Traeger’s latest pellet smoker brings welcomed innovations to a new price point. The company just unveiled its latest Ironwood design, which offers a handful of features that debuted on the more expensive Timberline product line a few months ago. As a longtime Traeger smoker owner, I’m excited about these updates as they make using the grill more manageable and cleaner.
I’ve been using the $1,999 Ironwood XL grill for the last week. So far, I’ve cooked a large batch of competition chicken thighs, a couple of whole chickens and a tray of Brussels sprouts. I expect to publish a full review on the smoker in the coming weeks; I need to cook a few more things first. So far, the smoker has made a good impression, though I have some reservations about build quality.
The major innovation involves the grease trap. It’s so much easier in the new Ironwood and Timberline grills. In previous Traeger models (and nearly all of the competition), the drippings flow down a large metal pan and into a narrow channel that leads to a bucket. This channel is often the problem, requiring constant attention and frequent cleanout. Now, the entire underbelly of the smoker is the channel. All the drippings fall onto a sloped piece of metal that leads to a large bucket in the middle of the smoker. Traeger introduced this redesign on the revised high-end Timberline models a few months back, and I love it.
This design offers a significant advantage. Every bit of food scrap and drippings goes in the same spot, resulting in a cleaner burn. And then, when the smoker has cooled off, the owner can push the remaining scrum into the bucket without removing any part of the grill. It’s so easy. I hate cleaning my other Traeger grills. The new design changes the game.
The other significant change involves the smoker’s hood. Instead of having a door on the front of the hood, the entire hood folds back. As a result, the hood is one piece, save a tiny hole for thermometer wires. The upside is much less air leakage without a door. The downside is when you open the hood, the interior temperature drops very fast — in chilly winter Michigan, I lost 100 degrees of internal temp within two minutes, and it took about 25 minutes to recover.
Overall, the redesigned smoker is impressive, but I have concerns about the durability of the LCD control screen and temperature knob. The control knob is critical in the operation of the grill, and it’s constructed out of cheap plastic. The gearing inside the knob is made of even worse plastic. I fear it will weather poorly and quickly degrade when exposed to the elements. This key touchpoint feels chintzy, and the rest of the grill feels bombproof. As for the touchscreen, it works poorly in extreme weather. Thanks to an overnight ice storm, my Ironwood XL tester was covered in ice this morning, so I tried the touchscreen after quickly brushing off some of the snow and ice. It didn’t work. The touchscreen had to be completely clean of ice before it responded accurately to touch. Will it work in the rain? I’m not sure, and that’s a major concern of mine. Who runs a smoker in the rain and snow, you ask? Me; I do.
I need to live with the smoker to give final impressions. So look for a review in the coming weeks. But from my first cooks, I’m impressed with the evolution of Traeger’s design. Key areas were updated to solve fundamental shortcomings, and that’s a great start.
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