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The Best Woods for Cooking and Firewood: A Comprehensive Guide

When looking for the best wood to use for cooking, or in your fireplace, it’s important to know the difference between the types of wood available. Some woods are better suited for cooking than others, and some make better firewood than others.

This article will discuss the different types of wood available, and what makes them good or bad for cooking or fires. We will also talk about how to ensure that woods burn well, and the woods to avoid.

What is the best firewood to burn?

The answer lies in two factors: density and dryness.

A higher density of wood usually burns more efficiently since it provides a greater amount of fuel for the fire. However, if the high-density wood is too moist, then extra energy will be required to evaporate the water present, which yields a duller and shorter-lived flame.

Therefore, firewood needs high density and high dryness to be at its absolute best.

So, what types of woods fit that bill? Let’s take a look at the kinds of firewood that burn longest, hottest, cleanest, and smell the best.

What is the wood that burns the longest?

The firewood with the longest burn time is the densest; this is because it’s harder for the fire to consume more densely-packed wood or hardwood. Softwood, which has a lower density, will be consumed more quickly by comparison.

Hickory has the highest density of firewood (37-58 lbs/ft.3), meaning it burns for an extended amount of time. In fact, once lit, it can burn smokeless for hours without needing to be refueled. And even when the fire has burned down to coal, its remaining heat will still be significant.

A Hickory log, when set alight, will burn for around four hours. However, the leftover coals will continue to radiate heat long after that. Consequently, a Hickory fire only needs to be refueled once if started in the early evening. If you want it going all day though, then you’ll need to add more fuel several times throughout the day.

Keep in mind that this is only an estimate, as firewood can be cut into different sizes and people will build their fires differently. A fireplace usually requires less wood to keep going than a wood stove.

What is the wood that burns the hottest?

Hardwoods are the best for burning wood. They have sap and pitch which make them hot-burning and longer-lasting than softwoods. Though hardwoods cost more and are more likely to result in clinkers, they’re still preferable for many reasons.

Not all hardwoods and softwoods ignite and burn at the same rate. Some will produce more heat than others. The list below contains some of the best firewood, classified according to their heat value per hour (in BTUs).

The wood with the highest heat output is equivalent to 200-250 gallons of fuel oil. This includes ironwood, American beech, apple, shagbark, mesquite, hickory, yellow birch, red oak, sugar maple white ash, and white oak.

Fuel oil output from the lowest category of heat energy is about 100 to 150 gallons per cord for wood including alder (red), cedar (red), hemlock, white pine, aspen, lodgepole pine, cottonwood, and redwood.

What is the wood that burns the cleanest?

Wood that burns slowly and produces little smoke is ideal, but it must also burn cleanly to be worth the investment. To achieve the best results, use wood that has been properly dried. To have a clean burning fire, your wood must be below 20% moisture. Anything above will produce excess smoke and make it difficult to light.

The conventional method of reducing the moisture content in firewood is seasoning. By leaving it out to dry for 6 months to a year after cutting it, you can season your firewood. Just be certain that you stack it in an area protected from the rain with good ventilation. Seasoning wood only gets it so dry–usually to the 20% threshold. Burns from this type of wood is not as clean as they could be.

For the best burn, use kiln-dried firewood. Drying the wood in a kiln both speeds up and perfects the seasoning process. Rather than waiting months for the wood to be properly dried, it can be ready in hours. And since the kiln creates a controlled atmosphere, it easily brings moisture content down below 20%.

Kiln-dried firewood has many benefits that result in a clean burn. Because the moisture content is so low, the wood will burn efficiently and with minimal smoke.

Which Firewood is Best for Cooking?

If you’re looking to cook a delicious meal using firewood, there are some key characteristics the wood should have:

    • Wood kiln dried to preserve less than 20% moisture for an optimal, clean smoke.

    • Delicious hardwood flavors like hickory, oak, cherry, and sugar maple can add flavor to any dish.

    • Cut your wood into chunks that will fit perfectly inside your grill, pizza oven, or smoker.

If you need some specially sized kiln-dried cooking wood, we recommend checking out The Firewood Depot. They deliver quality wood throughout Houston, Texas, and surrounding areas.

Which Firewood Smells the Best?

In addition to how well it burns, the aroma of firewood is important. There’s nothing quite like coming across a beautifully scented candle at a department store that smells just like a bonfire. But not all wood has such an amazing scent–some of it can smell downright gross! If the wood is not dried properly, then it likely won’t smell too great.

There are a few reasons for this: The high moisture content in the wood will produce an unpleasant smell when it is burned. The wood will probably also contain mold and fungus, which smell awful when burned. The only method to get rid of moldy wood is to kiln-dry it. The continuous environment inside a dry kiln will lower the moisture and remove any trace of mold from the wood so that you’re left with good-smelling lumber.

Did you know that different types of wood have their own distinct smell? The most popular kinds of aromatic woods are hickory, cherry, oak, pine, and cedar As one might expect, cherry gives off a pleasing fruity aroma. Hickory has a bolder, more savory scent; while oak is more subdued. Both softwoods pine and cedar also give off pleasant smells but don’t burn as well hardwoods.

How do you ensure that your woods burn well?

If you want your wood to efficiently burn, make sure it is dry. Green or insufficiently dried wood will create more smoke and creosote buildup than well-dried or seasoned wood.

    • Wood dries and ignites more easily when it’s stacked properly in a shady, well-ventilated area. Covering only the top of the stack protects it from bad weather without impeding air circulation.

    • Always use seasoned wood to avoid dampness and rot. Seasoned wood is also easier to light and burns more evenly.

    • The optimal moisture content for burning wood is between 15 and 25%. Any higher, and the wood becomes difficult to ignite and burns inefficiently, producing large amounts of water vapor and smoke.

What are the woods to avoid?

It is best to use firewood that burns clearly and provides a good source of heat. On the other hand, you should avoid using wood as it will not give off much heat and create excessive smoke.


Of all the types of wood, softwood is usually the least expensive. On its own, it burns more quickly and leaves behind finer ash than hardwoods do. Moreover, some softwoods can create quite a mess during handling as well as cause your chimney to build up creosote at a faster rate.

Salvaged firewood or other scraps

Wood-burning stoves are cheaper than other heating methods, but they come with safety and health dangers. They release harmful fumes indoors that can cause respiratory problems, and the emissions from wood-burning stoves are environmentally friendly. Some types of wood also pose a risk to stove metals or create a dangerous buildup of creosote in your chimney that could lead to fires.

For your safety, avoid burning the following.

    • Decorative wood finish products

    • Lumber that has been treated with pressure to resist rot and pests

    • Driftwood

    • Engineered wood products such as particleboard, plywood, and MDF

    • Hardwood or other paper products

    • If you have allergies, be cautious when using some woods like aromatic cedar as they can aggravate your symptoms.

Final Thought

Conclusion paragraph: Different types of firewood will work better for different reasons. If you are looking to cook food on a campfire, then you will need to choose a type of wood that is good for cooking. If you are looking to heat your home in the winter, then you will need to choose a type of wood that burns well in a furnace. No matter what your needs are, there is definitely a type of firewood out there that will fit the bill. So, what kind of firewood do you need?

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