeger’s would not always light properly. No need to keep the lid open during ignition either. That was a necessary step for the old generations and other pellet grill manufacturers.
Traeger includes one meat probe with the Ironwood 650. A lot of pellet grills are now coming with 2 to 4 meat probes which is nice to have if your smoking several cuts of meat at the same time especially since these probes connect to the D2 controller and then to your phone via the WiFire app. Time for Traeger to include at least 2 probes. Camp Chef Woodwind offers 4 and their SG offers 2.
The controller is easily visible outdoors and offers some unique options with the Ironwood series such as Super Smoke, Keep Warm, Timer etc. There isn’t a setting or adjustment that you cannot make with the controller.
Traeger D2 Direct Drive System
This is the other great upgrade Traeger brought to their grills. The D2 direct drive system is standard on the Pro, Ironwood and Timberline models. It is the heart and soul of the Traeger grill. The drive system contains two main components. 1. Variable Speed Auger Motor. 2. Variable Speed Fan. Both the fan and auger drives utilize a brushless electric motor which is a real upgrade.
Brushless motors have a longer life expectancy than a brushed motor. Brushed motors contain moving parts (brushes) that are constantly making contact/friction which leads to wear and eventual failure. Brushless motors do not have moving parts in constant contact like brushed motors, therefore the longer life expectancy of brushless motors. Modern high-end battery powered tools are utilizing brushless motors today like Milwaukee, Makita, and Dewalt etc.
The variable speed fan and auger allow the pellet grill to fire up quickly and maintain consistent temperatures. The grill is constantly optimizing the pellet feed rate and air flow into the fire pot to hit the requested temperature from the D2 controller. The system works well and I’m impressed with the consistent temps my Ironwood 650 maintains.
Other Nice Features
I highly recommend getting a couple accessories with this grill to prolong the life of the grill and keep it looking great cosmetically. A couple recommended accessories:
Ironwood 650 Problems
I purchased the grill pre-assembled from a local dealer in my city. I started using it right away smoking briskets, ribs, tri-tips to see how it would handle my favorite recipes. The grill worked well for the first month but I started to notice a problem.
The black high temp paint finish was starting to bubble on the front of the grill just below the lid. It was very minor but I know when paint starts to bubble, it will get worse quickly, especially on a hot grill. I knew the problem must have happened from factory and that the cook box metal must have been contaminated with something just before the painting process. The paint did not adhere properly to the cook box and was starting to bubble and blister.
Traeger Customer Service
As soon as I noticed the paint problem, I contacted Traeger customer service. They answered my call immediately and were focused on fixing the problem asap. During the call they had me go to a website on my iPhone that would allow them to view my grill through my iPhone camera. The customer service rep was able to see the paint problem and captured pictures of the paint blistering. He quickly showed his management team and within 10-15 minutes they approved replacement of the grill. They shipped me a brand new Ironwood 650 and let me keep my current grill until the new one arrived. Once the new grill arrived, they picked up my first grill and took it back to their distribution center.
I was extremely impressed with their customer service. I’ve dealt with a lot of companies over the years and this was the best experience by far. The new grill has been in my hands for over 14 months now and no paint problems or any other problem to report. It has worked flawlessly.
Traeger Ironwood Warranty
Traeger offers a 3-year full warranty against any defects in material or workmanship. Three years is competitive in this market but it is not the longest warranty offering. Some competitors are 5 to 10 years in warranty offerings. However, from my experience above, I can see Traeger takes their warranty offering seriously and if the grill has a defect, they will remedy the problem quickly.
Do I recommend the Traeger Ironwood 650 Pellet Grill?
What I Like about the Ironwood 650
Overall the Ironwood 650 grill is a good buy. Here are my favorite things about it.
- Extremely Easy to Use: Traeger has mastered the ignition system and temperature management system. The user friendly WiFire App is best in class.
- Reliable: When I put the brisket on at 10:00pm and go to bed, I can trust the Traeger is doing it’s job all night. I can simply check my iPhone whenever I want to see what’s happening with the grill and brisket temp. It has not missed a beat.
- Overall Value for Money: The Ironwood is not cheap but it is also far lower in price than a lot of other pellet grills. Compare this to a Yoder YS480, a Timberline 850 or Kamado Joe Pellet Joe grill and you are saving a lot of money.
What Makes me angry about the ironwood 650
- Size: I thought the 650 would be big enough for what I wanted to do. I should have opted for the Ironwood 885. The 885 is the perfect size for smoking large packer briskets. It could handle several racks of ribs with room to spare. The 885 is also not too big that you are wasting pellets to heat such a large area that you are barely using.
- Searing High Temps: 500F should be high enough to sear a steak properly but the Traeger line cannot achieve the sear I desire. Do not sell your gas or charcoal grill just yet. You’ll want it next time your grilling steaks for your friends. Weber and Louisiana Grills offer pellet grills that hit 600F, I plan to test these soon.
- WiFi Range: I wish the Ironwood 650 had a better antenna for the WiFi. The odd time it will not connect to my Wifi network. I have to move my grill around a little and restart it so it makes contact. My yard is quite large and I have a powerful router that offers a strong signal but it sometimes is not enough for the grill. Traeger puts a better antenna on the Timberline grills.
Overall I figure the Ironwood 650 is a great buy and the right buy for someone with a budget over $1000. If you have a little more to spend, get the Ironwood 885 so you have that extra space for large briskets and big rib cooks. Our site is gaining more attention from various grill manufacturers and I’m getting to test more grills against my Ironwood. I haven’t decided to get rid of this grill yet and that should signal to you how good it is. I’m a car guy so I would compare the Traeger Ironwood line to the BMW 3-Series. It’s the industry benchmark that most manufacturers compare too. It does a bit of everything very well. If you want more, go ahead and spend more but the gains you get start diminishing rapidly.
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