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Traeger Ironwood 650 review: This smart grill can up your summer party game

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Today, Traeger introduced updates to the Pro and Timberline series while also rolling out the new Ironwood series. All six new grills, two options for each of the three series, include WiFIRE technology and the new D2 drivetrain system. Prices range from $799 to $1,799 and all can be controlled with your smartphone.

As a young US Coast Guard officer moving around the country, we stuck with inexpensive charcoal or propane grills that usually lasted two to three years before falling apart. When I left the service and settled down in a new house five years ago we decided to look for a better quality grill and bought a Weber model that connects to the natural gas in my house. My grilling game improved and with the help of the Meater wireless thermometer my results have been solid for the last several months.

Last month, Clay Blackham, senior VP of Method Communications, reached out to gauge my interest in testing out a new smart grill. I asked about the connection to mobile technology and learned that these new grills incorporated Traeger’s WiFIRE technology that provides smartphone connectivity and control with iOS and Android smartphones. Clay told me that my life would change with a Traeger and after more than a week with three different grilling sessions and different meats I think he may just be right.

See also: Cook a perfect turkey with the help of the Meater wireless thermometer and your smartphone

New Traeger Pro and Timberline models and prices

The Pro 575 and 780 were introduced today with the number specifying the square inches of grilling space. The Pro series has an 18-pound hopper for pellets, a meat probe, and an extra grill rack. The Pro 575 is $799 and the Pro 780 is $999.

These two grills have the new WiFIRE technology and D2 Direct Drive system. A new Pro D2 controller is also present with an increased temperature range of 165 degrees to 450 degrees, set in five-degree increments.

The Timberline 850 and 1300 were also revealed, again with 850 and 1300 square inches of grilling space, at prices of $1,799 and $1,999. The current Timberline series had WiFIRE technology so that continues here as well. In addition, the D2 Direct Drive system is included with a new Timberline D2 controller.

A new pellet sensing technology is present in these two new Timberline grills that allows users to monitor the amount of pellets currently in the hopper. You will still need someone to manually fill the hopper, but that’s usually an easy task for another family member or neighbor.

As specified by Traeger:

The new D2 Direct Drive drivetrain uses an all-new variable speed fan and auger, providing optimal blue smoke production across a much wider temperature range for the finest hardwood flavor. It also features Turbotemp technology, allowing the grills to get hotter faster so users can get grilling quicker and enjoy more precise cooking temps. The D2 drivetrain is all powered by an industry-first brushless motor, delivering years of reliable performance.

Ironwood 650 specifications

The new Ironwood series comes as the Ironwood 650 and 885, again with these numbers specifying the square inches of grilling space. The 650 is priced at $1,199 and the 855 at $1,399.

WiFIRE technology, the D2 Direct Drive system, Traeger’s DownDraft Exhaust and TRU Convection systems, and new Ironwood D2 Controller are all found on the new Ironwood series. The temperature range of the grill is 165 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, set in five-degree increments, with a new Super Smoke Mode that lets you quickly increase smoke and boost the flavor with a single button press on the D2 Controller or in the smartphone app.

The Ironwood 650 has assembled dimensions of 46 inches wide by 27 inches deep by 48 inches in height. The assembled weight, with an empty hopper, is 146 pounds. The pellet hopper has a capacity of 20 pounds.

A grease bucket is provided with a couple of extra bucket liners. The bucket hooks to a bracket on the lower left side of the barrel that is fed by the grease drip pan. You can purchase grease drip tray liners, a folding front shelf, and a grill cover. Traeger included a grill cover with this evaluation unit and it is made of very thick material with a rubber lining to keep the grill fully protected if you do not have it under a cover outside.

A smaller upper grate is provided with a lower one that can be used in two positions. You can fully remove the upper or lower grate too in order to have the most flexibility for cooking or to maintenance the grease tray or firepot.

A stainless steel shelf is provided for the left side of the Ironwood 650 with three hooks on the front to hang your grilling utensils. There are a couple of other screws in the left side for other accessories.

Unboxing experience and initial use

The Ironwood 650 evaluation unit was delivered via FedEx Freight with a grill cover and bags of hickory and apple pellets. It arrived on a pallet in a large box that stated two people were recommended for setup of the grill. Unfortunately, no one else was around the day it arrived so I set it up myself. Keep in mind, I played football and rugby in college so was confident in my ability to maneuver around 150 pounds of grill.

