Smokin’ Summer!

By Rob Tanner, Publisher Canadian Cowboy Country Magazine


As I sit down to write this, the snow is receding, the grass is greening up, and calving is in full swing. I cannot tell you how happy I am, as spring always brings with it renewed optimism and hope for better times ahead. Particularly this year as we start to come out of our on-again-off-again lockdowns. With more home time this past year, I finally got around to reading more, putzing around the farm more, and, thanks to Terri, was introduced to the Joe Pickett series. Above all else, I was introduced to wood-fired grilling and was hooked.


Every spring, I look forward to re-honing my BBQ skills and amazing everyone with a new season of taste sensations — at least in my mind. After close to 40 years of mastering a gas BBQ, I was surprised to find wood-fired grills are not only gaining ground but are highly-touted as the “ultimate grilling experience.” What intrigued me most was that wonderful quest for the perfect smoke ring and fall-apart tenderness.

There are many choices in wood-fired grills today, but after looking them over, I decided that this summer, cooking would be done with the Traeger Ironwood 650. Why? They are the original; I like the construction details, the close-it-and-forget-it method and the Wi-Fire™ technology. This app allows me to check and adjust temperatures from my office or in the field, knowing I would have a perfect meal when I returned home — or at least that is the promise.

Once the grill was delivered, we tore into the box and started assembly. Instructions were clear, and in no time flat, we had it assembled and ready to fire up. Best yet, we downloaded the Traeger app and found it was comprehensive and so easy to follow. The app included clear video instructions on grill assembly and detailed recipes that allow even a novice to serve up great results.

Gearing up for a full season of grilling, we decided to go to town and buy a few different types of pellets, Traeger spices and sauce. (see sidebar for pellet chart). We planned for short ribs and chicken wings but decided to go to our own grassfed, hormone-free beef for our first smoker session. We could easily compare the process and taste as we have years of BBQ experience.

Ironically Port Butts are not from the back end, but rather are from the shoulder. Why? Around the time of the Revolutionary War, the barrels that pork used to be stored in were called butts, and the name stuck!
Photo courtesy Darrel Seskin, CBBQS Member

After we seasoned the grill as per instructions, we were ready. We filled the hopper with pellets, prepped the roast with Traeger seasoning, and we were underway. The Wi-Fire technology is awesome! Once the lid was closed, we could completely monitor progress through my smartphone. Grill temperature, internal meat temperature, countdown timer, pellets remaining status, turn on “super smoke,” keep warm or manually adjust the temperature (or leave it on automatic), and finally, shut down at the end.

We were thrilled when we cut into the roast and first saw the smoke ring. My quest was over — there it was! The meal was wonderful; the beef was super tender and a hit at the family dinner.

Wish me luck on my quest for the perfect smoke ring and wood-fired grilling experience this summer. While I will focus on beef — chicken, pork, bison, salmon and wild game will also play a role. I will be keeping notes, and this fall will return with my favourite recipes, plus a comprehensive review of what worked best for us and what did not.

If you have some favourite smoker recipes or tips, please share them with me at

For great grilling and smoker recipes check out