As long as it’s from a tree and it’s dry, then you’re firewood is perfect. Right? Wrong!
Believe it or not, there are certain types of wood that are the best firewood in some instances and not in others. The best firewood for your situation may depend on what you are using the wood for—such as cooking versus heating. The best firewood for starting a fire is different than the best firewood for heating a home. Don’t waste your time burning a wood that is not the best firewood for your fire needs.
The following article from firepit-and-grilling-guru.com outlines the best firewood types and tells you how to decipher different wood types so that you know the characteristics of the best firewood.
What is the Best Firewood?
The best firewood is of course the type that best suits your needs which can vary depending on whether you are cooking or using the wood for heat in a fireplace. There are many types of wood which are suitable either for the fireplace or for cooking. Here I will repeat some of the basic important principles that are important when choosing wood. After that is a detailed list of several common types of firewood and their characteristics.
“Seasoned” Firewood – Seasoned firewood is wood which has been left out to dry for an extended period of time. Wet wood, including green wood which has recently been cut from a tree, is more difficult to burn and burns with less heat. Avoid using wet wood and always use seasoned firewood if at all possible.
Energy Content – BTUs (British Thermal Units) – This is a measure of how much heat is given off by a certain amount of wood. The hardwoods have the highest BTU content and thus are considered the best firewood for high, intense heat. The highest of the high include rock elm, sugar maple, and red oak. Softwoods, like white pine, basswood, green ash, and white spruce, are much less dense and thus do not burn as long with as much heat output.
Hardwood versus Softwood – Hardwoods are very dense. They pack more BTUs of potential heat energy per volume of firewood. Therefore they tend to be the best firewood types for heat and for cooking. However, they are more difficult to get ignited in the first place. Softwoods are less dense and also tend to be more resinous. This means they ignite much faster, and thus can be good as a starter wood to get your fire going. However, they tend to give off less heat and burn faster.
Some examples of hardwoods
Best Firewood – Ash, red oak, white oak, beech, birch, hickory, hard maple, pecan, dogwood, almond, apple (incense-like perfume, nice scent); high heat, easy to burn, no heavy smoke, overall excellent
Good – Soft maple, cherry, walnut; medium heat, easy to burn, no heavy smoke.
Fair – elm, sycamore, gun, aspen, basswood, cottonwood, yellow poplar (bitter smoke); low to medium heat, can be a bit harder to burn, medium smoke, ok for kindling but not as much heat and more smoke.
Some examples of softwoods:
Good – southern yellow pine, spruce, fir, resinous so easy to burn, has medium heat but burns out quickly, and easy to burn but heavy smoke, ok if you want a quick warming fire or short fire that will burn out before you go to bed.
Good for kindling – eastern red cedar, medium heat, easy to burn, medium smoke, pops a lot and throws sparks, good for kindling.
Fair – cypress, medium heat, a bit harder to burn, medium smoke.
The best firewood can be measured by the BTU content, the dryness, and the hardness. The best firewood for starting a fire would be softwood such as red cedar. For cooking, the best firewood is a hardwood with a high BTU content. Hardwoods are also the best firewood for heating a fireplace, as they burn longer and give off an intense heat for a long period of time.
If you are trying to heat an outdoor oven, the best firewood would be oaks and birches. Outdoor ovens are a great alternative to heating up your (already) humid home during those hot summer months. Contact Camosse Masonry Supply to learn more about outdoor ovens and fire pits.