The box that the Traeger was packed in is quite large and when my three girls were young we always made forts out of these boxes. Thus, I was pleasantly surprised to see that Traeger provided directions to reverse the outer box and printed the inside of the box to be one of the coolest cabins for kids I have ever seen. I offered the box up in our neighborhood Facebook group and it was quickly scooped up by a family with young kids who have enjoyed playing in it every day since I passed it along.

Traeger includes easy-to-read assembly instructions, an owner’s manual, the tools you need for assembly (screwdriver and wrench), and all of the hardware necessary to assemble the grill. The major components, including the barrel, hopper, and controller, are all assembled in the box. Setup primarily consists of attaching the four legs, supporting brackets between the legs, handle for the lid, and stainless steel side shelf. Internal grill racks, grease drain pan, and other parts are removed from inside the grill first and then reinstalled into their proper location after you get the legs on and stand up the grill. One set of legs has large wheels while the other set has casters with locking mechanisms so the grill will not move around in windy conditions or on a surface that is not level.

The Ironwood 650 has a new pill-shaped barrel design, along with Traeger’s DownDraft exhaust and TRU Convection systems in order to help food cook in the shortest amount of time. Unlike many Traeger grills, there is no smoke stack for exhaust as the exhaust is instead forced out the upper back of the barrel and then downward towards the ground.

After assembling everything, I followed the instructions in the owner’s manual to season the grill. This is a process that takes about an hour and only has to be completed the first time you fire up the grill. It took longer for the first ignition than I anticipated, even after priming the auger, so I actually emptied out the fire pot and started up the ignition sequence a second time with more patience for ignition. The second time everything went as planned for seasoning.

The grill ignited in a timely fashion every single time after the seasoning process and I’ve been very pleased with how fast it heated up. While the app lets you easily send recipes and cooking instructions to the grill via WiFi, you can also manually enter custom cook cycles using the D2 Controller. Custom cook cycles can also be setup in the smartphone app and sent via WiFi to the Traeger. The grill is on my back patio and has held the WiFi connection with no issues.

The Ironwood 650 also comes with an internal probe. The prove connects via a 3.5mm jack on the front left of the D2 Controller and then through a rubber grommet into the inside of the grill. I’ve used the probe for a couple recipes and it has proven to be accurate and essential for properly cooking the meat to perfection.

There is a timer button on the D2 Controller that you can use for timing other things, such as vegetable cooking, basting, or toasting buns. It does not impact grill operation or recipes. There is also a Super Smoke button that you can use when the grill is between 165 and 225 degrees Fahrenheit in order to add more smoke flavor to your meat.

I also switched out hardwood pellets over the last 10 days. This was easy to do with a spatula and the rear clean-out door on the back of the hopper. I simply held a large bowl under the access door and removed the pellets in the hopper in this manner.

See also: Best BBQ equipment for tech fans

Smartphone application

The Traeger app and WiFIRE technology was previously only provided on the Timberline series, but with today’s releases this smartphone connectivity is now also available on a couple Pro and Ironwood grills. In order to fully test out the capability of the Traeger app I tested it using an iPhone XS, Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus, Google Pixel 3 XL, and Samsung Galaxy Note 9.

The app appears to have the same capabilities whether your are using an iPhone or an Android phone with slightly different ways to access the various sections of the app. The Android app uses an three-bar menu icon to slide in options from the left side of the display while the iOS app has bottom icons to switch between the main pages for home, recipes, WiFIRE, shop, dealer locator, and other helpful Traeger references.

On the home panel you will see a featured recipe, the status of your connected grill, a troubleshooting section, and quick access icons to top 10 recipes, favorites, tips & tricks, and filters to quickly view recipes for beef, pork, poultry, lamb, vegetables, seafood, wild game, baked goods, and cocktails. The recipes have a thumbnail photo, name of the recipe, description, cooking time, and number of ingredients. Tapping on a specific recipe gives you the ability to quickly add it to your favorites, share the recipe, view the difficulty level, see the estimated prep time, view the cooking time, and see which hardwood pellet is recommended for that recipe.

