The innate immune system is equipped with sensitive and efficient machineries to provide an immediate, first line defense against infections. Toll-like receptors (TLRs) detect pathogens and the IL-1 receptor (IL-1R) family enables cells to quickly respond to inflammatory cytokines by mounting an efficient protective response. Interleukin-1 receptor activated kinases (IRAKs) are key mediators in the signaling pathways of TLRs/IL-1Rs. By means of their kinase and adaptor functions, IRAKs initiate a cascade of signaling events eventually leading to induction of inflammatory target gene expression. Due to this pivotal role, IRAK function is also highly regulated via multiple mechanisms. In this review, we focus on IRAK1, the earliest known and yet the most interesting member of this family. An overview on its structure, function and biology is given, with emphasis on the different novel mechanisms that regulate IRAK1 function. We also highlight several unresolved questions in this field and evaluate the potential of IRAK1 as a target for therapeutic intervention.