Once you find a recipe you wish to cook, scroll down for the ingredients and then further down for the preparation details. After getting everything together and then before you go outside to grill, tap the button to cook now and the recipe will be sent via WiFi to your connected grill.

The app will control the full grilling experience, including informing you when time or internal probe temps are reached and then proceeding to the next step in the grilling process (as applicable). The app controls the grill temps, as well as sending alerts to baste and perform other manual tasks that the app cannot perform. Since many smoke and grill times continue for many hours, you are no longer tied to the house when preparing meals. I was controlling the grilling experience from the office one day and from a date night another day. It was awesome to have a full and complete understanding of the status of the meal on the grill through the smartphone app.

In the WiFIRE section of the app you can view the grill temperature, probe temperature, and timer status. Tapping on any one of these three dials puts that metric in the center of the display in larger size. Buttons on the bottom of the WiFIRE display let you set a sauce timer, super smoke mode, and enable the keep warm option.

The shop option in the app lets you order grills, hardwood, accessories, grill covers, sauces, rubs & spices, recipe books, Traeger apparel, and parts to repair your grill.

Grilling experiences

My brother is an avid outdoorsman who hunts and fishes regularly, including butchering his own game and then grilling it on Traeger grills. He has always been held up as the family grillmaster, but was also excited to hear about my experiences with this new Ironwood 650 smart grill. I took him a sample of the Traeger BBQ brisket I cooked up and he loved it. My youngest daughter loves her uncle’s brisket, but said the one I cooked beat even his standard of excellence.

Since I tested the Ironwood 650 out with multiple phones, it was clear to me that the iPhone app had just a bit better functionality. This isn’t surprising since I continue to find iOS apps to be better than Android apps in major and minor ways. The clear difference in the Traeger app is that the Android app does not show the current step in the process on either the home page or the WiFIRE status page. This is a bit annoying since I tried a few different recipes in the past week and like to know how many steps are left and where I was at in the whole grilling process.

In the past 10 days, I used the Ironwood 650 to cook a roasted beer can chicken, smoked pork loin, and BBQ brisket. I used hickory wood pellets for the chicken and brisket with apple pellets for the pork loin. I went to the store to buy some Traeger Signature pellets and mesquite to try out some other flavors. I have salmon to smoke next, but didn’t get a chance to grill it up before the review embargo lifted. The chicken was very moist, but next time I plan to smoke it for a few hours and then turn up the temperature at the end to get the skin crispy. The pork loin was excellent and extremely easy to grill. The BBQ brisket was fabulous and again so easy to do that it’s almost embarrassing to say all I did was rub on the spices, wrap it up for 24 hours, and then throw it on the Ironwood 650 as the Traeger did all the work.

I have thoroughly enjoyed grilling with the Traeger Ironwood 650 and absolutely love the smell of the smoke that is embedded in my clothes and in my nose. It’s amazing how much you can do with a Traeger grill and I have only begun to test out its capabilities. I understand you can bake pizza or cookies, grill vegetables, and so much more. We use our grills here in Washington State all year long because of the mild temperatures and I can’t wait to taste more great meals cooked with the help of my smartphone.

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Consumer groups and child development experts petition Facebook to drop ‘Instagram for kids’ plan – TechCrunch

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A coalition of 35 consumer advocacy groups along with 64 experts in child development have co-signed a letter to Facebook asking the company to reconsider its plans to launch a version of Instagram for children under the age of 13, which Facebook has confirmed to be in development. In the letter, the groups and experts argue that social media is linked with several risk factors for younger children and adolescents, related to both their physical health and overall well-being.

The letter was written by the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, an advocacy group that often leads campaigns against big tech and its targeting of children.

The group stresses how influential social media is on young people’s development, and the dangers such an app could bring:

“A growing body of research demonstrates that excessive use of digital devices and social media is harmful to adolescents. Instagram, in particular, exploits young people’s fear of missing out and desire for peer approval to encourage children and teens to constantly check their devices and share photos with their followers,” it states. “The platform’s relentless focus on appearance, self-presentation, and branding presents challenges to adolescents’ privacy and wellbeing. Younger children are even less developmentally equipped to deal with these challenges, as they are learning to navigate social interactions, friendships, and their inner sense of strengths and challenges during this crucial window of development,” the letter reads.

Citing public health research and other studies, the letter notes that excessive screen time and social media use can contribute to a variety of risks for kids including obesity, lower psychological well-being, decreased quality of sleep, increased risk of depression and suicide ideation, and other issues. Adolescent girls report feeling pressured to post sexualized selfies for attention from their peers, the letter said, and 59% of U.S. teens have reported being bullied in social media, as well.

Another concern the groups have is the use of the Instagram algorithm which could suggest what kids would see and click on next, noting that children are “highly persuadable.”

They also point out that Facebook knows there are already children under 13 who have lied about their age using the Instagram platform, and these users will be unlikely to migrate to what they’ll view as a more “babyish” version of the app than the one they’re already using. That means Facebook is really targeting an even younger age group who don’t yet have an Instagram account with this “kids version.”

Despite the concerns being raised, Instagram’s plans to compete for younger users will not likely be impacted by the outcry. Already, Instagram’s top competitor in social media today — TikTok — has developed an experience for kids under 13. In fact, it was forced to age-gate its app as a result of its settlement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, which had investigated Musical.ly (the app that became TikTok) for violations of the U.S. children’s privacy law COPPA.

Facebook, too, could be in a similar situation where it has to age-gate Instagram in order to properly direct its existing underage users to a COPPA-compliant experience. At the very least, Facebook has grounds to argue that it shouldn’t have to boot the under-13 crowd off its app, since TikTok did not. And the FTC’s fines, even when historic, barely make a dent in tech giants’ revenues.

The advocacy groups’ letter follows a push from Democratic lawmakers, who also this month penned a letter addressed to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to express concerns over Facebook’s ability to protect kids’ privacy and their well-being. Their letter had specifically cited Messenger Kids, which was once found to have a design flaw that let kids chat with unauthorized users. The lawmakers gave Facebook until April 26 to respond to their questions.

Zuckerberg confirmed Facebook’s plans for an Instagram for kids at a Congressional hearing back in March, saying that the company was “early in our thinking” about how the app would work, but noted it would involve some sort of parental oversight and involvement. That’s similar to what Facebook offers today via Messenger Kids and TikTok does via its Family Pairing parental controls.

The market, in other words, is shifting towards acknowledging that kids are already on social media — with or without parents’ permission. As a result, companies are building features and age gates to accommodate that reality. The downside to this plan, of course, is once you legitimize the creation of social apps for the under-13 demographic, companies are given the legal right to hook kids even younger on what are, arguably, risky experiences from a public health standpoint.

The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood also today launched a petition which others can sign to push Facebook to cancel its plans for an Instagram for kids.

Instagram Letter by TechCrunch on Scribd

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Facebook to test new business discovery features in U.S. News Feed – TechCrunch

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Facebook announced this morning it will begin testing a new experience for discovering businesses in its News Feed in the U.S. When live, users to tap on topics they’re interested in underneath posts and ads in their News Feed in order to explore related content from businesses. The change comes at a time when Facebook has been arguing how Apple’s App Tracking Transparency update will impact its small business customers — a claim many have dismissed as misleading, but nevertheless led some mom and pop shops to express concern about the impacts to their ad targeting capabilities, as a result. This new test is an example of how easily Facebook can tweak its News Feed to build out more data on its users, if needed.

The company suggests users may see the change under posts and ads from businesses selling beauty products, fitness or clothing, among other things.

The idea here is that Facebook would direct users to related businesses through a News Feed feature, when they take a specific action to discover related content. This, in turn, could help Facebook create a new set of data on its users, in terms of which users clicked to see more, and what sort of businesses they engaged with, among other things. Over time, it could turn this feature into an ad unit, if desired, where businesses could pay for higher placement.

“People already discover businesses while scrolling through News Feed, and this will make it easier to discover and consider new businesses they might not have found on their own,” the company noted in a brief announcement.

Facebook didn’t detail its further plans with the test, but said as it learned from how users interacted with the feature, it will expand the experience to more people and businesses.

Image Credits: Facebook

Along with news of the test, Facebook said it will roll out more tools for business owners this month, including the ability to create, publish and schedule Stories to both Facebook and Instagram; make changes and edits to Scheduled Posts; and soon, create and manage Facebook Photos and Albums from Facebook’s Business Suite. It will also soon add the ability to create and save Facebook and Instagram posts as drafts from the Business Suite mobile app.

Related to the businesses updates, Facebook updated features across ad products focused on connecting businesses with customer leads, including Lead Ads, Call Ads, and Click to Messenger Lead Generations.

Facebook earlier this year announced a new Facebook Page experience that gave businesses the ability to engage on the social network with their business profile for things like posting, commenting and liking, and access to their own, dedicated News Feed. And it had removed the Like button in favor of focusing on Followers.

It is not a coincidence that Facebook is touting its tools for small businesses at a time when there’s concern — much of it loudly shouted by Facebook itself — that its platform could be less useful to small business owners in the near future, when ad targeting capabilities becomes less precise as users vote ‘no’ when Facebook’s iOS app asks if it can track them.

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Instagram’s new test lets you choose if you want to hide ‘Likes,’ Facebook test to follow – TechCrunch

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Instagram today will begin a new test around hiding Like counts on users’ posts, following its experiments in this area which first began in 2019. This time, however, Instagram is not enabling or disabling the feature for more users. Instead, it will begin to explore a new option where users get to decide what works best for them — either choosing to see the Like counts on others’ posts, or not. Users will also be able to turn off Like counts on their own posts, if they choose. Facebook additionally confirmed it will begin to test a similar experience on its own social network.

Instagram says tests involving Like counts were deprioritized after Covid-19 hit, as the company focused on other efforts needed to support its community. (Except for that brief period this March where Instagram accidentally hid Likes for more users due to a bug.)

The company says it’s now revisiting the feedback it collected from users during the tests and found a wide range of opinions. Originally, the idea with hiding Like counts was about reducing the anxiety and embarrassment that surrounds posting content on the social network. That is, people would stress over whether their post would receive enough Likes to be deemed “popular.” This problem was particularly difficult for Instagram’s younger users, who care much more about what their peers think — so much so that they would take down posts that didn’t receive “enough” Likes.

In addition, the removal of Likes helped reduce the sort of herd mentality that drives people to like things that are already popular, as opposed to judging the content for themselves.

But during tests, not everyone agreed the removal of Likes was a change for the better. Some people said they still wanted to see Like counts so they could track what was trending and popular. The argument for keeping Likes was more prevalent among the influencer community, where creators used the metric in order to communicate their value to partners, like brands and advertisers. Here, lower engagement rates on posts could directly translate to lower earnings for these creators.

Both arguments for and against Likes have merit, which is why Instagram’s latest test will put the choice back into users’ own hands.

This new test will be enabled for a small percentage of users globally on Instagram, the company says.

If you’ve been opted in, you’ll find a new option to hide the Likes from within the app’s Settings. This will prevent you from seeing Likes on other people’s posts as you scroll through your Instagram Feed. As a creator, you’ll be able to hide Likes on a per-post basis via the three-dot “…” menu at the top. Even if Likes are disabled publicly, creators are still able to view Like counts and other engagements through analytics, just as they did before.

The tests on Facebook, which has also been testing Like count removals for some time, have not yet begun. Facebook tells TechCrunch those will roll out in the weeks ahead.

Making Like counts an choice may initially seem like it could help to address everyone’s needs. But in reality, if the wider influencer community chooses to continue to use Likes as a currency that translates to popularity and job opportunities, then other users will continue to do the same.

Ultimately, communities themselves have to decide what sort of tone they want to set, preferably from the outset — before you’ve attracted millions of users who will be angry when you later try to change course.

There’s also a question as to whether social media users are really hungry for an “Like-free” safer space. For years we’ve seen startups focused on building an “anti-Instagram” of sorts, where they drop one or more Instagram features, like algorithmic feeds, Likes and other engagement mechanisms, such as Minutiae, Vero, Dayflash, Oggl, and now, newcomers like troubled Dispo, or under-the-radar Herd. But Instagram has yet to fail because of an anti-Instagram rival. If anything is a threat, it’s a new type of social network entirely, like TikTok –where it should be noted getting Likes and engagements is still very important for creator success.

Instagram didn’t say how long the new tests would last or if and when the features would roll out more broadly.

“We’re testing this on Instagram to start, but we’re also exploring a similar experience for Facebook. We will learn from this new small test and have more to share soon,” a Facebook company spokesperson said.

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